China Digital Strategy for the SME, part 2
See part 1 for a brief rundown on why you should be thinking “incremental” and “scalable” rather than “big launch” for your China online strategy.
Components of a Growth Hacking Strategy for China
Cross Border Logistics: establishing then maintaining a China entity, then registering products, precludes a growth hacking approach from the outset. There are logistics companies new and old, of all sizes, positioning to help fulfill the runaway demand of Chinese consumers for products shipped directly from abroad. More and more of them are offering small scale services, right down to shipping personal orders from a warehouse in your country to a Chinese partner who takes it last mile, at non-prohibitive prices. If those daigou buying all the infant formula at the supermarket can do it, so can you!
Landing Pages: just because you will not be using Tmall to launch does not mean you need your own heavy site with endless information and products. Even a light site is expensive to build and hard to make substantial changes to.
Meanwhile, there are extremely affordable options for building a one page site that is hosted and legal in China, on which Chinese customers can order right from the page using preferred payment systems, such as Alipay and Tenpay. Easy to iterate and A/B test, as well as track metrics, landing pages are a preferred asset of the agile digital marketer.
Affiliate Marketing: Product/market fit is about refining the offering until product and customers are in perfect sync with each other. No one knows Chinese customers like other Chinese customers. Attracting brand ambassadors, then rewarding them for their belief in and promotion of your value proposition is the way to an organically grown, sustainable community of customers. Affiliate marketing offers the further advantage of not spending for advertising until you’ve made a sale.
Pay Per Click Advertising: The least sexy but most scalable of all advertising channels. Ideal marketing delivers the right message, in the right place, at the right time. The vast majority of Baidu searchers are looking for information, not ads. But for the less than one percent who click on your ad, it is time to buy. You only pay for those clicks, as opposed to the high prices of other advertising channels that charge you for exposure to uninterested eyes.
There are multinational companies, even Fortune 200s operating in China that have virtually no interest in social media or other sexy marketing, who strategically prioritize PPC to drive growth online. PPC campaigns are a data goldmine, and the budget is entirely up to you, truly scalable.
Baidu Knowledge Property Presence: Don’t keep your company, brand, and product stories on a site where no one will find it. Baidu is the Google of China, but also the Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Quora, and so on. Anything you search for on Baidu will have links to Baidu knowledge properties in the top natural results. It is quite feasible to ensure when people search for your brand or product, that your information comes out on top. It’s a matter of a press release, and submitting the info with the resultant sources.
Chinese Interns: If you are within commuting distance of a college or university with an appreciable Chinese student population, you have an amazing resource. The vast majority of Chinese students abroad desire internships for both the experience and exposure to English language. They have grown up online in China, and can help immeasurably in executing some if not all of the strategies above.
That intern should also help you embrace that social media is anything but a quick route to sales. Yes, it must also inevitably be worked into your China digital strategy, in order to feed and grow an organic community of consumers who believe in your brand and product. Growth hacking through social media is usually a matter of viral videos and other high-odds methodology, and thus not included as a basic component.
There are other fairly feasible strategies, such as banner ads and native content on targeted sites, that have been left out for not meeting as pure a criteria as the growth hacking components described above. Such strategies can be tested out down the road with growing familiarity and confidence in the China market.
Certainly not a growth hacking component, but nonetheless essential, is a trademark for your brand and/or product. China is a “first to file” country, so that all sorts of …enterprising Chinese are making a cottage industry out of trademarking names they have no stake in, with a buyout or right to sell knockoffs in mind. Savvy western organizations should know that there are Chinese paralegals who perform trademarking services for as low as $500 per category, as opposed to international law firms charging much more. Bear in mind that there is no litigation necessary for an unclaimed trademark, it is a straightforward, if back-and-forth, process of filing paperwork and providing other information as needed.