Operating with a distributor is integral for many exporters who are trying to get a foothold in the growing Chinese market. Finding the right distributor is a key step, as the best partnership will allow you to move a significant amount of product and have a positive effect on your bottom line.
However, it’s important to remember that the majority of distributors are very strong in terms of their ability to sell (which is after all why you work with them) but are lacking knowledge in regard to branding and awareness building.
To set your business up for long-term success in China, marketing and branding need to be handled independently from the work your distribution partner is doing.
Many international businesses find that developing and implementing a digital marketing strategy for China is the most effective and manageable way to support their business goals in China.
Here’s why you should consider supporting your Chinese distributor with a digital marketing strategy.
Take control of your brand
Chinese consumers are renown for being some of the most brand-conscious buyers in the world. This means that apart from the quality of your product and your pricing, your brand image is crucial to win over the hearts (and mobile wallets) of your Chinese target market.
The good news is that while your distributor in China is focussing their attention on sales and quick-wins, it should free up some of your time to build your brand in this market. The benefits of this approach are three-fold.
Firstly, you will have full control over what’s being said about your brand on your official Chinese website and WeChat account. Because the reality is that as soon as your product is being sold in China, people will review it on ecommerce sites, social media and online forums. Having an official source of information Chinese consumers can rely on is an important aspect of building trust in your brand.
Secondly, having a strong digital presence in China will also make it easier for your distributor to share relevant information about your brand and product with customers interested in purchasing, which will ultimately help them to generate more revenue.
In fact, many of the most successful distribution companies proactively look to partner with businesses that invest in branding because it will provide them with a return in the long term as well.
Lastly, China’s digital ecosystem is completely different from what we know in the West and access to information is much more restricted. This means that even if your brand is well recognised domestically or in other international markets, there’s a good chance most Chinese will never have heard of it.
Creating a strong localised digital marketing presence and investing in raising brand awareness will allow you to build your relationship with Chinese customers on strong foundations – and over time a loyal following for your brand.
Provide assurance in a market plagued with counterfeits
It’s no secret that China has been plagued with counterfeit products that have harmed consumers, especially in the food, health and cosmetics industries. The problem is so widespread that the national broadcaster CCTV leverages International Consumer Day (15th March) to expose brands that don’t do enough to combat it – an issue for both domestic and international brands.
Given the potential ramifications, Chinese consumers are therefore very suspicious when buying online and look for trust signals that will reassure them.
Emphasising the quality of your product and its ingredients on your official channels should be a key consideration for your digital marketing strategy in China.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by sharing official achievements or certificates the company has earned when it comes to safety on your website and any other online marketing platforms.
It can also pay off to be even more transparent and list authorised stores and distributors, so consumers know exactly where they can buy the real deal.
In turn, your distribution partners will be able to guarantee that the products they sell are legitimate, so that no business is lost due to mistrust.