How to enter the Chinese digital market on a budget

When Western brands seek to enter the Chinese market or to grow their brand in China, digital channels are the obvious choice for effective and targeted marketing. However, the Chinese digital market can be complex and many brands are concerned that they simply won’t have the budget to be seen and heard against more established players. So can you find success with Chinese digital marketing on a budget? The answer is yes – with the right strategy and delivery plan that maximises ROI.

Research and plan

Brands which see a healthy return on their Chinese digital market activity will invariably have carried out a significant period of planning and research beforehand. Yes, the nature of online channels means that it is possible to adjust digital campaign parameters quickly and easily – but not before you have begun to spend!

To avoid this situation, really pin down the fundamentals of your campaign. Who is your target Chinese audience? What does the user persona of your customer look like? What are your audience demographics? What are the objectives of your campaign? Are you looking to sell online via an e-commerce model, or to generate enquiries for a more prolonged sales cycle (such as for a higher education brand or a B2B brand.) By answering these questions, you will have a strong starting point for your campaign planning.

Remember too that a Chinese marketing agency can add real value to this process, by guiding your research and planning and matching up the outputs with the right Chinese digital marketing channels.

Start with your Chinese website

A localised Chinese website is essential to act as a cornerstone for your digital activity. If your budget can stretch to a new build specifically for the Chinese market, then this is the recommended route. Chinese consumers tend to follow different user journeys online than Western consumers and they respond to different calls to action, content, graphics and presentation. If your budget doesn’t stretch to this, it is still possible to achieve good results with website localisation activity. For example, you could use localisation to accurately and contextually translate your existing content, and then create fresh ongoing content which really resonates with your Chinese audience going forward. Or, you could build a Chinese landing page or microsite to start with.

Look at Chinese social media

Chinese customers love social media! There are dozens of popular social media platforms in China and they are hugely sophisticated and engaging; often working as entire digital eco-systems where users can post and share content, leave reviews, create videos, network privately, engage with brands, buy in just a few clicks and carry out specific functionalities such as ordering food and taxis, creating digital avatars, enjoying online quizzes and ordering custom products which they design online. Whatever your creative marketing campaign aspirations, there will be a social media channel that can deliver it – and a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) who can help you…

Find your KOL

Speaking of Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs’, these powerful social media influencers are a must for successful China digital marketing. KOLs have large followings of Chinese internet users who share interests and demographics, and KOLs will work with brands who are relevant to their follower base. The biggest and most prominent KOLs charge thousands for a single post, but there are always more affordable influencers who will have a relevant fan base and the ability to provide value for your brand. Market Me China can help you to find the right Key Opinion Leader for your brand and broker the relationship for the best returns.

Create your online advertising campaigns

For rapid incoming traffic to your landing pages, a good online marketing campaign on Baidu is a recommendation for many brands. When the right keywords and parameters are used these campaigns can be very effective and give good results. It’s worth noting that Chinese internet users are more responsive to online advertising than Western consumers and they see it as a mark of trust, credibility and quality. Chinese customers have usually been stung by counterfeit domestic products, so quality Western brands which invest in online advertising are seen to be attractive. Worried about getting lost amongst bigger brands? Careful targeting will make all of the difference, along with ad optimisation so that quality, relevant traffic ends up on the correct page of your website. Market Me China can assist you with the process, as Baidu advertising is all administered in Chinese!

Organic Search on Baidu

SEO is essential in China to rank favourably on Baidu and other, smaller, search engines. This is a longer-term strategy, but – again – with time, focus and consistent work, it is possible to build a good ranking for your target keywords.

Online PR

If your brand is new to China or if it involves a longer purchase cycle (think, higher education or travel as examples), good ePR can help to position your brand in reputable publications that your customers trust. From advertorials and press releases through to peer-to-peer content and Word Of Mouth (WOM) strategies, your PR activity will amplify the success of your digital marketing activities. Furthermore, it will build the visibility and credibility of your brand in a country when this kind of power translates into sales.

Measurement and results tracking

Of course, to know whether your marketing budget is being applied to the best effect, it is essential to measure the results of your digital marketing activity. Success in the Chinese digital market will depend on applying the right blend of tactics and activities at the right time and to the right people. With ongoing measurement across platforms and regular adjustment of your campaign tactics, you can optimise your results. Again, this can be best supported by a Chinese marketing agency who can carry out full reporting on your behalf, navigating the various digital platforms that your brand uses, and evidencing progress towards your marketing goals.

Find out more

Ready to get the most from your marketing budget and to plan a highly-performing digital marketing campaign in China? Our team of digital marketing experts can help you to leverage your spend for the best possible results. We work on a flexible, responsive basis according to your needs and can support all elements of your online marketing activity, from campaign planning through to delivery and post-campaign evaluation. Please contact us on a no-obligation basis to find out more.