As a global marketing manager tasked with getting results from your company's WeChat presence in China, the best strategy to leverage the App can be elusive. Read on to learn 5 strategy tips for a successful corporate WeChat marketing strategy.
There’s been a buzz around WeChat for years. Historically, the WeChat knowledge base has been focused around brands, luxury and consumer sales. With the buzz around WeChat, Western B2B firms have attempted to use the platform to their advantage, but not always with great success.
The understanding around B2B activity on Chinese social media has been limited and WeChat agencies have largely ignored customers in this market. However, WeChat has now come of age as a B2B marketing and sales support tool. It presents great opportunities to nurture potential customers and keep existing clients engaged. Read on for some great tips to make WeChat work for your business.
WeChat has taken over the online ecosystem for individual and consumer communications for the best part of a decade now. More recently, B2B activity sales has changed too. WeChat now forms part of the buying funnel for medium and large corporations, manufacturers, commercial service providers and so on. How does that work exactly and how do your potential customers interact on WeChat?
Trust and Recommendation
In the China business sector, third party recommendations are really important. This used to be done face-to-face but, for a new generation, WeChat has become part of fostering that key recommendation and trust. B2B users can be cautious and risk averse. WeChat helps give confidence to others when used to full effect by your business.
One key aspect to consider in formulating a WeChat content marketing strategy is to think of your followers’ professional needs as a business community. Creating content that provides business answers, creates business discussion around issues also builds trust. It is a critical part of the groundwork that leads to large B2B sales later in the buying funnel.
Your attention should be more on the value of the followers rather than focused on absolute follower numbers. B2B Wechat activity which attracts then nurtures followers who are your potential customers is the aim. These will be individuals who are active on WeChat in their professional capacity. Understanding your users’ needs helps your organisation set its WeChat goals in become relevant and trusted among that community.
Corporate vs Personal
We discuss the different kinds of WeChat accounts on this page. Safe to say, for most businesses a ‘service account’ is the type of account your firm should have. It’s used to deliver corporate and brand messaging, thought leadership and client-centric content. That’s the focus of this article. If you have a sales team on the ground, they will contact clients and prospects directly on a one-to-one basis using their personal WeChat account. Usually, that’s something you can’t control and some trust has to be placed in your team to work their personal contacts. It’s normal and is part of helping to move your engaged followers towards a potential sale. Keeping these users engaged with the company account is important, as when your sales staff move on, personal contacts go with them.
Your priorities in B2B WeChat marketing should be to attract quality, relevant followers and then to communicate effectively with this follower base. You’re aiming to cement your brand and its association with trusted, relevant content. Your followers will inevitably include a mix of potential customers, existing customers, partners, employees and influencers in your industry sector.
Frequent, high quality
Irrespective of all other considerations, WeChat marketing requires this above all else: The regular delivery of high quality content. Both ‘regular’ and ‘high quality’ are important.
To start to see this from the perspective of your Chinese audience, think about the kind of third party content in your sector you find useful in your professional life. It’s no different for your Chinese counterparts. Producing thought leadership articles, sharing useful sector-specific information and promoting discussion all serve to engender community among your followers.
The content your firm produces should be of a consistently high standard. The bonus is that these pieces can not only be used on WeChat, but also on your official Chinese website, blog and further repurposed for other social platforms too, such as Weibo. Email marketing and newsletters don’t exist in China much. Email is not used in the same way as the West, so think of your WeChat content as the equivalent of a quality newsletter subscriber list.
The right content
Avoid recycled Western market-centric stories and irrelevant company news. ‘We’ve appointed a new Sales Director’. No-one cares. 'We attended some business meeting in our home market’. Irrelevant. 'Some Western user story'. Dull.
Investment in the quality of your content is key and that includes ensuring this is localised to the interests of your sector in the China market. Bear in mind, WeChat agencies able to deliver top-quality, industry-appropriate, China-centric digital content are very rare. Choose partners wisely. It’s always best to have at least one of your team providing input and guidance as to what’s on topic and on-trend. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
What kind of content could you should share? Here are some examples, but it’s not an exhaustive list.
