When you’re trying to build B2B relationships in China, it definitely helps to be on the ground, building P2P (person-to-person) connections. But after all that time spent at trade shows, meetings and business dinners – then what? How do you go about nurturing all those leads you’ve carefully cultivated, particularly after you’ve flown back home?
This can be particularly tricky in China as tried-and-tested lead nurturing strategies in Western countries may not work as well in an environment like China. Email marketing, for example, tends to be less effective in China as people check their email much less frequently (though this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use email marketing – more on this later).
But don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Here are 5 top B2B lead nurturing strategies you should use in China.
Good marketing is about reaching leads where they focus their attention – and no matter what industry or demographic your leads belong to, we’d be willing to bet they spend a fair bit of time on WeChat. WeChat is so ubiquitous in China – around 76.5% of smartphone users use WeChat – that it should certainly be a key aspect of your B2B lead nurturing strategy.
It’s important, however, to think beyond the functions of your WeChat official account. Instead, develop a mobile-friendly Chinese website that you can link to from your WeChat menu. That way you can provide your followers with more information about your products and services, as well as ensure a seamless experience when moving between your digital marketing channels.
Keep leads engaged with interesting, topical and useful content, to boost your reputation and build trust, and stay in touch with e-newsletters delivered as WeChat posts. While it can be difficult to generate awareness on WeChat, it’s the perfect tool for engagement, allowing you to build a more personal one-on-one connections with prospective buyers.
There’s a perception that email marketing is ineffective in China. Yes, it’s true that people in China tend to check their emails less frequently than in Western countries, largely due to the significant amounts of spam they receive. But it’s also true that email providers like QQ and Netease have made great strides in combatting spam in recent years, which has led to an increase in email open rates.
Email marketing also has some advantages over WeChat marketing. Emails, for example, can be linked to detailed profiles with data like industry, job title, company size and so on, whereas with WeChat you only know your leads’ gender, age and location. Because of this detailed data, it’s also possible to segment emails, thereby allowing you to personalise your content much more easily and precisely.
Remember, though, that spam filters in China are stringent, so be sure your content is highly relevant to your leads. It also helps to use local internet and email service providers (ISPs and ESPs), who can advise how best to structure and format your emails, and what “spam trigger words” to steer clear of, to avoid ending up in the junk folder.
You may have spent hours on the trade show floor or in windowless meeting rooms, but you risk undoing all of that hard work in a matter of a few clicks if you don’t have a highly professional localised website. Your website serves as a valuable validation tool for leads – it helps to prove you are serious about the Chinese market, have the resources to go after that market, and that you are an industry leader.
Remember, a localised website is more than just your English website translated into Mandarin. Be sure to follow website best practices, such as ensuring it’s mobile responsive and designed with Chinese users in mind. Nurture leads with blog posts and long-form content (gated behind landing pages) that really speak to their pain points and demonstrate your thought leadership.
One essential aspect of Chinese culture that is especially critical when it comes to developing B2B relationships is the concept of “face”. Face is described by professor Jonathan Story as a mix of public perception, social role and self-esteem than has the potential to either destroy or help build relationships.
When it comes to public perception, SEO is key – indeed, research has shown that 90% of Chinese internet users are heavily influenced by search in their purchasing decisions. Ranking highly in the organic results on search engines like Baidu shows that you’re a legitimate and established business, thereby helping you project “face”.
Boost your website rankings using techniques like:
· backlink campaigns
· regular, quality content production
· content dissemination (i.e. sharing content on other platforms)
· PPC campaigns
Adopting local business practices
While the digital side of the B2B marketing equation is very important, the P2P element should not be forgotten. Personal relationships are a crucial aspect of business transactions – much more so than they are in the West – so it’s vital to cultivate these, remembering this may take quite a lot of time.
Even if you’re not in the country, it’s still possible to adopt local business practices, such as purchasing suitable valuable gifts for important Chinese festivals or special occasions, as well as sharing pleasantries and engaging in small talk in any conversations you may have with Chinese counterparts. While you may think gestures like these are a “waste of time”, they are seen as important in the relationship-building phase.
Being attune to Chinese cultural practices shows respect and sincere interest, which will go a long way towards building trust with potential buyers and leads.
All of the above
The average Chinese consumer requires 9 touchpoints before they make a purchasing decision – and that’s B2C, where the stakes are generally much lower than B2B. You’re therefore likely going to need to employ a mix of all five of these strategies – as a minimum – in order to effectively nurture your B2B leads.
Whichever strategy you decide to employ, it’s important to be mindful of branding and reputation. Be clear what about sets you apart from your competitors, and always try to deliver value to potential leads. Remember, successful B2B marketing in China is not about giving the hard sell, but rather cultivating relationships over the long term.
Your website is an essential part of your B2B marketing mix. 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!