If you are an executive in a B2B tech company doing business in China, you’ve probably heard about marketing localization. Indeed, result-driven marketing activities in China depend on localizing marketing strategies; But marketing localization in China is often not fully and correctly understood by the international community.
To better explain marketing localization and share tips for productive marketing in China, we invited Julia Zhou – Atlantium’s China sales director – to a unique “marketing think tank” (keep reading to learn how to join the next meeting). The participants enthusiastically embraced Julia’s insights, so we decided to share them with you too.
So, how Should B2B Tech Companies Approach Marketing in China?
2022 CIIE booth of Atlantium, Consul general visit
Common Misconceptions about marketing localization in China
Marketing localization is generally thought of as knowing your target personas and identifying the most suitable marketing channels. This is undeniably the place to start; Understanding your local audience, adjusting the tone and messaging, and meeting them where they are looking for information, would ensure the marketing budget doesn’t go down the drain.
However, marketing localization in China is not just about translating your content or learning your audience, it should cover much more than digital strategies. Moreover, a great business idea or a strong global reputation are not a guarantee for fruitful marketing in China either. Marketing in China requires an integrated strategy, and familiarity with local marketing regulations (such as China’s Advertising Law), practices, and norms. With that in mind, Julia generously shared her 5 most important pillars of a sales-focused marketing approach in China.
5 pillars of a sales-driven marketing approach in China
- Goals & positioning
Julia advises B2B tech companies in China to adjust their expectations. In other words, your current positioning and already-earned reputation won’t count in China. Instead, companies have to “generate local brand awareness and acquire their reputation from scratch.”
In order to do so effectively, companies will have to first, determine how they’d like to position themselves in China and, secondly, define the HQ expectations. For instance, ask yourselves, “Do I have a premium product?”, “Do I aspire to be the first in the market, or am I just testing the waters?”. Answers to these questions will dictate the marketing approach most sensibly across the goals set.
For instance, many foreign-owned companies entering the Chinese market think they could win the price war with local brands by offering low prices. However, this tactic represents a misunderstanding of the Chinese market and clouds other approaches that could better fit your product or service.
Overall, this is an opportunity for B2B tech companies to decide what they want their brand image in China to be like – and this is definitely worth considering.
- Connections (Guanxi)
Every business professional worldwide knows that networking is key in doing business, and this #1 rule in your playbook also applies to China. Let us put it bluntly – you can’t maximize sales potential in China without creating and nurturing relationships with industry associates and your audience. Practically speaking, it means creating opportunities for meaningful interactions whenever and wherever possible.
Julia encourages marketers to actively initiate connections even in big events or exhibitions: “You should try to engage in conversations and schedule one-on-one meetings for further introduction that could potentially lead to future collaboration.”
- Local team
Speaking of connections – your local sales and marketing teams are the enablers of creating and developing those connections. They are your face in exhibitions, when meeting with potential clients, and when engaging with prospects and followers digitally.
Therefore, when recruiting and hiring in China for any role, and specifically sales and marketing, you want to select the best people for the job. Particularly, look for personnel with relevant industry backgrounds, experience, expertise, and a set of networks to capitalize on. This is especially true for B2B companies, where the buyer’s journey is longer.
Learn more on Recruitment & HR management in China
On the question of whether a B2B company should invest in an official WeChat account, Julia’s answer is ‘yes!’. “WeChat Official Account is a tool replacing your product catalog, it is easily sharable and highly popular. If your potential clients cannot find your brand online, they will think you are either not doing business in China or not taking it seriously.”
We can’t agree more. WeChat is indisputably the most important marketing channel in China and is THE number-one brand awareness booster. Overlooking this asset will not only damage your brand exposure and reach but also your reputation.
- The story
Julia has impressive experience leveraging exhibitions to enhance PR, and her secret of success is “story framing”. Julia explains that when it comes to participation in exhibitions, companies first have to assess the type of the event; Whether it is a professional industry exhibition or a general one, such as CIIE – the marketing is different.
She says: “CIIE allowed us to pay a low price to catch great attention. We adjusted our marketing approach to say more general things about the exhibition’s topics. It’s their KPI to report the interesting things. So, we found our unique angle to win more media coverage. Look for ways to get attention first. Only then, set meetings in smaller forums to speak more technically about what you are doing”.
In contrast, an industry-dedicated exhibition is a better place to speak more technically and specifically about your products. As visitors and media coverage differs from those in general exhibitions, so should your messaging and marketing approach.
How to join our next Marketing Think-Tank?
The marketing think-tank is an exclusive framework for PTL Group’s clients, comprised of marketing professionals in international B2B companies in China. The supportive environment provides a safe place to discuss marketing trends, exchange ideas, brainstorm, and network. In some meetings, which are also open to the public, we invite an industry expert speaker to present a topic of interest and their case study. These topics include lead generation on Baidu, using video channels in B2B marketing, branding in China, and more. If you’d like to join the next meeting or be a speaker, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To conclude, marketing localization in China goes beyond putting your new target persona in the center. Once you complete the market research, support your marketing efforts by investing in the five pillars mentioned above. Reality has already proven that they are a precondition to boosting sales in China.
At PTL Group, we assist dozens of international companies with B2B marketing localization in China. Learn more about our services and contact us for any inquiries.