China is a huge market, and it’s one of the most important markets to enter for any business. It’s not easy, though, so we have created this guide on B2B marketing in China to help you get started! We’ll be covering topics such as: -What are the different channels?-What should your strategy look like?-How do you create content that will resonate with Chinese customers?-And more!
Don’t worry if you’re just starting out here. This post will help you through all stages of marketing in China and make sure that your campaign resonates with local audiences. So let’s get started!
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China: The place to be for both B2C and B2B companies
China: An eldorado for B2C companies
For most people, the first thing that will come to their mind is that China’s booming middle class means big business for B2C companies. Indeed, as Chinese consumers are fond of foreign products and spend the most on luxury items, it has become an increasingly lucrative market which many Western-based businesses have taken advantage of by increasing sales considerably over the last few decades.
In fact, back in 1978, Chinese president Deng Xiaoping, who was focused on economic development since the 70s, achieved in the 2000s to increase by fourfold China’s economic output. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, China joined global organizations, and by 2010 it became the second-largest economy in the world after the United States.
The recent decades have seen remarkable growth to catapult China into a manufacturing hub as well as a promising business place for foreign companies, that are trying to enter this competitive market.
In 2018, China saw 60 thousand new foreign-invested enterprises. From 2010 to 2016, the number of annual registrations varied between 23 and 28 thousand with a stable trend. Preliminary figures from 2019 show that this has fallen back down again to 2017 levels. However, with the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, new companies have established themselves in China.
How were B2B companies revolutionalized in China?
- Growing demand for cross-border B2B e-commerce
China’s cross-border B2B market size amounted to 3 trillion yuan (approximately $426 billion) in 2019 according to iiMedia, and is expected to reach 13 trillion by 2025, it is a huge market.
In 2019, cross-border B2B e-commerce represented 74% of China’s cross-border e-commerce market, accounting for 3.7 trillion yuan when measured by its market size.
Furthermore, China’s B2B cross-border e-commerce is expected to grow further to 14 trillion yuan in 2025.
- China’s rapid digitalization: A powerful tool for B2B businesses
In recent years, B2B companies were revolutionized by Chinese society’s rapid digitalization. As Chinese consumers are now spending more time than ever on their smartphones, it has become essential for brands to adapt both their marketing and advertising strategies to follow this trend.
While B2B companies were mostly relying on word-of-mouth and traditional business networks a decade ago, “social media” are now at the core of B2B strategies. 96% of B2B clients will look for suppliers on the internet, increasing, even more, the gap for companies that have little visibility online.
Now if we look at the transaction volume of B2B e-commerce in China between 2012 and 2020, we see that in 2020, China’s B2B e-commerce transaction volume amounted to 27.5 trillion yuan, compared to the 6.25 trillion yuan back in 2012.
The following graphic shows us that China’s market size of cross-border B2B e-commerce online service export reached over 60 billion yuan in 2019, which represented a 45% increase from the previous year. Moreover, it is expected that China’s B2B cross-border e-commerce online service export will even grow further, skyrocketing to around 1.3 trillion yuan by 2025.
Understanding the B2B marketing environment in China?
If you want to succeed in B2B marketing in China, it’s important that you understand the digital landscape is completely different from America and other Western countries. The country has three main players:
- Baidu (China’s equivalent of Google),
- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which owns Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, and AliExpress;
- Tencent Holdings Limited—the owner of WeChat and major shareholder of JD. These giants control vast chunks of the market on every level, from content consumption all the way down to advertising revenue streams such as online ads.
According to this graphic from Statista showing the market share of major B2B e-commerce platforms in China in 2018, the giant Alibaba represented 28.4% of the B2B online sales market share in China, followed by HC360 with 17.6%, and Cogobuy with 9.2% of the market share.
- Commodities and intangible products
Just like anywhere else in the world, B2B in China is divided into two main categories which are: commodities products (electronics, chemical products, steel, textiles, etc.) and intangible products (logistics, SaaS, legal services, etc).
What are the main channels for B2B marketing in the China market?
Now that we have looked at the main difference between China and the west when it comes to doing B2B marketing (the internet landscape), let’s see how you can run a smart B2B (lead generation) marketing strategy in China by using all of your available channels.
There are many ways for promoting your company in China, but our focus will be on digital marketing because they’re what is critical for success here, and you know… that is our specialty :p.
Having a Chinese website is Key to doing B2B marketing in China
Every time we are helping a company to enter the Chinese market, one of the first questions we’ll ask is “do you have a Chinese website?”. Indeed, having a Chinese website is necessary, not only because not everyone in China is fluent in English, but simply because only mandarin keywords will rank a lot better on Baidu (which keep in mind, is China’s biggest search engine). Moreover, Chinese consumers are more likely to click on a Chinese webpage rather than an English website.
