You’ve just landed in China, a completely different marketplace & environment to operate in, you need to begin distributing and selling your product in the most effective way with Return On Investment your number one priority.
Quality Chinese Distributors
The purse strings are tighter because you need to validate this market, will you see traction for the product and how will you market the product to Chinese consumers? Quality distribution alongside marketing & branding therefore lies at the heart of e-commerce success.
Finding a quality distributor in China is a notoriously difficult task, especially for a new brand with little reputation and low levels of brand awareness. Distributors will be incredibly selective & want to see products and brands that have already made some kind of an impact.. It’s a catch 22 for new product launches but there is a solution…
Here is our guide to sourcing the most quality distributors through intelligent digital strategy if you are new to this lucrative market:
Find Your Product Selling Point for the Chinese
This is a different market eco-system and you need to understand what your USP is from the perspective of Chinese consumers. In short, what aspects and features will shift the product.
Finding your selling point can take time & requires pragmatic research, you need to look into your local and international competitors, how are they branding the product, managing communications and what are their sales figures like? This goes someway to establishing confidence in your product market.
Secondly you can look into potential distributor companies, what brands are on their roster and what has the success rate been?
A key selling point for all international brands is ‘quality’, in a nation typically associated with counterfeit goods ‘international’ has become a byword for high quality goods. With changing consumer expectations and rising levels of wealth amongst China’s 350 million middle class consumers the market is ripe for capitalising on, even a small slice of this will quite obviously generate significant results.
Branding is everything in China. The Chinese in their modern, hyper commercial culture buy into brands like no other nation. Distributors are no exception to this and the quality ones want to work with brands that have a presence.
Branding in China for products should always be considered as a number one priority, both for B2C sales and B2B connections with distribution networks.
The answer for branding is online, with over 900 million internet users China is the largest online sphere in the world. It is unique in the sense that it is separated from the rest of the web by the infamous ‘great firewall’, this has effectively established a distinct online eco-system. For branding purposes this means you will typically need to start over again by building your e-reputation on Chinese networks & platforms.
Building the E-Reputation of your brand first
Building your e-reputation is the bed rock of any distributor marketing campaign. Firstly you need a quality Chinese website that is optimized for Baidu (China’s Google) and made visible though SEO (search engine optimization) techniques.
Once you contact a distributor the first thing they will likely do is search online via Baidu, do you have an official website in Mandarin Chinese that acts as a ‘quality shop front’?
Secondly your reputation in forums & in the news is vital. Articles on forums will often appear alongside your official website on a Baidu search, Zhihu (akin to Quora) and Baidu Tieba (Baidu’s own forum) rank very highly as popular sources of information. Developing a positive reputation about your brand and company here is therefore vital.
Indeed there are even dedicated distributor forums where companies will discuss and make enquiries into products they can take on.
B2B Lead Generation relies on a number of key strategies, a comprehensive approach is important as the effects and results are cumulative.
A quality ‘shop front for your brand/product’, audited & developed for the Chinese Market.
The optimization of that site on Baidu (China’s Google), it needs to be visible for distributors when they search for information and content on your brand. Serious professionals prioritize a high ranking in the natural search results over PPC.
Paid ad links (PPC) is important if you are completely new to the market (short term strategy).
Using WeChat as a communication tool for connecting with prospects, it is increasingly a ‘professional network’ for business as well as a social tool. For B2B you can send product specifications, contracts, images etc.
Trade Fairs & Exhibitions
With an online reputation first you will have the tools to reach out and establish initial communications with distributors. It will raise your profile at trade fairs and allow you to build quality relationships based on best practice. The key point to emphasize is that everything in China must include a digital strategy, simply because online B2B is the lifeblood of modern China.
When you feature your brand and products at trade fairs you can include QR codes for prospects to scan that will link them directly your site, WeChat or online content. This combination of online reputation and branding for the product coupled with using communication tools such as WeChat to establish connections is the first step you need to make before taking the business offline.
Don’t be ‘overly dependent’ on distributors
Whilst connecting with quality distributors will always remain important it is important to look at the other side of the coin. Distributors in China, regardless of their prestige, are renowned for only taking on profitable brands & products. If your brand has problems or issues selling they will likely end the relationship swiftly, simply because the demand is so high from large e-commerce players entering this market.
The solution to this is to validate and provide evidence that the product is popular with consumers, both in terms of online reputation (already explored) and sales.
Get your product straight to market (Cross Border E-Commerce)
You can start to validate the product by making sales on smaller cross border platforms such as ‘Taobao’, ‘Little Red Book’ or ‘Higo’. You can utilize ‘Taobao Distributors’ or local sellers to take your brand and start making sales, it won’t be huge quantity at first but is important for establishing presence and validating the concept. The benefit of this is you can test the market without the high levels of expenditure required for JD.cn & Tmall.
Invest in digital marketing to prove potential & support sales strategy
Investing in digital marketing & communication (as we have explored) supports your sales strategy and proves the potential of the product by generating ‘online popularity’. Absolutely key in a culture fixated with online culture.