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How to Sell 2 Million Dollars Worth of Products in Just 90 Minutes (Episode 137)

Heidi Dugan is an incredible example of female empowerment. She is the Founder and Director of Arete Group Limited, a consulting and social media company that creates tailored strategies for international brands to enter the China market.

She is the first foreign TV Host to have her own TV show in China and has become known as a leader in business and market entry, working with Chinese media and connecting with the Chinese consumer. 

With Heidi’s following of over 6 million fans, she is the “Go-To” health and wellness, food and beverage, influencer and celebrity in China. Her successes include selling over $2 million worth of products in just 90 minutes on the Oriental Shopping Channel and being the only foreign host to obtain a license to live-broadcast on Chinese National TV.  

Her influence across China has been recognized through media coverage in Harper’s Bazaar, Channel 9 News, Ausbiz TV, Australian Financial Review, China Daily, and Global Times to name a few.

Heidi has been recognized and awarded as Leading International Woman in Business, Best Foreign TV Host, and International Alumnus of The Year.

What you will learn

  • What led Heidi to start a career in TV in China
  • How Heidi became a social media personality
  • Discover the Chinese social media platforms you probably don’t know about
  • Find out how you can break into the lucrative Chinese market
  • Learn how Heidi helps brands and companies develop a strategy to break into the Chinese market
  • Discover how Heidi sold $2 million worth of products in 90 minutes
  • Find out why China is evolving so rapidly
  • Heidi shares her best tips for companies who want to sell to the Chinese market


Jeff Bullas

00:00:06 - 00:02:08

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Heidi Dugan. Now, Heidi is an incredible example of female empowerment as the first foreign TV host to have her own TV show in China. China is a small country, about 1.3 billion people, so that's a big deal and how she has become known as a leader in business and market entry, working with Chinese media and connecting with the Chinese consumer. She provides advice for entering and succeeding in the Chinese market and that I'm very interested in because cracking that nut is difficult for most westerners and we're going to find a little bit more about that.

With Heidi's following over 6 million fans, success in selling over $2 million worth of products in just 1.5 hours on Oriental Shopping Channel and I think I might need to hire you some time in the future and the only foreign host to obtain a license to live-broadcast on Chinese National TV, she is the “Go-To” health and wellness, food and beverage and is influencer and celebrity. Heidi Dugan is the director of the Arete Group and we're gonna find more about that. Her influence across China has been recognized through media coverage and Harper's Bazaar, Channel 9 News, Ausbiz TV, Australian Financial Review, China Daily, Global Times to name a few. Heidi is recognized and awarded, Leading International Woman in Business, best foreign TV Host, International Alumnus of The Year. She also partners with the Shanghai Government and Women’s Association to help educate and train women in: Health Nutrition & Parenting to have a positive impact on thousands of women.

Heidi currently holds the positions of Founder & Director of Arete Group, Chair AustCham Shanghai, Council Member of University of Southern Queensland.

Welcome to the show, Heidi.

Heidi Dugan

00:02:07 - 00:02:10

Thank you so much. Nice introduction.

Jeff Bullas

00:02:11 - 00:02:57

I may have mispronounced a couple of terms there, but you must forgive me because I'm an Aussie from Sydney and sometimes I'm mispronouncing especially when I haven't had a good night's sleep.

But anyway, let's cut to the action. Heidi, why the hell are you in China? You are an Aussie in China and how did you get there? What was the inspiration like? You must have been, you know, you did a degree in Southern Queensland I believe and I think you did something in foreign, a little bit of a course in terms of Foreign Relations or something, is that correct?

Heidi Dugan

00:02:57 - 00:04:36

Yeah. Yeah it's, you know, my background was acting actually and you know people are always very surprised to hear that. I'm not sure why because everything I have done has been, you know, using those skills of acting and selling myself. So after I had finished that degree, I got the opportunity to study International Trade and that was actually with RMIT and a Chinese university, the Iron and Steel University in Wuhan. So it was actually through that course that I decided that I'd come to China to study International Trade and Business and then from there, there were just so many opportunities and remembering this was 26 years ago and so it was a very different China at the time and it seemed like an interesting opportunity. I still wanted to pursue acting so I thought it would be worth just getting out and experiencing something, you know, travel is always amazing like where you get to experience different cultures and through that experience you learn so much more about yourself and so having decided to do that, I really was sort of thrown into this wheel that just didn't stop moving and it was really that progress of China that that my career also sort of followed that wheel and success.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:37 - 00:04:48

So you said you did a course in Wuhan, so was that a remote online learning experience or you went to Wuhan?

