B2B Marketing in China - Tips and Basics

Chinese target groups are increasingly becoming the focus of German B2B companies. Online, too. But digital marketing in China has its own rules. Read here to find out what they are and how you can make your company visible in China.

You can see Michael Kirchberger

Michael Kirchberger | 21.07.2022

Graphic shows a Chinese dragon surrounded by mail and messenger icons.

Beyond the "Great Firewall": B2B Digital Marketing in China

Since 2016, China has been the most important export country for German companies. No other country in the world has had more goods exported to it in recent years. The most important export good (of course): Cars! Directly behind are classic B2B products: Machinery, electrical engineering and chemical products.¹

No wonder, then, that more and more B2B companies are turning their attention to the Far East and vying for the attention of Chinese buyers and decision-makers with their products and services. And especially online, they are pushing for more visibility in the market.

But this is easier said than done. In fact, many companies fail in their efforts because of the "Great Firewall of China. With this control instrument, the Chinese government monitors outgoing and incoming data traffic in the Middle Kingdom. All websites are checked for undesirable content and blocked if necessary. In plain language, this means that websites hosted abroad are either not even displayed to Chinese users or are rendered de facto unusable due to endless loading times.

Three quarters of all German companies are virtually invisible with their website in China.
Michael Kirchberger Director Sales & Marketing and owner of SNK

The milestones on the way to more visibility

What does this mean for your company? If you want to sustainably anchor your products or services in the memory of Chinese target groups, then this can only be done step by step.

First and foremost, you need to lay the technical foundations for your corporate website to make the leap over the "Great Firewall". Only then is it worth thinking about how you can use SEO and online marketing campaigns to generate the necessary traffic. Finally, the final milestone is to add digital channels and social media platforms, such as WeChat, which is omnipresent in China.

Graphic shows a Chinese gate surrounded by chat, mail. Website and social icons.

Your website: Performance and accessibility

The two most important prerequisites for the success of your corporate website in China: accessibility and performance. These measures will help you achieve this:

Hosting from mainland China

Government control through the Great Firewall is limited to web content hosted abroad. Conversely, this means that if your website data is located in China, you have nothing to fear. But unfortunately there is a catch. If you want to host a website in China, you need official permission from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in the form of an ICP filing or an ICP license. And this, in turn, can only be applied for companies that have an official branch in China.

Renouncing Google and Co.

Google, YouTube, Facebook and Co. are undesirable in China. Their services are completely blocked. So for the Chinese market you need a website version that does without embedded YouTube videos, Google maps or other 3rd party services.

You may also have to rethink tracking, because Google Analytics is also blocked in China. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives, for example from the Chinese search engine giant Baidu.

Our Tip:

Test the accessibility and performance of your website in China using free online tools.

Graphic shows a document with official stamp of the Chinese government

SEO: Content, Content, Content - Optimized for Mobile

Once your website is ready to go, it has to be found - by users and, of course, by search engines. The biggest and most important player is Baidu, with a market share of over 75%² something like the Google of China. And just like Google, Baidu has a lot of competition. To hold your own here, here's what you need to keep in mind:

Mobile first!

Mobile Internet use is even more important in China than it is here. Accordingly, Chinese search engines attach immense importance to a mobile-optimized website.

Content in local language

Some companies try to score with English website content in China. You can forget that. Chinese users expect website content in their local language. And not just as a translation, but preferably originally written in the local language and adapted to the specifics of Chinese culture. After all, what works in Europe is sometimes received quite differently in China. This applies to texts as well as images and graphics, which Chinese users attach great importance to.

JavaScript content

Baidu does not support JavaScript, so corresponding web content is invisible for the search engine and does not pay off on your SEO ranking. Especially hidden content elements like the classic accordion become a problem. Here you should consider whether you can structure or display your content differently. Alternatively, there is also a technical solution: Many JavaScript elements can also be realized with CSS.

Home page of the Chinese search engine Baidu

Paid campaigns: Choosing the right platforms

WeChat, Weibo, Toutiao, Douyin, Little Red Book - just like here, there are plenty of (social) platforms in China where you can create visibility for your brand and product with ads. Baidu and other search engines also offer corresponding services, of course. Depending on the product, e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global or 1688, both part of Alibaba, are also interesting.

Our tip: Don't be overwhelmed by the mass of channels and their possibilities. Look at markets and target groups and focus on one or two channels that are the most promising. Otherwise, you're just blowing your budget. Keyword: wastage.

With paid, the rule is: focus instead of watering can. B2B marketing in China is no different than in Europe.
Michael Kirchberger Director Sales & Marketing and owner of SNK

Social Media: Organic Content for WeChat and Co.

The final step is to build your own, organically populated social media channel. In the vast majority of cases, WeChat is the best choice to start with. With around 1.3 billion active accounts³, the app is the largest and most popular social platform in the country. It not only serves its users as a messenger, but also enables contactless payment via smartphone, online shopping and much more.

With an official company profile, you can take advantage of the app's reach. Relevant content tailored to the target groups, written in the local language, is indispensable for this.

Our tip:

Depending on the industry and product, cooperation with Chinese influencers, so-called KOLs (=Key Opinion Leaders) is very effective. On the way to more visibility, however, this is already the lap of honor.

Conclusion

Successful B2B digital marketing in China is very difficult to achieve from Germany alone. Having your own site in mainland China is very helpful for an easily accessible website with short loading times. But even if you decide against hosting from mainland China and accept the performance losses of your website: It's going to be hard without a local contact. Both in terms of the cultural fit of your content and in terms of very practical tasks: Many ad and tracking tools are only available in the local language.

You want to conquer new target groups in China, but don't know exactly how to start? We can help and advise you on topics such as website hosting, technical setup or tracking.

You can see Michael Kirchberger

About the author

Michael Kirchberger

Michael Kirchberger is the owner and managing director of SNK. His expertise lies in digitizing the marketing and sales activities of B2B companies along the entire customer lifecycle. He believes in "Done is Better Than Perfect" and knows why B2B companies in particular often struggle to implement quick wins in the digital environment while pursuing a sustainable digitization strategy.