One Step Beyond Lead Generation: Smart Real Estate Marketing in China — Update 2020

Is Lead Generation in China Enough for Real Estate Companies?

At GMA we are lucky enough to work extensively in Real Estate Marketing & Lead Generation. Over the last 7 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to stand out in this lucrative yet competitive marketplace. Indeed with more players vying for a slice of the pie your strategy also needs to step up.

How to Stand Out In The Chinese Market?

  • Invest in Long-Term Growth
  • Utilize Direct Lead Gen & Marketing to Support Sales Efforts
  • Build Your Reputation Overtime
  • Source Chinese Specific Projects
  • Develop an Effective Sales Infrastructure

The Chinese real estate market is one of the most dynamic and exciting markets in Asia. It’s also a place where you can make some serious cash if your business acumen knows what to do with it! This guide will help teach everything about their trend so that when investors come looking for their next investment opportunity, we’ll be ready.

Smart Real Estate Marketing

I like the distinction here of ‘Smart Real Estate Marketing’, anyone can drive huge quantities of uninformed leads but how to take this to the next level for an increased lead to sales conversion rate? How to really pinpoint and engage with your target demographic? Let’s dive in!

You need to carve a niche, Ronald Serry established himself as a leading property legal expert, a simple/static landing page was enough to drive high quantities of interested leads. 

A Booming Market

2017 is set to rank as one of the top three years ever recorded for Chinese outbound investment, according to Juwai COO Sue Jong. This is despite state restrictions causing fears over capital investment, evidently, money flows regardless of policy is not limiting demand.

2016 saw Chinese real estate investors spending a record US$ 101.4 billion on both residential & commercial properties globally, this is up 845% over the past five years, and a 25.4% growth from 2015.

Based on the figures from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2019, the average price of new dwellings in China’s 70 cities rose by 10.78% y-o-y, Recently, the price is still increasing nationally,  even faster than in 2018 which ended with a house price growth of 9.7% y-o-y.

Room for Substantial Growth

It’s important to realize that these current stats still represent a small percentage of potential investment from a developing market. China ranks 18th in the world by aggregate ownership in foreign real estate compared to GDP at just 12%, well below the OECD average of 42%.

According to the research conducted by Knight Frank Research, 201è proved to be a good year for the capital outflow while 2018, because of the trade war and the restrictive capital control, has overshadowed the world’s key real estate markets.

China’s Global Real Estate Investment

While capital outflow restrictions persist, Chinese investors will remain cautious, which could have an impact on short-term transaction volume. But in the long run,  many opportunities presented in China’s real estate markets should not be ignored.

The Real Estate Eco-System in China

Anyone new to China needs to realize that the whole ecosystem from research to sales is mainly online in China. China’s leap forward toward a more tertiary, service-based economy is in full flow with digital developments placed at the heart of this.

Therefore here we have an online process of research. The biggest players acting as a conduit between buyer and seller include:

  • Juwai (the most famous listings and advertising platform)
  • Caimejiu (China’s second-largest listings platform)
  • Anjuke (a Real Estate advice forum/site)
  • Twillis (Platform in China connecting Developers, Agents & Buyers).
  • GMA (We are China’s Leading Direct Marketing Service for Prospect Generation).
  • A multitude of Chinese sales agents working on commission through sales conversion.
Juwai landing page

This is a competitive arena with a mixed reputation. There is always an element of risk with Sales Agents, that’s why your reputation is so essential.

Protecting Your Reputation is Invaluable. Chinese Investors moving their capital outwards do so for long-term gains & preservation, they need to trust that your platform can provide that security.  

Listings & Direct Marketing: which one is better for the real state business?

Listings allow projects to be listed based on sector, region, and keyword search but prospects have to be actively looking on that platform to find you. You are also one of many options, what makes you the right choice?

While direct lead generation allows you to place content in front of high-net-worth individuals researching for data, information, and most importantly advice.

The Positives of Direct Marketing

  •         Invest in branding yourself as a localized expert in Chinese Mandarin.
  •         Allows you to build your own database of prospects that you can leverage in the future.
  •        Engage directly with prospects on multiple channels and start the conversation.
  •         Reduce commissions and fees.
  •         Content in front of users based on targeted keyword searches for property enquires, high-value consumer goods, luxury travel, etc.
  •      You understand how to reach high-net-worth individuals in the smartest way.

Direct Marketing Allows You to stand out through EDUCATION & PROVIDING UNIQUE INSIGHTS. 

Figures such as Zhenjiaojun provide insights to their communities allowing them to leverage their influence for specific promotion of developments. You need to build this community in your area.

