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  • Writer's pictureYunzhou Li

Start marketing to China from home

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Marketing to China is complicated, as China is a vast country with diversified consumer behavior in different regions and cities. And where should you start? You might not believe this, but I tell many of my Western clients that they can actually start marketing to China in their own country.

I know, this might sound complicated and confusing for your China journey. Yet there’s a simple solution if you are wondering where and how you could start. If you have a fair number of Chinese migrants, international students and tourists in your home country, why not starting here?

Yes the size of the Chinese community here is much less than the consumers in China. But the good news is, this also means that you need a way smaller budget to start with. And it will help you to set a solid foundation for your China journey. This approach will allow you to test your products, define your key messages, set up your communications channels, and create word of mouth.

Test your products at home first

You’ve already got a big group of consumers who love your products, which makes you very proud and confident of your products. However, this doesn’t mean that Chinese consumers will love your products too. There are a number of factors that you need to consider, for example, product flavours, product colours, and very importantly, is your product culturally appropriate for the Chinese market?

Say you make low-calorie instant pastas, and your customers are crazy about your oliver and capers pasta sauce. But you may find the Chinese customers not too interested in the flavour, and you may want to consider creating something more creative for this market, Sichuan beef for example.

Or if you sell souvenir hats, in the Australian colour green, with cute cartoon koala bears on them. You know that the Chinese tourists love koalas, so it’s very confusing when you realise that your hats are not selling to them. The truth is, in China, the saying of “wearing a green hat” is a metaphor of “someone’s partner is cheating on him/her”, so here you go - something you may never think of if you don’t have the cultural background.

Engaging with the Chinese community at home will help you to understand how attractive your products are to the Chinese consumers, and if you need to make any adjustments for this market.

Define your brand messaging

Another common mistake global brands could make is directly translating their global messaging strategy to China. While your brand messages have proved to be successful in your home country, they may not work for the Chinese market due to its unique culture and completely different marketing systems and consumer behaviours.

Getting some insights from the Chinese community will help you to know your audience, understand the cultural context, and find the right balance between globalisation and localization in your Chinese messaging.

Set up your communications channels

You know that Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other western digital channels don’t work in China, right? Chinese consumers are very used to their own digital platforms, so as a habit, even when they move to a western country, they will keep using these channels since that’s where their family and friends are on and where they could get the first hand news from their hometown.

This means that, to engage with your local Chinese community, you will still need to identify and set up the most suitable Chinese social channels. It gives you the opportunity to learn about these channels, practise your new knowledge and have your online Chinese content accessible before you’re ready for the China market.

Create WOM

Chinese consumers are getting more and more sophisticated these days. There was a time that people trusted foreign products unconditionally. But nowadays, consumers do their research. Not only would they search online, which is why it’s important for you to have your online Chinese content ready, but they would also check with their friends living overseas whether they know about the brand and whether the products are worth purchasing.

So establishing your brand and products among the local Chinese community means that they’ll give good reviews for you to their friends in China. Or even better, if they love your products, they will become your brand ambassadors and create buzz on Chinese social channels for you before you are in China!

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