In 2024, Chinese businesses are facing unique challenges. The economy is still growing quickly…but not by Chinese standards. To compete, businesses need to become more efficient and/or expand into new markets. This means they need access to the best services and technology from around the world.

What’s more, recent years have given the people in Chinese corporations a new willingness to do business online. The grey-haired C-suite employees that were once allergic to online meetings have all learned to coordinate remotely via WeChat, email and online meeting software.

Chinese CEOs and other professionals are now accustomed to researching their problems online, and they’ll consider doing business with any business that can give them an edge.

If your company wants to make high-value sales to businesses in China, you’ll need a strong offer, a way to get your potential clients to notice you, and the ability to earn their trust.

As a company that specializes in helping Western service businesses get more leads in China, B2B businesses make over half of our client base. We’ve been at it since 2008, helping enterprises, startups and huge corporations with marketing in China. To name a few big names, Siemens, SAP, Microsoft and China Telecom are amongst our clients.

We have tested many different marketing tactics over the years and continue to do so. In this article, we’re going to share the Chinese B2B marketing tactics that we use most often.

Before moving on, we should clearly define “Chinese B2B marketing”, because it can sometimes refer to different things. We are talking about:

  1. Chinese – While the mainland China market is the biggest, almost everything here is also relevant to marketing to Chinese-reading professionals anywhere else in the world.
  2. B2B – For businesses that are selling to other businesses. Most of our experience is with companies that provide technology, professional services, logistics and software to other companies.
  3. Marketing – Either driving leads or supporting sales teams in nurturing leads. To earn leads, we need to help educate potential customers and earn their trust.

Here are the top 9 tactics we’re using as of April 2024, listed in an order that should be easy to understand.

Email for Chinese B2B Communications

Email is useful for marketing in China, but it’s not as useful as it is in the West. In general, you can expect Chinese professionals to check their email when they’re at work. The (in)frequency in which they check their email might mean that you need to send them a WeChat message or give them a phone call to say: “Hey, check your email.”

As an example, many Chinese companies will not require potential customers to enter an email address in a lead generation form. This isn’t to say that email isn’t used at all; it’s just not the essential staple of Chinese sales funnels as it is in the West.

Where’s the right balance? For email, there are two main uses cases:

  • For communication with leads, do not rely on email alone. Give Chinese customers additional contact options such as WeChat, QQ, phone and live chat on your website. Also, make sure to follow up with your leads right away. China moves faster. If you follow this advice, your conversion rate will increase by 3 to 4X.
  • What about using email for marketing communications such as email newsletters or drip campaigns to your potential Chinese clients? This is one of those tactics that should be considered an “add-on”, but not a core focus. If you are creating useful content for WeChat and elsewhere, then you might as well release it as an email newsletter as well.


WeChat for B2B Marketing

WeChat is the single most important social media platform in China. We use it extensively. WeChat could be compared to WhatsApp or Facebook or PayPal or many other things, but none of those comparisons does it justice, because it effectively replaces all of those in China, and more.

From the perspective of B2B marketing, WeChat can be helpful in a few key ways.

First, it is a great place for you to share long-form content with your followers. Think of an email newsletter or blog. While the content we share on WeChat isn’t formatted just like the content for a blog, it is somewhat similar. WeChat should usually be the first place that you post key content. Here’s an example WeChat article we created for Epsilon, so you can get an idea of the basic format.

Next, WeChat will function like a mini-website of its own. You can create custom menus that allow your followers to find key information conveniently. (Check this 5-minute video tour of WeChat menus.)

Third, WeChat is a great tool for you to communicate directly with your potential clients. They can contact you via your official account, but your salespeople will also almost certainly want to directly connect with their prospects via their personal WeChat accounts as well. This is because WeChat is the most direct way to reach somebody, and also forms the basis for building a real relationship.

It’s also important to note what WeChat is not. WeChat is not a solution for SEO or social marketing on it’s own. WeChat is a “closed garden”, and the rate that your content can reach new users on WeChat without advertising is relatively low.

This brings me to the next point, which is that WeChat’s advertising solutions have gotten better for B2B companies in recent years. While advertising on WeChat used to only be relevant for huge consumer-facing brands, it is now possible to start advertising on a budget as low as 1,000 USD. Plus, the targeting has only gotten better. As an example, we recently used WeChat ads to bring in followers and leads for a company that sells very expensive logistics software solutions.


Baidu Search Advertising

Baidu is the most popular search engine in China by a large margin. Google is blocked in China, which means it’s only accessed by some people with VPNs. There are also a few other search engines that function similar to Baidu, as well as Bing.

Chinese search engine market share pie chart

One of the most common playbooks for B2B marketers can be described as “Google ads + landing page + contact form”. Luckily, this playbook can be replicated in Chinese, although we would recommend some adjustments.

