Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down with Sinorbis co-founder Allen Qu for an extensive discussion about B2B companies in China. Based on his experience as a successful entrepreneur, Allen had several key insights on how B2B companies can give themselves the greatest chance for success – and we’ve condensed them here into this blog post.
If you’re a B2B company thinking about entering the Chinese market, don’t do anything before reading this.
The 3 must-dos for B2B companies looking to enter the Chinese market
According to Allen, there are 3 things B2B companies absolutely must do if they are serious about entering the Chinese market.
- Set up your basic infrastructure
To give yourself the best chances of success in China, you need to start with a solid marketing foundation – namely setting up a Chinese website, followed by a WeChat official account. After those are well-established, you may want to then look into other relevant platforms, such as Weibo.
- Manage your online presence
In B2B, reputation is everything. That’s why it’s essential to perform reputation management, to ensure you’re always putting your best foot forward to potential clients.
- Focus on ways to generate and nurture leads
This will depend on your industry and who you are targeting. That being said, online search outranks other methods of lead generation by far, which is why techniques like search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) are crucial.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps below.
Why setting up a Chinese website is essential for B2B companies
When clients are researching your company, they may come across various sources of information: industry portals, press releases, review websites and so on. Of all the sources they can turn to, though, the one over which you have the most control is your own website.
Your website can have a huge influence over a potential client’s perception of your company. Things like the site’s ranking on the search results page, the professionality of the website, and the quality of the content on the website can all have a marked effect on that lead’s impression of your company.
There is also no doubt that search engines – in particular Baidu – are the biggest lead generation sources for B2B companies. Baidu is the number-one place where people search for expertise and industry-specific solutions, which is why SEO in China is one of the best tools at your disposal. Optimising your website so that it appears as high as possible on organic searches will help not just cement your stellar reputation in the minds of potential clients, but will also help you generate more leads.
In fact, B2B companies have a bit of an advantage when it comes to SEO, particularly when compared to their B2C counterparts. While B2C is highly competitive, making it much harder to appear at the top of the search results, B2B tends to be more niche, so there is less competition. B2B companies in China also tend to be slightly less tech-savvy, and typically lag 3-5 years behind their B2C counterparts – so there’s a key opportunity for B2B companies entering the market to leapfrog their competitors.
That’s why it’s crucial to set up and optimise your Chinese website as early as possible. SEO techniques, while powerful, take time to work – though in the meantime, PPC can be a useful tool to start getting some traffic in those early stages.
The importance of brand reputation for B2B companies in China
When it comes to entering the Chinese market as a B2B company, reputation management must also be a key part of your strategy. Clients don’t make the decision to purchase from a B2B company on a whim – as a decision that often entails a relatively large budget and a significant time commitment, it is one they take very seriously. That’s why they typically take their time to research thoroughly, and there are often several decision-makers that have to be convinced to sign off on the purchase as well. Potential leads want to know they’re getting involved with a trustworthy, reputable company that is going to provide them with an exceptional product and service. One bad review can easily persuade any of those decision-makers to go with your competitor instead.
It’s important to remember that people talk about you online, even if you’re not yet online yourself. That’s why the first step to reputation management is monitoring online activity, so you know what is being said about you and where it’s being said. Once you know what your brand presence looks like online, you can then go about getting the right message out there, by disseminating good news about your company (such as awards) to the market and industry press, releasing short videos about your product or company culture, establishing yourself as a thought leader by publishing content on industry portals, and of course updating your website regularly with positive news about your products or company.
Effective lead generation and nurturing for B2B companies in China
We’ve already discussed how SEO is one of the key weapons in your arsenal when it comes to generating leads. Attracting leads is only half the battle though – due to the typically long sales cycle of B2B, a lead might take a few months to more than a year before they convert to a paying customer. In the meantime, it is crucial to maintain a relationship with that lead in order to stay front of mind for when they are ready to make a purchasing decision.
One of the key means of B2B lead nurturing is through WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. This may sound odd to Westerners, who don’t typically use social media for business communications, but in China it is common practice.
Through a WeChat official account, it’s easy to keep in touch with clients – we recommend posting once a week about things like industry news, company news and company activities, all of which serve to show that you’re a thought leader in your industry, that you’re highly active and that you have a strong company culture.
While a strong online presence is vital, offline events such as conferences are still very important – nothing beats having a conversation face to face. That being said, WeChat is also a key means of bridging the gap between offline and online events. If, for example, you have a booth at an upcoming conference to promote your product, there are several ways WeChat can be used to ensure you get the most out of the event. Before the conference, you could use WeChat to find potential leads, invite them to your booth, and gather information about them and their needs so you can more accurately target your pitch. During the conference, WeChat offers a seamless way to gather leads – rather than collecting email addresses or handing out business cards, which can easily get transcribed incorrectly or lost, with a simple scan of a QR code, attendees can immediately become followers of your WeChat account. After the conference, you could use WeChat to stay in touch with those leads with relevant and engaging content. You could even develop a WeChat mini program that provides leads with a tool that helps them perform their jobs better, such as a data checking tool. Sinorbis, for example, have a SEO research tool where clients can check keyword trends or search volumes and so on. If clients become reliant on your mini program, that dramatically increases the chance they will think of you first when it comes time to purchase a solution.
It’s important to bear in mind that Chinese people consume media differently. Short videos, for example, are much more popular in China than they are elsewhere. Not many B2B companies are exploiting the popularity of short videos, though – which may present an opportunity for those B2B companies who are among the first in their industry to take advantage of this trend.
Aside from WeChat, how B2B companies generate leads is largely going to differ from industry to industry. You might, for example, want to spend some of your budget advertising on relevant industry portals, where the audience tends to be highly targeted. You may also find your target audience is on other popular platforms such as Ximalaya, China’s most popular podcasting app, or Douyin, China’s most popular short-video app.
When it comes to B2B companies in China, potential clients have to know that you’re in it for the long haul, and that you’re not just a flash in the pan. Investing resources into your online presence – starting with your website – proves you’re a serious player, and is an important stepping stone towards succeeding in China.
Ready to take this all-important first step? To learn more about creating a website that converts, check out our free Chinese Website 101 guide to find out how to build a high-performing website in China. Download it now!