Exhibitions and trade shows have been a valuable part of China’s B2B marketing calendar for a long time. However, travel restrictions due to the global Covid-19 crisis has meant very few will be taking place in the near future. For China marketers, this is an opportunity to review and reengineer your China marketing strategy.
When I first moved from Beijing to Shanghai two years ago, one thing that amazed me was the sheer number of exhibition halls and spaces this city has. And they aren’t small either, with many of them enjoying multiple halls, sprawling outdoor spaces, luxurious meeting suits and state-of-the-art lecture theaters. While this is amazing in itself, equally amazing is that most of them were usually full year-round. According to Statista, in 2018 alone Shanghai hosted over 900 exhibitions, with the second-placed city, Guangzhou, coming in at just over 300.
However, as 2020 has rapidly become a year that best resembles a plot from a disaster movie, with travel restrictions and social distancing in place around the world, the plug has been pulled on China trade show activity – for the rest of the year at least.
Some, like the famous China Import Export Fair, are moving online, which will be fascinating to see and will represent a unique challenge for marketers. For those that have gone from the schedule completely, many marketing managers here are going to see a big gaping hole in their strategy, and sales and growth will suffer as a result.
In the absence of any trade show activity, the importance of a strong China brand and marketing strategy has never been so important. There are four key differences as to why a global strategy doesn’t have the same impact here. They are:
Localization – you have to ensure that your content, which includes your brand name and brand messaging, tonality, etc, are compatible with your Chinese target audience and the Chinese language. Direct translations almost never work, so proper translation, as well as image localization, will help you convey the right brand and product messaging to your Chinese customers or leads.
Population – OK we know that China’s population is massive. 1.8bn at the last count. This means you have to correctly segment your market and understand your target audience – where do they hang out, what channels do they use, and what pain points do they have? Building modern personas based on data will help you focus on the things that matter.
Social media – Chinese social media is a unique beast and can be hugely complex and intimidating for foreign brands. But they are also vital tools for sharing your brand story and building connections. Understanding which channels and platforms are suitable for you, and how to use them correctly, is vital to China success. Live streaming and modern tools such as WeChat mini-programs are now standard for most brands – are you keeping up?
SEO/SEM – I am sure you have a fantastic SEO strategy that sees your brand front and center for all relevant Google searches in the West. That will not help you in the slightest here. Baidu, China’s Google equivalent, uses different algorithms and paid search options. You need to understand how paid social media campaigns and SEO work in China, and be prepared for a long haul – especially with SEO.
If you want to find out more about how to make your China marketing strategy more effective, or to bring your brand up to speed on the latest China digital marketing tactics, you can download our latest ebook, The CMO's Guide to China Marketing: 10 Top Tips for Your International Brand. Just click on the image below.
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