If you’re a B2B business and planning on doing any marketing in China, there’s a good chance you could be about to make some mistakes. These kinds of mistakes that will cause you headaches in the future, and might even hurt you so bad you need to leave the China market.

I know because I’ve either made those myself or worked with clients who have.

After working with over 300 companies to help them grow their business in China, I’ve seen all the obstacles and pitfalls firsthand.

In this blog post, I’ll share with you the five mistakes that could prove deadly should you fall victim to them en route to entering China. Some of these need to be considered months or even years before you start any kind of business. 

Any oversight or misstep could be fatal.

Therefore, to avoid any problems down the line, it’s best to learn about these potential dangers in advance.


About Me

Before we get started, let me introduce myself. I’m Tait, and I’m a blogger, YouTuber, Bilibili-er, and founder of Nanjing Marketing Group. 

Our teams help foreign businesses and schools sell over 50 million USD worth of products in China each year—and that’s just our direct clients. It doesn’t include the ten thousand fans of our free content.

I’ve helped sell a lot of things: pizza, exercise equipment, holiday packages, apps, IT security, and crypto. But most of all, we work in two niches: 

  1. B2B services and technology – As big as Siemens and as small as Bar Codes Talk.
  2. Education – Lingoda, Emory School of Law, and everything in between.

Both B2B and education marketing are all about selling large, complex, and high-priced items. So the marketing strategies we use are somewhat different from the strategies used for restaurants, fashion, or other niches.


The Five Mistakes

1- Letting Your Accounts Get Taken Hostage

To do marketing in China, you’re going to need accounts for Baidu, WeChat, and other digital platforms.

Over a hundred people send us questions each month. The number one type of question is variations on the “How do I get started” theme.

The second most common question is something like: “I had a friend/partner in China help me get started on {insert platform here}. However, now they’re asking for a ridiculous amount of money just to keep it active.”

This problem is avoidable.

For some platforms, such as WeChat, it’s often possible to set up an account from abroad with no Chinese presence (company or partner).

But what about the platforms where this isn’t possible? Here are your options:

Option one: See a lawyer. The best solution is to set up a company in China. This may be expensive or cumbersome for smaller companies, but it’s a great option for bigger businesses.

Option two: Sign up for a dating site. The second best solution is to marry a Chinese person. That’s what I did! But perhaps your current spouse won’t agree. 

Option three: Partner with a company you can trust. For example, Nanjing Marketing Group.


2 – Launching With a Website That Runs at Sloth-Speed

Chinese consumers run at rabbit speed. They don’t want to wait ten seconds for your website to load.

If you’d like a marketing persona to spur your imagination, you might try thinking of Chinese customers as being like the rabbit in the movie Zootopia. She can barely stand waiting for a sloth to complete a license plate check for her. The sloth works in a monopoly though, unlike you. Your rabbitish customers are likely to simply hop away.

You might think, “Our website is fast for me.” This is good, but make sure it loads quickly in China too. Here’s how:

  • Go to 17ce.com to test. You want to see mostly green on the map there. Here’s a video where I explain in more detail.
  • Ask some friends in China to test for you. If you don’t have any, just ask us at [email protected], and we’ll have a few people from different locations check it out.

If your website is too slow, your best bet is to ask your IT team. However, if you don’t have them available, here are some other options:

  • Use the Cloudflare Pro plan on your current site. This plan doesn’t have servers in China, but it does serve the content near China. Plus, at $20/month, it’s so cheap it is worth trying.
  • Create a new Chinese website and host it in China. This is our go-to method for our clients with informational websites.
  • Configure your current website to use resources that load well in China. Your developers will be able to diagnose any problems with loading speeds.

The slow versus fast metaphor of the rabbit and the sloth might seem simple, but, as you’ll see in subsequent sections (and in our other posts and articles), it’s a recurring theme. Your success in the market will be determined by how quickly you act, and how quickly you allow your customers to act when it comes to communicating with you.


3 – Sales Team Not Ready to Sell to Chinese Customers

So, you start marketing and begin scheduling meetings with your potential Chinese clients.

Then you remember: “Wait, we don’t speak Chinese!”

I know this one might sound obvious; however, in my very first meetings with businesses planning to enter China, it turns out that many actually haven’t considered the language barrier at all.

Indeed, you can sometimes get away with English-speaking salespeople only, but only in some niches and only for a portion of the Chinese market.

Besides language, the next thing to consider for sales is the pace.

Most Chinese websites will offer instant chat, and this is true even for big B2B sales. Again, imagine your Chinese customers as impatient rabbits—If they are on your website now, it means they want to talk to you right away. 

However, this doesn’t mean you need to solve their problems right away. You just need to start the conversation and begin building the relationship. So you can get away with a brief initial conversation and then follow up with a meeting later.

If you ignore this advice and instead decide to ask your potential clients to fill out a form for email communication, you should realistically expect to generate only a quarter of the number of qualified leads.

A Chinese customer wants the option to talk straight away and will always choose to communicate via WeChat or phone. If you’re using email only, by the time your sales team follows up, your customer will probably have already been in touch with your competitors via WeChat.

