I’ve been lucky enough to work in Realty Marketing in China for 5+ years now alongside some major global players. I’ve learned a lot along the way & want to share that experience with serious market entrants looking to develop in this lucrative market. From new launches to refining & extending strategy, this is a fascinating & vital market for Serious Global Developers.
Now is the time to enter & take this seriously
- Brief Market Overview
- Do You Have the Capacity to Launch?
- The Right, Localized Strategy
- Trust for Investors is Everything
- Events Connect to Online Content
- Using WeChat to Improve Sales
- Using Weibo, A Smart Alternative for Sales
- Baidu, For Investors Searching
- Lead Generation = Contact Form Ads
- PR – Your Reputation Matters for Sales
- Key Questions to Ask an Agency
- Further Reading
Brief Market Overview
Mainland Chinese buyers are expected to snap up increasing amounts of overseas real estate this year, despite political resistance and sensitivity around such investments globally. The tide of overseas investment is not slowing.
Chinese residential and commercial international property purchases in 2017 reached a new record of $119.7 billion, up 18.1 percent from the $101.4 billion in 2016, according to an annual report from Juwai, the leading Chinese real estate portal.
Since 2010, Chinese investors acquired international property totaling more than $430 billion, the report added.
Projections remain positive with commercial & residential property investment to increase 3 to 8 percent YoY, this would take investment totals to between $123.3 billion & $129.3 billion globally.
Showing YoY Investment Growth. Credit; IQ Data from Juwai.com
Focus on Direct Marketing
The focus of this article is on direct marketing to buyers. These strategies can complement & support listings on Reputable platforms such as Juwai, Caimeju, Anjuke, etc.
Considering the scale of the Digital Realty Sector, therefore each party must specialize and play their part.
At GMA we focus on Realty Marketing & the required Digital Support for Sales.
- Do You Have the Capacity to Launch in China?
China still represents a huge opportunity despite budget entry requirements.
But this is the first question I ask any Realtor.
Typically the answer is that;
Developers & large-scale brokers do have the budget capacity.
Individual agents (as a rule of thumb) do not.
This often comes down to budget & infrastructure requirements. This is a ‘Pay to Play’ Market for Exposure & larger-scale investment is a necessity.
Keyword prices for search have increased, agency costs evolve in a developing market & Multi-Channel DSP is increasingly regulated for Foreign Investment.
This makes ‘budget for entry’ a greater requirement for platforms.
It also raises a key point, China as a lucrative market needs to be a priority for long-term development. It is a different fish tank & needs to be seen like this from the outset.
Sample Data Highlighting the Correlation Between ‘Reads’ & Leads on Series of Posts. Targeted Exposure Is The Answer To Lead Generation for Developers.
Question; Do You Have A Positive Reputation in China?
Reputation is EVERYTHING.
The Chinese have to trust in your name, the first step for the majority of Developers is to refine your communications on core platforms in order to start building that trust.
- DSP Strategies
Quality content needs to be optimized for all the above channels that are tailored to your end consumer in Mainland China specifically (as opposed to Taiwan + Hong Kong).
Broadway Has Built A Strong Reputation in China as London’s Premier Location Through a Targeted Multi-Channel Approach. Here is their Web Page Optimized for Baidu.
- Localized Campaign Strategy = Lead Gen + E-Rep
The right campaign involves both;
– Lead Generation Strategy
– E-reputation / Communication
The right combination pays dividends (and I’ve witnessed this many times) in terms of saving on commission payments & bringing lead generation/sales in-house.
Alternatively; the right strategy also supports a network of sales agents for those who outsource this process in China.
- Online Trust for Investors is Everything.
This is arguably the most digitally orientated market in the world with high-value investment commonplace, and essential trust in Developers is more selective.
You need to showcase profitably in an investment, the Chinese are smart, savvy, and looking for a long-term nest egg.
Regardless, if you’re looking to increase sales from China, you need to elevate your market position. Developing a smarter strategy to increase lead quantity & quality is the first step.
Sample Time-Line For Launch on WeChat / Weibo. Reporting & Analytics with Core Goals.
Campaigns Have Two Components
- Lead Generation Function
Developing more efficient, smarter & effective ‘funnels’ for driving prospective buyers
- Build Trust, E-Reputation & Quality Content on Specific Projects
Quality content has to be Localized. Your existing strategy cannot be transplanted to China.
Success With Developments Can be Wholly Quantified.
The Best Initial Approach is to Ring-Fence a Trial Budget over a 4-6 Month Period. Projected KPIs can then be tested & refined for both parties.
WeChat Campaign for More Refined Targeting with London’s Most Prestigious Westminster Development, ‘The Broadway’.
- Events & Stalls Connect to Online Content (O2O)
Offline to Online is the norm in China. When Developers attend events (such as LPS), they typically miss the fundamental point.
THE CHINESE ENGAGE ONLINE FIRST.
The Luxury Property Expo sees a lot of sales reps shuffling around with not so much to do, why?
The Chinese simply scan the QR code for the stall and expect all the content to be there on WeChat. Missing this will lose your custom.
Similarly, for contact details, a simple HTML5 form in WeChat will suffice which they can access by following the account.
All Offline Events need to support your Digital Strategy in China.
LPS has become a key event for Developers, but for maximum effect, you must have a digital campaign in place for your projects.
- WeChat – Improve Your Sales Strategy in China
WeChat is a necessity, I am often shocked by the number of Global Developers who have either no presence on WeChat or a very limiting, inactive account.
