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6 Critical Tips for Marketing to Chinese Consumers

1.3 billion people. $9 trillion GDP. Near double-digit growth. Those are the numbers that make China impossible to ignore for any business with international aims. It has an emerging middle class, a growing consumer culture, and it’s on its path to being the world’s largest economy.

Everyone wants to sell to Chinese consumers, but not all businesses know how to market effectively in China. Even Apple, one of the best and most effective marketers in the world, struggled to gain traction there initially. Here are six tips on how to get your message out to the Chinese consumer in a way that is understandable, engaging, and profitable.

Tip #1: Recognize local differences

It’s important not to think of China as one homogenized market. Instead, treat it as you would the United States or the European Union. You wouldn’t necessarily market the same way to customers in the Midwest as you would those on the East Coast, nor would you market the same way to Brits and Slovakians. In the same way, your marketing might look different if you want to reach Chinese consumers in a southern city such as Guangzhou compared to those in the capital of Beijing.

The different regions of China have a massive variety of religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds that inform the way consumers react to marketing today. Do your due diligence and take the time to really research whatever market in China you want to enter. Don’t rely on broad assumptions or stereotypes.

Tip #2: Get high tech

Due to China’s high rate of growth in recent years, its economy is more tailored to the digital age. Despite being still significantly smaller than the U.S. in terms of GDP, it already has a larger e-commerce market. In many ways, China skipped the mall and department store phase and went straight from a local consumer economy to one that is centered on the internet.

Due to the high tech nature of China’s economy, your marketing materials have to be equally sophisticated. That means marketing videos have to be optimized to play on mobile devices. If possible, you should even try to have mobile commerce capabilities, so people can purchase your products directly from their phones or tablets.

Tip #3: Optimize for Chinese search

Google is heavily censored and has limited reach in China. Instead, over 70% of online searches in China happen on Baidu. If you want Chinese consumers to find your website and marketing materials, your SEO should be geared towards Baidu, not Google.

There are slight differences in Baidu’s page ranking algorithms compared to Google. Things like meta keywords and tags are emphasized slightly more while the quality of links take on slightly less weight. The most important difference really is the language.

Baidu only indexes simple Chinese characters. Obviously, you’ll need to have a Chinese language version of your site to market in China. To get a good ranking on Baidu, all the text on your site needs to be in these simple characters, not in any regional dialect or pinyin.

Tip #4: Get professional translation

Inaccurate translations can kill the effectiveness of your marketing. We’ve all seen the funny signs of foreign companies mistranslating slogans into English, and you can bet that Chinese consumers have laughed the same way at similarly inept English-speaking companies trotting out poorly translated Chinese.

Professional translation really isn’t that expensive, and it’s definitely worth the cost. Not only does it make your marketing message more comprehensible to consumers, it helps your SEO by ensuring the keywords on your site are just right.

Tip #5: Customize your social media

China is the world’s most active social media market. Chinese citizens spend an average of nearly 3 hours a day online, and young people in China have more friends online than they do offline. More importantly, surveys have shown that more than half of Chinese internet users have actively participated in discussions about corporations online.

Clearly, social media in China is not optional for companies that want to succeed. The catch is that most of the social networks western companies are familiar with—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.—are banned in China. Instead, you’ll need to make your company an account on Sina Weibo, a Facebook like network with over 500 million users.

Youku and Tudou are similar sites to YouTube and great ways to get your video content to consumers.

Online TV is extremely popular in China, so online video marketing can be a particularly effective method to reach consumers.

Tip #6: Use professional voice talent

If you want to effectively connect with consumers, your voiceovers have to sound authentically Chinese. That doesn’t just mean getting the translation right. You need someone who can speak the language naturally, in the correct dialect and accent for the intended market, and still convey the correct emotional tone.

That’s an incredibly hard task for someone who is not a native speaker or doesn’t have experience in doing professional voiceovers. Remember, Chinese is not even a single language. Mandarin, Cantonese, and Wu are all major Chinese dialects, and a Mandarin speaker trying to do Cantonese might come off sounding forced or unnatural.

Here’s an excellent example of a Mandarin voiceover:

Despite its growing internationalism, domestic companies have retained a significant advantage in China. Marketing as a foreign company means assimilating into the market. Ads are the public face of your company, and it helps a great deal if you can give that face an authentically Chinese voice.

While it may be particularly challenging to find the right people to help you as you begin marketing for Chinese consumers, it’s certainly not impossible. VoiceBunny can connect you with numerous voice over options in the three major Chinese dialects: Mandarin, Cantonese, and Wu. These talents will give your project the upper edge as they’ll affordably work with you to ensure that your voice over projects will speak directly to the consumer in the precise dialects that they speak.

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