Listing on Juwai is not enough for China’s real state business

Juwai, China’s largest Real Estate Platform, is an indispensable tool for listings, its content & insights are superb and they sit on a lot of big data when it comes to buying trends. 

However there is a problem, this has become a very competitive and crowded space, a lot of traffic is great but there are also a lot of listings. How can you differentiate your projects and company from the rest?

There is also the risk of becoming reliant on Juwai’s brand as a platform. You need to also invest in your reputation & project visibility outside of Juwai to both increase sales on the platform and directly from engaged buyers searching in multiple ways.

A Chinese digital ecosystem is a powerful tool for your real estate business

What’s Made Juwai so Successful – Education & Insights

What a successful platform in China does is not only engage but continually re-engage investors, they have to keep coming back (when it comes to referrals, news, insights, additional services, etc).

In such a crowded market the way to stand out is to offer unique insights, as demonstrated by myself referencing such data above, in-depth reports, and well-presented statistics make a difference. However, data will only get you so far.

A Data-Driven Approach for Real Estate Consultancy. Charts, Stats & Graphs can be Embedded into Articles. 


What is Really important to Sell Property?

The location, the vision, the stories you will tell, the depiction of the lifestyle. This is why it’s great to hone in and specialize in one field. Carve your niche here with Chinese investors, and provide absolutely unique insight for them by leveraging your position on the ground.

It’s a long-term game, building the reputation of an area or specific project takes time but nothing worth doing happens overnight. As this market matures real estate businesses need to be savvier, and smarter and invest wisely in a more digital-centric approach that incorporates online advertising.

Online advertising strategy in China has to be localized 

Direct Lead Generation & Marketing: vital for your real estate business

Think of listings platforms such as Juwai, Caimejiu, or Jinlist as bringing potential buyers to you, the other option is you go directly to them.

The strategies I work on involve understanding the behavior of buyers online and targeting them based on their online searching habits for news & information.

I advocate this approach because: 

  1. This allows you to reach a wider range of prospects
  2. It is focused on raising your profile in a broader sense
  3. Targeted approaches increase the qualification of leads (e.g. already searched for relevant information)
  4. Through direct marketing, you gain control over your Image & sales process

Reputation is your Greatest Currency in China

With so many projects, units, investment schemes, and competing names your greatest currency is simple: Reputation & Trust.

In China offline networking is important but there is a greater emphasis on E-REPUTATION.

The Chinese are investing ultimately for the preservation of capital, safety, appreciation, and long-term dividends. Considering no ultimate ownership or fixed property rights the need for the Chinese to invest abroad to protect that wealth for future generations.

This is an important decision for them, they need to make the smartest decision and you need to be perceived as a reliable and professional brand.

DAMAC Chinese Home Page, the Luxury Feel Instills Trust

Why Such a Focus on Online Reputation in China?

Firms need to understand that this is a more digitally centric Real Estate sector than anywhere else on the globe. Chinese digital developed a unique and different ecosystem & influence because of the infamous ‘great firewall’.

Things are different here and digital is far more important.  Offline events and networking for sales connections are of less importance.

Referrals are obviously vital but you need to drive referral schemes online & through social media platforms such as WeChat, the bedrock of Chinese communications.

Building Your Database of Prospects for your real estate business

A huge benefit is that we allow you to build your own database through news aggregator platforms, that is where discerning investors are browsing for news

This can be leveraged via:

  •  Social media community education & group management
  •  WeChat News Letters to Prospects
  • Weekly Email Drops with Latest Listings
  • Direct Phone Calls
  • And others

Through this database, you can also start to benefit from referrals as you build a community around your services in China.

Lead Capture Forms Allow the Driving of Traffic to WeChat Accounts for Database Growth

China’s news platforms are powerful to generate traffic

One of the most powerful methods for driving a quantity of leads/prospects is to tap into Chinese news platforms such as major players like Tencent, Sina or Sohu News, or Toutiao.

These APPS are a huge phenomenon in China. Toutiao is installed on over 240 million devices per month on average, making it the top news app in China.

The strategy is to insert your ad into the news feeds of targeted readers that have selected relevant categories of news, e.g. finance, real estate, luxury travel, etc.

The ads then link to an in-built lead capture form (increasing capture rate) so users do not have to leave the APP. Convenient, newsworthy offers a clear call to action.

Baidu SEO can boost your real estate business awareness

This is all about targeted Chinese keyword searches, it’s a strategy for going to your target.

