How Western B2B brands can build longevity in the Chinese market

China’s B2B market is already vast, and it’s growing by an incredible 30pc every year. In fact, experts believe it will be worth $350 billion by the end of next year, driven heavily by firms embracing digital tech and online marketing trends to find new customers, build relationships and convert leads into sales.

Indeed, when you’re developing your B2B brand in China, it’s important to consider strategies that will buy you that vital longevity within your target market. After all, with China’s vast market still evolving at speed, early advantage – particularly in high-growth industries – can build brand awareness, engagement and loyalty as you continue to build your presence within your target market.

So what are some of the key trends to know about the China market and B2B marketing?

1. The growth of smaller-scale, online trade from foreign businesses is gaining traction in China, leveraging attributes of quality, trust and expertise.

2. B2B e-commerce in China is already incredibly powerful and continues to grow at high speed.

3. The vertical structure of digital B2B markets in China offers tremendous growth for Western brands that are prepared to invest in smart, targeted marketing.

4. Western B2B brands can find success going it alone – but also enjoy excellent relationships with Chinese partners who already have a presence in the relevant Chinese sector

5. The Chinese B2B market is sophisticated, and B2B clients are well used to using digital platforms for networking, prospecting, relationship building, market research and purchase decisions. They will also use these platforms to read reviews, find personalised products and services, and seek out customer differentiation opportunities.

6. For these markets, it is still important to maintain offline channels, such as trade exhibitions, recommendations, in-person networking, etc.

7. China is officially ‘open for business’ once again after the Covid pandemic, and its government is keen to boost domestic consumption again as a means of driving forward the economy; offering excellent prospects to Western brands who wish to trade with Chinese clients.

Strategies to build longevity for your B2B brand in China

Here are some activities to prioritise as you seek to set your B2B brand up for long-term success in China:

1. Invest in your localised Chinese website

For B2B marketing success in China, your website must be accurately translated and localised, optimised for Chinese UX, correctly hosted, fast and responsive and designed to work across all operating systems and devices. Naturally, the content must also offer genuine, relevant value to potential Chinese clients, and factor in all cultural considerations.

2. Make the most of WeChat

With benefits to B2B marketers that include WeChat Moments, flexible advertising, the ability to connect to third-party apps and a powerful ability to find leads, build brand awareness and manage client relationships, WeChat really offers it all. This vast platform has over a billion monthly users and it’s a vast digital ecosystem that works as powerfully for B2B brands as it does for B2C. You’ll be able to host a mini version of your corporate website within the platform, post valuable content and build followers – and that’s just to get started!

3. Focus on Baidu

Baidu – China’s biggest search engine – is a must for Western B2B brands seeking to build and develop their presence in China. As with Google, SEO activity needs to be thorough, targeted and consistently deployed to maintain and grow rankings for keywords. Online advertising campaigns can yield impressive results when carefully optimised and it’s worth knowing that Baidu does actually promote paid ads more heavily in its search results than Western search engines. However, the system admin is in Chinese so you’ll need native language skills in order to create and manage campaigns. The help of a Chinese marketing agency can make this process as quick and easy as possible, and yield excellent results.

4. Look at forums

It’s also worth knowing that user-generated wikis and forums such as Zhihu can be a great way to grow your brand awareness and SEO, especially if you invest in your engagement and answer questions and comments from potential clients and the wider Chinese business community.

5. Work with KOLs

KOLs can be powerful influencers in B2B markets too, especially when it comes to brand awareness, product explainers and so forth. Collaborate to show your product quality, heritage, values, ‘add-on’ attributes and other key marketing messages, and remember that KOLs don’t necessarily have to have huge followings to be effective for your brand.

6. Build your data

In China, as in Europe, access to marketing data is highly controlled and you can’t simply buy marketing lists to gain access to potential leads – that is to say, quality marketing lists. Instead, build your own data using market research and your own data collection methods. This will also ensure that the integrity of your data is assured and owned solely by your business.

7. Invest in quality PR

Reputation building can be greatly enhanced by using the right PR channels, media outlets and websites. A Chinese marketing agency can help you to identify the right outlets for your target audience, place the right messages and achieve the best possible results, with media tracking to analyse the impact of your efforts.

8. Look to the long-term

B2B markets are built over time and this holds true in both China and the West. The sales cycle for B2B usually requires time, effort and consistent application in your marketing strategy and tactics – beginning with a carefully targeted and optimised marketing strategy that leverages key channels for your brand, and then continuing with ongoing, careful tactical delivery that is constantly refined, evaluated and built upon.

With a careful, strategic approach that seeks to evolve and grow within this vast, complex and lucrative market, Western B2B brands can position themselves perfectly for sustainable success in China.

Find out more

Market Me China is here to help you achieve success with your B2B marketing efforts, regardless of your industry or business size. Our team of digital marketing professionals work flexibly with your business to deliver bespoke programmes of targeted work that bring you the best possible results. Please contact us in the first instance to find out more, and for a no-obligation chat about your needs.