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How to leverage digital channels for virtual fairs in China

July 29, 2020 |   Ada Wang

Up until just a few months ago, conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs were crucial events in the B2B calendar, particularly for B2B companies looking to grow their Chinese market. These events provided vital opportunities to learn more about the market, and network and build relationships with prospective customers, partners and suppliers. However, as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the globe, preventing large gatherings and making international travel difficult, many of these physical events have had to pivot online. Even the iconic Canton Fair, China’s oldest and largest trade expo, has had to adapt. They recently held their first virtual fair, in which 26,000 business participated.

In the absence of conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions, virtual fairs in China are the next best option for businesses to connect with and promote themselves to other businesses in their industry. And just like the in-person events, they require a lot of preparation and work before, during and after the event in order to wring the most value out of them.

Your Chinese digital assets are particularly important when it comes to supporting your presence at a virtual fair in China. Here’s how best to leverage your Chinese digital assets before, during and after your next virtual fair to get maximum ROI from the event.

Before the event

Setup your Chinese digital assets

Thanks to the Great Firewall, none of your Western assets (such as your website or social media channels) are accessible in China. It’s crucial, therefore, to first setup your Chinese digital assets – most importantly your website and official WeChat account. You and your employees may also want to setup personal WeChat accounts – at Chinese trade fairs, it is not uncommon for WeChat QR codes to act as business cards, and it’s no different at a Chinese virtual fair. Once you’ve setup your website and WeChat account, you can use this to promote your attendance at the virtual fair.

It’s also important to remember that all your marketing collateral needs to be digital as well. Rather than printed brochures, you may want to create pdfs, webpages or even WeChat mini programs to showcase your product at the event. If you have the budget, you may want to take it a step further with videos or augmented and virtual reality. Remember, unlike at an offline event, people can’t try out the product for themselves, so you need to show your product in action as accurately as you can.

Engage with the organiser's official social media prior to the event

Most event organisers start using their official social media accounts (such as WeChat and Weibo) to promote the event in the months and weeks before the big day. Brands can use their Chinese digital assets to leverage this promotion, for example by sharing content from the event organiser’s account on your own account or using the official event hashtag to increase your brand visibility to their followers.

Purchase a media campaign package to drive traffic to your booth

Unlike at an offline event, at a virtual fair you don’t get the benefit of foot traffic. You may therefore have to work a little harder in order to drive traffic to your booth – and a helping hand certainly doesn’t hurt.

Most event organisers offer media campaign packages to help promote brands to their attendees, so if this is something your budget allows, we would strongly recommend considering it.

Incorporate your WeChat QR code into your virtual booth

As I mentioned, in China people don’t so much exchange business cards as WeChat QR codes, so if you really want to take full advantage of the networking opportunities at hand, be sure to incorporate your WeChat QR code onto your company profile page in your virtual booth. Encourage your attendees to follow your company or personal WeChat accounts as much as possible so you can continue to build on these relationships after the event.

Reach out to prospects prior to the event

Most virtual fairs offer live webinars or 1:1 virtual meetings so you can connect directly with other attendees. In order to ensure you make the most of the limited time frame, it’s highly beneficial to try to book as many meetings as you can in advance, so that you can talk to as many people as possible.

If the event organiser provides an attendee list, you can use this to reach out to specific prospects via social media (for example, by following the company’s WeChat account and sending a direct message) prior to the event. The earlier you start reaching out and building relationships with prospective customers and partners, the better your chances of increasing visibility and interest, and securing a meeting even before the event begins.

During the Event

Make the most of your assets

Here’s where you reap the benefits of all the time, effort and resources you spent preparing your digital assets, such as your website and WeChat account. Make the most of every opportunity to share these assets with attendees – send digital brochures directly to attendees, request that they follow your WeChat account, and direct them towards your website or WeChat mini program to show your product in action.

Maximise your virtual meetings

If you don’t have a fully booked meeting schedule by the time the event rolls around, see if you can fill any empty slots during the event so you can maximise your time, whether that’s by posting on your social media using the event hashtag, or taking advantage of the event’s social media to let people know there are a few spots remaining.

Remember to go into your virtual meetings prepared – have your assets on hand and your talking points prepared, and do your research. People can detect a generic sales pitch from a mile off – but if you have taken the time to learn about the company and find out what their needs are, and how your product can ease any pain points they may have, you’ll be sure to create an excellent impression.

Offer giveaways or samples

Engage with attendees by offering giveaways or free samples. These can be great incentives to get people to, for example, follow your WeChat account during the event, or encourage them to ask questions during your livestream or webinar.

After the event

Send personalised follow-up messages

Post-event follow-up is vital, and the sooner the better – after all, the whole point of the event is to connect with people and build relationships. Be sure to send personalised messages to anyone you connected with on WeChat or LinkedIn during the event.

Some hot tips for your post-event follow-up:

• Keep it short.
• Remind people who you are and what you discussed. (Be sure to throw in any personalised details if you can so the message doesn’t seem too generic.)
• Have a clear call-to-action (CTA) – for example, booking your next Zoom meeting.

Create an event recap

Virtual fairs can provide a wealth of resources for content. Record any webinars, livestreams and 1:1 virtual meetings, and use this content to create an event recap video that can be distributed via your social media channels. Write a blog post about the event and post it on your website.

Continue to nurture your leads with engaging WeChat posts

Hopefully you gained lots of new followers during the virtual fair – but the work doesn’t stop there. Building relationships and trust takes time, and you need to leverage both online and offline channels to demonstrate your value. Be sure to produce engaging WeChat content on a regular basis so you stay top of mind.

Get started

As you can see, your Chinese digital assets, especially your website and WeChat account are key support tools before, during and after a virtual fair in China – in many ways, it’s not worth attending virtual fair without these assets to back you up.

But these assets aren’t important just for events – they will remain crucial for any B2B company looking to grow their Chinese market, no matter what stage they are at.

If you are yet to set up your Chinese website or WeChat account, Sinorbis can help. Contact us today to find out more.

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