Selling the Intangible in Asia

Of course it is hard getting paid properly for anything in some parts of Asia, but specifically, “intangibles” are a hard sell. It’s one thing to sell a computer rendering that someone can see, a hard model that someone can touch, a point of purchase display you can mock-up, or a logo someone can put on a sign and hang on their building tomorrow…

But what about selling clients on a research phase to understand consumers better? On a process to make something more efficient? On a vision or direction for their brand? On improving employee culture? My experience is that clients in Asia don’t value these abstract or indirect steps (pragmatic mindset, manufacturer mindset, trader mindset), don’t want to put in the time and money required. And given the economy, it is only getting worse.

Any success stories from Asia to share? Or lessons learned from failures? Your experience and thoughts?

I know this will sound crazy but leave them a very thick book of your research and findings. Now it is tangible :slight_smile:

thanks timf. well, tangible only if they READ it! which from my experience, most will not.


(crickets in here!)

PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:45 am Post subject:
thanks timf. well, tangible only if they READ it! which from my experience, most will not.

There you go using your western brain again. No one will read it. Tangible is about weight (ponds, kilograms, whatever).

Talking about the ROI of your work will probably get some attention. Business leaders are focused on quantitative numbers that will help their business. If you can convince them with hard numbers that your qualitative research can affect and improve their business by x% then you will most definitely at the very least get an audience.

Good luck.

How about this:

From: “Research phase to understand consumers better”
To: “Product Solution 1 - designed with better understanding of the consumer”

From: “A process to make something more efficient”
To: “Product Solution 2 - designed with optimal efficiency”

Charge them commissions. Most clients, especially factories love this win-win, low-risk relationship.

thanks for the feedback…keep it coming!

transformist - can you please elaborate/explain? you are talking about “product solutions” instead of research or process or strategy? and charging “commission” on consumer research?

From my understanding, you are trying to understand how to establish terms when working with clients in Asia that wants to do some research and planning.

From what I’ve experienced in Asia, very few small companies and even factories would want to spend the money on those “intangibles”. What I’m trying to suggest to you is to turn those intangibles into products that reflect the result of your work and tie the success of the product directly with the size of your paycheck.

I’ve done similar research and planning for companies in China before. I have to put those extra efforts out on my free time just to keep the relationship strong and interest level high. But before they see product concepts that they can sell, they won’t be willing to pay you anything, unless if they really like you and have lots of money laying around.

Also, you would likely have to speak their language in order for them to even bother working with you.

I would imagine that you would have to work with some large clients like Lenovo in order for them to pay money for professional research and planning.

Hope that helps to clarify things a bit.

got it.

so you are basically saying research and strategy cannot be sold in developing asia. exactly the problem i laid out, just not the answer i wanted to hear!

you are also suggesting that you give away the intangibles for free up front, in hopes that you get some percentage of resulting product sales later to make up for it. in a legalistic society and with a good contract and active lawyer, that might work. i haven’t seen that work reliably in developing asia.

I’ve been selling research & strategy in China for the last two years. You need to bundle (and hide) it with a design project. I could never sell just research. It needs to lead to the next logical phase of a project.