B2B CUSTOMERS IN CHINA – WHO ARE THEY AND HOW CAN THEY BE REACHED?
B2B customers are very dependent on the company industry and sector. However, there are several trends that most B2B businesses should take note of when entering the China market or marketing to clients.
When comparing Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing, depending on the industry, B2B requires more targeting effort as the companies are trying to reach a particular group of professionals, as opposed to the broader consumer audience that B2C marketing targets. The B2B customers usually take longer when making their decisions and require a complete understanding of the product or service the B2B company is providing. Thus, B2B marketing efforts need careful management at each touchpoint with potential clients. Some of these touchpoints can include first getting in contact with potential customers, engaging them through content marketing, educating them on the product/services, and finally converting them into clients.
Moreover, to reach B2B customers, testimonials and internal resources, such as the company’s culture, vision, and mission, are very important, as the customers are likely to require a thorough understanding of not just the product or services provided but also what it means to work with a specific B2B company instead of its competitors in the China market.
The general stages of the B2B customer journey include:
- Initial contact and introductions
- Formal RFP
- Customer Service
- Repurchase or restart the customer journey with another B2B company.
The Digitization of the Chinese Market
Many companies are already aware of the significance of digital marketing for B2C companies and brands. However, with China’s entire economy and lifestyle becoming more digital, especially as the penetration rate of internet and mobile phone usage continues to rise, this trend has also become prevalent in B2B marketing.
In the past year, COVID-19 has caused the shutdown of many offline channels and the cancellation of offline events. This has prevented companies from carrying out traditional marketing methods to or potential meeting customers, such as trade shows, exhibitions, conferences, client visits, or other face-to-face networking events. On the other hand, the situation has showcased digital marketing capabilities, online methods of maintaining customer relations, and organizing digital events, some of which may continue to be utilized even as offline channels become available again.
With that being said, the traditional marketing methods will likely remain essential in B2B marketing, even as digital marketing rises to prominence. This will result in the need for an omnichannel marketing strategy that maintains the same ‘company image’ and ‘company voice’ across all of them.
When developing a digital marketing strategy for China, companies first need to choose the strategy that makes sense for their industry or sector. This will define who their potential customers are, where they are most likely to be reached, and what marketing methods to use.
Although there are similarities within the choices of digital marketing tools that B2B businesses can use, the final selection will be determined by the company’s industry and marketing goals, whether that is generating sales leads, market education, establishing the company’s expertise, and credibility or branding and awareness. Some of the tools available include website marketing, programmatic advertisements, promotional tool usage, email marketing, social media marketing, etc.
Content marketing is vital for many B2B businesses. It establishes the business’s expertise in their particular industry, demonstrating how the business will meet the clients’ needs. Additionally, unlike in the B2C sector, websites are still highly relevant for B2B businesses to reach their customers. A Chinese official website can serve as brand validation while also providing a direct channel through which potential customers can research the company.
One platform useful for B2B companies that want to conduct CRM or provide after-sales services to customers is WeChat. B2B companies can develop a mini-program on the platform that clients can quickly contact, report issues, or continue communications with the B2B business.
Another platform B2B companies can provide much professional information to reach their customers is Zhihu, which is known for its Q&A features. Zhihu has the reputation of being a trustworthy platform on which users, both B2B and B2C, can gain professional knowledge on specific topics. B2B companies can gain recognition and credibility by creating official accounts on Zhihu and contributing information, answering questions in relevant fields, publishing articles on the platform, or posting videos that showcase the company’s expertise.
When compared to international markets, China’s digital transformation has occurred at a much faster pace, causing more B2B companies within China to adopt digital marketing practices. Nonetheless, most deals are still closed offline, which indicates that while the future trend is digital, the current circumstances require a more adaptable and hybrid approach for reaching B2B customers.
How Melchers can support you in China
Melchers provides a complete end to end digital-execution service for Western brands wishing to define a strategy for China through market implementation. We manage the client relationship in Europe and China to ensure strategy, planning, and projection is set out at the onset. Local teams based in Shanghai and Beijing oversee campaign implementations. Among our digital marketing services, we design, build and optimize web and mobile presences in China to drive customer acquisition, including SEO set-up and optimization services. Our team engages in the design, content creation, and management of your website, blog, and social media accounts while driving digital marketing campaigns.
To learn more about how we can support you, please contact us at [email protected].