Having the most knowledgeable salespeople available daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. might be expensive. So, we often solve this problem by providing a “lead qualification” service. In other words, we’ll briefly chat with incoming customers and then prepare them for the next step.


4 – Not Understanding the Strategic Importance of Entering China

You may want to enter the Chinese market simply to increase sales revenue.

But is that it? It’s worth considering it from a couple of other angles too. Here are a few questions to consider:

Will increasing your global scale allow you to decrease costs?

I asked a lawyer this question. 

This lawyer provided a very specific service, which took him a great deal of time to develop and perfect. However, once it was ready, each additional sale was almost pure revenue. Think: 30K USD/sale for one hour of work.

Will exposure to China be a sales opportunity and a future hiring opportunity?

Every year, China pumps out millions of graduates with knowledge in STEM fields, business, and trades.

And they all usually want to work for reputable China-based companies.

Are you passionate about expanding your company’s vision globally?

I am. Our company’s purpose is to help shorten the distance between China and the rest of the world (RoW), making cross-border collaboration more profitable.

It’s a net benefit for humanity to have the best opportunities available locally and globally.
Your business is not global if it’s not in China.

Do you need an excuse to travel to China once a year to get the best hot pot and kung pao chicken on the planet?





OK, the last one is a bit weak. But you get the point, right? There may be more to China than just the opportunity to increase global revenue. If your company doesn’t really understand why it’s entering China, it may lead to a lack of coordination or mistake #5 listed below.


5 – Not Having Your Team Engaged

I often see businesses that want to enter the Chinese market. But instead of having their CEO and other high-level people involved, they pass it on to a frontline marketer. These marketers often already have full workloads.

For example, they might already be responsible for something like Google search advertising, and now they have to figure out how to run ads on Baidu. While they may be very good at what they do, China is too big for them to spearhead alone.

It’s best to approach the Chinese market with a team.

If I were to draw a marketing hierarchy for a large company it would look like this:

  • CMO at the top (English/Chinese bilingual).
    • Chinese Marketing Leader
    • RoW Marketing Leader

Why give Chinese marketing so much importance? 

China and RoW are so different for marketing purposes. If you’re entering anywhere else (e.g., Canada, Vietnam, India, Egypt) you’ll be running on the RoW rails: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Whereas, China has Baidu, WeChat, Zhihu, Bilibili, etc. 

What’s more, these platforms do not always line up one-to-one with the RoW platforms.

Our teams often play the role of the Chinese Marketing Leader for the key phase of market entry and expansion. Then we team up with several people on the client’s side:

  • The global marketing leader. 
    • For big businesses, a regional marketing leader also works well. 
    • For small businesses, sometimes it’s the founder that we work with directly.
  • Salespeople that work with Chinese customers. 
  • Creators of English-language content. We take that and transcreate it for the Chinese market.
  • Advertising managers or other marketers that work on the RoW campaigns.



In these tips, I kept returning to the importance of speed and decisiveness. 

I didn’t consciously or intentionally set out with this in mind, but they were themes that kept coming back around as I wrote—and these were the value of speed and decisiveness.

That emerged organically, and I’m glad it did. If you went to Shanghai, Nanjing, or other big cities, you would feel it on the streets too. It’s just “go go go” in China, and that’s the way you need to move too.

This is not an exhaustive list of everything that could go wrong. Surely there are other potential mistakes to be made in business areas other than marketing.

Nevertheless, I hope this list of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen helps you avoid some of them, and move your marketing forward as quickly as you need to.

Here’s a specific checklist. Remember, these are the things that might end up taking months to get in place. 

  • Determine your legal structure (a company in China or not).
    • In China: Try to set up WeChat on your own.
    • Not in China: Be prepared to get help setting up accounts, but don’t do it just yet.
  • Check your website speed in China.
    • Make a draft decision: Keep the current website or build a new one. Write it down.
  • Make sure you have some way of selling to Chinese customers. It won’t make sense to drive Chinese leads to your team if they can’t speak Chinese.
  • Understand why you want to enter the Chinese market: 
    • Is it just to make more sales? 
    • Or is there some strategic value to being present in China?
  • Make sure your higher-ups and other relevant team members are engaged.

Write down your current thoughts on the above five items first, then seek help. You can create an office and hire employees, hire contractors from abroad, or partner with an agency (like us).

You see, if you jump right ahead to account setup before choosing the right partner, that’s how you end up encountering deadly mistake number one: Account Hostage Situation.

Free Stuff!

See the Top 10 Chinese B2B Marketing Tactics for 2021 (still relevant in 2022).

Check out our China Digital Marketing 101 guides, or follow us on YouTube.

Everything we publish is unique, and much of it is based on the questions sent to us by fans. So feel free to send your questions to [email protected]

Start With a Free Consultation

Contact us for a free initial consultation. Whether it’s through email, chat, or a scheduled video meeting, we’re here to help.

We’ll identify the potential obstacles hindering your expansion in China, and we’ll recommend the best course of action based on your individual needs.

If you think we’re a good fit, you’ll receive a proposal within a week.

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