Heidi Dugan

00:04:48 - 00:05:40

I went to Wuhan. Wuhan is in the center of China. And what happened was the course was RMIT and the Iron and Steel University came together to create a program which was very, you know, innovative at the time when I reflect on it. And so we had 20 Australian students fly into Wuhan and then we had I think 20 Chinese students that did this course together. So we were in Wuhan for a year completing the diploma and then, you know, one thing led to another and 26 years later I'm still in China and enjoying, you know, success and yeah moving forward still.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:40 - 00:05:51

So I'm trying to connect the dots as in you're interested in acting and then you do a foreign trade course in Wuhan?

Heidi Dugan

00:05:51 - 00:07:05

Okay I'll go back. My acting teacher always said that if you're going to be an amazing actor that you need to get out and experience life and my father told me about this course and as I've been, I would say guided in the past when we were growing up was always write a list. What are the things, what are the pros, what are the cons for me coming to China and it was really clear that whether it was my personal development or even for my acting was that there are a lot of things going for it. So it was pretty much one day I made the decision, yes I'm going to do it, flew back to Australia and then I had my visa very quickly and then the day after that I flew to Wuhan. So it was a bit of a whirlwind. But the idea was to do the course. I had no intention of doing anything to do with international trade. It was just for me to experience it and learn something new and then to move to the US or to the UK to continue this acting career.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:06 - 00:07:11

Okay so you just saw, okay this is a great adventure.

Heidi Dugan

00:07:12 - 00:07:14

Yeah sure.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:14 - 00:07:31

And I'm really not interested in foreign trade but it looks like a great adventure and I can go and experience the country. And did you have to pay to stay there or was it part of the scholarship? Was it connected with the Australian University you're at? How did that work?

Heidi Dugan

00:07:31 - 00:07:57

No, we paid to come. It was the first year that they had done the course. So everything we had to pay for, you know, in life we always get the most out of the things that we had to put blood, sweat and tears into and cash. So you know, you do make the most of it and that's what I did.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:57 - 00:08:07

Okay so you've done your course and then what happened next? Because obviously you ended up being trapped in China for the last 26 years.

Heidi Dugan

00:08:07 - 00:09:58

Yeah. So from there during our holiday, I then flew or actually I caught the train to Shanghai and then at the time Shanghai was nothing like it is today but it was a really beautiful city. And the comparison between Wuhan and Shanghai at the time. I honestly thought I was in heaven when I arrived and I was just like this is the most amazing place to be. And it was through a number of, you know, going to the Australian Consulate and they had Aussie drinks on Fridays, I met a number of people and there was one person there that was heading up a real estate company and he said, oh look, we're looking for people, would you be interested in working for us? And so I thought why not? So I spoke to the university in Wuhan and to our lecturers and I said, you know, the whole idea behind the course is to help people get jobs in international trades so that you've got more Australians abroad doing this kind of work. So, you know, I would hope that you would support me in, you know, taking this job and continuing my studies whilst I'm in Shanghai and they were amazing. So we had Australian teachers that would fly into Shanghai, they would give me the curriculum then they would fly to Wuhan to do their class for 34 weeks. They fly back to Shanghai and they examined me and then they fly out. So I had this for about six months and then for my final exam, I had to fly to Wuhan and I graduated whilst I was working.

Jeff Bullas

00:09:59 - 00:10:03

Well, you must have felt very special.

Heidi Dugan

00:10:04 - 00:10:42

You know, it's really funny, I think that when you are really certain of the things that you want to do, people generally will support and jump onto it. I think the big thing is, and what I've also sort of learned as an entrepreneur is when you're certain that gives certainty to other people. If they can see any doubt, then it worries them. So you know, I was very certain this is what I'm doing, this is good for you. And so they were, it was kind of an easy decision for them.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:43 - 00:11:27

Yeah, and good on you for being, I suppose, assertive going I've got a job, you made a positive case of why you should be in Shanghai. Here you are an aspiring actress seeking adventure encouraged by your dad, which is awesome. And sometimes we need our parents to support us when I'm sure there was a lot of, I'm sure there was some doubt by maybe your father but he didn't tell you, but here you are. So you're doing real estate in Shanghai 26 years ago, Shanghai was maybe more authentic old school China back then, is that correct?

Heidi Dugan

00:11:27 - 00:11:30

Yeah. Absolutely.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:30 - 00:11:32

So what happened next?

