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China Marketing

The B2B customer journey in China

In consumer marketing we often talk about “touchpoints” and the purchasing decision. In China especially, the online touchpoints have become invaluable during the purchase journey – a good deal of product and category searches take place within the e-commerce platforms. Tmall, Taobao and Jingdong with the most searches, almost becoming de facto search engines for many hungry consumers. Chinese social media networks, such as WeChat, are also playing a valuable role as touchpoints for savvy Chinese consumers.

1) The B2B Customer Journey in China

What about the B2B space? Is it the same as the West or completely different? Back in the old days, the only touchpoints in China were of the P2P nature – person to person. If you wanted to make a connection with another big company, you took them out to an extravagant dinner, met them at a crowded trade show, or sat in a smoky meeting room exchanging banter to see if you had a common connection. With enough perseverance, and possibly some baksheesh, you had yourself a deal.

The modernization of China – and especially the digitalization of China – has changed the rules drastically. This intersects with the jumble of multinational companies – operating under strict purchasing and compliance rules, state owned enterprises –operating under national compliance laws, and local private and listed companies – operating under everything somewhere along the “very strict” all the way to “get rich or die” spectrum.

2) The New Approach to the Decision Journey

Modern Customer Decision Journey has moved away from the “sales funnel approach” and can be represented by Mckinsey’s non-linear decision-making process, as shown here:


We see that one of the most important elements is figuring out not just who the decision makers are, but also the following criteria:

  • What are their “pain points” – what problem are you trying to solve
  • Where do they actually spend their time, i.e. what are your potential touchpoints

3) Putting the Touchpoints together

Back to China. It’s still P2P, but the quickly evolving market means that modern customer journey also plays a part – although with Chinese elements. We’ve mapped the experience for our clients a few different ways – below is one way to see how one customer type interacts with the client’s various marketing touchpoints. This shows the touchpoints but does not show the actual journey – a great place to start putting all of the information together.

I’ve marked in pen how we wanted to adjust the touchpoints to make some more important than others, and to use some of the touchpoints to drive customers to other touchpoints. For example, WeChat in B2B marketing is extremely difficult for awareness, but it is a fantastic tool for retaining loyalty and messaging current customers. There are other more detailed roadmaps you can develop from this.


4) What can you do right now?

How can you find out what your client’s decision makers' interests and touchpoints actually are? Sitting behind a desk is fine, but the real way to discover this is through interviews and one-on-one research. The pieces of the puzzle slowly start to take shape. In the end we want to arm our sales force by:

  • Prioritizing which touchpoints are most effective and value added
  • Making sure budget is allocated towards the right channels
  • Make sure the sales teams understand and can utilize the customer journey and touchpoints – we don't want a fancy report and wall map, we want sales
  • Clearly identify the “Moments of Truth” and target these effectively.

At the end of the day, we find that many of our clients think they know their customers, but they actually do not have the in-depth understanding of how they act in those different buyer cycles. Do you truly understand your customer’s decision journey?

Thanks to Jim Tincher at http://www.heartofthecustomer.com for their approach, which is a great thought-starter.

7 Tips for B2B Marketing China


Brandigo created a range of story-telling assets that included video, supporting client stories, graphics and icons and ultimately a new website and presentation to create the new brand experiences."

- Max Mustermann

Director at GE Healthcare

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