Business-to-business (B2B) marketing comes with a unique set of challenges such as relatively longer sales cycles, smaller audience markets, and higher unit prices. In addition, businesses must first generate leads to follow up on as opposed to selling a product directly.
Not surprisingly, translating your website, attending one Chinese event and waiting for Chinese clients to contact you isn’t a template for B2B digital marketing success. This is because China is a complex market with its own unique language and technology ecosystem.
This article taps on a customer journey approach (need arousal, research, outreach + evaluation, procure, and advocacy) to evaluate the most appropriate Chinese B2B marketing strategy for your business. Please see a summary below of a typical Chinese B2B customer journey.
Value-add of B2B Digital Marketing
Before we start with our customer journey approach, let’s briefly highlight how B2B digital marketing helps businesses. Generally speaking, B2B digital marketing seeks to cut down the lead time it takes to close a deal by:
B2B digital marketing is a long-term play. A key ingredient is continuous content creation, and this requires a content-creation mindset within your business. This means the third objective (develop data, stories, and insights that matter to leads) becomes particularly important as your team’s content has to move beyond self-promotion to make it worthwhile for leads to track your content pieces. Only then can your digital marketing initiatives overcome potential objections and demonstrate value before leads are ready to reach out.
Motivation is the activation of goal-oriented research that involves your product or service. This research may be triggered by a pain-point or business objectives, e.g. expansion to a new market and must be strong enough such that this potential client is willing to invest their search time and implementation effort.
Given the above, it is not surprising that these B2B researchers start with a generic search as they may not have a particular solution in mind. According to Google, 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search. In addition, while 64% of the C-suite have final sign off, so do almost a quarter (24%) of the non-C-suite. In addition, 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative.
Looking at the B2B customer journey (Fig 1), a translated website by itself is insufficient as there are more readily available channels such as word-of-mouth, online platforms, and WeChat.
Against this backdrop of multi-channel options, your business may wish to consider:
SEO is just a necessary first step in our era of information overload to get noticed but what sort of content will persuade B2B researchers to reach out to you? Apart from SEO considerations, our team recommends leveraging on Data, Stories, and Insights (DSI) to make your content more memorable.
Let’s explain each trigger in turn:
Outreach + Evaluation
Let’s assume that B2B researchers are now aware of your products or services and are keen to reach out and evaluate. Your next task is to ensure they have a frictionless and positive impression of your brand.
Using SaaS (software as a service) products as an example, if your servers are based in the U.S, this means that your potential Chinese leads are going to experience intermittent connectivity and long download times which reduces the chances of conversion.
At first glance, procurement shouldn’t be a painful touchpoint. But in the Chinese context there are foreign currency controls in place. To remit funds to a foreign bank account, your clients need to do paperwork to seek official approvals. Another point is that Chinese clients are likely to seek an official invoice as there are tax benefits involved.
The most obvious solution to these two issues is to set up a Chinese entity to eliminate the need for foreign currency transactions and issue official receipts. We will cover how to mitigate these issues if setting up a Chinese entity isn’t an option for your business for now.
Genuine word-of-mouth references from B2B clients, such as reviews, social media shares and recommendations, are worth their weight in gold. However, to scale those efforts, we recommend that operationalising advocacy through a formal advocate marketing strategy.
B2B marketing in China is a complex undertaking with plenty of unknowns even with meticulous preparation. But as you get started, you need to be conscious of collecting data, e.g. what types of content are more popular, such as reads, shares and common characteristics of your inbound leads. This data will help you to enrich your B2B client personas and journeys, to continuously enhance your marketing initiatives.
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