- Average Daily Logged in Users Q4, 2017 reached 902 Million.
- Over the Chinese New Year, Tencent Reported 1 Billion Plus DAUs.
- Tencent Developing Their Investor Facing Platform.
- 797 Million MAUs Following Official Accounts, up 19% YoY.
Why Do You Need to Be on WeChat?
- It’s a ‘1 stop shop for Chinese online engagement
- WeChat is your News Letter, To Not Have WeChat in China is akin to not having a Website.
- It’s Where Your Target Is, the High Net Worth, 30+ Age Demographics are Prolific Users & Highly Active on WC.
Your Sales Infrastructure on WeChat;
The obvious point is that your network of sales uses WeChat as the primary means of communication for the first point of contact.
I’ve seen multi-million USD projects sold via WeChat alone.
Agents Use WeChat too;
- Send Project Portfolio + Branding Material
- Send floor plans/specs etc
- Please instantly on pricing & ROI.
DAMAC Built Its WeChat as a Portal for Insights & Information into the UAE Investment Market. Branding DAMAC as ‘Live the Luxury’, Articles Reach a Substantial Following.
Supporting Agents with A Targeted Strategy
GMA has worked extensively in building targeted campaigns with Developers. There are two core strategies (which complement each other);
- Focus on the ‘Brand’ & Building Awareness of the Developer Name
(Note this is often in tandem with off-line stands at events such as LPS Beijing/Shanghai).
- Project-Specific Focus with Marketing of Units
The process of localizing your projects & building material around them that is fit for the market is integral. Eg Floor Plans, Property Spec, USP for Chinese Investors.
The core point is that a quality WeChat account that is actively posting & building a following is there to support your sales team for increased conversion.
Sample Back-End Data from WeChat shows a spike in engagement to 699 comments & interactions on this post. Tracking Data & Analytics is Essential.
Content Optimized for WeChat;
Data & Analytics is Everything. Realtors & Marketers Ultimately Speak the Same Language.
- The Key is How Impressions & Exposure Relates to Conversion Rates.
- A bilingual team of copywriters needs to localize your content for each platform.
Weibo – A Smart Platform to Grow Your Sales
Weibo is a ‘Buzz’ Platform for Developers;
- Weibo’s financial revenue grew vastly in 2017.
- Their annual revenue reached 7.71 billion RMB, realizing year-on-year growth of 76%.
- Ad income alone contributed 6.68 billion RMB, which is up 75% compared to 2016.
- Increasing ad spending on Weibo reflects a developing infrastructure necessary for a more complete project exposure strategy.
Data from Weibo Official Report, Q4 2017.
Weibo is an ‘Open Network’ this allows users to see posts from others without being connected first, hence typically higher engagement rates.
It also is a more ‘ad friendly’ platform in terms of targeted FenSiTong promotions to relevant categories of followers.
Weibo is a great tool to complement a WeChat Launch. It’s also part of Sina Corp, one of China’s largest News Organizations, trending topics on the News Feed can & do go viral.
Weibo = Exposure & Status
Developers use Weibo to Grow their Status & Presence more Quickly.
You cannot forsake WeChat but do consider this as a second channel.
It’s always been associated more as a brand channel however in my opinion;
Projects = Brands (Life Style).
The Chinese are so brand-orientated that they see developments as brands. Thus this different approach is required in China.
The Flagship Madison Building in Canary Wharf. Campaign Developed for Driving Project Specific Engagement with Posts Design for Impact, Enquiries increased by 30%.
- Baidu – Investors are Searching
Investors are Searching on Baidu, China’s No 1 Search Engine. Developers need to commit their budgets to the most targeted keywords for the right exposure to those searching.
Improving keyword strategies increases lead number & quality.
PPC is good for launch but requires ongoing investment to retain its position, as mentioned at the start, costs on Keywords in this sector have naturally risen.
Therefore smart keyword selection (potentially more niche) + A/B testing is required to determine the best approach.
Again it’s a numbers game, with Exposure and Click-Through Rates priority. (CTR).
Paid Search Results on The Keyword Sets For;
‘Australian Real Estate’ & ‘Shanghai Property Events’
- Contact Form Ads – Targeted Reach for Lead Generation
Lead Generation is an Important Part of the Campaign.
Targeted ads can be connected with contact forms for lead generation on platforms such as Sohu, 168 or Ifeng.
This is an effective method;
- Allows for News Categories to Be Targeted
- More Specific to Each User Preference
- Ads are inserted into the news feed and connect to contacts to leave details
Data capture is important but how can you support lead G?
Reputation through quality content that reaches your target.
Lead Generation in China is Easy.
Building a Reputation is Much Harder.
Sample Lead Capture, Users Click Through Here on the EB5 Tab to Reach the Form. They Remain in APP for a More Frictionless Experience.
- PR – Your Reputation Matters for Sales
In a Pay to Play News Environment Developers Can Place Projects into the News Sphere.
Return on Long-Term Investment & Stability is Their Priority.
Through News Exposure You Can Communicate This, It Establishes Your Developments as Newsworthy.
- You need to ask the following questions of any agency;
- What relevant case studies do you have?
- What indicative data for KPI projections do you have? Based on Previous Numbers
- How is the project relevant to Chinese buyers?
- Why should they invest & how to communicate this USP on Local Channels?
- How does the more traditional eventing approach relate to online in China?
If you wish to arrange a consultation session with me please contact the agency initially. I’ve spearheaded a host of successful Realty launches & look to find the right, serious partners to develop with.
More than happy to share my experience further & drill down into this.