China’s expansive digital ecosystem offers foreign companies numerous ways to connect with their target audiences. Thanks to this, generating leads is not as complex as before. The only problem is traditional methods aren’t exactly the best way to go, especially now that the local market is highly segmented.
With Mainland China having over 1 billion Chinese internet users, digital marketing has become an indispensable tool not only to enhance online visibility but also to connect with prospective clients.
In this post, we’ll explore the different methods to conduct lead generation in China and help you find the right platform to launch your outbound and inbound marketing campaigns.
What is the traditional lead generation method?
Lead generation has long been an effective method to identify and attract potential customers. Traditionally, it includes offline strategies like cold calling, direct mail, trade shows, print advertising, referrals, networking, billboards, television and radio advertising, or public relations.
While these methods have a proven track record, the digital age has introduced a new era of lead generation. Online methods like content marketing, social media advertising, and search engine optimization gained prominence over the years due to their ability to reach a broader and more targeted audience.
How Do You Generate Leads in China?
When generating leads in China, marketers must take a nuanced approach tailor-fit to the local market’s unique digital landscape and consumer behavior. Businesses can choose to employ lead generation campaigns through popular Chinese social media platforms or search engines. Read along as we discuss each method below:
1. Utilize Chinese Search Engines
Multinational companies seeking to conduct lead generation in the China market should know that typical Western platforms do not work in the country. Chinese internet users, including businesses, can only access local search engines like Baidu, Shenma, and Sogou.
Leading search engines in China 2019-2023 (Source: Statista)
Posting relevant content for your target market and integrating it with industry-related keywords will help your brand top local search engine results. Once that happens, it will eventually lead to generating more leads.
Here are some of the most popular platforms you can consider to boost your SEO strategy:
You may not know, but Baidu has around 677 million monthly active users. It also boasts a market share of $17 billion, making it the largest search engine provider in Mainland China.
And because Baidu is significantly larger than other search engines in the local market, no one can deny that it’s a valuable tool for lead generation in China. However, leveraging its capabilities requires a nuanced approach.
Baidu search engine optimization offers a highly organic approach to lead generation, complementing paid advertising efforts effectively. It encompasses meticulous keyword research, content localization, and a commitment to Chinese SEO best practices.
It’s important to emphasize that leads can be generated through both SEO and SEM on Baidu, and these two strategies should work together to maximize results.
You should consider posting high-quality, localized content on your website if you want to succeed in conducting lead generation in China using Baidu.
A typical Chinese audience in the local digital sphere tends to research before purchasing, so regularly publishing a blog post, article, and multimedia content can help international companies appeal to their potential customers.
Western companies can go beyond Baidu to conduct lead generation if they have the time and budget to explore other platforms. Like its biggest rival, Sogou enables any brand to reach its desired target audiences by selecting keywords, demographics, and geographic locations.
Sogou general search results, WeChat and Zhihu articles
Regularly creating high-quality, localized content is vital. It includes blog posts, articles, and multimedia content that resonate with the target audience on Sogou.
However, Sogou’s big advantage over its rivals stems from its partnership with WeChat. It enables businesses to tap into the extensive user base of WeChat and potentially generate leads through this popular messaging and social media platform.
Shenma is a prominent Chinese search engine company in China operated by Alibaba Group. It specializes in mobile search and is designed to cater to the unique needs and preferences of Chinese online customers.
Their services heavily prioritize websites optimized for mobile search, emphasizing the fact that China is a “Mobile First” market. If e-commerce in integration is a big part of your business and marketing plans, you’d be pleased to know that Shenma’s search results often include product listings from Taobao and Tmall.
Shenma search results with Tmall, Taobao and 1688.com
2. Promote on Chinese Social Media Platforms
If you’re trying to generate leads for business-to-consumer transactions, social media marketing is a strategy you shouldn’t skip.
To connect with the right audience, you must know which platform will be effective for your brand and the communication strategies that will help you gain traction or increase conversion rates. Here are some of the options you may consider for your marketing campaigns:
WeChat is undoubtedly the largest social media platform in China, with over one billion monthly active users. Besides its massive user base, this app includes different services like Mini-Program, Moments, articles, and ad formats that may be useful when conducting lead generation in China.
WeChat moments ad redirecting to a landing page collecting leads’ information
However, before a brand can use any WeChat service to attract potential Chinese customers, they must create official accounts. There are two types a marketing manager can choose from: Subscription Account and Service Account.
A Service Account might be more suitable for lead generation as it offers more features and higher visibility.
SDG’s work with 1883: Setting up an official WeChat account
As a new business in China, your potential business partners and customers on WeChat will surely want to know more about your brand. Because of this, it’s crucial to add relevant information on your brand page, especially if you want to direct them to the company’s website.
Besides posting typical marketing content, creating Mini Programs within WeChat is a particularly effective method for lead generation in China. You can customize this feature to showcase products, offer discounts, and collect user data that your business can use in future promotional campaigns.
Another option you can consider among the top social media platforms in China is Douyin. This app boasts 743 million users, with around 60% of them under 30 years of age.
So, if you’re looking to attract leads from the younger age group, this platform is the perfect option for your marketing campaigns.
You can utilize Douyin’s features like Duets, Challenges, and Filters to engage with the audience and encourage user-generated content related to your brand.
