“OK, I know Chinese. I can do this on my own.” I said to myself as a pep talk before doing business in China as a publisher for the first time. I was wrong. I came to find out, as many others have, that effectively operating in many Asian markets requires a different approach than doing business in North America, Western Europe or Australia. Although regional and national cultures and economies vary tremendously across Asia, one commonality that many share is the vital importance of personal relationships in business – much more-so than in the West. In some countries, corruption, inefficiency and regulations can also be obstacles to outsiders, and without intimate knowledge of local conditions, businesses can face bewildering and daunting challenges.
For example, in order to effectively penetrate the Japanese market, PCG client BioOne found it necessary to work with the JUSTICE consortium there. Unlike with USA consortia, not only was it necessary to officially meet the consortium head at a special meeting in Tokyo, but this required an “introduction” by a local Japanese subscription agent before it could go ahead. The same pattern holds true in Taiwan and China, where local agents and consortia mediate international publisher relationships.
Even once established in foreign markets, having local representatives is essential for continued functioning. Negotiation styles and cultural factors vary enough that effective sales and relationships require local boots on the ground, but many small and medium sized publishers lack the resources to provide their own local staff in foreign markets. For this reason, hiring third-party agents is necessary, and the best agents blend nearly seamlessly into both the sales structures of publishers and also into their own markets. The American Society for Microbiology, for example, has needed an Indian sales agent with expertise in local conditions to navigate everything from print subscription fulfillment and sales prospecting to extensive government paperwork. This relationship with PCG's team in New Delhi has helped forward their mission to sustainably spread scientific knowledge for the common good, and it has also demonstrated how well international sales agents can be integrated, almost symbiotically, into an organization.
Mark Monfasani is PCG's Global Sales Manager for the American Society for Microbiology.