This is a podcast episode I did with Mike and Rico at Source Find Asia, a sourcing company based in Guangzhou.

We talk about the differences between China and the West when it comes to networking and relationships, and I share stories on how I built a network from scratch.

You can listen to the episode here: How To Break Into a Chinese Network and Build Relationships – Source Find Asia Podcast Ep. 7

Source Find Asia Podcast w/ Russell Smith of RS Marketing International

Source Find Asia podcast w/ Russell Smith of RS Marketing International


What we cover in the episode


We talk about my journey from sourcing in China for Ecommerce, to providing sourcing as a consulting service, and why / how I transitioned into building a business providing online marketing services in China.

We cover:

  • how Western and Chinese business relationships differ, and how you can be prepared for it.
  • my method for breaking into a Chinese network, and suggestions for others who wish to do the same.
  • a story of a brunch I had with a handful of Chinese bosses that ended up in $12k worth of contracts for me (a big deal at the time!)
  • how China is challenging and predictably unpredictable, and what you can do to prepare for that.
  • the differences between Chinese and Western web design (and some cultural background to explain why).
  • the current state of digital marketing in China, the Chinese understanding of ‘Western’ digital marketing, and my predictions for the future.

It’s high value, actionable and applies to anyone doing business in or with China.

Listen to the podcast here:


An example of network building in China (My Dongguan presentation)

Whether you plan to source from Chinese factories, provide services within China, or want to grow your Ecommerce brand on the mainland, you’ll need to build a network.

We cover my experiences and my recommendations on how you can do the same.

We also discuss a presentation I gave in Dongguan (a southern industrial city, near Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong).

I was expecting to be maybe 30 minutes on stage, and expecting to speak English. In the car on the way I was told it would be about two and half hours long and the crowd most likely wouldn’t understand English.

“Oh…”, I thought. “I see.”

I remember gritting my teeth and thinking ‘thanks for telling me…’.

It was my first time presenting in Chinese on the fly, to about 300 Alibaba sales reps and factory bosses. A great experience, and *great* for business. This is the kind of thing to expect getting into if you want to network here in China.

If you’re thinking about coming to China and getting involved in this kind of thing, let me know. I can help you out and make some introductions.

Here’s the link: Russell’s Dongguan Presentation Slides

This is the ad that was placed on WeChat to promote my presentation: View the WeChat ad. Note the prominent use of QR codes, to guide traffic to join the ‘public group’ for future notifications. QR codes are are really popular in China, and get used a lot more than they would in the West.


Further reading / study

We link to a few resources in the show, so I’d like to link to them here also.

Definition of the concept of ‘Guanxi’ in China.

Definition of the concept of ‘Renao’ in China.

Mike Michelini @ China Business Cast – a mutual friend of mine and the Podcast hosts, who helped me immensely in networking / building my business in China.

A great book called ‘Mr. China’ by Tim Clissold. A humbling and intense story of some major big-money investors that came to China in the early days. Expecting to be able to push their weight around as they would in the West, the lessons they had to learn (and the money they had to lose) before learning to do things ‘the Chinese way’ are valuable for any entrepreneur or business planning to enter China.


Get in touch!

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