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  -  Culture Ready   -  Industry insights   -  Industry insights – Derek Melnick
Derek Melnick – NZONE Skydive

Understanding and capitalising on market trends.
Importance of cultural understanding to be a successful business.
Using digital media to market the product.
Insight to tapping into the Chinese market.
Building long-term business relationships.

My name’s Derek Melnick and I’m the Business Development manager for three skydiving operations here in the southern lakes. One of our most significant markets is in North Asia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia would probably be another secondary focus of us.

Skydiving has in some circles the perception of risk. But I think the rewards far outweigh the perception of risk, it’s such an iconic experience. Particularly for the Chinese market because it ticks a number of boxes. The achievement factor of landing a skydive is quite a powerful experience. It’s the ability to share that in social media and it’s also not something easily available within China itself.

We’re seeing all walks of life. A lot of couples, honeymooners, young families all the way through to 50-60 year olds. It’s very common these days now to see people in their 50s and 60 year olds coming out and looking for immersive experiences. They’re not looking for just passive tourism they’re looking to be immersed in, in experiences.

Cultural understanding is probably one of the most fundamental elements of being successful in any market. Be it Southeast Asia, Latin America, or North Asia. Over many years we have focused on orienting our experience towards being China ready. So those are the basic fundamentals in a beginning starting point of any organization.

Being ready is getting your websites, your collateral, your key information Chinese ready and legible in Mandarin. And then going to market and presenting that in a market ready format to the trade. And then engaging people, employing people. We’ve not only got Chinese people within our organization but we also have our English speakers go on Mandarin cultural training.

So, it’s a two-way process you need to engage both ways.

We’ve got a number of our key elements converted into Mandarin right down to the key safety element which is when it comes to a skydive lifting your legs on landing is quite a fundamental safety feature and most of our staff if you ask them today, how do you say lift your legs in Mandarin they’ll tell you, ‘Tai tuei’, which is lift your legs. So we know how to say it verbally, we’ve got a number of references throughout the customer journey referencing that in Mandarin, visually and verbally.

I see there’s a definite trend towards longer staying, more independent style travel and there’s also from a distribution point of view there’s a major shift from the traditional distribution channels towards online travel agencies. The likes of Ctrip [] which is kind of a Chinese version of Expedia.

That type of trend is also becoming more significant. One of the other important elements of being oriented towards the China market effectively is keeping in mind that they engage very differently in terms of technology. And they are actually world leaders in terms of where technology is going. They’ve got a very different landscape in terms of digital and social media channels. Keep in mind for those that haven’t been, there’s no such thing as Google, Facebook, YouTube.

It’s Google’s equivalent Baidu, Facebook, and Instagram’s equivalence of WeChat and Weibo. And those are the kind of social platforms that are basically key to a communication strategy and if you’re going to be successful in China you do need to be engaging on those channels.

I would probably encourage people to again within your Chinese team have them managed by somebody who speaks Mandarin rather than contract those services out externally. Have somebody in the organization live breathe and feel the experience of the products represented on social channels not contract that out. And then consider some of the new emerging platforms that are coming out.

There’s video streaming services like Tik Tok which have over 1.5 billion users worldwide, of which half a billion are outside of China. So there’s new platforms coming about as well that one should be quite mindful of.

My advice would be get your product China ready and be patient. Don’t expect overnight results. With China, their culture lends itself to a very slow burn. Relationships are key regardless of the product. Fundamentally you need to build relationships and those can take, for me personally, they took three years before we got any traction. And to expect results any sooner than that might be unrealistic.

So be prepared to work on a long game plan.

Industry insights – Derek Melnick