Guanxi Marketing

Last night, as I was cooking dinner, I received one of “those” phone calls. The ones you usually hope to avoid by signing up with the National Do Not Call Registry. As the seller started her sales pitch, I didn’t hang up. This time, I responded enthusiastically and placed a sizeable order. The difference? I knew the seller.

Americans love to overcomplicate their understanding of the Chinese. They turn ordinary human friendships and relationships into a complex set of social norms that mandate the provision of certain favors based on several millennia of Chinese tradition, customs and culture. It’s not that complex, really.

When banks send unsolicited credit card offers, I mail back the empty prepaid envelopes. If someone shows up at the door to sell magazines or newspapers, I don’t answer the door. If someone calls to switch my long-distance service, I hang up. However, if my friend’s daughter calls up and asks if I want purchase Girl Scout cookies, I’m in. That’s Guanxi 101. Guanxi marketing is relationship or word-of-mouth marketing. If you know the buyer, you will have a leg up on the competition because the natural distrust that buyers exhibit for salespersons will be absent. I don’t have to worry about the pitch being a scam or some form of telemarketing fraud. The discussion starts out with which cookies I will buy, instead of deciding whether or not I will buy.

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