Heidi Dugan

00:11:32 - 00:15:17

So one of the beauties behind this job and which I was highly aware of was that it meant that I understood Shanghai very well. So you know the lay of the land, it also meant that because I was looking at expatriate, it meant that I was meeting pretty much every single expatriate that was coming into the country and that just extended my connections, my relationships within the city. Through that I met a really interesting person who was heading up the financial times of the UK Financial Times and it was through him that he became very good friends with him and he was working very much with the TV stations and reporters and things like that. And so he said, you know, I know that the TV station is looking for someone to help them work with the news channel. So it was through that that I went there and I was grooming their news reporters that were reporting in English, how to speak and how to hold themselves on camera for the English news and then they got the permission to have a TV show. They had a number of shows, foreigners fill out the hosts at the time. And so I was often a guest host on some of the other shows and when the station got the license to become an international channel, what happened was they were also given a license for foreigners to be able to be a TV host. And so they started with a show called You Are the Chef, which they approached me about and said look, you know this is a show about cooking and teaching about foreign food, would you be interested in hosting it? And so I agreed and that's the show that really has, you know, in my mind, I've never imagined it would have been as big as it was and it's been aired for 20 years now, a daily show and it was even now the chefs will say it was, you know, back in the day, it was really the show that they watched because it gave them inside into what other chefs were doing. And so you know, and even today when I'm on the street or I'm going into an elevator, you know, people go, oh my God, I grew up watching your show. No, I'm not sure I like it but yeah, so you've got a lot of, also you've got two generations within families, their parents and the younger ones that were learning English who are watching the show. So it had a really big impact and of course at the time no one was used to watching foreign TV hosts and so my style was incredibly different to what their style was and you know, I'm gonna be silly at times, I'm you know, I consider myself quite funny, but I'm very casual and so it was something that they really embraced and you know, through that they embraced me in my life and it's really held me in good stead for many years.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:18 - 00:15:26

So come on, let me ask you a question. So how good a chef are you?

Heidi Dugan

00:15:27 - 00:16:34

If you ask my husband, he'll say I'm not good at all. What, you know, it's really funny. One of the thing everyone asked me that question and like we have this hundreds, thousands of recipes that I've learned, but I very just, I think it's my nature, I very rarely stick to a recipe. So whenever I have a recipe, I'm always like, I'll just swap this or I'll just do this. So I always change it around. So what I'm really good at is if you give me vegetables or you give me any ingredients then I can always make something. So through the show I've learned so many skills, my palate excellent from all the food, all the different flavors, all the alcohol that I've had to drink and you know, through this process, it's really meant that I've developed such an understanding of food cooking techniques and very much flavors.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:35 - 00:16:39

So you immerse in the chef landscape?

Heidi Dugan

00:16:39 - 00:17:12

Yeah, it's just been an incredible experience and chefs are really such unique people that you know, you can't help but love them because they just dig deep into one area and I always love that with any professional is when they just go really, really deep and become an expert in such a specific area that they're so passionate about what they do and I love that in people.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:13 - 00:18:30

So you would have started developing quite a, I suppose a brand, a personal brand because you were hosting this show. So the next question I'm curious about is when did social media, in other words, what's really powerful in my observation as you've become an influencer as well as a TV personality in China despite being a girl from Queensland, which has always piqued my interest, but I read your bio, this girl sounds fascinating. So when did your a mass media personality and social media hasn't been around, I suppose in the western world since, well I think Facebook's 2004, so barely not even 20 years yet, so you been becoming a mass media personality, well known, and you're a bit different because you're not Chinese, I suppose that's also not a bad thing. So when did social media become important to you? When did that journey start?

Heidi Dugan

00:18:31 - 00:20:34

To be honest, and people are just going to die when they hear this, it's been the last three years, as I said I'm really a late for those sorts of things. The reason behind that is because I very much was a personality and most of my work was not promote, like I already had my show and I already had personality. So when I worked with brands like Swatch watch or Twinnings or any of those companies, it was for me to bring my persona to their platforms. So whilst everyone else was building their platforms, they were using me and my connection with the consumer for their brand. So that was something that was unique for me because no one else could do it. So when we talk about social media, it's open to everyone. My unique selling point was always that I had a personality that people wanted to work with. So before that, so it was very much about other people building their brand by using me. And so that was how I worked. And then of course I got to a point and I was sort of like, you know, people wanted to see, a lot of celebrities and that started doing their social media and so they were, you know, increasing their following and it was people with them saying to me, do you have a following? Could you also post this on your own social media? So I was like to add that benefit to them, I had to create social media. So it was through the needs of my client that I started to build up my own following. And it's something that now I realize of course is, you know, I have much more control over the outcomes and it's an asset that I've built.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:35 - 00:22:00

Well, the thing that excited me about social media when I discovered it in 2008 was that it bypassed the gatekeepers of mass media and it gave you more power over your own brand because you no longer seek permission or pay to actually be on a show. And you were lucky enough to actually get on and be the host of a show in China 26 years ago, so you've only been on social media for two or three years in China and we had a quick discussion before we got on recording this and you're much, you're well known on social media channels which are Chinese social media channels and the most of the world is a little bit american social media centric. So let's have a little chat about Chinese social media because I think we need to educate people that there's actually another world outside the Western world, which you know, and we need to pay attention because 1.3 billion people in China. So what are the big platforms in China and which one? And secondly the other question is, which one is your main channel?

