For many western brands, the Chinese market represents a huge opportunity for growth; problem is, to market their products and services in China can be a huge challenge: the language is foreign, the channels are not familiar and rules of engagement can be quite different too.

So how do western brands succeed in Chinese digital marketing?

We suggest the following 5 important steps to help western brands set up their Chinese digital marketing efforts successfully.

Identify Target Market

China is not one big homogeneous market, there are huge regional differences and demographic variations. Carefully selecting a target market segment is of paramount importance.

Things to consider:

  • Busines type: Are you B2B or B2C?
  • Location: First tier cities vs. 2nd or 3rd tier cities
  • Customers: The super rich vs. middle class vs. the masses
  • Competitors: Locals or other global brands?

In the past, many western brands focus only on the largest tier one cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou; that practice has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. As China’s economy grows, many foreign companies realize that tier 2 cities such as Tianjin, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Nanjing provide even more business opportunities, with less competition.  However, brands need to do their due diligence and gain some local knowledge before entering those markets.

If you need help in doing market research in China, contact us, we can help.

Create A Chinese Language Web Presence

This seems like a no-brainer, yet few western brands do it well and consistently. The reality is, English language campaigns simply don’t work well in China; a verbatim translation of English language campaigns rarely connect with local audience either. The most effective campaigns are those written in Chinese language to begin with.

Things to consider:

  • Create a Chinese language web site for your brand
  • Build Chinese language micro-sites for specific campaigns
  • Build Chinese language landing pages for your ads
  • Draft your advertising copy in Chinese, never use a translation of existing English ads

If you absolutely need to translate your English language material, work with a translator who are familiar with your industry and its vocabulary. Make sure the translation sound natural and use the right Chinese keywords.

Select The Right Domain Names and Hosting Solutions

There are many factors to consider in selecting the right domain names and hosting solutions for your Chinese web presence.

Things to consider:

  • The Great Fire Wall of China. It slows down websites hosted outside of mainland China and might block certain content.
  • A web site with “.cn” domain name usually ranks higher by Chinese search engines such as
  • However, a “.cn” site can only be hosted in servers located in China.
  • All hosting solutions located within China will require you to get an ICP license, which may take some time.
  • A “.com” domain can be hosted within China, but it will require an ICP license as well.

We help clients weigh all options and help them find the best solution that balances brand equity, site speed, convenience and SEO ranking. If an ICP license is needed, we can take care of the application process as well. Contact us for more details.

Acquire Customers Through Chinese Search Engine Optimization

Many western brands are familiar with Google SEO, however, since Google is largely blocked in China, it is important to rank well on local search engines.

  • Baidu is the default search engine with roughly 70% marketing share in China.
  • A relative newcomer in the search market, but it has been growing fast in China search market.
  • Even though Goolge is blocked in mainland China, it is still used by millions of Chinese speakers overseas.

In SEO, what worked for Google doesn’t always work for Baidu, especially for Chinese language keywords and content. It is recommended to work with a specialist. Contact us if you need help.

Build Brand Awareness Through Chinese Social Media Channels

Although many brands already have some experience with social media in their home markets, we recommend working with a marketing agency to get started with Chinese social media channels. The reasons being:

  • Language barrier.
  • Western social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are out of play in China.
  • Rules of engagement for Chinese social media channels are quite different from their western counterparts.

While there are many social media channels in China, we recommend starting with these three due to their enormous user base and high engagement level among users:

  • Weibo
  • WeChat
  • Youku – for video sharing

Just like social media marketing in the west, to do it well for the Chinese market requires careful planning and meticulous execution, as well as knowledge and skills of talented marketing professionals.

In a future blog post, we will talk in more detail about how to utilize Chinese social media channels for marketing purposes. In the mean time, talk to us if you need help achieving your business goals in the Chinese market.