Points-North-Weber-ShandwickEach Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.

This week it’s Shirelle Pexton, director at Stein IAS (China), on the challenges of setting up the agency’s new office in Shanghai.

China has long excited and fascinated me. The history, the food, the culture: what’s not to love? As an integrated marketer for the best part of 15 years, China has also interested me from a professional perspective. In the context of B2B marketing, it’s the place to be.

With one of the world fastest growing economies, rapidly changing demographics, rising incomes that are being matched with soaring consumer spending, and a business culture that is more open than it has ever been, it’s easy to see why so many global B2B brands are jumping at the chance to gain a greater penetration in the region.

With an increasing number of our own clients wanting to do just that, we took the decision to extend our global B2B footprint and provide clients with the launch pad they need to truly establish their brands in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

ShirellecropMarkets across China and APAC vary considerably, so a vantage point capable of targeting the broader region is vital.

In Shanghai, we’ve found the ideal location from which to manage our B2B marketing business for the region. Shanghai is Asia’s boomtown. It’s not only the world’s most populated city, it’s also a major financial powerhouse, home to the busiest container port in the world and experiencing vast economic growth. All of which creates an environment that is attractive to many of the world’s leading B2B brands.

When I sat down with agency CEO (EMEA) Rob Morrice to discuss leading Stein IAS’s first-to-market venture as the only specialist B2B agency in China, one of the first questions he asked was “how quickly can you learn the language?” It’s a huge challenge, but I am learning Mandarin as I personally feel it’s important in order to truly immerse myself in the Chinese business culture. But with top brands from around the world all congregating in China, it’s actually not essential. And of course, I’ll have the support of a Chinese team in Shanghai.

Successfully launching a global B2B campaign in China relies on much more than a simple piece of translation. As an agency, we’re already working with brands in APAC across a number of sectors including professional services, technology and food.

And, due to the significant variations in cultures and languages across the broad APAC region, it is often true trans-creation work that is required. This includes expert understanding of local market insights, the local media landscape and the cultural differences in buyer journeys. Establishing a ‘feet on the ground’ presence in APAC enables Stein IAS to deliver just that.

For many B2B brands, taking the first step into the China market is daunting; there is no denying that the potential pitfalls are significant and need to be expertly negotiated. But it’s worth it as the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

Shirelle Pexton is director at Stein IAS (China)