Heidi Dugan

00:22:01 - 00:23:33

So the biggest ones are WeChat, Weibo, DouYin and Little Red Book. All five of them are used, this is my strongest, I set up Weibo really a lot earlier and so that I've got sort of around 190,000 followers on that. And then for, you know, the other ones were much more recent sort of in the last year and a half. And so the rest of my following, we've got sort of around another 200,000 are on WeChat, DouYin and Little Red Book, so they're the equivalent of your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, I started the international social media honestly, that has been really in the last year that I started and you'll see that the only reason I do that is so that brands know what I'm doing in China. So we don't, you know, don't try to get, you know, specifics about higher following for any particular reason, it's really brands can connect with me that way so that they can see what I'm doing in China and the China social media than me is a completely different market to my international social media is connecting with the consumer.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:34 - 00:23:47

So, TikTok has been growing enormously internationally. So there's a Chinese version of that, which is actually one of the originators. So you are in the Chinese version of TikTok, are you?

Heidi Dugan

00:23:47 - 00:24:43

Yes, so DouYin is the Chinese version of TikTok and I probably would even flip that around to, I saw an article two days ago and it was this big sort of revelation that guess what guys TikTok was created by a Chinese company and I'm like, seriously, don't people know that and I think that, you know, we live, you know, I definitely feel sometimes I live in a bit of a bubble and I assume people know outside the country what's going on. So I would say that TikTok is the western version of DouYin because it is, they're both of the platforms are completely Chinese and they were created first of all for China and then it went international.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:44 - 00:25:27

So now there's something quite different about most of the Chinese social media platforms in that they are almost an all encompassing platform where you can shop by share. So tell us a little bit about that because a lot of the global outside China systems, social media platforms haven't able to crack that nut of being like an all encompassing platform. So tell us what some of these platforms like WeChat and Weibo I think which can do, what do they enable you to do on those platforms?

Heidi Dugan

00:25:27 - 00:26:49

Absolutely so when we look at something like Instagram we see sharing, we see people posting, they do live and they will also connect with the shop so that's pretty much the limit to all of them. Whereas when you're on WeChat for example it is our whole life, everything is connected so all of the other apps are connected to it so I don't go out with a purse or my money is on WeChat. We have a WeChat banking and it's connected to our bank accounts. So we pay for everything either using two apps, one is like PayPal and then the other one is WeChat and we've got our like public transport cards, we've got bank cards, we've got transferring money, we can go to any shop, any supermarket and we can purchase on these apps so we can pay our bills. I top up my phone on it, I pay my electricity on it. I literally do everything with these apps and then it's got the personal and also company social media.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:50 - 00:27:26

So it almost sounds like what Mark Zuckerberg called a metaverse is actually a virtual world where you are controlling your sharing, your buying, your transport, paying your bills in a virtual world. So it is fascinating. I think the Chinese actually lead the world, especially social media platforms and how they've being able to provide an all in one social media platform that helps them run their life for them.

Heidi Dugan

00:27:26 - 00:27:31

Yeah and it really does run our life.

Jeff Bullas

00:27:32 - 00:28:06

So that raises another question. So can you get banned from these platforms because you weren't wearing the right clothes or you didn't do your makeup right or didn't do your hair correctly or you said something wrong? How does that work in China? Because we know that around the world Facebook, they can ban you because they didn't like something you posted and really hard to actually ring them up and complain. So are there any instances in China where that happens as in you get banned from the platform?

Heidi Dugan

00:28:07 - 00:29:59

Absolutely. I think anyone, any company that owns a platform is trying to monitor the users and make sure that it's in line with their ethos. So there'll be things where they'll pull down a post and then they'll contact you and say you know why that's happened, we did a post and sometimes it can be quite an unusual thing. So for instance, I did a post where my son for a kiss christmas gift, put the Chinese dollars on it like a card and sort of it opened it up and he was giving us all the money he had saved and I did a video on it and it got pulled down within minutes. And apparently the reason for that is that you're not allowed to show, you know, the Chinese money on social media or to actually sort of show that kind of image. So they pulled that down and we're right, okay, that's fine. I get it. And so we, you know, we were constantly on the platforms as to what we can and can't post. And if it's something, you know, really not in line with what the platform or what the government is considering, okay then they will pull you off. Like with WeChat, they pull you off that section of the social media but you can still use and access all the other apps throughout it. They wouldn't, they're not actually removing everything. So it's really just that part of the platform.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:00 - 00:30:24

Because that would be quite scary because as you said, you use social media as an all encompassing tool for everything almost. You would almost become persona non grata. If in other words a person with no name and no identity. If you were actually just pulled off it now because that becomes your personal online identity and tool.

