As you might expect, B2B marketing operates differently in China than it does in the west. Successful B2B marketing in China involves understanding not only how the various markets and regulatory frameworks operate, but also appreciating the values that matter to business people in China.

Westerners can get this wrong when they attempt to operate in China in much the same way as they do at home, and fail to take market and cultural differences into account.

When starting out in B2B marketing to China, there are all kinds of matters to consider. Here are a few of them.

Markets, industries and regulations

  • Market variations:
    It’s important to recognise that China is not one big homogenous market. Different regions have different levels of economic growth, market conditions, incomes, consumer spending patterns and so on. This needs to be considered when doing market research.
  • Regional industries:
    Different industries flourish and dominate in different regions around China. For example IT and electronics are big in Beijing, household appliances in Zhejiang, and pharmaceuticals and food in Shandong. This makes it very important to do plenty of market research to ensure you target the appropriate regions.
  • Regulations:
    China’s trade environment is heavily regulated. This means it’s important to become familiar with industry-specific regulations and local laws which can be quite complex in some cases. It’s important to continually monitor for changes in regulations. There are also restrictions and prohibitions on certain industries in particular regions. The China Investment Catalogue is a good resource for more information on this.

Cultural differences

Cultural differences are very important to take into account if you are to communicate well with your target markets and succeed in B2B marketing.

  • Relationships:
    When conducting business in China, relationship-building is very important. For instance, while westerners tend to compartmentalise their work and personal lives, the lines tend to be more blurred in China. If you are negotiating with companies in China, you need to be willing to socialise with them afterwards – to not do so could communicate a lack of interest and be seen as rude. In China, many a business deal has been negotiated over an evening meal!
  • Communications:
    Western companies are considered to be very good at online communications. However in China, engaging on a personal level is also highly valued. If you travel to China you need to be willing to attend events and meetings, meet face-to-face, and to make contact by phone.
  • Negotiations:
    It’s not unusual in China for negotiations to be long and drawn out. They can be extensive and go through many rounds before arriving at a final arrangement. You need to be willing to be patient and flexible when negotiating with Chinese businesses.
  • Flexibility:
    As well as being flexible in negotiations, be prepared to tailor your product or service to the Chinese market.
  • Good listening:
    In any business, customer focus is essential, and this might be especially so in China. You need to really listen to what it is they need, rather than just insisting on ‘educating’ them about how great your product is.

Entering the Chinese B2B market is no doddle, but neither are the challenges insurmountable. By making the effort to understand the local markets and culture and being willing to be flexible and patient, you should be on the right track to successfully marketing your product or service.

If you’d like some expert advice and assistance with content localisation for Chinese audiences, contact us.

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