If you’re trying to replicate the success of a Google Ads campaign with Baidu Ads, here are the most common changes we recommend:

  1. Build the Baidu advertising account from the ground up. Due to differences in language and the technical aspects of Baidu SEM, we avoid simply translating English-language Google Ads campaigns. This starts with a basic marketing plan and ends in a fully-formed Baidu account structure.
  2. Get started a month ahead of your launch date. It will take a week or two to set up an account with Baidu (you can do it through an agency). Plus, it will take some time to plan out the campaign.
  3. Offer additional contact methods (as mentioned above in the email section), and make sure to be available to talk right away.
  4. Transcreate the website, landing page and any content assets specifically for China. More on that in the next section.

Here’s an example of a website we promoted via Baidu ads for years. As you can see, it’s clean, easy-to-use and uncluttered. This is important to note, because there’s a misconception that Chinese users like websites that look like a web portal made in 1999. More on this in the next section.

‘Transcreating’ Your Website For China

Chinese people read Chinese. Even if they’re English-speaking professionals that work with global colleagues, they will still show a strong preference for Chinese-language content.

For this reason, we always recommend creating Chinese-language versions of key pages including a landing page, homepage, ‘About Us’ page and key service pages. Polished, persuasive Chinese pages will greatly outperform English-language pages as well as machine-translated content.

As for language, Mandarin is the primary spoken dialect in China, while Simplified Chinese script is used across all regions of mainland China. In the Chinese business environment, it’s possible that many of your potential clients will speak local dialects as well; nevertheless, almost all of them will speak Mandarin, as well as read and write Simplified Chinese. Learn more about how the Chinese language works with these videos (1, 2).

As for the website, it should ideally be a separate website that is hosted in China, which will require an ICP license. But there are trade-offs between cost, efficiency and marketing effectiveness, so it’s important to strike the right balance for your situation. In general, we’ll simply check whether a company’s current website loads quickly in China or not. If it doesn’t, we look into options like hosting in China or making optimizations to the website.

Here’s another example of a website that we’ve worked on for years, and it gets results. It’s a simple WordPress-based site that loads quickly in China (although not so quickly outside of China.)


Baidu SEO for B2B

If you have a small, new B2B website (under 50 pages), Chinese SEO is not likely to be the golden ticket to your success on its own. That being said, it’s possible to get organic search traffic without applying a great deal more effort than you would anyway.

Since you should already be offering Chinese content on your website, ensuring that your website is also accessible for search engines is usually relatively easy. Your Chinese keywords should be used in the title, meta description and throughout your pages in a natural, unobtrusive way. Our guide to on-site technical SEO teaches you how to do it yourself.

As you build up your brand online, you should naturally start picking up some links and building search authority. But, do not expect it to be as easy as it would be on Google. Chinese websites are often very wary about giving out links, even to high-quality websites.

Baidu tends to place a lot of search ads at the top of search results—usually three or five, but sometimes up to seven! Plus, it will rank many of its own resources high up on the results pages, such as their wiki Baidu Baike.

The image below shows a Baidu search results page for “project management software”. Ads are in red, and Zhihu and Baidu Baike results are in purple. More on Zhihu below.

Baidu search result page

(Click on the image to see the full picture)

Instead of viewing Baidu as a way of driving organic traffic to your website, it’s better to view it as a way of driving organic traffic to your brand. Remember that your website isn’t your brand. Your brand can be anywhere. You can post content on wikis, other websites, social platforms, video sites and more. Baidu will index those and your potential buyers will find them. This is sometimes called “parasite SEO”.

The image below shows Baidu search results for a keyword our client Lizenzero targets – “德国包装法注册教程” (German Packaging Act self-registration tutorial). It’s one of a hundred or so different keywords they target. At the point this was taken, their website wasn’t ranking for many keywords, and we didn’t even have access to adjust it. But still, nine results of the first two pages were controlled by us, including the top two organic results. Three out of four of the ads (not highlighted) were also controlled by us.

An example of dominating Baidu search results with parasite SEO.

Zhihu for B2B Marketing

Zhihu is a Q&A platform with over 229 million users. Users can ask or answer questions, then the answers are voted up or down. This means that the more popular answers tend to rise to the top.

Zhihu’s user base contains a lot of white-collar professionals and other well-educated users. It’s by no means limited to these groups, but we find that many professionals tend to check Zhihu at various points in their purchase journey. Some of them go to Zhihu directly, while others search on Baidu and see the Zhihu posts near the top of the search results page.

We mainly use Zhihu to answer questions from users. We share positive and accurate information about the brands we represent. But, more than that, we educate people. It’s a win-win for brands and Zhihu users.

We also post articles and sometimes videos.

It’s possible to attract followers on Zhihu too. This is a nice benefit, but usually isn’t our main focus.

Check out the much longer post on how to use Zhihu for B2B marketing here.


Sharing Long Videos on Bilibili

There are several video platforms in China that allow the posting of long (over one minute) videos. Bilibili is the one that we most commonly turn to for distribution. It’s the closest thing to YouTube in China.

At the bare minimum, we grab some existing video resources for a business, then add subtitles and share. This is the low-cost method of gaining some exposure.