Heidi Dugan

00:30:25 - 00:30:56

Yeah, I think the thing is that these apps began as social media but then they became so much more so we're talking about WeChat specifically. There's so much more that you can keep and it would be the social media element of it that would be pulled down. But the thing is that we still think of WeChat mostly as a social media app. It's actually so much more than that.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:57 - 00:31:51

Yeah, it's been interesting to watch the rise of Chinese social media versus the western social media and for me a lot of the metrics and data goes well which is the biggest platforms in the world and Chinese social media is actually almost not discussed whereas and that's very much US centric, it's like we're the most important country in the world and sort of forgot that there's actually quite a few other countries in the world. So we need to actually be aware of that.

So now the next question we ask is you become a personality, you haven't bothered with social media yet and because you've already got a brand. So when did Heidi Dugan become, she said something's going on here, I can monetize this and turn it into business. When did that happen?

Heidi Dugan

00:31:52 - 00:33:27

Yeah, so that was about 2.5-3 years ago when I started, probably three years, when I started dabbling in it, I became a lot more serious about a year ago. And the big thing is that because there are so many people that already knew me, it was a no brainer for them to be able to sort of follow me, the biggest challenge that I have is that you're in a completely separate platform environment. So it's about getting back in front of your fans and saying, hey, guess what, I've got social media now. So that's that's really the biggest challenge that that I have because, you know, when they know they, I've got something then they jump on pretty quickly and that's why the brand and the social media has grown so quickly is because they already know who I am and the other thing is that it's been for all the partners and companies brands that I work with. That's one of the big things is that they know that my followers are real followers. They engage with me, they talk about things that they saw me doing like for instance when I was pregnant, I was still on TV, they'll go, I remember when you were on TV with your, when you brought your baby on for the first time. And so there's a lot more interaction and through that the brands like that and they know exactly who follows me.

Jeff Bullas

00:33:28 - 00:34:07

You've become very authentic. So when did you sort of realize that you could help companies break into the Chinese market because the culture is quite different, isn't it? And you've lived in both worlds, you know, you've lived in Australia and you've lived in China, so you've got experience and visibility in both universes. So when did you start the company that helps people do that?

Heidi Dugan

00:34:07 - 00:37:36

So I started two years ago formally, but really that part of my business started even, you know, way earlier, probably about 16-17 years ago where you know, I've always been passionate about business and as a matter of fact my whole family are entrepreneurs, they all have their own business. And so I was working with a lot of the large western enterprises like Ford, IBM, Lego and what I was doing was helping their Senior Management when when they had a senior manager that would come to China, I would sit with them and then look at their strategy and we would talk about how to localize that strategy. So I was doing a lot of business development. I worked very closely with BP for over 10, 11 years where I would fly all over Asia for them training their staff to sort of present themselves. I was working a lot in those areas and so then with my TV persona, what happened was brands was sort of coming to me and going, well could you help us connect with the consumer? So it really was a matter of brands coming to me and saying, can you actually do this for us, what you've done for yourself, can you do it for us? And so that's kind of why I started more formally the Arte group because it gave a platform for companies to reach out to me and to work with me in a more structured way for us to then help really review what they're doing, what their goals are. And then to turn around and look at, okay, this is the China market, you know, how can we move forward and get you sort of scaling your business in China and I think one of the other, the unique things about our businesses that we have incredible structure around how we do that, but that structure allows us to be very flexible and that's something that a lot of companies don't really get. They create this structure, either it's so rigid that they can't take the opportunities quick enough that come with this kind of rapid paced, you know, changing market or they didn't have a very good strategy at the moment. They'll say our strategy is Weibo or our strategy is WeChat, it's like that's not, you know, or the shopping channels, like my strategy is theme or shop like, you know, so this is what companies get fixated on these big companies like Alibaba or Tencent, Ding Dong where they go, we can sell massive amounts, let's set up the top there, but it's not a strategy. And so that's where some of the, you know the mistakes are made when companies come into China. So it was about my understanding of this rapid pace and being flexible and being able to grab opportunities when they came, but also being able to pivot very quickly. So that's meant that companies can, you know, know where they're going, but they're very agile.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:37 - 00:37:55

Cool. So I've got a couple of questions. The first one as we’re talking is okay, so what, how do you engage your client to help them develop that strategy? What are the steps in other words, where do you start? And where does it finish?

