Daily Insights

Four Key Platforms to Elevate Your B2B Marketing in China

By: Asa Mazor-Freedman | Jan 22, 2020

Trade shows and personal relationships may still be key to securing large B2B deals, but playing on a wide set of digital channels provides B2B firms with new and often invaluable tools to grow their business. Companies use these channels for content marketing, lead generation, and maximizing brand awareness. 

These are the four platforms B2B firms need to know to elevate their marketing strategy in China.

1. Jinri Toutiao

Jinri Toutiao, Chinese for “Today’s Headlines”, is a news aggregator and content platform with an estimated 240 million daily active users. Toutiao’s industry-leading artificial intelligence curates each user’s news feed based on everything from their social media activity to the device model. Toutiao’s audience isn’t only large, it is also particularly relevant to B2B marketers: a 2015 report found that 37.8% of Toutiao users are freelancers, self-employed or business owners. 

In addition to traditional banner and search ads, Toutiao is also a prime destination for B2B company press releases, product announcements, and content marketing. In April 2019, Siemens collaborated with B2B influencer accounts to publish promoted pieces about the company’s origins, specialties, and historical connections to China. One article received 140,000 views and over 900 comments.

2. Zhihu

Zhihu is a crowdsourced question and answer platform similar to Quora. Users post questions about everything from celebrities to engineering, and other users, including influencers and businesses, add their responses. The 12th largest website in China, Zhihu offers sizable reach for marketers of all kinds.

 Zhihu presents an opportunity for B2B marketers struggling to reach a small pool of relevant potential customers that otherwise would be difficult to target online. B2B marketers can respond to user questions to attain visibility when future users search the same question, both on Zhihu itself and on an internet search. When one user asked, “what is the total cost of an employee leaving a company,” SAP responded with detailed information about its human resources analytics platform.

3. WeChat

China’s largest social network and messaging platform isn’t only for B2C marketing, it is also an essential tool for B2B marketing organizations to promote their brand, find leads and manage relationships with potential buyers.

 The robust platform offers many tools to marketers. Companies can post articles to a WeChat account and users can follow the account to receive notifications for new posts. Live chat and commerce enable users to connect to a company’s customer service, find store locations and even make purchases in a unified, familiar ecosystem. Marketers can even build custom functionality into a WeChat account, either by linking to web apps or by developing native WeChat Mini Programs, programs within the WeChat app that mimic mobile app functionality without requiring the end user to download a separate application.

WeChat Work, WeChat’s companion app for professional accounts, is also increasingly important for B2B marketing. Originally intended as a workplace messaging system similar to Slack and Microsoft Teams, WeChat Work is becoming the go-to digital communications channel for professional networking at conferences, meetings, and other offline occasions. WeChat Work messaging is fully integrated with regular WeChat; users can send messages between both apps and add each other’s contact information. Unlike regular WeChat, businesses can manage their employees’ accounts and enjoy special, enterprise-centric features such as robust video conferencing and a centralized lead directory.

 Phillips Healthcare leverages WeChat’s ample marketing tools for both branding and lead generation. Web apps on the company’s WeChat account provide a wealth of content for medical professionals, including operating tips and instructions for Phillips equipment and educational content that establishes the company’s expertise. The company even offers this content over video and livestream. In order to access this valuable material, users must register with their name, company, department, title, and phone number, enabling Phillips to track their usage and providing valuable insight into potential purchase interests.

4. 1688

1688.com is Alibaba’s domestic equivalent to Alibaba.com abroad – an online marketplace for B2B transactions. The platform boasts 10 million official sellers and 150 million visits each day. Originally intended primarily for China’s domestic sellers, 1688 welcomed a wave of foreign suppliers since 2016, including 3M, BASF, Dow Chemical, Mobil, Honeywell and Stanley.

 Alibaba’s Chinese B2C marketplaces Taobao and Tmall offer industry-leading marketing tools such as brand zones, storefronts, livestream, and social platform Weitao. While 1688 may not offer quite that level of cutting-edge marketing tools, B2B sellers are not completely left out of the fun on 1688. Companies on 1688 can open an official IMALL store, with customized marketing images and videos on the storefront to show their products. With an official store, B2B sellers can even open a brand zone, a large brand-controlled space at the top of brand term search results that directs traffic to the official store. 3M’s official store on 1688 features extensive text, image and video content about the company’s history and capabilities. A brand zone in search and a “brand stand” page show key products and direct to the official store.

More than just a platform for sales, 1688 is increasingly valuable as a B2B marketing destination. B2B firms should make sure to leverage the platform’s full set of marketing tools to maximize brand awareness.

A cross-platform digital marketing strategy may be daunting for B2B firms used to email, trade shows, and cold calls, but the brand awareness and data collection opportunities that such a strategy can provide should lead B2B marketers to take notice. B2B firms should invest in relevant, high-quality content marketing on platforms such as Jinri Toutiao and Zhihu, generate and manage leads with WeChat and WeChat Work, and fully promote their brand and their products on e-commerce platforms like 1688.

“Although individual relationships remain core to B2B sales, digital’s ability to maximize the effectiveness, efficiency, and long term value of these relationships is undoubtable,” writes Gartner for Marketer’s Danielle Bailey. “From lead generation to CRM and sales force management, understanding China’s unique digital landscape is key to capitalizing on the tremendous opportunities offered in the market.”