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About Our guest

Francis Bea - Founder And Managing Director at Eleven International

Eleven International is a Beijing and NYC-based cross-border digital communications agency trusted by leading tech startups to execute their USA go-to-market strategy.

Francis is famous for transforming Chinese tech companies into globally recognized brands. He’s an expert on cross-border marketing and people management. Prior to founding Eleven International, Francis worked as a General Manager at Zero Zero Robotics, and as a Senior Brand Marketing Manager at APUS Group.

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Show notes

Part 1

Francis’ Background and Eleven International (03:20)

I've been working in the tech scene for a while, and most companies that I have worked for were Chinese companies. I came to China for personal reasons and before that, I was a tech journalist.

In recent years, China has become a global economic force, and as a result, many companies were looking to expand their presence in the Asian market, but also in the US. This is where I come in, as I help these companies to enter the US market. Something that was previously seen as very challenging.

We help these companies with the PR, influencer marketing and branding. Due to cultural differences, this was always a challenging space for them to tackle. Chinese companies weren’t really comfortable with hiring foreign people in the past, but that landscape is also changing now.

The Cultural Differences (05:00)

When I got started in China, the companies were actually looking to expand their presence through apps and a lot of these apps were mainly just utility apps, such as browsers. Because of this, they didn’t need an international team except for maybe a localizer and one foreign marketing person.

In the last couple of years, the landscape has changed. Companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus are increasing their global presence, and a lot of these products actually do have differences in terms of software integration, which requires them to hire more international people.

However, in general, Chinese people like to work with the people they are familiar with. And foreign employees tend to be surprised by the Chinese work style.

There is something called nine-nine-six in China, which basically means that the workday lasts from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. For some companies that I have worked for, this was mandatory, but things have definitely changed especially in the last couple of years.

Chinese Products And Services And Their Expansion To Other Markets (09:00)

There are various government initiatives to support technologies such as AI and Blockchain. A lot of Chinese returnees, people who worked and studied abroad especially, have more of a global mindset.

As a result, they have larger ambitions and many of them started their own startups. They are hungry to build a global brand or the next Facebook, but a Chinese version of one.

Ali Baba is a great example, and they have been hiring a lot of senior people with an international mindset. In order to better understand the overseas market, they have hired a lot of foreign employees.

The Government’s Role In Emerging Technologies (12:30)

The great thing about the Chinese government is that they let these companies do their thing and they wait to see where things will go from there, without providing too many regulatory hurdles. This is a contrast to what you might see in the US, particularly where it comes to these emerging technologies.

They are very forward thinking. A lot of technology that you might come across in your daily life in China is harder to spot in the US.

The Common Problems Chinese Companies Face When Expanding To Other Markets (14:00)

As I have mentioned before they tended to have a lot of branding problems. The cultural differences made it more difficult for them to truly understand the details of various cultural or political initiatives that are taking place in the US.

Chinese companies have been really great with a direct user acquisition, but where they tend to fall short is really on the communication side of things.

Part 2

The Core Services of Eleven International (03:30) 

A lot of the companies we work with already have English speakers but their understanding of cross-border marketing is somewhat generalized. We walk them through the differences between how the US market works versus how marketing might work in China. 

For example, in China PR works a little bit differently than in the US. In China, you pay for your results, while in the US you actually pay journalists for placements. 

We also help them with their product positioning, because if these companies are tackling the US market they are going after worldwide recognition. 

They have been very consistent with the aggressive direct user acquisition methods, especially using the Google Ads and Facebook Ads. However, once they’ve hit the peak with the advertising, they've come across the realization that they need to work on their branding. 

The Expansion Beyond Just The United States (07:15) 

The US tended to be seen as a thought leader. A lot of the companies that we have worked with are in the series A stage, so they don’t have a massive budget to hire multiple agencies in different regions. 

For the companies that are more focused on the regions, for example, Southeast Asia, they will work with agencies there to develop their positioning. 

Commonalities/Differences In Marketing Mix (09:04) 

It really is driven by performance. In general, a lot of these companies tend to stick to the comfort zone and you will find that they are a little bit behind in terms of sophistication of the marketing activities. 

Advice For People Who Are Interested In Developing a Career In International Business (10:25) 

Try to understand the local cultural differences that you'll find. Learn how and why people think the way they do. 

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