22 October 2016
Social media marketing is a good option for small and medium businesses as customers can be targeted better at lower cost. Photo: Bloomberg
Social media marketing is a good option for small and medium businesses as customers can be targeted better at lower cost. Photo: Bloomberg

How a digital marketing SME hopes to gain from China stock rout

China’s volatile stock markets may be hurting broader consumer sentiment, but the bitter tonic for punters is having some positive impact on Gentlemen Marketing Agency, a digital marketing start-up located in a creative office space on the banks of Suzhou Creek in downtown Shanghai.

Founder and company chief Olivier Verot says business hasn’t exactly boomed in the wake of China’s market volatility and broader economic slowdown, but neither has it begun to falter.

He says his small team of about 15 has received a growing number of new leads from local Chinese companies who’ve suddenly decided they don’t want to play in the country’s volatile stock markets anymore.

Many companies were using their idle cash to invest in stocks when the market was booming in the first half of the year. But now that the market has tanked, they’re looking for alternatives like actually investing in building and promoting their businesses.

Like many westerners who have started small businesses in China, Verot caters mostly to foreign clients, who make up about 90 percent of his business. Many of those use Gentlemen’s services to promote their products over China’s dizzying array of new media platforms that always seem to be growing.

Those run the range from older webpages accessed over desktop PC browsers to newer platforms like mobile instant messaging app WeChat and business networking site LinkedIn.

While traditional marketing firms may be feeling the pinch of lower spending by domestic companies, Gentlemen is more upbeat due to a flood of potential new business from an emerging field of clients that can now sell on the web after the recent lifting of certain bans and limitations. Such industries include drugs, vitamins and baby products, all of which are being welcomed by online shoppers.

As to the former day traders and whether their queries will become real business, Verot says few if any of the recent new leads have turned into actual jobs yet, but he remains hopeful, and also realistic.

After all, he notes, the real estate market is also in the doldrums, meaning these potential customers really do have very few alternatives to park their cash. But of course all of that could quickly change when the next hot investment option emerges.

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A commentator on China company news and associate professor in the journalism department of Fudan University in Shanghai. Follow him on his blog at

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