Michael Michilini is a former corporate slave turned international businessman. He has lived in China since 2007 and has bootstrapped several businesses from social media consulting, app development and e-commerce. His new hustle is writing, podcasting and distributing his wealth of knowledge about business in China on GlobalFromAsia.com
You’ve been doing business in China for many years now and also ran your own e-commerce business that sourced products from China. In terms of working with factories in China, local partners and suppliers, what are some of the most important tips you can give somebody in their early stages of establishing a business relationship with China?
Its more than just business. Its like you said, building a relationship. Finding the right supplier in China should be treated like a equity business partner or even a wife. It will be hard to switch no matter how much you standardize your product and processes.
With this in mind, spend time up late at night chatting on Skype with your sales reps. Don’t just do everything in email. Install Chinese apps like wechat to connect with them. Understand the culture, their hometown.
And lastly, take full ownership of the product you are manufacturing. Don’t expect them to know all the specifications and modifications. Know the materials, the amount of labor required, the moulds involved. They will respect you more, and also not try to pull any price increases unexpectedly.
It seems like there’s an Amazon FBA explosion going on these days. Podcasts, blogs, services (ours included) are popping up left and right. As a blogger, pod-caster and internet marketer yourself, what do you find most effective in standing out in a crowded niche?
True, Amazon FBA is everywhere. Unfortunately it seems to be comoditizing the sellers. This makes it a bit harder to stand out from having your own e-commerce shop or even you own eBay store template sites like the old days. From what I’m hearing is to make your own brand, and work hard on the whole product experience, that is the packaging, the customer service, and the after sales followup by getting them to opt in to your email list.
What are some trends you see in China in terms of e-commerce? Do you think there will ever be a large market for American e-commerce businesses to sell unique American made products to Chinese consumers?
Jeez, this is one I wish would be true sooner! As I see tons of Chinese Amazon FBA sellers doing well, I see much less the other way around. The Chinese market still has a lot more boundaries than selling in the West, requiring a lot of local experience and language. I don’t want to say there is no hope, but right now to succeed you have to fully commit and have a team on the ground in China, preferably with a founder of the company in China as well.
What are some tips you have for sellers going to trade shows in China (Canton Fair) for the first time?
- Wear comfortable shoes!
- Bring a roller bag for brochures
- Have product samples with you to show selective factory booths – so they can give you more feedback
- Know exactly what you are looking for beforehand, or just be prepared to be overwhelmed.
What are some other countries you see as a viable options for sourcing manufacturing products?
So whats your current passion project you are working on and what’s next for your professionally?