Baidu, a Chinese equivalent of Google, occupies more than 70% of the search market total share, ranking the number one in the market. If you want to apply SEO strategy in China, Baidu is your first choice.

Before all, you need a quality Chinese website, hosted in China, or nearby for a better user experience. Your site needs to be tailored for the Chinese viewers, with all your efforts to be perceived as expert and reliable by your target audience.

Not being visible on Baidu is a major problem for even very established firms. As SEO experts we understand the need to format, optimize & audit a site for the Baidu engine.

The back-end matching the front-end is: important detail for your site’s success

Again this is a unique process whereby the back-end (meta tags, titles, etc) needs to match the front-end (in-site text, keyword selection being optimized + content being produced).

Think of this process as developing a clear road map, the site needs to be indexed so it is searchable via the right sets of Chinese character keywords.

Without visibility, a great site is redundant.

This process is quantifiable with keyword selection based on a number of searches. A plus with Baidu’s visibility is it produces very qualified leads.

Considering that listing sources are at the beginning of the purchase life cycle, in-depth research into projects related to keywords produces prospects at the later stage.

Examples of our work in Baidu SEO when ranking Property Results based on Keyword Searches. The above image is based on the keyword search ‘澳大利亚房地产’ (Australian Real Estate).
The below image is a trending PR article for a high-profile emigration event by Dot Property in SH.

Making Your Projects & Regions News Worthy

This is the next step, you need to create news items around projects & your company itself. News needs to be highly localized and specific to this audience.

Successful News Exposure

a)    You need to tap into trending news topics and items in the investor sphere, this can link to key dates in the Chinese calendar or local events that are trending.

b)    You have to understand & educate your target, the primary goal of PR is to develop your name as a portal for unique insights into a specific market, and utilize the media as an outlet for this.

c)     Finally, platform selection is vital. Outlets such as Ifeng, Sohu, Tencent & Sina News (to name a few) have dedicated categories for Real Estate & Finance News.

In China, for PR it’s very much a ‘pay play the game, rather than independent journalistic integrity here we have a system where funds correlate with exposure for PR content.

An analogy to consider once more is that leading a horse to water doesn’t equate to drinking, the Chinese investor needs to understand what they are drinking, they need to understand the investment opportunities in different regions outside of just listings platforms. News is considered an independent source.

Ronald Serry Consultants as ‘Native Experts’ offering Localized Legal Assessments

WeChat as a Unique Communication Tool  

WeChat is often promoted as a ‘one-stop-shop in China for all things digital. In this sector WeChat is a branding tool & ultimately, it’s a communication tool for sales.

Think of your WeChat account as an information portal. Followers will receive weekly updates via push notification, high net worth are looking for insights.


So what is WeChat Great for?

1)    SALES. Evidently sales, it’s the bedrock of communication in China, all customer services & sales reps need to be communicating via voice, text, or video to clients.

  • You can video or audio call
  • Send images/live streaming
  • Send floor plans/ property specs
  • Send the contract etc

Followers can receive updates on project listings, unit prices, market/investment insights & so forth. You can use WeChat to build your portal as an educator in your specific market.

Leveraging Media Exposure

Sharing news articles and links (Or even better WeChat article versions) is an increasingly prominent practice. The benefit is you can take media coverage and build conversations around this content that links directly to your service offering. It’s a smart way of leveraging this exposure. 

Promoting Peer to-Peer Conversation in Forums

Chinese Forums can be seen as a way of developing an online referral system.

The last & very important strategy to consider is forum reputation, local forums such as Baidu Zhidao, Tianya, Zhihu, Tieba, etc are highly ranked on Baidu searches. Content about you in these forums is thus highly visible. You need to control the sentiment of investors and create topics that link to your firm and services.

The most important point is that this is PEER TO PEER, users themselves need to be praising the service, what’s more, trustworthy than recommendations from other investors? Initially, this can be created artificially and covertly but it needs to lead to organic testimonials, this takes time but pays dividends in an industry where referrals are highly lucrative.

baidu zhidao mobile app home page - china q&a

To conclude on Lead Generation and Selling Real Estate in China

 A Lead Generation Strategy is Important but You must invest in your e-reputation. Chinese investors are highly discerning, a recent Juwai study found that the buyer process takes between 6-8 months with that journey fundamentally carried out online. A lead is important but taking the step to higher conversation rates requires reputation in the media.

gma - DIgital Marketing Agency China

We are a specialist Lead Generation & Marketing Team with a wealth of experience in the Real Estate sector. Please contact us for further info & to discuss your project, we can certainly advise with our 7+ years of experience.

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