A company which is proactive will keep hold of its followers and will keep them engaged. Moving your followers along your marketing funnel is the name of the game.
Keeping followers’ attention and involvement in the sense of community you create is vital to their continued interest and trust in your company. The goal is to acquire more quality followers and ultimately more leads, and the importance of regular content has already been mentioned. An inactive or erratic content delivery loses users. Not only does your company account become of little benefit to followers, it also gives the impression your firm is not particularly invested in the China market.
The importance of graphic design
WeChat followers will consume your content via mobile devices. This is done exclusively within the WeChat app. A PC browser-based format isn't used (although account administration is typically done using PC-based platforms, confusingly). In creating graphical formats for your posts, it's a good idea to take a look at how other local firms in your sector are posting in your sector. When you come to create a post, this can be directly within the WeChat PC administration panel or using 3rd party tools.
Although it’s possible to post in a text-based format (think Twitter), this can look uninspiring and not very professional. That’s something to avoid where possible. Many Chinese firms use ‘H5’ posts, which use HTML styling and formatting. Images and infographics are often used to contain information. This gives a more professional and localised feel. Building your audience’s trust is important, so looking as professional as possible is part of the process.
There are a raft of 3rd party tools online which help to build H5 posts and provide styled templates. The resulting posts can be imported into your WeChat admin. Some integrate directly and posting can be managed from within the 3rd party tool. The WeChat admin also features a WYSIWYG editor with the option to add HTML, picture messages, video posts and live streaming. In short, you have various options.
WeChat offers a variety of tools and configurations which help support the buyer journey from an initial following of the account all the way through the marketing funnel.
In WeChat terms, this is known as leveraging 'private traffic'. It’s really important to recognise that WeChat is a closed platform. Unlike Western social media platforms such as Twitter, where posts can be viewed openly without ‘following’, this is not the case with WeChat. Your account content is only posted to and read by users who already follow your account. Non-followers can’t see it. If you're not used to WeChat, you'll need a reset in how you approach gaining followers.
A successful strategy
With this in mind, a successful strategy consists of a couple of main stages:
Mastering this user relationship is the core part of a WeChat strategy and moving them through the marketing process. Let’s look at this a little closer:
Gaining WeChat followers from the internet.
As mentioned, WeChat is not a broadcast medium, so users need to follow your account first in order to see your content and marketing campaigns. It’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, so how can this be done?
Many users will follow your account by scanning a QR code within the WeChat app. Place this in front of your audience wherever you can.
This can be offline: Trade fair and conference stands, promotional flyers and hand out, business cards, your stores or distribution outlets, delivery invoices and printed communications.
Of course there are also online opportunities: These include search engines, such as Baidu pay-per-click advertising, your company website and other online platforms and other social media platforms, for example Weibo. Weibo is a broadcast medium and non-followers can see your posts, so is worth including this in the mix.
WeChat Mini-programs can be searched for independently of company accounts in WeChat and, if your products services lend themselves to this pared-down presentation, these can be used both to gain new followers as well as directing existing followers.
WeChat PPC advertising is possible. However, it’s more of a B2C medium, so as a B2B activity, it’s probably not the best option unless you can see a direct synergy with your products or services.
To help your team understand where your Chinese leads are coming from, Backbone IT Group offers a tracking and analytics service which works across platforms in China: Baidu PPC, WeChat, WeChat Mini Programs and website. This allows you to create multiple QR codes to track the source of your user as they follow your WeChat account, be it trade fair, Baidu PPC, website or specific marketing and content campaigns. Using this system, your followers can be categorised for targeted communications within your private WeChat activity. Followers can be tagged and categorised into different user groups. It also brings visibility and marketing accountability to non-China based marketing managers.
