In the view of the recent COVID-19 outbreak (in China, first, and then in the rest of the world), trade fairs are a big pain. Hundreds of trade fairs have been cancelled throughout the world (the list is here).
However, there’s a blessing in disguise for those who are targeting the Chinese market, in particular. Unexpectedly, it’s been a long time since trade fairs in China have proven to be a huge waste of time, effort, and money for those who start everything from scratch.
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Why Trade Fairs in China are not effective anymore?
- We live in 2020 when China is one of biggest players on the world arena but not in 1950-ies and on, when the country needed to undergo a deluge of reforms on its way to open up.
- Now it is also not the time when it needs to ease the effects of the economic lockdown and trade embargo conducted by the West as it was before, but vice versa – foreign businesses need China market.
- They don’t have that urgency to diversify their own market by the foreign produce anymore as it is much more profuse now.
- China needed foreign companies to set an example, to guide them, and now they are doing it all better on their own.
- The level of competition has changed to the worse for the foreign businesses so participating in trade fairs in China doesn’t provide any substantial advantages over the contenders.
- Last but not the least, China has stepped into a new era awhile ago – the era where people search, evaluate and strike the deals online.
The pandemic situation will only catalyze the process and show that fairs can be consigned to oblivion. Meanwhile, it will become more obvious that business in China can be managed online.
The first time in history, Guangzhou trade fair go digital in 2020.
How is it possible that everything can be done online?
Chinese people stand for a perfect epitome of a digital society:
- For personal procedures they not only communicate and search for the entertainment online, but also:
- Buy food;
- Do shopping;
- Pay the bills;
- Make itineraries, etc.
- For business-related procedures they tend to perform the following tasks:
- Supplier search;
- Customer search;
- Product search;
- Trend search;
- Recommendations search;
- Striking the deals and so on.
Why do Trade Fairs in China still exist then?
Rome was not built in one day, so the transition takes time. The process will flow faster now (with the fairs being an impossible feat currently).
Yet, it is true that fairs were a convenient means of fast data collection. Chinese people could wander around to see who is available in their market. (Unless you have some clients who know you and arrange to come your particular booth, of course. How many of those you might have, I wonder.)
Let’s see how your potential Chinese lead thinks and behaves at the trade fair:
- Most of them approach booths one by one and collect the handout material: they don’t listen to your endless introductions (especially, in English).
- They, most importantly, search for a magic QR-code to scan (I will explain why).
- They come back home with a task to analyze the data collected.
That is to say, they explore the fair for options, and then they are eager to find more information about you online. The QR-code will lead them to your official accounts (that can be WeChat, for instance), or they would aim to check your website. They would also want to find some reviews from locals because it is a risky task for them to cooperate with a foreign business no one knows anything about.
Trade fairs in China become outdated because data collection is possible online as well. Furthermore, now there is no other way while the business has just got back on track.
Lead Generation is the way out
If your plan was to enter the Chinese market through a Trade Fair on a basis of B2C, B2B or B2D business model, you’d rather consider the lead generation model. Trade fair implies quite a fortune to invest. Meanwhile, the same level of investment into lead generation would give you traffic and conversion.
Lead generation is not when you are hopelessly trying to convince your potential leads that you are worth their attention. This is called desperation..
Lead generation is about doing things in a smart and subtle way to make leads come “by their own will”.
Lead generation triggers the demand, while trade fairs in China only puts the proposal on display.
Why Lead Generation is effective in China
- Lead Generation has wide exposure and brilliant reputation as an outcome – things that are much needed in this competitive market.
- Chinese people are picky partners and consumers – they will turn blind eye to complete beginners or forgotten experienced brands/products; lead generation will conceal those facts.
- They really value the brands and products that are on demand rather than the ones that are stating clearly “I am new but good, please look at me”.
How to do Lead Generation in China
lead generation = generate asking / contacts.
Step 1. improve your Website for conversion
Be sure that Chinese people will go online and search for what they need.
Needless to say, website is an essential tool and your way to introduce yourself in a proper way. It is just necessary to know what the proper way is.
Things to give due consideration to:
- A website in Mandarin language is a must – Chinese people don’t bother themselves with deciphering English texts;
- Hosting in China/Hongkong/Singapore are acceptable – others might be blocked or just too slow and burdensome;
- They search on Baidu (Google is blocked, as well as an abundance of other web services, websites, applications, etc. – it is a communist state!);
- Baidu is different from Google – it requires a proper SEO otherwise Chinese people would never find your website in the ocean of your competitors (you have to rank on top).