- On the Chinese internet, use the Chinese language
There are many reasons to get a Chinese website. One of the first things we ask when helping companies enter China is “do you have an existing Mandarin-language site?” The reason for this question is that not all Chinese users can speak English and even if they can, it’s much easier to read in their native language on sometimes very technical vocabulary.
Additionally, (and most importantly) websites in simplified Chinese will have a better chance to rank higher on Baidu (and other Chinese search engines)- which has over 60% market share among all search engines used inside mainland China.
- Organizing your website
You should organize methodologically your website to make the navigation seamless, with a clear presentation as well as a professionally designed website that might vary according to your field of activities. Be sure that B2B clients will know within a few seconds if you are reliable or not according to the presentation of your website: it should reflect your capacities to adapt to the Chinese market and give them the confidence to work with you. On your website, you also need:
- Contact form
- A phone number that is easy to find
- Pricing Pages
- A QR code to your WeChat official account
- A live chat would be great as well
- Design a mobile-friendly Website
China has more mobile phone users than any other country, so it’s important that your website is optimized for viewing on a smartphone. Your site should be easy to read and understand – with an average text size no larger than 12pts or less in order to accommodate smaller screens (and avoid wasting time).
In addition, make sure you’re making use of all screen space by implementing responsive web design techniques like fluid grids with flexible sizing options and content-aware image scaling.
As B2B marketing, you may find this advice a bit counter-intuitive, as you are used to seeing on your google analytics that most of your traffic comes from desktop users but just as Google is now using the mobile-friendliness of a website as a ranking criterion, so does Baidu.
Search engine marketing with Baidu: China’s Leading Search Engine
Baidu is considered the Chinese Google and stands as the most popular search engine in China. According to its 2020 Q1 financial report, revenue dropped by 13% from last year however app usage increased (28% YoY growth). The report also highlighted that users spent up to 51% of their time on the feed which features content for you based on your location and interests.
By creating an information website using Chinese keywords and phrases, you would ideally want your site to rank at or near the top on Baidu SERP (search engine results page) so it will attract enough traffic from potential customers who speak Mandarin as their primary language when searching with this particular keyword/phrase associated with your business type.
However, before setting up shop here make sure you take into account how different the way things work might actually prove to be because while ranking well on other major sites like Google, Baidu may give you some struggles.
Need more information about Baidu SEO? Read our full guide here and keep in mind that a good SEO strategy for china starts with an optimized website!
Baidu PPC (pay-per-click): quickly increase traffic acquisition and leads gen
Unlike Google, Baidu’s DSP/Media Banner ads are not particularly used as the majority of all advertising is PPC (Pay-per-click). In fact, PPC search results are also perceived differently in China with more trust in paid search compared to the West. One reason for this is the predominance of PPC throughout the development of Baidu’s platform with Chinese digital players monetizing their websites.
Key features of Baidu PPC
- 2 Lines of Ad Copywriting (although often only 1 will typically show, depending on ad placement).
- Top 5 search results on Baidu
- Brand Zone
- Paid ads / natural search results are harder to distinguish, although every single ad has the tag “广告3
- Ad keyword bidding prices can fluctuate, so the campaign needs to be closely monitored
- access to Baidu webmaster tools
Chinese Social media platforms for B2B marketing?
It may seem counter-intuitive, but social media are great channels for B2B marketing in China. In fact, Chinese professionals are very likely to be looking up information on your company on social media. A smart presence on some social media will help you with getting Chinese buyers!
WeChat: The Most Popular App in China is also a Wonderful Tool for B2B Marketing
WeChat was launched in 2011 and has rapidly grown to over 1 billion monthly active users in 2018 with more than a billion downloads. It is used by many people across the globe for messaging, chatting, sharing pictures or videos as well as navigating their social lives as well as businessmen use it as a primary communication tool over emails (now you know why email marketing campaigns in China are never quite the expected success).
Why does WeChat matters for B2B marketing?
As a matter of fact, even though WeChat is one of the most used social media in the world, not everyone is aware of WeChat’s potential with its rich and vast ecosystem. By using WeChat, even the smallest international companies can build a strong and healthy basis for growth in China. WeChat is a place to nurture the leads and contact you gathered on others channels.
Read: Wechat for B2B Marketing
As a social media platform, WeChat offers many ways for brands to interact with users. Its Mini Programs gives companies and organizations the opportunity to establish an organic presence on the app without requiring downloads or signups, but also to create Wechat brochures for company listing or intro, CRM to manage subscription, and so on.
Tips for Successful B2B Marketing Campaigns on WeChat
- With a service account on WeChat, you’ll be able to send group messages once per month and stay in touch with your followers without having to log into the app every day.