Private WeChat marketing
Tagging or categorising users within WeChat enables targeted messaging. For example, a user who follows the QR code from a trade fair stand, will require different messaging than someone searching for a specific product on Baidu PPC. Rather than spitting ‘one-size-fits all ‘ articles, specific user groups can receive direct messages, can be pushed specific posts and content relevant to the QR source. Frequency of communication can be altered and scheduled depending on the user's maturity as a follower. Methods include auto-replies, timed category specific information, links and whitepapers amongst others.
As discussed in our WeChat marketing information page, a ‘Service’ account is the account type associated most with a company. This is associated with company-level communications, content and posts. Many local firms also register a personal account additionally to be used for customer support. It is far easier to manage for direct customer contact, support or engaging with pre-sales support and queries. Encouraging users to follow and interact with a dedicated WeChat account manned by a company representative is a great way to support your WeChat marketing funnel and guide customers towards a purchase.
WeChat Groups can be leveraged for companies with the resource to engage a moderator, whether in-house or agency. Like a forum, users can post, see each other's content and engage with each other. A company needs to be proactive to ensure a vibrancy to the community and keep the group chat active, so it’s important to have the team members with the time and appropriate skills.
Understanding the effectiveness of your campaigns is a vital part of the process. Getting the metrics and KPIs on performance is key, in order that WeChat activity can be correctly supported and resourced. WeChat produces stats on account follows, unfollowers, interactions with your account menu and messaging. Additionally, our WeChat marketing service provides full tracking visibility, linking Baidu pay-per-click advertising with WeChat follower activity to give in-depth insights and KPIs in English. Senior marketing managers based overseas can gain full visibility and marketing accountability to help them with decision making. Coupled with custom APIs, connection with third-party CRMs such as Pardot and Salesforce can be deployed to import Chinese marketing activity into global stats and metrics.
5. Understand what WeChat can’t do
WeChat does not replace other marketing, especially at the top of the funnel. As discussed, WeChat is a closed network not a broadcast medium. Followers are generated by your company activity outside of your WeChat posting, whether by paid advertising, on other social media platforms, on Baidu PPC, at offline trade events. Opportunity to follow your WeChat account must be built into your processes, enabling you to capture users as they interact with your brand. The purpose of your WeChat is to engage these users once they become your followers.
WeChat doesn’t replace your website. A company website is an additional a ‘trust’ factor. Ensuring your firm has a quick, responsive localised Chinese website enhances your credibility. It's true that many Chinese users make use of WeChat exclusively and would rarely navigate to a company website in the normal way as understood in the west. Nevertheless, these users are often unaware that much WeChat content is actually served by companies from special WeChat ‘H5’ optimised website pages hosted with the companies other website assets. Viewed in the WeChat browser, users are oblivious to the fact that they are essentially viewing optimised mobile website pages. Understand what’s needed to support a seamless web-WeChat brand profile and execute that well.
Beware of ‘buzz’. Mini-programs are touted as being very important for a company to have. If your company has a service or product which can be easily streamlined to produce an engaging, concise service/product offering, investing in developing a WeChat mini program could be good a good opportunity. But it’s not right for every company, service or product and you should wait if you are still building a follower base and are in the early stages of a WeChat strategy. It's important to focus on the basics of a strong WeChat core strategy first. Click the links to learn more about WeChat H5 web pages and WeChat Mini Programs.
Live streaming is very popular in China at the time of writing. Should you engage in this? If you can do a professional job with Chinese mother-tongue speakers and gain enough interest to make this worthwhile, it’s a really valuable tool. If you’re not ready yet, focus on the basic strategy of attracting quality followers, nurturing them with quality content and a coherent communication strategy.
There are many opportunities to support your users WeChat journey and these can really boost your opportunities. The staff to support these initiatives are needed in market as well as having an established core WeChat strategy.
If you have any questions from this article regarding running a successful B2B WeChat campaign, our team are happy to help. Just click the button below to start a conversation.
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