April 2006 - A Window of Opportunity in Asia

ERA Asia Committee members open up about the Asian market, networking opportunities and what they hope will be a successful conference in Hong Kong.

By Vitisia Paynich

On September 20, 2006, the Asia Committee hosted its invitation-only dinner at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. With 25 guests scheduled to attend, everyone envisioned an intimate gathering. However, when 32 additional people appeared at the door, the committee quickly realized that Asian companies were serious about learning more about direct response opportunities and what ERA could offer them.

“We packed a room of over 12-plus countries across Asia-members and non-members-and sat down to a nice meal, which provided a wonderful landscape to discuss issues and requirements of the region in a casual but [network-friendly] atmosphere,” recalls Nicole Ali, international sales manager for Northern Response (Intl.) Ltd. in Toronto. Ali is also the 2005-06 chairman of ERA’s Asia Committee.

She adds, “There was a no-holds-barred attitude in the room and all topics were fair game. This open and direct dialogue brought to the forefront many interesting twists and successful case studies, as all distributors had the chance to sit down in one room and really compare notes-both good and bad.”

George Hung, CEO of GDSpectrum Inc. in Henderson, Nev., and immediate past chairman of the Asia Committee, says it was at the dinner that “we realized a lot of these Asian distributors didn’t know each other even though, by plane, they were about one to two hours away from each other’s offices. So, they’re very close by in terms of geography, but they really didn’t have much awareness of what the other people were doing.”

Hung believes the Asia Committee Dinner had a significant impact on Asian distributors, “because they suddenly felt a sense of community and a sense that they were able to exchange information such as what products are working in Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.”

In some respect, the event set the ball in motion for creating a list of Asia Committee initiatives that would eventually act as a guideline for the association’s strategic planning sessions. What’s more, it paved the way for new networking opportunities for ERA’s Asian members, as well as confirmed the importance of hosting the ERA Asia Conference in Hong Kong.

Why is the Asia Committee so important to the industry? According to Dennis Chiu, international sales manager for Body Action Enterprise Co. Ltd. in Taichung, Taiwan, Asian markets have been growing dramatically in the past few years, but most people from outside of Asia hardly understand these markets, not to mention the people, culture, market situation, buying habits, etc.

“We believe that the Asia Committee can be very helpful in building a bridge for information flow between Asia and outside markets [as well as create] an introduction to these Asian markets for buying and selling B2B solutions,” he adds.

Harry Hill, chief operating officer at Oak Lawn Marketing in Nagoya, Japan, believes the perception about doing business in Asia has drastically changed. “I think in the past, everybody looked at Japan as being the only opportunity in Asia,” he notes. “[But today] when you look at South Korea, Taiwan and China, and even the core economic growth in Thailand Singapore and Malaysia, there’s really a lot of opportunity that exists in Asia that has kind of blossomed in the last three [to] five years.”

Yet, the challenge that the committee and ERA face going forward is overcoming the differences between these countries, including culture and language barriers, and finding the common ground. Hill says, “If there was a shared cultural trait among the Asian countries that I could see, part of it would be competitiveness and the other would be when they recognize that there is a lack of expertise in something, there’s a very focused effort to find that expertise and learn from it. That’s pretty much been a formula for success for almost all the Asian countries.”

Barb Allan, international sales manager at Northern Response (Intl.) Ltd., adds, “In order for the committee to build relevance in this region, we need to effectively communicate the mutual benefits of sharing information and initiatives with local regulatory bodies in key Asian markets.”

Of course, as ERA aspires to enlighten the industry about the opportunities that Asia offers to DR professionals and to represent the interests of Asian businesses, the organization ultimately strives to increase its Asian membership base.

Jason Kang, general manager at Guthy-Renker Korea, a new venture launched by parent company Guthy-Renker Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., believes Asian companies that are thinking about becoming ERA members just want to know that they aren’t being ignored. “All these companies want is some attention paid to them; they want to be treated like they matter,” he says.

Dave Smith, general manager of global sales for Creative Nations International (CNi) in the Philippines, shares Kang’s viewpoint. “Asian companies have to see a value in belonging to ERA. [They need to know] how being involved will impact their bottom line,” he says. “If we can show that in anyway, we have a chance. It’s also necessary to show that ERA is a global association catering to the DRTV world and not just as a vehicle for U.S. beneficial programs.”

Moving forward, Ali says the committee has outlined a list of initiatives, such as attracting more ERA members from Asia and better servicing the changing needs of the Asian region and those members. In addition, the group seeks to diversify the membership beyond DR players alone, which means appealing to Asian companies that specialize in e-commerce, retail, live home shopping and emerging technologies.

For example, mobile technology is far more advanced in Asia than in the U.S. or even Europe. Kang asserts that Korea, in particular, is the No. 1 provider of mobile technology, with Samsung leading the charge in mobile phone innovation.

However while it’s obvious that Korea excels in the area of mobile technology, Allan contends, “Japan is clearly the leader in mobile marketing, with the highest percentage rate of mobile subscribers. For direct response marketers in Japan, the use of mobile marketing in capturing potential customers will be an important one.”

Aside from Korea, many committee members agree that markets in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, India and the Philippines deserve a closer look.

“When I was elected chairman [in 2004-05], my initiative-and also that of the [committee]-was to take not quantum leaps but baby steps to solidify this kind of forgotten territory,” notes Hung. Part of the plan included a conference in Asia.

He adds that the April event in Hong Kong will feature on-site translators, exhibits, luncheons, dinners, scheduled speakers and plenty of networking opportunities. The exhibitors will be positioned in the middle of the venue surrounded by sitting areas for professionals to conduct business. During the conference, the committee intends on gathering more information from Asian companies to find out what key issues matter the most to them. In addition, they hope to open the doors to new growth opportunities.

So, what does the Asia Committee need to do to garner support from the membership? As Ali puts it, “We cannot service the regional needs without input. It may mean a monthly call or the occasional meeting at a conference, where all of the learning experiences, trends, successes and challenges are shared for the sole purpose of making more money in less time. It takes one quick e-mail to join the committee and minimal participation. You’d be surprised what you actually learn from your peers in the industry, and how it directly affects your own business direction and growth.”

We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, point your browser to asiacommitteeapr06.marketing-era.com.


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment