Real Estate Marketing in China: How to Avoid Agent Commission

Real Estate Marketing to attract Chinese Buyers & Investors is booming as this lucrative market opens up like never before. The figures speak for themselves, there are over 350 million middle-class Chinese, and of this 150 million have the funds to afford overseas property.

With GDP stabilizing at 7% growth year-on-year estimates suggest an additional 5-10 million Chinese move into the upper bracket & are also able to afford overseas property per calendar year. 

One method of attracting buyers is through Chinese agents, they have a network and are incentivized to sell via commission, nothing new but does it really work?

From my experience agent networks cannot drive the same results as an intelligent online strategy..

There are also a host of problems incurred when you outsource sales to Chinese third parties and do not directly manage the process yourself. Discerning buyers in China value quality customer service and direct expertise more than anything else in a marketplace often associated with fakery & a lower quality domestic service.

Online Lead Generation, Why Does It Work?

Online Lead Gen works in China, the reason is simply that the Chinese online eco-system dominates over more traditional prospect finding and sales methods. Why?

It is because modern China has embraced the web with a fervor not seen in other parts of the world. The figures are impressive, there is a 65% internet penetration rate with over 800 million Chinese online. The average user now spends 2 hours a day browsing the internet.

At the point where high net worth individuals were seeking to purchase abroad, web developments were more advanced the world over, and China simply leaped forward and embraced online, skipping more traditional lead gen & sales methods.


Developing a Targeted Digital Presence

When marketing and selling Real Estate to the Discerning Investor you have to be where they are most active, and this is online. Over 80% of all property-related research is conducted via Baidu (China’s Google) & through powerful Real Estate news & information portals such as Ifeng (more on this later).

It’s therefore a no-brainer, you need to be where your target audience is most active & more importantly more receptive, quality online content targeted on keyword searches and categories increases the qualification and receptivity of your buyer audience.

Agents Do Not Market Your Services Online  

The truth is that by not developing a direct lead generation strategy you are missing out on the largest market segment. Agents very rarely market online, it’s an offline process through their networks which simply cannot drive the same numbers of leads when compared to qualified search traffic from Baidu (China’s Google) for example. In this sense, they are not competing in the same domain anyway.

A ‘Race To The Bottom’

The other issue is that Chinese sales agents (and I speak from experience) may offer a lower quality customer service, and engage in fiercely competitive tactics with other rivals (as they are all motivated by commission), and thus your project may suffer from a ‘Race To The Bottom’ syndrome where agents cut prices and cheapen the project in the mind of the potential investor.

A More Intelligent Solution Online

The price point in reality is only one part of the equation in China. The rest is your branding, your reputation, and your visibility. Discerning investors spend a long time researching opportunities and even when recommended by an agent will still research the company and development project ONLINE.

The equation is; Visibility + Reputation = Buyer Leads

A Supportive Role for Quality Sales Agents

It’s important to acknowledge the role of quality sales agents but most often if you are new to the market these relationships need to be built over time.

Clients sometimes worry that by engaging in direct lead generation they will alienate sales agents but in fact, this is likely not to be the case.

Agents source leads from their contacts and offline networks, they are not competing in the same domain for online Mandarin keyword searches (for example) & can use online PR, Forum Reputation, and Keyword Searches to support their sales efforts. An online presence will legitimize the investment in the eyes of all parties in such as digital-centric society.

It is therefore pivotal to develop a strategy in order to build your own marketing in a more cost-effective way (by avoiding high commission structures) and also to support agency contacts working for you in terms of your online reputation and visibility. This assists with all promotions.

Direct, Online Lead Generation

Here’s a run-down of the key methods for attracting buyers:

A Quality Chinese Site

Building a quality site in China is a very specific process. We optimize sites for Mandarin Character searches when building them as ‘vehicles’ enhanced for visibility on the Baidu search engine.

It’s best to focus on a static site with 8-10 pages & of course feature high-quality Mandarin content to support property listings, case studies, market information & statistics.

The presentation of content & info has to be formatted for a more typical ‘Chinese site’, often with a Wiki-Page style approach.

In terms of the ‘back end,’ the site needs to be optimized for Mandarin search terms in meta tags, descriptions & keyword titles.

Example site landing page developed for Luxury Dubai Real Estate Firm  ‘Damac‘. 


Visibility on Baidu (A Portal to Investors)

 80% of all online research in China is done via Baidu, it is, therefore, key to building your firm’s REPUTATION & VISIBILITY on this portal to Investors.

Firstly Baidu PPC (Pay Per Click) is a focus. For Real Estate, PPC is very effective and drives very qualified traffic compared to other sectors. Banner ads in China are less effective so focus on PPC links, ensure the ad copywriting hits the spot, optimize for two lines of text, and manage click rates closely.

Secondly, SEO (search engine optimization) is important, to rank highly in the natural search results and drive qualified traffic, to achieve this you need to create backlinks, external site references, and, (like Google) Baidu rewards fresh & new content.

Depending on the country top overseas markets such as the US, Canada & Australia all have over 5 000 relevant searches for real estate, investment & property per day.

The importance of ranking and being visible here cannot be denied.

Tapping into Communities of Investors

Firms can launch onto forums with active threads on the property to boost their status. Zhidao, Zhihu, Baidu Tieba & Tianya all boast active groups and rank highly in Chinese search results because of their popularity (Baidu also owns Zhidao & Tieba so these always rank highly on a Baidu search!)

Comments from other users are integral to boosting reputation, it is thought to be 5 times more powerful if a positive comment comes from another user than directly from the company itself, external links can also be embedded as these forums are content-rich.

News Applications

Ifeng is a powerful platform for Real Estate firms, it is China’s ‘Wallstreet Journal with a focus on Investment, Financial & Real Estate & stock market news. It is a platform with highly active communities of investors.

Users select specific categories and also search for relevant news on apps such as Ifeng. The strategy is to embed ‘advertorials’ into the news feed of readers, it legitimizes the firm, creates the content as newsworthy, and also links to an HTM5 contact form for prospects to leave their details.

This is a magnet for leads driving huge numbers of up to 40 prospects per week in previous campaigns.

WeChat – A Sales & Communication Tool

WeChat is a powerful platform, it now has over 877 million daily active users. Lead Generation is not however the best solution. Why?

WeChat is a closed network, therefore users can only see posts if they are connected first. It is tricky to attract the attention of new prospects, they will not be connected to your account. WeChat also does not have a search function that would retrieve your account based on Mandarin Keyword Inputs.

But how about for sales once you are connected with a prospect?

It is integral. WeChat is the most trusted communication tool and people expect a WeChat presence. You can create an account to build a following and push targeted content to interested prospects. Instant Messenger can be used for communications, you can even send contracts, floor plans, and property spec sheets over WeChat.

WeChat is great for building a relationship with prospects so ensure that a QR code (Link) to your WeChat is included as part of the contact form.

PR & Media Exposure

Never underestimate the power of news exposure. Clients have galvanized a lot of attention in the Chinese Real Estate sphere. Targeted sites need to be chosen such as Sohu Finance, 168 & Ifeng to push quality PR content through a whole network of local journalists.

You need to be newsworthy, a serious development appearing in targeted news sources reaches your target audience, improves your ranking on Baidu (China’s Google) & proves that an investment opportunity is catered for the Chinese audience.

PR exposure provides a strong supportive role in terms of reputation and also backs up the sales efforts of sales agents on commission.

B2B Partnerships

Established Chinese platforms often seek to partner with international players. The reputable ‘Anjuke’, one of China’s largest Real Estate platforms have now partnered with the RS Property to feature their high-quality content, notably a map detailing different pricing and regulation affecting different regions of Australia. They have also been approached by a host of events aimed at connecting buyers with agents & developers.

Anjuke’s involvement is set to bring huge exposure and bolster the credentials of the firm. Facilitating B2B partnerships support your own marketing services & cements your reputation.

Reputation is your key currency in this competitive marketplace.

Need an effective Marketing Agency in China?

We are a local specialist when it comes to Real Estate Lead Generation.

  1. Please contact our expert Benji for an in-depth discussion on how to achieve your investment goals in China.
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