Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its global effects, China is experiencing increased wealth and spending power, becoming a sought-after target market for many brands. At the same time, a sharp increase in the use of digital tools and channels, favorable government policies, and relative social and economic stability hold great potential for companies offering both products and services.
However, marketing to the second largest global economy is not without challenges.
First and foremost, the culture. Western and China cultures differ in many things, but a critical one is the issue of trust. While the Chinese regard trust in business as highly as the west, they work differently towards building it.
You have to take the time to develop the relationship; Chinese businesspeople will invest time getting to know and evaluate you. Do not try to build trust via social means like parties or gifts as these sometimes may backfire. Rather, show your interest and the value you can bring to their business, and make sure to showcase your capabilities and expertise with actual examples.
In China, trust is an emotional issue more than a head issue, that’s also why it takes time. By demonstrating your knowledge (your own and of the field you’re promoting) you show you’re honest, and by building rapport you create personal relationships that will last. While loyalty may take a different form, Chinese consumers are passionate about innovation and novelty, are extremely digital, and will come back for more of your brand if you fight for them.
Social platforms. Chinese consumers trust peer reviews more than advertising or thought leadership. Before buying, they usually check social-media channels to check popularity and product reviews. Since restrictions still apply to global channels like Facebook or Twitter, getting to know and leveraging their own networks is key.
Read Five Essential Social-Media Channels for Marketing Your Brand in China to familiarize yourself with these channels and how to use them.
Language barrier. Obviously, this is a key challenge and even an obstacle for penetration of foreign brands into the Chinese market. In addition to Mandarin, the national language, there are hundreds if not thousands of different dialects.
Chinese is a difficult language to learn, and despite their many advances and digital preparedness, not all Chinese businesspeople speak or understand English proficiently. When you embark on marketing journey in China, you may need the services of a translator or interpreter.
More importantly, however, if your brand is sold over the Internet and/or social channels, localization is a must. Since local platforms dominate the market, you will have to redesign for the new culture (for example, using colors that have meaning for them), adhere to local regulations and rules, and localize everything (paying careful attention to language nuances).
It’s not an easy task but definitely doable. And the best way to do it is by engaging with a local localization company that has experience in what you do.
Appearances. Work on your branding reputation as appearances carries a great deal of weight in China. Brands represent status and prestige, and the Chinese will pay more if your brand speaks to their heart and sense of loyalty and respect.
But if your brand is not yet known, you’ll have to build it. You can engage with distributors, offer incentives to get users to try your product, and have to develop a strong and clever marketing communications campaign (which circles back to language and localization). Target small groups and ensure to stress the quality of your product or service and how successful you are.
If you’re looking to start your marketing journey in China or feel your current efforts are not bringing you the results you expected, contact us.
At Xtra Mile, we’ve established strong partnerships with key Chinese marketing companies and have already developed successful marketing strategies for many customers.