Have you ever asked yourself “how to develop an effective marketing plan for China”? It can be hard to create the right plan, but there are always methods and lessons to follow.
First, you need to forget all western platforms and strategies!
In this article we analyze, step by step, how to approach your marketing plan and, at the same time, we’ll try to give you some tips in order to be effective in the Chinese market.
Understand the client
The first thing to do is to understand the situation of the client, especially if they have any experience with marketing in China. In this stage we need to answer some questions such as:
· Has the client done any marketing activity in China?
We know: the more you test the more you learn. This rule is valid also for marketing in China. Knowing the previous activities and mistakes, it can help to choose the right decision for the future.
· Is it a famous brand or nobody knows it?
Of course, a famous brand has more chance to succeed in the Chinese market and, even if it’s much more important in China to drive awareness rather than Western countries, these brands can invest more in the last part of the funnel (to drive consideration or conversion).
On the contrary, for a new brand, it’s crucial to increase the branding and invest in offline and online campaigns which boost public awareness and trust towards the client’s organization or company.
· Does the client have a Chinese business license?
This license is the most important document any company in China possesses. Every company has a business license, from local Chinese companies to Joint Ventures and Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises (WFOE).
If the company is doing business in the Chinese market the answer to this question will be positive, otherwise, for brands which want to start to do business in China, they need to get it, or a Chinese partner needs to represent them.
· What are their goals investing in the Chinese marketing activities?
Here it’s important to understand the client’s goals in order to adapt our strategy or to educate the client in case their goals are impossible to achieve.
· What’s the budget for Chinese activities?
We know it. To do marketing in China is much more expensive than western platforms.
Some Chinese barriers can increase the amount of the hours that an agency need to invest in order to solve the problems which can be simple to overcome with the western platforms.
For example when you want to run a Google Ads campaign, it takes 5 minutes to open the account, to set up and then to start running the campaign; with Baidu Ads it takes from 3-4 weeks because you need to deliver all Chinese documents and then you need to wait Baidu’s approval.
· Where is the target?
In China the highest earning income group are the 18-29 year olds, which is completely different with the western markets where older workers earn more income.
Young Chinese workers more likely live in urban areas where income is much higher than rural areas like Statista analyzed in 2018. When we define our Chinese target we need to take into consideration also these “macro variables” of the market.
For example, last year an Italian high-quality shoes maker, with a small distribution in China, was convinced that their target in China were mostly people over 35 years.
That was because they knew their best target in the rest of the world, but they didn’t consider those “macro variables” of the Chinese market; in fact, also the 80s and 90s born with high incomes and living in the biggest cities (like Shanghai and Beijing) could be interested in their shoes.
It’s important to understand if the client has experience with the Chinese market and know their customers or potential customers in order to deliver the right message to them.
Market research is a crucial step in order to succeed in the Chinese market and avoid any mistake in planning and execution. In this stage we need to study 5 points:
- Define client’s market and target: here we need to identify who you want to sell your product to and understand their needs. We need to get the demographics, location, and common interests or needs of our target.
- Perform market analysis: in this point we develop an in-depth understanding of client’s market growth rates, forecasted demand, competitors and potential barriers to entry.
- Assess internal capabilities and prioritize in this stage we need to understand which are our pros and cons compared with our competitors. The most important analysis is the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat Analysis). Moreover, we need to consider if it’s possible to have any collaboration with strategic companies.
- Develop market entry options: the key steps here are to develop the business and marketing plan, case for investment, implementation work plan, timelines and tasks.
Plan the strategy
When we plan our strategy we need to consider the first 2 stages (understand the client and market research).
It’s obvious that the strategy for a $90,000 USD monthly budget is different than $10,000 USD.
In this stage we need to allocate the budget and set the KPIs in those platforms which can get the maximum results based on client’s objectives. We can divide the activities in 2 groups:
For online marketing, as we know, we consider all tools and methodologies used for promoting products and services through the internet and, like in the west, in China it is crucial to be there and to act strategically. Let’s check the most important sections:
Must be in Chinese language, located on a Chinese server and domain and should respect all of Baidu’s SEO guidelines. If we do not respect these basic points our website won’t be visible to Chinese audience because the most important search engines, especially Baidu, won’t index that website.
Social media marketing on WeChat and Weibo
we need to develop the right content for Chinese platforms, at the same time, we should interact with our community and, in case of low organic results, try to set up the campaigns depending on client’s goals in order to bring more sales, leads, traffic, engagement, reach or impressions. In this stage we can consider boosting our content strategy using a Chinese influencer (KOL).
When we create a new Chinese website, at the beginning it is really difficult to get organic traffic to our website, that’s why we recommend investing in SEM campaigns (i.e. Baidu Ads). Like Google, the most important search engine in China, Baidu, doesn’t trust new domains and we should invest the money in order to be in the first position in those keywords which are crucial for client’s business.
In case the main goal of the client is to drive sales, we can consider to approach those Chinese platforms which allow to increase online sales such as Tmall, JD, etc.
Other online marketing tools
There are other marketing tools, such as newsletters, video marketing on Youku, promotion in a specific websites or APP, etc. However, these 4 points are crucial in order to be effective in the Chinese online marketing.
For Chinese people it is more important to do offline activities in order to drive awareness than in the west. That’s why, especially when we have a brand which is not well-known, we need to consider to increase awareness doing offline activities and to mix them with the online marketing strategy (i.e. share the QR code in the offline event in order to drive people in a specific landing page).
Moreover, it’s important to be part of all trade fairs held in China which are related to their business in order to increase potential collaboration with Chinese partners and find customers.
After planning, we need to begin execution.
During this stage we need to set up, measure each marketing activity, react to every situation which didn’t follow the plan, and optimize in case the result and KPI are not the ones which we expected.
To develop a successful marketing plan in China is difficult when a company doesn’t have any previous activity in that market but following these steps could help ensure you build a solid plan.
However, the main problem when a company wants to develop a strategy in China, are the limits of their experiences, budget and time; usually for these reasons, their strategies are not effective.
Contact us and we’ll help you with these steps and make a structured and successful marketing plan in China and achieve your goals.