The B2B Chinese market is vast and lucrative and offers countless opportunities to foreign companies. However, it is a challenging market that demands insight into its unique needs and a well-planned B2B marketing strategy.
Chinese businesses and professionals are looking for technologies and solutions to solve their problems and improve their efficiency.
However, just opening a website targeting a Chinese audience is not enough to be noticed by potential partners and find China's business opportunities. This challenging market will be profitable only if you approach it with the right mindset and the proper channels.
Let's examine the essential B2B marketing tools in China that you should implement to extend your market reach.
1. Localizing your website for China
For your website to succeed in China, it must feature content in the local language. Even though Chinese companies have English-speaking staff, featuring content in Chinese will give you an advantage since it will cater to their preferences.
However, to efficiently localize your website, simply translating your content may not be enough. You must adapt your language to your potential customers in China. Therefore, identify your audience and rearrange your content accordingly. For instance, besides presenting your products or services, you may need to add extra content to educate your audience about them and use technical language familiar in China.
Moreover, several technical and design issues play a crucial role in your website's success.
For instance, because of the complexity of the Chinese language and local audience preferences, your website will seldom have the same structure as in the western market. The navigation layout, how the content is presented, and even the color pattern must be restructured to meet local preferences.
An efficient localization of your website in China also implies efficiently bypassing censorship. The best option to achieve this would be to host your website in China since it guarantees easy access to your content at a good speed.
However, to have your website running on a Chinese host, you need the ICP license. This license is given only to businesses that have a local entity. If you do not have a company in China at this stage, the next best option is to host your website in Hong Kong. In this case, your website will have to go through censorship which will negatively impact your loading speed. However, this is still faster than hosting your website, for instance, in Europe or America.
2. Baidu SEO
Google is restricted in China, and the dominating search engine in the country is Baidu. Therefore, your SEO strategy must be crafted following Baidu's guidelines. Even though there are some similarities between Google and Baidu and your SEO knowledge is still valuable, there are substantial differences you must consider if you want your website to rank well.
We already mentioned the importance of having your content translated into Chinese. From an SEO perspective, it is recommended to translate your content into simplified Chinese, as this is Baidu's preferred language. Moreover, if you have a .cn domain, you will rank better on Baidu than a .com domain.
Concerning the content, quality and relevancy are favored by Baidu. As with Google, you can use keywords naturally inserted into the text to identify your pages' topic clearly. However, unlike Google, Baidu favors fresh content over old pages even if they have a long history. Therefore, you must set a publishing strategy to provide new content regularly while not overlooking quality.
A word of caution about the content—it is important not to publish anything censored in China. Such content would generate penalties on Baidu. Moreover, as you plan your backlink strategy, which is another important ranking factor, make sure you do not have links pointing or coming from censored websites. Such links may lead to penalties as well.
To boost your website's rank in China, you may find it helpful to read our full guide on Baidu SEO strategies.
Many foreign companies are not familiar with Zhihu, but this platform is critical for your B2B marketing strategy in China. You may think of Zhihu as a mix between Quora and LinkedIn.
Since its launch, Zhihu has become the biggest Q&A platform for the B2B market. Today, the platform has become the place where professionals and businesses get to know each other. Zhihu can be used to enhance exposure to your business, establish it as an expert in the market, improve your branding, and ultimately convert leads into real sales.
You can use the platform for your marketing strategy in different ways.
Q&A and Discussion
The most obvious way is to look for specific questions related to your products or niche and provide the answer. This is a straightforward way to expose your brand and showcase your expertise.
Alternatively, you can also start new discussions on a specific topic. As you generate interest and prompt exchange of views, you can join the debate by offering your tips, providing answers, and in the end, promoting your products or services.
Write Valuable Content
Whatever content you post on the platform, you need to keep in mind a few things. Zhihu is used by real businesses that are looking for answers to real problems. Therefore, your content must address these needs. Otherwise, it will not resonate with the audience.
The way you write your content will have an impact on your branding. Your topics and writing must clearly show that you are an expert in the field and provide a solution. Your primary goal is to answer questions and add value to your readers even before sending a brand message.
Such high-quality and targeted content will definitely generate leads and, in times, sales for your business. Moreover, the content published on this platform tends to rank very well on search engines, giving you a critical SEO advantage.
It is now possible to host live events on the platform. Therefore, you can use Zhihu to organize webinars, meetups, or other live presentations.
Zhihu offers this opportunity as a new service, but it may well become the leading platform for live events for the B2B market. Therefore this is an opportunity that your business should explore.
Paying to have your ad displayed on Zhihu is another simple way to do B2B marketing. As we already mentioned, this platform is mainly used by businesses and professionals. Having your banner ad displayed on its pages can be an easy way to get in touch with the right facilitator for your business.
It is not possible to do business in China without having a WeChat account. In particular, for B2B marketing, you need to have an official WeChat account.
With over 10 million WeChat Official Accounts in China, this social media platform has become a critical tool to establish and maintain business relationships. It features several tools that are especially effective for your marketing strategy.
For instance, you can use QR codes to feature your catalog, promotions, invite your partners to offline events, and more. Moreover, on your WeChat account, you can publish content that your business partners may find helpful so that you can maintain engagement with them.
A feature you may find instrumental is the new WeChat live streaming function that is already proving very successful in organizing interactive marketing campaigns. The live streaming supports functions like “comments,” “like,” and the possibility for the user to share the link to the live event on WeChat moments, which significantly impacts bringing new traffic.
Not to be overlooked are even WeChat Moments ads and WeChat Channels. Advertising on WeChat Moments allows you to place paid ads on WeChat users’ Moment feed, similar to what you can do on Facebook. You can use WeChat channels instead to create short videos, less than one minute, or short-form content to distribute to the public.
You can also use this platform to offer support to your customers. For instance, using a WeChat mini program, you can interact with your customer, offer assistance, and answer their questions, including in real-time.
WeChat is well worth your attention. Its potential is almost unlimited, and its value for B2B marketing in China is absolutely crucial.
5. YOUKU (Chinese version Youtube)
Youku is the most popular platform in China for long-form videos. As in the western world, where YouTube has become central to many marketing campaigns, Youku is equally vital in China.
From a business perspective, Youku is the perfect tool for B2B video marketing. You can use it to open your official brand channel. Whether you want to post a short marketing message or an extensive video to explain or educate your audience about your products, this is all possible on Youku. Moreover, if you have an official brand account, you can add an online store. Therefore, you can potentially close sales directly from this platform.
In addition to posting videos to generate engagement, you can use Youku for your advertising campaigns. Similar to what happens on YouTube, you can pay for your banner to be displayed while people are watching videos. You can, of course, set parameters to target a specific audience, making your campaign highly profitable. Considering the tons of daily views on Youku, marketing campaigns on this platform give your brand tremendous exposure.
Youku supports even live-stream events. Therefore, whether you want to launch a new product, host webinars, meetups, or live stream events, you can do it on Youku. It is an easy way to connect with a large number of potential business partners all across China.
You have been introduced to the five most essential B2B marketing tools in China. As you may have noticed, some technicalities are very similar to what you are used to in the western world.
Nevertheless, any successful B2B marketing campaign in China must take into account not simply the technicalities but, most importantly, the local culture. Everything must be cleverly crafted around the specific needs of this unique market. Therefore, to set a successful B2B marketing campaign in China, you need good planning, deep insight into the local market, and most likely specific help from local professionals.