6 quick steps to successfully market your software brand in China

The Chinese IT market can be difficult for Western brands to break into, as its sectors are increasingly saturated with incumbent Chinese brands. Beijing has also strongly encouraged Chinese public sector organisations and businesses to choose native brands wherever possible, and the quality of homegrown offerings makes this an easy option for Chinese firms.

But Western brands can still break into the market with their own software offerings; if they get their strategy right and plan accordingly. Here at Market Me China, we’re here to help your software business to successfully market its products in the Chinese market! Here are some of the main approaches we recommend:

1. Always do your research

The Chinese software market is crowded with excellent products, including plenty of extremely well-marketed niche offerings. This doesn’t mean that your own brand can’t find its foothold, but it does make careful research essential. With the right blend of primary and secondary research, including customer persona development, competitive landscape assessment and PESTEL analysis, you can gain a rich insight into the nature of the market, and your brand’s potential place within it. In our experience, this stage can be one of the most valuable in the entire marketing process, and good research can save time and money by improving the accuracy of your efforts.

2. Prepare to localise

With your rich datasets and analysis, you can begin to craft your marketing strategy. Localisation will be key here. To genuinely appeal to your Chinese software customers, you will need to carefully craft your messaging and content, imagery, channels and materials. You will also need a localised brand, which may be different from your Western market brand. The focus here is on sensitive understanding and interpretation of Chinese business practices and culture in general. Without this insight, it’s very easy to pitch a marketing campaign that fails to engage your target audience, or which manages to offend them! (And this latter situation has happened to even the biggest brands.)

Localisation is likely to begin with a Chinese language software interface, website, content and marketing materials. Remember that this effort goes beyond simple translation. For example, Chinese digital users scan and use online content in a different way from Western users. By partnering with a Chinese digital marketing agency, you can access these vital insights and gain expert assistance to improve your results. It’s vital to get these elements right the first time!

3. Invest in Chinese social media

The Chinese love social media, and this channel can be hugely effective when it comes to promoting your Western software brand in China. The obvious platforms include WeChat, Weibo, Douyin and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), but there are dozens more – and new platforms coming online all of the time, often with niche targeting. (Bear in mind that China now has 1.02 billion internet users, so ‘niche’ can still mean a vast – targeted – audience and the potential for excellent conversions!)

To succeed with Chinese social media marketing, you must create highly targeted, engaging content that will appeal to software users and buyers, engage with your audience, run promotions and be active online; answer questions and show your service ethos (in Chinese!) It’s important to continue to populate your accounts with regular, relevant content, measure what’s working and invest in these channels to get the most from them. It’s equally important to ensure that your social media accounts are integrated with your website and any supporting campaign sites as part of an integrated ecosystem so that customers can easily find what they need (usually via their smartphones.)

4. Build your brand with KOLs and reviews

Chinese customers put more emphasis on reviews, recommendations, influencers and testimonials than Western customers. So it’s vital to encourage lots of great feedback from happy users of your products. As you gather reviews, promote them to show that your product has delighted other users. The right Key Opinion Leader (KOL) partnership can also be hugely powerful as a quick way to build your brand reputation and credibility within a target market. Again, local partnerships are helpful here as you’ll need to find the right KOL, negotiate their commercial arrangements and build a campaign that converts. Market Me China is here to help you with this. It’s important to note that the right KOL for your brand may not necessarily be the biggest within the software space; depending on your product and target market, a great fit KOL could be smaller and more heavily niche, but with a highly-engaged audience with a ready propensity to try endorsed products. Again, data and insight are key for accurate decision-making.

5. Leverage Baidu PPC and SEO

It’s important to invest in highly accurate online advertising campaigns alongside your content and social media marketing programmes, supported by other Chinese digital marketing channels such as ePR (see below). Baidu PPC can be incredibly effective with the right campaign planning and management, but the platform is in Chinese, so the assistance of a Chinese-speaking digital marketing agency can be invaluable. Alongside your immediate PCC traffic, it’s important to build your organic search rankings through advanced SEO strategies, for sustainable impact and conversions that continue to build. This ongoing activity can reap excellent rewards with consistency and skill.

6. Maximise ePR opportunities

Chinese customers really value peer-to-peer recommendations and place faith in brand authority; far more so than in the West. So the more you can engage in ePR – including Chinese press releases, blog marketing and forum marketing – the better! With a good ePR strategy, delivered with a Chinese digital marketing partner, you can build your brand and maximise the value of word-of-mouth marketing in China. In a country where strong brand voices translate into sales, this activity can generate powerful returns.

In conclusion

In summary, it is certainly possible to build a successful software brand and business in China, but with care, planning and expert delivery to maximise your results. This vast market can be incredibly complex, especially with the regulatory and cultural framework being so different from that in the West. However, with the partnership of a Chinese digital marketing agency, you can navigate these potential issues quickly and easily, and fast-track your way to a successful brand in this exciting, lucrative market.

Find out more

Market Me China is here to help your software brand succeed in the China market. Our team of native Chinese digital marketers work in the UK to support Western businesses with their China marketing strategies. We offer a full-service spectrum of digital marketing support, working flexibly around your needs to achieve – and evidence – the right outcomes. Please contact us for a no-obligation chat, and we will be delighted to tell you more!