Heidi Dugan

00:37:56 - 00:41:50

So the first thing is I, when I have my first talk with the clients is really to see the passion behind the business and to see who I'm talking with. So generally I like to be able to talk to the founder or the CEO because they're the ones that have, you know, will realize the real impact of it. They're also the decision makers. So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is when we sign up a client, we have two onboarding sessions. The first onboarding session is we sit back and we give a list of documents and items that we want to go through and we let the client tell us basically download everything that they're thinking about, what the company is, the passion story, all of that for us to get a much better understanding. One of the other steps and probably the more important step is to not only understand what the goals of the company are, but what are the goals of the founder or the shareholders? Which can often be quite different, is this person wanting to hold onto the business for a long period of time? Are they wanting to flick it in a few years? Are they wanting to list it? So those things will guide how we build the business for them? So after we've felt, then the second stage is where we look into the market, we have a look and see what kind of competition is around and we actually create a structure which we believe will be the best for success at that point in time. When we present that to the company, it's really about them understanding why we've chosen it and what other options are open to them, but that we're not going to do right now, that we're going to focus on this. Once we get the go ahead, we then go full stream ahead and we start to help them implement it. So it depends if the company is in Australia, then we will connect with all the trade partners they need to, it could be the apps will be set up for them or we'll be connecting with the importer, the distributor, so we'll start to establish those relationships for them. The other thing that we do, which is quite unique is that we don't want to just maintain and we want to empower the brands and the companies. So the only way we can do that is making sure that they're the ones that also have the connections. So any trade partners we enjoy include the brands in that. And the other thing is that we teach them why we're making these decisions so that we can make them in the future. If they use us, fantastic, we want to be working on better problems in the future. If they don't, they still have a much better understanding of China and that they could actually do it themselves. So that's the goal of, you know, like for instance, one company we just worked with for years and just helping them completely with their social media, how we send it out, what platforms and all of that, we've been really consistent building it and to a point where because they've now got all their offices in China, is that we're now able to hand it over to their team to take over and guiding them on how to do that. And that's like for us that's a massive win. A lot of companies that go, no you don't want that, you want to not teach them anything so that they can keep your people in them as a client. But for us it's like, you know, we can't pick a better, you know, way to have more and more people talking about our business in a positive way than to do it that way.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:51 - 00:42:07

So in listening to what you just described to me, I'm hearing that essentially you educate them firstly in what they need to do, you create a strategy and then you're almost like a connector of networks.

Heidi Dugan

00:42:07 - 00:43:17

Yeah, absolutely. A connector. We create an ecosystem where their brand can sit with all of the partners within it. And then, you know, we do a lot of the implementation. If they're not in the country, we'll manage, you know, we don't do the back end of these big shops like Ding Dong and Timor, but we manage that them doing it, we make sure they're on point, we make sure that they have got the calendar. So it's just if you think of it more like these, all these teams are our teams and where senior management, making sure that each person in the team's doing what they've got to do. So whereas if they're in the country and that this also happens where they already have a team here, their own personal team, we work with their team to make sure they're doing it properly and that we help train them to make sure that they're reaching out to hotels or chefs or things like that, we monitor their progress and then give them the guidance that they'll need through growth of what they're learning.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:18 - 00:43:23

So you're almost, well, what I'm detecting is that you're really a value added influencer.

Heidi Dugan

00:43:24 - 00:43:28

Yeah, nicely put.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:28 - 00:43:59

So it's really fascinating to hear you and that raises the next question I'm curious about. So when did you realize you were an influencer? Because influencer was a word that's only emerged in the last decade, like an influencer wasn't a term in 2008, it wasn't a term in 2012. It's only emerged in the last 10 years or so. So when did Heidi realize, hey, I'm an influencer?

Heidi Dugan

00:44:00 - 00:46:10

I've always believed I was an influencer before social media was out there, you know, that's when we look at personality styles, that's me, I am, that's my personality is, you know, a star profile with influencer in it. So the platforms that were created were, you know, they've now coined, you know, the influencer platforms, I think we're, you know, possibly created for people like myself where we could reach in a more personal way to our consumers. I always the term influencer because what happened was with social media, anyone and everyone could have their say and as much as I believe, everyone never should have their say it, someone that had a big following and was just sharing their life, I know there is a place for it, but that was not what I was doing, you know, I have always felt that if I'm going to do something, I need to have an impact, I need to be able to make someone's life slightly better than what it was in the past. And so I've always believed an influencer as an expert in a specific area and their views of social platforms to share. And there are a lot of amazing people and bloggers and you know, key opinion leaders that are like that, but then there are also a lot of people that are just sharing their life. And so I think for me that I sort of had a problem with it at the beginning, now I sort of feel, you know, what does it matter? Like, you know, as long as someone feels genuine that they want to share something, I think it's all okay.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:11 - 00:46:21

Well that's what excited me about social media was, it gave everyone a voice and not just a voice locally or nationally, but gave them a voice globally.

