China Business: 7 Hotpot Principles for Success

China business holds ample opportunities for small and large companies around the world by tapping into a trillion US dollar market and engaging a billion-strong consumer base. In particular, overseas service-based brands have a vast potential to lift.

Doing business in China follows certain steps, much like a recipe that results in a delicious meal, or in business, increased revenue and customer base.

The specialists at China Gravy reveal their secret sauce and proven China recipe for success based on real-life experience in market introduction and expansion as well as engagement of Chinese consumers in the “Middle Kingdom” and abroad.

  1. Base: Market Potential
  2. Ingredients: Cultural Insights
  3. Chef: Local Partnerships
  4. Menu: Go Digital
  5. Heat: Regulations
  6. Sharing: Guanxi/Relationships
  7. Taste: Adaptability

Let’s dive right into this step-by-step guide on cooking up bubbling strategies in China to elevate your brand.

China Business – The Hotpot Principle

First of all, what is hotpot anyway?

Well, also known as steamboat, hotpot is a dish where a pot of soup stock is placed in the middle of the table, simmering on a heat source.

China Business: 7 Hotpot Principles for Success: China Gravy

A large variety of Chinese foods (vegetables, meats, rice, noodles) are placed around the hot pot. People at the table put their selected foods into the hot soup to cook and eat.

1. Base (Market Potential)

The basis of doing anything is knowing your playing field. Understanding the Chinese market through market research or insights from a China expert puts you in the best starting position. 

These are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Who is your target audience, and where are they predominantly found? 
  • What is the competition like and what are their USPs? 
  • In which regulatory environment is my brand/niche?

Analyzing data with online tools and information like Newrank, 1688, and Baidu allows you to identify untapped market opportunities and growth areas. Align your business strategies with knowledge gained from this to cater to your existing and new customers’ preferences, purchasing patterns, and demographic trends.

To sum it up: Choose the right base and know your market.

2. Ingredients (Cultural Insight)

As you know by now, cultural nuances and preferences go way beyond simple translation of Western or English terms and are also known as localization.

Successful China business is rooted in a deep understanding of what’s important to Chinese consumers, how they live and work, and, ultimately, what they need from a brand in terms of products or services.

Do your research to understand Chinese values, beliefs, and societal norms to adjust your product or services to the Chinese market accordingly. This includes the added value of your brand which you can communicate in tailored marketing campaigns on the right platforms and channels.

If this sounds overwhelming or you want an expert to guide you through this step, the specialists at China Gravy are here for you.

In other words: Select your ingredients wisely and understand local tastes.

3. Chef (Local Partnerships)

Identify and collaborate with Chinese industry experts, influencers, and key opinion leaders (KOLs). Form strategic B2B partnerships that are long-term and mutually beneficial.

The bottom line: Find a local guide to navigate you with expertise.

4. Menu (Go Digital)

The next step for doing China business successfully is meeting your audience where they hang out: in the digital world. With China being a mobile and digital-first country, having a presence on WeChat (plus Douyin and RED) is basically mandatory.

If you offer an e-commerce product, your own Chinese website is also advisable. Keep in mind to provide a seamless and user-friendly experience across all platforms. An integrated China marketing strategy will yield optimal results, meaning maximum sales and engagement.

To bring it to the point: Embrace the digital landscape and order with a click.

5. Heat (Regulations)

Now it’s time to take a look at the legal environment and set up your China business for success. Don’t shy away from seeking guidance from legal experts on the “Middle Kingdom” to avoid fines, sanctions, and other repercussions.

  • Familiarize yourself with local laws, regulations, and industry standards
  • Implement risk management and compliance protocols including regular audits and staff training
  • Cultivate a work environment of transparency – internally among staff and externally with customers and suppliers

Remember: Adjust the spice and navigate the laws.

6. Sharing (Guanxi/Connections)

As the dish is cooking up, cultivate good relationships with all your stakeholders – internally and externally. The Chinese Guanxi goes beyond having a business dinner. It is much more intricate and takes time. 

Creating a robust relationship in the Chinese business culture involves regular, informal meetings, gifts, genuine interest in the other party (also on a personal level) during social gatherings, and much more. This is your time to shine and to present yourself as a strong and reliable partner.

In essence: Bond over the meal and build relationships.

7. Taste (Adaptability)

Finally, it’s time to reap the fruits of your labor. But, your work doesn’t stop here. Here is what you can do to continuously iterate and improve your products and services.

Within your company

  • Evaluate analytics and statistics (e.g. Baidu analytics)
  • Foster a growth mindset culture for your employees to be creative and innovative, even if it means “failure” or “mistakes” at certain points; one always learns most from them
  • Provide opportunities for personal and professional development


  • Keep an eye on market trends and your competitors
  • Engage your customers and integrate their feedback to sharpen your products and services, catering to their needs and desires, e.g. conducting surveys

Remember: Satisfied customers will buy again and speak positively about your business. Exceed customer expectations and go the extra mile whenever you can. Always be friendly and helpful.

In short: Adjust your flavors with dips and stay flexible in strategy.

The Takeaway – China Business

Win the largest online consumer market in the world with China business done right. Here are the seven hotpot principles for success when doing business in China:

  1. Base: Know your market and playing field
  2. Ingredients: Localize your brand
  3. Chef: Enter synergistic local B2B partnerships
  4. Menu: Go digital to meet your audience on WeChat & Co.
  5. Heat: Consider local laws, regulations, and industry standards
  6. Sharing: Create a robust business relationship
  7. Taste: Continuously improve your products and services

Do you represent one of the following businesses?

The experts at China Gravy connect you with Chinese real estate agencies and brokers, investment and immigration offices, as well as travel agencies and tour operators, education facilities and organizations.

Message us now to redeem your FREE consultation.

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