- The type of account is designed for B2B companies who want their audience to easily find out about new products or company news by using keywords such as “share” (in Mandarin Chinese).
- Be active on this platform – share useful information that’s clear, so people will know what they’re getting themselves into before even opening the message.
- Engage with consumers and clients while also being sure not to go overboard: it is not too bad to produce some content, but it might turn off some potential customers if there are too many posts per week.
- Get to know your audience and target clients before starting your business. Determine the objectives you want to achieve, then do some market research beforehand in order to plan your strategies in order to increase your conversion rates.
- Group sharing: Join, created, and admin groups that will interest people in your industry. It is a great way to share content and engage directly with WeChat users that have an interest in your products/services.
- WeChat has many features such as lead generation or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) which can help you make decisions on how to interact with potential customers online.
Weibo: One of China’s most popular social media
Launched in August 2009, Sina Corporation’s Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China and has proven to be a financial success. With over 600 million users with 224 million daily users, it wouldn’t be appropriate to merely label this innovative platform as the “Twitter of China.” In fact, we’re starting to see that its focus on e-commerce marketing options makes it more effective than the bulk of its competitors.
The ‘open’ design of Weibo has allowed more brands to create a connection with the community and share company updates such as discounts, upcoming events, etc.
Why is Weibo interesting for B2B marketing?
Weibo is China’s answer to Facebook and Twitter, combining aspects of both social media platforms. With its millions of active users and a growing number of companies across many industries hopping on board, Weibo is one of the platforms that offer the most visibility to foreign and Chinese companies, but it also has a large pool of users with diverse centers of interest.
Weibo offers businesses the opportunity to verify their account which classifies them into relevant categories that will help B2B marketing in China by connecting them with similar brands as well as potential customers based on interests groups – this would put Weibo at the top of any funnel strategy when it comes to B2B marketing.
Zhihu: The leading Q&A platform for Western Companies in China
Zhihu is a social question-and-answer website, often compared to Quora. It has very high rankings on search engines, completing Baidu’s marketing strategy. Businesses in China can leverage Zhihu by answering questions within their field or industry and sharing content on the website, with employees, and with business partners as well. They can also set up an account for themselves and share company content as well.
Zhihu is becoming increasingly popular among those who are looking for answers online, which means that businesses have been using it more heavily when trying to reach out directly to consumers or potential customers – you could say that this platform was made just for them. There are plenty of features included within the app to help businesses develop their activities and presence in China.
Toutiao Paid Ads: China’s Most Popular News Platform
Founded in 2012 by the company Bytedance, well-known for its famous app Douyin (aka Tik Tok), Toutiao is an app that allows users to share and read stories online. It uses machine learning to tailor content for each user, boosting relevance, which increases engagement rates.
Having more than 1.5 billion active monthly users and 700 million per day, Toutiao is the best app for people who are interested in different subjects or topics and want to find articles they may enjoy reading online. Toutiao was able to attract both the older generation with a large variety of interesting articles, but also the younger generation thanks to its short videos.
The best way to promote your brand in China is not always through traditional advertisement methods, such as TV commercials or print media. In fact, the culture can be difficult for newcomers to penetrate and adapt to Chinese consumers-while Toutiao offers a more accessible alternative within China’s enormous tech-savvy population.
First of all, if you want to advertise on Toutiao, it is important to know that 90% of Toutiao’s users are under 30 years old, spending on average 76 minutes on the app per day, which represents overall 1.3 billion articles read every day.
- Why is Toutiao this popular in China?
It’s no surprise that the company Bytedance has more users than WeChat because of Toutiao and Douyin. People are spending a lot more time on these apps than on any other social media app in China right now, and it’s all due to their algorithm, which tailors posts for each user.
For example, people who like makeup will see beauty tips while those interested in fashion or travel might be shown videos with models wearing new clothes from designers, or vloggers traveling around the world and sharing their experiences.
- Why should I use Toutiao for paid advertising?
Using AI technology, Toutiao is a powerful tool for brands to target the appropriate users that will be more likely to read your content. Moreover, users were seduced by this personalization, allowing them to see only topics and ads they are interested in.
Thanks to that, you will be able to target only potentially interested readers, and then avoid wasting time and money. Second of all, Toutiao’s organic content encourages people to engage with brands.
- Creating an official account on Toutiao
First, you will have to go to Toutiao’s website. In the top left corner, click on 头条产品 (Toutiao Product). Select 头条号 from the drop-down menu and click on it. Choose the type of account you want: Personal Media, state institutes enterprise, educational groups, NGO, etc.