Heidi Dugan

00:46:22 - 00:46:23


Jeff Bullas

00:46:23 - 00:48:49

It democratized marketing and as I observed it back in 2008, I went, well there's something going on here because social media democratized people to publish, allowed them to publish without seeking permission or having to pay for it through mass media. If you can actually, if you can do both well, which is what you've done, I think there's incredible power with mass media because that builds social media and then it's like super charged. The other thing that fascinated me too about social media was number one social media before the rise of the smartphone was quite obsessive and very powerful. But when the smartphone met social media, everyone could publish anywhere anytime as we had cameras and could record video. That's what really excited me and went, this is going to change the world and it has and not necessarily for the best. But I think social media is gonna be a tool rather than our slave rather than be a slave to it. And I think what I love about what you're doing is that, I think this is what I call influence a light, in other words, people sharing, you know, it might be a bikini model that might be someone who looks, you know, dressed well or on the other hand, there's people that are called influencer heavy as in, they're really adding value and I see you as being someone that really is adding incredible value, but still being an influence in other words, you're changing companies and you're changing other people's lives, which is absolutely fabulous and but look in mass media, there were influences, our personalities, right? But what we have today is social media has given more people the ability to share their stories and that's something to be celebrated for sure.

So the other thing that I'm curious about is that you sold $2 million worth of products in just 1.5 hour in Oriental Shopping Channel. Tell us about that story.

Heidi Dugan

00:48:50 - 00:49:30

So I'm the only foreigner that is able to have the license to be able to do a shopping channel to be able to sell and do live broadcast on Chinese TV and and that's really been you know, from the history of, you know, the government, you know trusting me and supporting me. That case was it was actually a German company Zwilling, that was pots and pans and knives.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:30 - 00:49:33

And so you’re selling steak knives?

Heidi Dugan

00:49:33 - 00:52:51

We were. This is it, you know, it's funny, you know there's nothing, there is nothing like live sales channel and then the reason for any entrepreneur that loves marketing, you will just love this for me, it was this new world and it brought together my love of TV hosting, business, marketing, everything all in one, you have a TV in front of you that tells you to the second how many people are calling up, how many people have bought. Everything that they're doing, whether it's online or whether they're buying or they're on the phone, if I say something, I can see the numbers changing. So this is like if I'm eating an orange and I go, oh my goodness, it's so sweet. Phone call start, you know, building up and so I go, okay, well that's what they want to hear about this product. And so it was very much with these pots and pans that what happened was from my understanding of Chinese culture and you know, it's really about how to take a product and how do you fit it into their life? That's really the big thing, is that what people think is like, what is the benefit? You know, all that kind of thing. We all know often the benefits of a product, but how am I going to fit it into my life? How do I create the routine or that purchasing habit? So it was through this, that it was the conversation that I had about, what are the circumstances you should buy this, it's not just buy this because this is good or this is the sharpest one you're gonna have, you're gonna love it, it's gonna make you cut easier. It was like it's wedding season coming up, you know that these are great products, you know, you could either give something different to the usual red envelope or it was, you know, maybe you're getting married. So there are a number of different types of circumstances where I'm sort of broadening their horizons saying, okay, these are heirlooms and they're very much because these products last forever and you can hand them down. So it was very much these heirlooms, these are all about tradition, these are the things that you're gonna want to have in your family and you're gonna want to be able to give it. So it was about fitting it in and then being able to vision that product in their life and then using and and I will say I had the CEO of squealing and the TV station next to me and they're like because not only did we make so many sales that we actually broke the record for, you know the lights, the hearts that were coming up. So we had so many, it was just like if you're looking at the monitor, you can just see this trailing thing of hearts flying up over the live broadcasting and this was for TV and they also have an app where it's so they had it simultaneously placed on it and of course the CEOs are like this is fantastic. So everyone was pretty excited and we broke a record for them and it was incredibly successful and great to be part of it.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:52 - 00:53:28

Yeah, it's nothing like a good infomercial and I remember watching a TV movie about, because the infomercial developed on sort of daily TV in America initially and the art and science of that, but wait, there's more, you know, we could not only you not only get this, you get that and not only that, you get this and this is where steak knives became part of legend as well. So did you offer a few things that were bonuses to make people buy that?

Heidi Dugan

00:53:29 - 00:55:00

Yes, of course we did. And we did, you know, and then like, I can't remember, but we were offering bonuses and then we were also throughout the show, we were offering like money pouches as well, I'm pretty sure. So we were doing a few giveaways and that's always don't go away just a moment. We're still going to have these, see if you can win it. And in the meantime, let me tell you about this product. Yeah, so we, you know, we did all of that kind of thing and you know, that's full kudos to the production team, not me. But yeah, you know, that's them having that full site to sort of create the structure of the show. But you know, we have our mic and phone and you can just say it again, say it again, go back to this section. It's like I can see the numbers changing, but they'll also go, you need to say that again, talk more about how sweet it is. Okay and then that was really funny because you know, orange, Chinese people don't like sourness in their fruit. So you know if I was talking I love that little bit of sour sort of taste but you know they don't so the more we talk about juicy bursting in your mouth you know they're like I've got to get it. So yeah just fun things like that.

