Marek Matura, Partner & Co-founder of Shanghai Jungle tells us about hands-on, effective and affordable China marketing solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marek Matura: It’s strange times we find ourselves in right now. But thankfully, my family and I are all doing well. I’m based in Shanghai, and I haven’t had a good chance to go back to Europe to meet with my broader family in over a year, so that’s certainly not great, but at least we’re all healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Shanghai Jungle.
Marek Matura: Shanghai Jungle was started in 2013 by Alexander Schultz as a marketing agency focused on the Chinese market, or more precisely, our clients are companies and brands from the west who wish to promote themselves on the Chinese market.
I joined the agency shortly after it was registered and formally become Alexander’s partner and co-owner of the company. The two of us have been running the agency together ever since. Alexander is based in Europe, taking care of our sales and customer relationships, while I am based in China and in charge of our staff and service delivery. Before joining Shanghai Jungle, I worked at a Fortune500 company back in Europe. As you can imagine, the experience working at a company with thousands of employees and countless separate departments is completely different from running a small agency where you are the person who has to stay on top of everything.
China is a unique country with a very strong culture. It’s been quite a journey for me to learn how to work efficiently with our Chinese staff and external partners. We decided to focus on the tourism industry and to learn everything there is to learn about marketing western tourism destinations in China. As we’ve gradually learned more over time, we expanded into B2B and finally into B2C marketing.
How does Shanghai Jungle innovate?
Marek Matura: The key to our success is our unique setup: Our staffs are both westerners and Chinese, which allows us to understand both the western clients and the Chinese target group. In our experience, many of the agencies based in the west selling services focused on China simply don’t understand the Chinese market and offer outdated or misguided solutions. On the other hand, working with agencies that are 100% Chinese generally doesn’t end well for western clients as the cultural and communication barriers are simply too high. I’d say most of our success comes down to the fact we 100% understand our clients, and then we spend a lot of time internally discussing the best course of action with the Chinese team who understands the target group – in many cases, they are the perfect target group.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Marek Matura: Early last year, nobody knew how the situation would evolve. Thankfully, the Chinese market turned out to be resilient and rebounded quickly. I think the western companies considering the Chinese market see it and are now once again willing to invest in China. In recent months, we’ve actually received more new requests for our services than ever before. Still, a part of our business is in the tourism industry, and that is completely dead for the foreseeable future, so we’re putting more attention on the B2B and B2C aspects of our business. Today, B2C is the most important part of our business. That means we spend a lot of time on branding, operating social media accounts such as WeChat and Little Red Book, and opening and operating e-commerce stores on Tmall and Jindong for our clients.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Marek Matura: Most of our tourism clients have really been struggling this past year. We made the difficult decision to give these clients significant discounts or, in many cases, forego our fees completely in 2020 and 2021. It meant a significant loss of income for us, but we’re happy we managed to hold on to most of our clients through these difficult times. Looking back, we’re extremely pleased we made that decision.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Marek Matura: In the past, we’d come and physically meet with all of our clients around the world at least once a year to keep in touch and plan for the future. Now all of that had to move onto Zoom, WeChat, or Teams. Having spent a few months working from home, we also had to learn to work remotely as a team. Here in China, we’re using WeChat Work, which is pretty much a Chinese version of the MS Teams. That proved to be an indispensable tool in our daily operations. Working from home, our team also become more independent than before.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marek Matura: There are perhaps hundreds of agencies that aim to offer similar services we do. But very few agencies offer integrated one-stop solutions that we do. In fact, I don’t think we really have a direct competitor. Recently we have even started a separate company to handle work for some of our clients that don’t quite fit into the ‘marketing’ category. We can help clients obtain trademarks, import goods into China, tax declaration, warehousing, shipping, service, etc., essentially becoming their distributor. I don’t think there are many marketing agencies with such aspirations.
Your final thoughts?
Marek Matura: I think 2021 will be a great year for business in China – If you’re interested in learning what we can do for you, just send us an email or leave a message on our website.