3 Proven Channels for a Successful China Marketing Strategy
The Chinese Market – The Elephant in the Room
You can’t ignore it any longer, so what channels should you be using to get your message out to the Chinese market.
Companies have begun to realize that China is a market that can’t be ignored, yet still feel discouraged due to the challenges of accessing the market. A general lack of knowledge about China’s laws, culture, and language make selling your product in China quite the difficult task. One of the most difficult tasks companies face is getting their message out to Chinese consumers in a time, place, and manner that they can relate to. Obviously, social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter won’t help your company with The Great Firewall in place, so what can you do?
1. Your Website: Make your website both readable and accessible…in China
“My website is already accessible in China, what are you talking about!?!?!” is probably what you’re thinking.
However, it’s probably not as accessible as you think it is. Here’s some important tips to consider when trying to reach out to Chinese customers through your company website.
Have you heard of “The Great Firewall of China?” Of course you have, that’s the reason why Chinese people don’t use Facebook and Twitter right? Although “The Great Firewall” only prevents access to “controversial” websites it also thoroughly vets all forms of traffic that is generated from outside the country. This results in great slowdowns in speed and can even prevent certain forms of content from loading correctly.
So even though your company has put tons of effort into painstakingly crafting its company website, potential customers might not even be able to access it properly. In today’s day and age we all know how important first impressions are, so how do you prevent your customers from seeing a glitchy unpolished website.
There’s really only one solution here, you will need to host your website either locally in China or in a nearby country to reduce the slowdown as much as possible. This can be easily done and can make all the difference to your new potential customers. Studio Hyperset created a great blog on what it takes to create a great Chinese website. You can check it out here!
The Chinese market has become one of the most valuable in the entire world, yet it remains stubbornly difficult to communicate with.
In a report released by Santander they found that regarding China, “The country’s economy was ranked the second most attractive to multinational companies for 2017-2019, after the U.S.”
With estimates on the amount of people from China speaking English ranging from a staggeringly low 10 million people to a generous 300 million. Even at the high end of the estimation this still only means about 21% of the Chinese population speaks English.
A classic example of a poor english translation in China
While you may be able to utilize simple English messages like Nike’s “Just do it,” more complex marketing messages are going to require use of the Chinese language. If you’ve made the effort to get your website hosted in or near China, make sure you’ve also had it translated by a native speaker to assure it’s readable to an average Chinese person.
One final thought, Google Translate is not a Solution to your marketing issues in China, a native speaker is absolutely essential. Like with any language there is a ton of nuance in the Chinese language and you can easily end up looking like a fool trying to do it yourself.
2. Social Media – Facebook and Twitter have no Power Here
We’ve already seen the power of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms in Western countries and how businesses have been able to leverage them improve brand awareness. Although China doesn’t use these platforms, they have their own versions which can be equally useful for businesses.
WeChat has over one billion users, which makes it the 2nd largest source of traffic in China. Users can post/share content, message, shop, and even transfer money through the Wechat app. This app has become an essential part of daily life in China for most people. WeChat is an essential tool for any company developing its China marketing strategy. You can read our blog post on how to use WeChat for business here.
Sina-Weibo – What many call the “The Twitter Clone”
Although Weibo may have started out as a Twitter clone, it has really begun to differentiate itself in recent years by adding more and more features for its user base. While Twitter’s user base has been in decline, Weibo has been continuously growing. It reached 431 million monthly active users in 2018. Just as Twitter has become an important tool for businesses, Weibo marketing has also become a powerful way for accessing the Chinese market.
Video plays an important role in the Chinese social media scene, just like everywhere else. Although China doesn’t have access to Youtube, they have their own platforms, which include Youku, Tudou, IQiYi, Sohu, Tencent Video, Douyin, and others. New platforms that are quite similar to Vine (Tiktok/Douyin), have become incredibly popular in China, leading to the rise of a strong Key Opinion Leader(KOL) presence. Short video in particular has become an absolutely booming business in China. Businesses can leverage the influence of KOLs and create their own videos to develop a more multi-channel China marketing strategy.
Websites like Douban.com, Tianya.cn, mop.com, and zhihu.com have become powerful tools for reaching out to customers with a more targeted approach. Each of these platforms has millions of users who participate in discussions on a variety of topics. The platforms are unique in that they encourage more active participation. The closest equivalent available to the English-speaking world would most likely be Reddit.com.
As on Reddit and other websites like this, businesses have paid users to help generate buzz about their products by posting subtle advertisements. While these websites host discussions related to a wide variety of topics, there are even several industry specific websites where companies can participate in industry specific discussions. Websites like mafengwo.cn and Gyer.com are active boards for travel and tourism while Real Estate companies have sites like sofang.com and anjuke.com. For retail there are sites like babytree.com and meilishuo.com for fashion.
However, companies need to be careful in utilizing these platforms as outright and obvious advertising is likely to result in bans/blacklistings from website moderators. Be sure to take a look at how prepared you are for a potential PR crisis on these platforms. For more info about PR in China check out this blog.
3. Search Engines – Baidu is your friend
Baidu SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
While your website might be optimized to rank high in Google’s search results for your desired keywords, you’ll have to do it all over again in China where Baidu reigns supreme. Search engines are the largest source of traffic in nearly every market, so although optimizing your website to rank higher on Baidu may be difficult the results will almost certainly be worth it.
Over 70% of all searches conducted in China use Baidu, with its next closest competitor Shenma garnering a measly 15.59%, so optimizing for Baidu is clearly the right choice.
Optimizing your website for Baidu search will be difficult and will most likely require the help of a native speaker, as it will require an understanding of Chinese search behavior and the style with which they input keywords. Optimizing for Baidu search might be the most effective tool among a company’s China marketing strategies, as it is responsible for directing a massive amount of internet traffic.
Just as SEO has proved to be remarkably effective in other countries throughout the world, a multitude of companies have been able to benefit from optimizing their websites for Baidu.
Baidu PPC Advertising (Baidu SEM)
Of course Baidu, just like Google offers pay-per-click advertising. In reality, almost the entire first page of search results on Baidu is usually covered in ads. Unlike Google which shows at max 3-4 advertisements per search, Baidu is widely known to heavily stack its first page results with ads. In fact, most of the Chinese I know told me they usually immediately click to the 2nd page of Baidu results to get past the ads.
Baidu also fills the first page of search results with content hosted on its own websites (where it can deliver more ads). The first page for nearly every search you make will likely result in ads and Baidu results (Baike, Tieba, etc.). While this is can be a bit frustrating for businesses, PPC is still a powerful tool for bringing in the right kind of traffic. Baidu analytics has also come a long way in recent years allowing marketers to better analyze search data and plan campaigns.
Final thoughts on your China Marketing Strategy
Working within these channels won’t be easy and will most likely require the help of some native Mandarin Chinese speakers, but gaining access to such a massive market will almost certainly be beneficial for your company in the long run.
For some businesses, a smart move is outsourcing your marketing. Especially when moving into a new country, many businesses waste time and money on campaigns that may not work.
Here at Dragon Social, we do all the work for you. We pride ourselves on having extensive knowledge of the Chinese market, and we are constantly working to improve our knowledge.
If you would like to find out more about what we can do for you, head to our services page!