Jeff Bullas

00:55:01 - 00:55:10

Yeah so that sounds like a great experience. How long was this production?

Heidi Dugan

00:55:11 - 00:55:12

Yeah. That was hour and a half.

Jeff Bullas

00:55:12 - 00:55:14

So have you done something like that again?

Heidi Dugan

00:55:14 - 00:56:39

So we do them all the time and that one was a particularly big one. It was a big production that was important for them but we're constantly, you know, the other thing what we have on the TV is what our target is and what we're currently at what percentage we're at. So what you'll have is and this is once you know you're seeing these live sales channels you'll see at the beginning there you know talking a normal pace and they're describing things and that and when you get sort of closer to the end you'll see they start picking up their pace and often that is because it's not because they're trying to get more information to you but it's because they haven't hit their target, they want to go over it. So that's when they're going come on and they'll do a lot more of a harder sell towards the end. Get on now this is the last time you're going to have it we've only got five minutes left. You know, we do a lot more of that kind of thing when you haven't hit your target or when the target was hit too high. Perhaps placed too high. But yeah, so it's really interesting when I now go back and look at those shows, you can see what's actually happening and what the host is thinking and what's happening behind the scenes.

Jeff Bullas

00:56:40 - 00:56:56

It's the art of selling which is fascinating.

Heidi Dugan

00:56:57 - 00:58:35

But how amazing, you know, for business people, for marketing, why this is like for me was just like, oh my God, I seriously just got dropped in heaven because you can see your results instantly. And it was like, oh, and that's one of the really interesting things. Also if we go back to social media, this is also now given us with these shopping channels and things like that. If you're doing promotions or live broadcast on social media, anyone can do it. So as long as they have a shop and they're linking it, they can now get the same as what we're doing. They might not have as many numbers, but they can see what they're saying is it selling.

And so I think that this is, you know, that's that the other beauty of people don't really understand is that social media can be used in so many ways. It's not just sharing that, but it's the information that you get back of what you've done that is unique, like TV stations we go, how many, I know that I have daily six million viewers, but that's from the TV station doing, they do they have a special way to sort of find out, but it's so inaccurate, you know how many followers do I have? I've got 253,000 followers. So I mean, I know exactly how many other people can see exactly how many you've got. So this is really putting power back into our hands and entrepreneurs hands and many entrepreneurs hands, you know, to be able to have access to this information.

Jeff Bullas

00:58:36 - 00:59:38

Yeah, before we had a big permission from the media moguls to do this. Whereas today, with social media, you can go straight to the world on your own channel. Well, it's not your own channel, but on a platform and it gets rather exciting.

So you are now a personality in China, you're helping people and companies reach the Chinese market because you've been there for 26 years you're embedded, you know how it works, but also still a westerner and Australian. So what, what are some top tips you would like to say to our listeners and viewers about how they should approach selling into the Chinese market? And I would love to hear you just the top two or three that you think are really important to succeed in China.

Heidi Dugan

00:59:37 - 01:01:19

You have to be looking at the long game, it's no longer other quick fixes around. So if you're looking at the long game, you need to make sure that you've got your finances, you've got commitment. You've got him and at time to focus on that specific area, that's my number one thing, if you don't have that, you cannot proceed. The second thing is China is changing rapidly for you to understand, for me to understand the Chinese consumer, the platforms, the ability to and the ways to sell is changing constantly. Even with covid, the sentiment from the consumer and the people is changing every day. If you don't have someone in the market who is experiencing it, who is part of it, you cannot know how to build a business in China. You have to have someone here that has that cultural understanding between the two cultures, your own and then the Chinese culture and that is experiencing it and is able to react quickly. And I would say then the third thing is you've got to be flexible, you've absolutely got to be flexible knowing that where you're going, you'll get there. But the way that you get there will be different from month to month. You know, you may change strategy throughout it, but you're still working towards the same goal and you've got to have faith in that.

Jeff Bullas

01:01:20 - 01:02:03

Yeah, I love your first point in that you've got to play the long game and a lot of entrepreneurs and companies want a quick fix, a quick solution, quick sales and playing the long game is very, very important.

So Heidi, thank you very much for sharing your stories. Thank you for sharing your expertise and passion for the Chinese, and perhaps after you for breaking into another country. It's great to see and congratulations on what you're doing. It's awesome to see. So thank you for sharing your stories.

Heidi Dugan

01:02:03 - 01:02:07

Thank you so much. It's an honor to be on the show.

Jeff Bullas

01:02:08 - 01:02:09

Thanks, Heidi.

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