Creating plans for your landscape business in 2017

Another article on WLA to assist landscape architect businesses prepare for the coming year.

Although 2017 has started and we’re all back to work it is still a great time (during the slow period) to plan for the year ahead for your landscape business (existing or planning to start).

Business Plan
Business Plans are key for a business as it sets out goals for you and the team to know what the year ahead brings. As a starting point answer these two questions, Do you have a business plan? When was the last time you reviewed your business plan? Business Plans do not have to long documents and can be formulated using online templates. Often a simple 4-5 plan that sets out the key information (who you are, what you do, where, market, finances, etc) about the business is enough to get started. When reviewing or creating a business plan you need to be true to yourself and not to over enthusiastic and set expectations (sales or business initiatives) too high for you or your team. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident writing your business plan then speak to your government business department as many of them have guides on how to write a business plan and also offer free seminars on business planning, marketing, people management, finances and other areas of running a business.

Read the full article at WLA

Businesses are treating social media like a webpage in the mid-1990’s

Social media is currently in the same place webpages where in the mid-1990’s where businesses where putting up their business webpage and expecting people to come and start buying. It wasn’t until businesses realised they needed to promote their website and integrate it with their existing marketing that their webpages started generating emails, calls and sales. Social Media is at the same point with many companies starting to sign up because its the latest way to gain customers and generate sales, however they are treating like a webpage by waiting for the likes, followers, and contacts but they aren’t coming. Like all marketing and promotion of brands and products it takes time, planning and effort to engage with your customers and let them know that your there and create a company identity and message.

So like the businesses in the 1990’s that realised they could use their website to gain customers through news, deals and integrating e-commerce, its time businesses realised that engaging with customers through social media and using it as a tool can create an brand identity and generate interest and increase sales.

Many businesses spent tens of thousands of dollars creating webpages and e-commerce platforms back in the mid-1990’s, but this time there is a difference – social media is unbelievably cheap in comparison to other forms of marketing and advertising. Businesses can spend just few thousand dollars to get your brand or product out across the world. Of course, it depends on the size and number of products but when comparing social media with advertising in trade magazines or attending expos businesses could save thousands with a social media presence.





Why the NHL should be in China

The National Hockey League is currently going through one of the most exciting periods of the season – the Stanley Cup playoffs with Game 1 set to kick off between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. But sadly, the coverage in China is minimal. For a sport so fast paced, full of action and provides such a colourful spectacle its a shame its not on TV or streaming in China. I can go to a expat sports bar and watch the action in the early morning Shanghai time but a few hundred expats in a market of 1.3 billion seems a waste of potential the NHL has to make hockey a big sport in China.

There are Hockey Leagues in Shanghai and Beijing but with hundreds of millions of people living in cities that get extremely cold its seems like a no brainer to get NHL on television and the web. Numerous sports get coverage on television and IPTV in China including Basketball, Tennis, Football(Soccer), Golf, Car Racing, Snooker, Volleyball, Swimming, Badminton, Table Tennis. Many of these I can watch live including NBA, China Basketball, Major Tennis Tournaments, China Super League (Soccer), Premier League, Bundesliga, La Lagia , Serie A, AFC, FIBA, FIVA, FINA, Formula 1, and most Chinese National Sports tournaments and many are replayed again the next day. So where is NHL?

NHL needs to realise the potential of NHL and put some money and promotion into getting it onto TV screens and video streaming sites including Youku, Tudou, PPTV and others. The older generation watch CCTV 5 and local sports channels and the young using video streaming sites. NHL needs official channels on these web platforms. Why? China is a large market and the merchandise and possibility for Chinese advertisers to start paying to sponsor teams, stadiums and TV ad spots is real. However, if the NHL is not seen on TV screens at home how do Chinese company, CEO’s and marketing manager know that the NHL exists?

Think of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa before that no one knew about Yingli Solar until they sponsored numerous billboard advertisements at the stadiums and where a key sponsor to the tune of between 35 to 50 million. The company got write ups in the New York Times, CNN, Businessweek, Business Insider and the flow on was huge demand and financing deals. Given the World Cup is watch by billions but the precedent is set.

The NHL only has to look at the NBA and the sponsorship of the Houston Rockets and the stadium billboards by Chinese companies – many would say that due to Yao Ming, but its also because millions watch NBA games every week during the season. Also NBA, Soccer Leagues and Tennis highlights get played on buses and trains in large cities in China giving more eyeballs to sponsors and coverage to the sport.

Aigo an electronics company in China sponsors Manchester United due to the large following by Chinese EPL fans. They also sponsor McLaren F1 team giving it promenient exposure on the track but also featured on the Aigo website along with a report about how much exposure McLaren get per year in F1.

NHL is missing an opportunity not just to broaden the appeal of NHL to Chinese but also gain sponsors for teams, stadiums and league. Its time they made a move with at least a website in Chinese and setting up something with video highlights.

Creating the right marketing material for the China market

Recently I have seen some brochures from international design companies for the Chinese market. Some were good and others were down right appalling. I thought I would give some insights into what makes your marketing material good or bad for the China market.

