Foreign concept

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:09 pm

Successful marketing and branding in China isn’t always about advertising campaigns and media blitzes. Sometimes it’s about educating Chinese employees and customers about your service, how it is used and how it can benefit them.
Chicago-based Bally Total Fitness has opened 15 fitness centers in China since 2002. China’s emerging middle class, with its high demand for
leisure goods and services, made
it attractive to Bally, said Tomer
Rothschild, director of franchise
development for the company.
"We thought that was great, and with the Olympics coming in 2008, it was important to be in the Chinese market," said Rothschild, who was scheduled to speak at the Beyond Sourcing Conference in Milwaukee on March 17. "There’s definitely a growth trend there. The factors that led to us coming there, the emerging middle class, the fascination with foreign products and services and demand for leisure goods and services will only lead to future growth."
Bally has become successful quickly in the Chinese markets it has gone into, but Rothschild said the firm needed to extensively train its employees and managers before it could open. Rothschild and another Bally employee spent three months training the firm’s new Chinese employees in 2002 before they were able to set foot inside the gym.
"After the club was finished, we let them go in there and see what it was – it was kind of a surreal experience when the employees were (training) for selling something they didn’t even know," Rothschild said. "There were a lot of humorous situations."
Customer service was one area Bally had to explain extensively to its new
employees, because it was a foreign
concept to Chinese
consumers.
The investment in the Chinese market has paid off, Rothschild said, especially when Bally has opened facilities in second- or third-tier markets, which have less availability to Western products or services.
"That’s where we hit an immediate home run," he said. "People sort of go nuts. When you look at cities in China where you’re the only game in town, there’s nothing else going on. Even though there is a lot of latent customer demand, this becomes the place to be. It’s a really exciting thing to have your store or club open. The mayor is coming to cut the ribbon. In Milwaukee, it’s not a big deal to have a new health club open, but in China, it is."

March 18, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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