Of course, when budget allows, it can be great to create new videos specifically for the Chinese market. These should be scripted based on an understanding of the specific questions that Chinese viewers have on their mind.

Bilibili videos can also be used on a website and are visible within China, unlike YouTube videos which are blocked. The videos might include comment overlays or ads, which can be removed using a paid plan or by making adjustments to the embedded player. For more information, check this post on how to host videos in China.


Distributing Content Further

Marketing is a game of leverage. It’s important to increase revenues while keeping costs reasonable.

The most expensive part of content creation is creating the original content. Once that is done, it’s relatively easy to spread it out to multiple places.

  1. A web page
  2. A WeChat article, also shared to Zhihu, Bilibili (as an article), Baijiahao, Sohu, and perhaps niche websites as well.
  3. Several answers on Zhihu, and other Q&A platforms such as Baidu Tieba
  4. A video on Bilibili, perhaps re-shared on Youku
  5. A summarized post on Xiaohonghsu
  6. Short videos on Douyin (Chinese TikTok), WeChat, Xiaohongshu

Flow diagram showing a source piece of content being converted into Chinese articles, videos and more.I understand this seems complicated if you don’t know what these platforms are. But we have many people doing this full-time and we’ve built out our processes over years. So, for us, publishing Chinese content to many places is not a challenge. Still at the end of this post I lay out some priorities for which things you can do first.

What is the challenge in content creation? There are two that we most commonly face:

  1. For small businesses, the most common challenge is creating the source content. It might be the founder themself that does it, and the task of creating content just gets pushed to the side.
  2. For large businesses, the most common problem is that some level of management will cut the content marketing budget without understanding the value. They tend to view content marketing like advertising, expecting leads to arrive on the first month content is published. But content doesn’t work that way. A good blog post will continue to bring in traffic for as long as the content is relevant. A good WeChat marketing effort will build followers gradually over time.

Webinars and Physical Events

Webinars can be a good option for use as lead magnets.

However, they can be trickier to pull off. You would need to have an expert available to make the presentation live in Chinese. Plus, it would help to have an additional person to answer questions live in chat.

But if you can find the resources for this, they can be a solid way to attract new users and better educate your current fans.

For some clients, we’ve helped attract attendees for their webinars and provide support during live chat. Users can be driven to attend events by:

  • Sharing the event on WeChat.
  • Advertising it via Baidu Ads.
  • Posting on various niche websites, either for specific industries or for event promotion.

ZenDesk B2B marketing event in Shanghai, China.

A physical meetup we helped ZenDesk fill.


Which Tactics Do We Use Most?

The marketing methods we use are a combination of what we recommend and what clients accept. With that in mind, I hope this summary of the above tactics helps guide you in the right direction.

Baidu search advertising and website content transcreation are used in almost all cases, even for projects with a budget of only 4,000 USD. We can use this to spearhead market entry. In other words, we can learn from real world searchers and work on refining the positioning before moving on to the next step.

The next most popular tactic is WeChat content marketing, which is used by about 3/4 of our B2B clients. WeChat is the best place to keep in touch with fans and potential future customers. However, if long-form content is being created for WeChat, it’s relatively low-cost to distribute it further, gaining more exposure on other platforms and via Baidu organic search.

The next tactics are used in 2/3 of cases or less.

  • WeChat advertising – WeChat is the 2nd most popular platform to advertise on. It’s suitable for companies that are willing to pay more on a per-lead basis in order to either receive leads that are of a more suitable demographic, or receive more social interactions and follows. Works very well in tandem with WeChat content marketing.
  • Zhihu answers – suitable for companies that are willing to invest long term in content marketing.
  • Video marketing – suitable when we have original (English) video content to work with and when a company is willing to invest in long-term content marketing, OR they want the Bilibili videos for use in embedding in their Chinese-language webpages.
  • Webinars – suitable for companies that have experts that can perform the webinars in Chinese (we cannot do the presentations, but can support them).
  • Email – used when we have to, which is quite often for Western B2B sales processes. Also used when we are able to syndicate content created for WeChat to an email newsletter.
  • Advertising on other Chinese search engines – If the Baidu search advertising campaign is going well, it’s often good to expand to other Chinese search engines to pick up extra traffic. They sometimes have a lower cost per lead as well.

Finally, here are two tactics that are used in less than 1/4 of cases, so didn’t make the “Top 9” above.

  • Advertising on Google – our clients rarely have us do this, but they should, especially if their Chinese-reading customers are not all in China, or are in an industry that often uses VPNs.
  • In-depth Baidu SEO for the website – suitable for websites with thousands of pages including many products and categories. We’ve done this for massive websites in hardware, electronics, materials, chemicals, even crypto, but still don’t usually recommend it.
  • Xiaohongshu content marketing and advertising – we’ve had success reaching buyers from cross-border industries, such as Amazon sellers. We’re also testing in other areas. The breadth of topics that work on Xiaohongshu has been expanding, and it might even make the “top 9 or 10” next year.


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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