Lets start with the bad

  • Too smaller size font for Chinese text – I have seen lots of brochures with large English font and small Chinese font – who is the material for your home market or China? Make sure you use a nice Chinese font and that all the characters are correct – sometimes the fonts will have the wrong characters.
  • ‘Western People’ Stock Images and Graphics – Unless your Louis Vuitton with $$$ to spend on super models make sure to get stock photos with Chinese people or get a photographer to take some good photos with Chinese and western people using the product. Your product may be international but you need to make the consumer feel like they can obtain the product.
  • Irregular Graphic design – this goes for all markets not just China – unless your in-house team was trained as a designer and has some great InDesign skills you should outsource your graphic design. Putting out material produced in Word or Powerpoint is unprofessional and will do more harm in the long run. Also goes for brochures done in InDesign with irregular graphics and numerous fonts it just looks bad.

The good

  • Brochures and websites in Chinese – engaging a local design house or a company with China experience makes a difference. The Chinese consumer has different tastes in the use of graphics and colour – you mightn’t like the design but its not the point; the point is to get sales of your product or service in the Chinese market
  • Use of images of company staff – Chinese like to know the people they are dealing with as business relationships are more like friendships. Using nice photos of your staff  and team photos with friendly facesmakes a difference
  • Chinese office contact details – make sure to include your China office address – people often talk about where your office is in China and relate it to their experience of the city
  • International calling codes remember to put only +86 or (86) or don’t put 011 or 001 in front of the country code it will confuse people . As an example of  a USA number +1 712 555 5555
  • Proof read chinese text – make sure your chinese text is proof read by a native speaker who is not your translator or translation company.
  • Good quality printing and binding – the best brochures have good quality print and binding – you may save a few yuan on cheap printing but is it worth it in the long run
  • Digital Format – make sure to have a digital copy of your brochures, price lists etc. – you don’t want clients to wait 7-10 days to get your promotion material in the post if your office is not in China
  • Country Name – Use P.R.C. or People’s Republic of China – its the official country title so use it on addresses, contracts, etc.
  • Formatting – remember to format dates, numbers, measurements, currency, etc to the regional standard allows for your customers to easily understand and eliminates confusion

China is a market of opportunity and your promotion material is your ‘face’ in China and needs to be the best you can present.

Cities in China need to think like brands

Cities are like brands – they need to have a plan, market, grow, and innovate. Cities can’t just plan and grow and expect investment, residents and tourists to appear. Just getting by can work for some cities such as Paris, Rome or Venice or other world-renown tourist cities – if that is the one of the main industries and it keeps the city going it might work. But for other cities around the world, where the competition internally within the country and externally, where other global cities are growing and innovating it becomes very important for the city to understand their competition and plan, market, grow and innovate.  I am purely talking from an economic and investment point of view. I understand that cities aren’t just economic centres that generate wealth. A City is where people live, where art is created, where sport is played, where people fall in love, where people visit, where trees breathe and where life ceases these are all important elements of a city but for this post I am particularly talking about a city as economic and business brand – not a tourist or lifestyle brand.

Currently, the east coast of China has been developing at a extraordinarily rate since the early 1980’s and some are reaching a stage where its time to review what has occurred what have they learned what has worked in there city and where has the competition beat them. Many cities are starting to compete for the same talent, the same investment dollars and new businesses. In particular its becoming a fight between the Pearl River Delta(PRD), Yangtze River Delta(YRD) and Bohai Economic Rim(BER). The PRD has manufacturing and some services, YRD is the transiting to services (financial, law, business development & tech) and the BER is the government, and tech. These regions and cities require management talent – something that is developing in China but is often the reason that some business sectors don’t perform as expected because the talent pool is very shallow. So the main cities in these regions – PRD – Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Guangzhou; YRD – Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou and BER – Beijing and Tianjin are often fighting for the same money and the same talent.  So like brands they need to put forward the best image and remain competitive and the only way to do that is to be a brand. Branding and Marketing is often overlooked in China as it just accepted that local and overseas people know what the city is about.

In terms of previous branding exercises Beijing used the Olympics, Shanghai the Expo and Guangzhou the Asian Games as a way to reinvigorate the city and create a brand – some brands where more successful than others but now that these events are over and written in the history books the cities need to once again think like a brand. Who can plan, market, grow and innovate in the next 30 years to become the best mega-city or region. Its also the 12th 5-year plan (125)  for many developed cities in China, so many new proposals and ideas have been formulated for the next 5 years.

Currently, the lines are being drawn on what cities will be in the future. It seems that Beijing is announcing that its brand will be “Beijing Service” with industrial competitiveness in ‘human capital, knowledge and technology-intensive service industries’ creating a Silicon Valley environment with “Two Cities, Two Zone”. Shanghai is going after Financial services (New York) by creating a more friendly investment environment and also creating several new CBD/CAD areas that can house commercial development(similar to Canary Wharf) – although the existing towers of Lujiazui will be always be the ‘financial hub’. Guangzhou/Shenzhen is moving forward with manufacturing but moving more towards cleaner and greener technologies. Although the Tianjin and Guangzhou/Shenzhen will be fighting for the same green/cleantech dollars and talent. All the East Coast cities are also important shipping ports, however a shipping port as the sole city brand will not work as China transitions away from manufacturing.

Each city or mega-region needs to generate a brand that saids  Tech, Financial or Manufacturing  and they need to be marketed correctly to the get the  right talent and increase innovation so they can gain the overseas and local capital for the next 30 years. Of course, other city brands will rise as Western China develops but currently the East Coast cities are in a period of consolidating and maturing and need to create that quintessential brand that said Financial Shanghai, High Tech Beijing,  Green Tech Shenzhen and Eco-tech Tianjin.