Douyin ad redirecting to live streaming to get coupons for the double 11
Don’t forget to add relevant and trending hashtags to increase your content’s discoverability. With the right keyword, potential customers can easily reach your business or discover your products and services.
Lead generation in China can also be done through a micro-blogging social media website like Weibo. As long as you conduct a thorough market study about your target audience’s demographics, interests, and behaviors on the platform, getting quality leads is not out of the question.
Weibo ad to sign up for a live streaming
Some brands launch lead generation campaigns on Weibo to encourage users to sign up, download, or inquire about their products or services. These posts can include Call-To-Action buttons or forms that collect user information.
3. Launch Paid Advertising Campaigns
Lead generation in China often finds the most success through banner and pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These promotional tools ensure that your content reaches the intended customers more accurately.
You may not know, but local online shoppers are likelier to click on ads if the content is relevant to their needs. Don’t forget to take note of this consumer preference when conducting lead generation in China.
Paid ads on WeChat, Taobao and Baidu
Advertising in China can also be accessed through search engines, social media apps, and e-commerce platforms. These channels allow advertisers to set up different ad formats and targeting options depending on their business needs and allocated budgets.
4. Create a Localized Website
Communication is the core of lead generation in China, so it’s a no-brainer that all your website content must be localized into the Chinese language. Not only does it help your potential customers understand what your brand is trying to convey, but it also prevents your website from being censored.
Since China has strict digital landscape regulations, most platforms (especially Baidu) prioritize content written in simplified Chinese. Not localizing your website can lead to poor ranking in local search results.
SDG’s work with St Michel Brand: Chinese Website Localization
While translating website content is crucial to lead generation in China, it’s also important to localize your marketing approach based on the market’s preferences and nuances. If not, your content won’t resonate with your target consumers and can result in your campaign attracting poor-quality leads.
Besides that, brand localization also includes adding a Chinese domain name and hosting for your company website. These configurations can make your business more visible and credible in the eyes of Chinese buyers.
5. Conduct E-Commerce Lead Generation
If you intend to conduct B2B lead generation in China, the most lucrative digital channel you can rely on is e-commerce platforms. These websites steadily grow yearly, and most of their sales come from business-to-business transactions.
Nowadays, most e-commerce websites in China are integrated with social media features, so establishing a solid brand presence on these platforms should be worthwhile.
The platforms you can utilize range from Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) and Taobao / TMall Platform (GuangGuang) to Pinduoduo and WeChat Mini Programs. All these apps are social commerce channels with large and engaged user bases that you can potentially attract through lead-generation campaigns.
Collaborations with Chinese Companies or KOLs
Lead generation is a tricky strategy, especially for new businesses in the Chinese market. You’ll need to gain the trust of local consumers, and what better way to do that than collaborating with known companies in China and finding a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) to represent your brand?
Local businesses already know their way around the Chinese market, so partnering with them can help you navigate the country’s complex business landscape. Meanwhile, working with top KOLs will allow you to tap into a specific and highly engaged target audience.
SDG’s work with Sennheiser Gaming: KOL Campaign—SiXiang
Take our work with Sennheiser Gaming as an example. We launched an influencer marketing campaign by collaborating with a popular gaming streamer SiXiang. Besides the massive engagement on each post, this strategy helped the brand increase by 199% in WeChat and Weibo followers within the span of one year.
Tips for a Successful Lead Generation in China
● Don’t use Email Marketing to generate leads
Although China has one of the largest internet user bases in the world, it’s worth noting that Chinese consumers prefer instant messaging platforms over emails.
Unlike in Western countries, where emails are viewed as a more professional form of communication, these online shoppers don’t have a lot of trust in unsolicited newsletters or email advertisements. It’s best not to include this strategy in your lead-generation efforts.
● Work with professionals with expertise in the Chinese market
We all know that lead generation in China is a challenging task. Whether you plan to launch ads to increase sales or heighten your inbound marketing efforts to strengthen your brand communication, hiring a professional digital marketing agency is the simplest and the most cost-effective solution any foreign business can consider.
By entrusting your marketing and lead generation campaigns to professionals with industry expertise, you can expect better quality leads and tailor-fit strategies that align with your brand image.
● Align your digital marketing plans with the local regulations
As you may already know, China has strict rules regarding its digital landscape. Foreign businesses must understand that each local platform implements data privacy and security regulations.
Specific phrases are not allowed in promotional content. If included, it can result in censorship or, worse, blocklisting.
● Track & analyze lead generation results
Tracking and analyzing your campaign results can help determine what strategies are working with your target audiences and what marketing efforts are not worth your time.
By looking closely at numbers like conversion rates, the sales pipeline, how their target audience behaves, and how well their marketing strategies are working across different channels, businesses can adjust their lead generation efforts to get better results.
Your Lead Generation Partner in the Chinese Market!
Although China’s diverse digital landscape gives foreign marketers different options to generate high-quality leads, each method requires a deep understanding of the local market.
At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the subtleties inherent to these strategies, including consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving trends that shape them. With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential.
We offer comprehensive services to empower your lead generation efforts in China. From crafting compelling ad campaigns to harnessing the power of search engine platforms and social media channels, we provide the digital solutions you need to thrive. Contact us today to learn more!