China Marketing, B2B Marketing, China Brand Strategy

The CMO's Guide to China Demand Generation

6 Things Global CMOs Need to Know About China Demand Generation.

One of the benefits of a demand generation strategy is that it can cover every touchpoint of the buyer journey, from curious website visitor to delighted customer - valuable in B2B marketing or long-tail B2C campaigns. However, the four pillars of successful demand generation marketing (brand awareness, inbound marketing, sales enablement, and customer retention) are all heavily reliant on data in order to make informed decisions, which is one of the reasons things can get a little tricky in China.

That being said, as China’s post-Covid recovery continues to build momentum, we are seeing a shift towards demand gen campaigns and hybrid Account-based Marketing (ABM) models for B2B companies and beyond. So, without further ado, here are 6 things global CMOs need to know about demand generation marketing in China.

It’s complicated


The first thing to note before embarking on a demand gen marketing strategy here in China is probably the most obvious. It is complicated. Very complicated. And this is because all the channels commonly available to demand gen marketers everywhere else in the world are so different here.


China’s social media landscape is a closed communications network, which means no Google or Google-owned platforms, no Facebook, or Facebook-owned platforms, and so on. A strong social media presence is vital to an effective demand gen campaign so ensuring you are familiar with Chinese social media and the various types of content that works best on each platform is imperative.


How you manage your SEO, your inbound activities, SEM, and even how well your website functions and the visitor experience it provides, will all need attention for the China market.


Do your homework


Insight research is imperative. Now that is a truism for all markets, but it really should be the mantra for all global CMOs looking to benefit from demand gen marketing in China. A specific insight research project for the China market should be the first priority for international marketers which allows for the creation of detailed buyer personas and accurately maps the buyer journey and touchpoints for your product or service.


This will help remove some of the complexity I mentioned earlier as you will be able to identify which channels are the most influential for your target audience and will help focus marketing budget and resources on the channels that truly drive growth for your business.


Data beware!


The smart use of data to help create informed marketing strategies has rapidly become the norm around the world. This is true of China but the acquisition and management of data here is not without its pitfalls.


Firstly, it is illegal to purchase data and that law is strictly enforced. Be wary of agencies and in-market partners who offer this. Sanctions can be severe and see your company blacklisted from doing business in China for extended periods of time. And the punishment is not just aimed at the company, individuals directly in charge or directly responsible can also face fines.


In addition, Chinese trade media are unlikely to have an effective database for you to rent.


Weak link


LinkedIn is a fantastic platform and as a marketer targeting international businesses, I personally find it an extremely useful tool. For most demand gen campaigns, particularly B2B campaigns, it can be the main pillar of your social media activities. However, although your multinational employees are more and more likely to be on it and engaging, your Chinese team, their network, and your Chinese customers are unlikely to be as active and far more likely to miss any targeted advertising.


Make it a mixed bag and get creative


Make sure you mix things up with your marketing tactics. Creative, innovative content, using clever quizzes, giveaways, lucky draws and other promotion ideas actually work really well here in China, even within a B2B context.


One thing that is true in China, as it is elsewhere in the world, is that interesting and effective creative goes a long way. Too many B2B brands in China are overly worried about their global brand guidelines and VI which leads to them being timid to try a campaign approach here.


Also, sales enablement is another key pillar of demand gen and another opportunity to get creative in China, not just in terms of content and resources but also the tools you use to deliver it into the hands of your sales team and your customers. For example, we have been doing some interesting work with some of our clients to help them use WeChat as a sales enablement platform.


Be smart with your budget


Advertising on key Chinese trade websites is OK and can add value, but you are more likely to get better results by trying to find WeChat groups or accounts that reach your target audience. They may have a lower visitor/read count, but it will be more targeted and impactful.    


As I mentioned at the top of the piece, demand gen marketing will be more and more prominent in China for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Leave a comment and share your experience of demand gen marketing in China or get in touch if you are interested in a chat about how demand gen marketing can boost your businesses China growth.

One thing that is true in China, as it is elsewhere in the world, is that interesting and effective creative goes a long way. Too many B2B brands in China are overly worried about their global brand guidelines and VI which leads to them being timid to try a campaign approach here.

- Steven Proud

Global Marketing Director, Brandigo

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