To register for a Toutiao publisher account, you will need: A Chinese phone number / Both a mobile phone and a computer /A Chinese business license, and a company seal; You will need an expert to take care of your posts, and share them with others in social media platforms and possibly get viral on Toutiao.
- What are the different ways to advertise on Toutiao?
There are 3 types of paid ads on Toutiao:
- Take Over Ads: displayed on fullscreen when opening the app
- Streaming feed Ads: video format ads that blend into users’ feed for a seamless experience.
- Feed Ads: feed ads appear in users’ feeds. They can be of various formats. This type of ad supports CTA and can redirect users outside of the app.
If you want more information on Toutiao, you can contact us and we’ll get back to you. Our services include:
PR: Determining tools that you shouldn’t neglect
Public Relations is one of the most cost-efficient forms of communication used to develop the image and reputation of a company, a product, or brand in China. PR (Public relations) are important tools to develop your reputation in China as well as to increase your brand awareness. They are indeed essential for various reasons:
- Reaching a wide audience: Chinese press releases are an excellent way to increase your visibility and increase your audience. News outlets love publishing stories, that’s why the majority of them accept Chinese PRs nowadays.
- Developing your SEO: Press releases can be a great way to increase your website’s traffic and sales! Creating quality backlinks for your business, boosting SEO rankings, and showing off what makes you unique will surely convince Chinese businesses to partner with you.
- Brand awareness and reputation: Informative news releases are an excellent way to build business trust. Negative reviews can be addressed by publishing press releases, which help push them away as they create new stories that contradict the negative ones in a positive light for your business’ reputation.
However, you have to be conscious of some information before starting PR in China:
- The government strictly controls press agencies, newspapers, and news portals. The state’s censorship policy severely limits what can be reported and how it is reported.
- The majority of newspapers’ goal is to make a profit. Therefore, they will be highly interested in stories that can increase their audience and buzz online.
- Online news is the main source of information for Chinese people. The majority of them, including business people, read more news on the Internet rather than in a newspaper.
Some of the most famous PR in China
- Sina: the most popular web portal in China
- 163 / Netease: News.163.com
- Jinri toutiao: the BuzzFeed of China
- QQ News (which can be compared to Yahoo
- Fenghuang / lfeng
Forums: The best way to exchange with potential partners and present your services
As you probably already know, taking part in forums is essential as you’ll be able to meet and discuss with potential partners. By showing them your company and services, you can tell your story and convince them to work with you. It is a great way to increase your brand awareness, and reputation, but also to bond with people which will probably contribute to positive word-of-mouth.
How can international companies quickly generate leads in China?
The best way to generate leads is to take into consideration the various tools you have. Be careful about your different official accounts on social media as well as e-commerce platforms. Regularly post and share qualitative content to grow your follower base and gain brand awareness.
You also have to pay attention to your reputation, as B2B mainly works through word-of-mouth. If a company is satisfied with your services, it will be more likely to give your contact to other potential business partners.
Moreover, don’t forget to heavily spread your website and official accounts on the web and encourage people to share content about your brand. You can also advertise your brand to quickly generate leads, such as using Baidu Pay Per click for example.
Contact us to get started on B2B Marketing in China
It’s no secret that China has become the market to conquer for ambitious international brands. But as you may have guessed, entering this competitive arena is not given. If a brand wants to successfully gain ground in China, it’ll need experts who know exactly what it takes and how to do it effectively.
GMA is a digital marketing agency based in Shanghai, with experts all around the world. Depending on your needs and the scope of work, we will adapt our marketing strategy in order for you to get the most out of the different platforms mentioned in this article.
Chinese Search Engines experts
Our focus is to promote your business with your target closely in mind. After all my explanations, you understand that the key to selling online is to have a good image and to be reputable. We’ll use digital tools including Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management. Then, we’ll manage the campaign and assure its optimization & success.
As of 2022, we have worked with more than 1000 international businesses, big and small!
Chinese Market Lead generation professionals
To be effective in your lead generation, you need to develop a good e-reputation. Online advertising & quality content will help you to develop your e-reputation.
Experts in Digital Solutions
- Website Creation, Development & Auditing
- Baidu Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Marketing (WeChat & Weibo)
- Native ad and paid advertising campaign
- Reputation Management & Community Development.
- Public Relations & Exposure in Chinese E-Media.
- Analytics, monthly reports & analysis from our team of experts.
ROI focused agency
We are an ROI-focused agency. The goal is to attract and also re-target the most qualitative traffic in order to increase conversion rates, which can be effective for E-Commerce as well in China.
Thus, if you have any questions about B2B marketing in China, social media, e-commerce, etc., or other inquiries, do not hesitate to contact us to explain your project for the Chinese market, and our experts will contact you within 24 hours.