Your website is your Booth
As it becomes clear, a Chinese website provides visibility in the Chinese market as your international Google-optimised website might not be that easy to stumble upon here. It is not always true that your brand is their search request – most probably, it would be your industry, niche, product, service, feature, etc. Therefore, no one would browse through millions of similar search results to find you on page 1894.
Step 2. Being Top Recommended, power of word of Mouth
It might be difficult to fathom, yet, Chinese people don’t have a habit of acting according to their own choices, normally. They don’t care too much about the product itself but they mostly care about what others say about the product. There are two reasons behind that:
- China is a communist state which implies that they are accustomed to obey and follow the instructions – they need instructions for anything (i.e recommendations to purchase a product/service);
- It is a country with a population of 1.4 billion people – there would have been a complete disorder if they all could have their own opinions, so this further backs up the theory why they need more recommendations for making their choice.
Hence, foreign businesses can enjoy the big phenomenon of the sense of the crowd in China to extract maximum leverage from marketing campaigns. If there is a buzz around a brand or a product/service in China, it will be a success.
Where do the recommendations come from in China?
First and foremost, they come only from locals. Chinese people trust only Chinese people.
Reviews on Forums
This is a very basic but an essential level to start from. There are many designated forums related to particular industries (and all of them are Chinese forums in Mandarin language, so this is not Tripadvisor as you might guess). Together with that, there are also general forums like Quora (in China that’s Zhihu, Zhidao, Tieba, etc.).
The mechanism is that opinions shared on forums have a big influence on the decisions that a Chinese person makes. They can spend hours and days checking the forums to decide who is good to cooperate with, which bag is a better choice, which service provider to opt for, etc.
This is the next level that mainly provides content with more expertise. Publications give a feeling that it is not only like in the society but also approved by real Chinese connoisseurs!
Powerful recommendations come from Chinese influencers.
In China influencers are key opinion leaders (KOL). That is to say, they voice their reputable opinions to their audience, guide it and lead it to taking the right decision.
Dealing with KOLs also helps with a more narrow approach – you can find the KOLs who have the same target audience as you have, because are the role models in particular fields. KOLs of celebrity levels might have a few of those, yet, they give access to a much wider audience.
You might want to skip levels one and two if KOLs prove to be so effective. Yet, influencers also care a lot about their reputation. So you would need to have that base first to stand firmly on the ground and move to the next level.
Step 3. Social Media in China, even in B2B you have to do it
in China, business is social, and social is Business
Social Media in China makes magic.
They spend at least 4 hours a day to browse various social platforms for the diverse content provided there.
You might say you already have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, or whatever. They are banned in China – Google that.
There is a list of alternatives that would be the only right choice if you target the Chinese market.
WeChat is a platform close to the banned Facebook, but it is far more advanced now. That’s why I have mentioned it before that Chinese people would look for a QR-code at the fair. The code would lead them to your official account and give more ideas about you and your product/service. Here’s why it is so effective:
- It has around 1 billion active users;
- It is accessible, handy and resourceful;
- It is used for personal needs as a means of communication, entertainment, studying, work, shopping, payments, etc.;
- It is a must-have for localized businesses due to its high promotional capabilities.
However, WeChat is not easy to manage as it has many tricks. For instance, you can find links to Facebook accounts on Google, but you won’t find links to WeChat anywhere on the web. It is a closed system so it requires intensive internal promotions. Yet, it is worth it because they give you high exposure in a split second due to convenient instant content sharing.
Weibo is a micro-blogging platform. The majority of KOLs are here, by the way. Content sharing starts on Weibo.
This platform can boast with an audience of up to 600 million people. It provides more tools for interactive content and for internal paid advertising as well.
Little Red Book, or XiaoHongShu
This is Chinese Instagram (the latter is banned, whatsoever).
Little Red Book is not the best platform for heavy equipment, but it is a paradise for making regular promotional content in beauty-related industries, or fashion and accessories, some creative and unique curiosities, women-oriented products and services in general. Yet, it is not confined to that.
Chinese Tik Tok, yet with some peculiarities:
- Around 500 million active “surfers” daily;
- Browsed spontaneously but with high regularity (while commuting, during work breaks, before the sleep, during meals etc.);
- Provides short-video content – easy to encounter and not burdensome to watch;
- Also good for engaging with KOLs to raise one’s ranking.
The list of Social Media is endless. It is important to know which one fits your business best.
To start by opening account, doing ads or create content video on Douyin / TikTok
How to proceed?
Contact us to get free individual advice from our experts.
What we have is:
- A team of 70+ people at GMA to do everything to generate leads for you;
- Intellectuals to work on your visibility on Baidu;
- 7 years of experience to ensure your perfect reputation;
- Access to media platforms;
- Good coffee in our office to host you in Shanghai.