Breaking into the Chinese market 101

Many businesses around Australia contemplate breaking into the Chinese market. As Australia’s largest trading partner in both imports and exports, worth $174.7 billion in the 2016/17 financial year, it’s no wonder Australian businesses are looking to get in on the action. But just like the Japanese boom some decades prior, the Chinese market is one that requires careful consideration. It is easy to get lost in the never-ending sea of paperwork and red stamps even without language and cultural barriers.

This headache aside, one question remains: can I simply translate my pre-existing marketing materials into Chinese? Or should I be making new content completely?

Firstly, if you’re new to the Middle Kingdom, there are a few things you ought to know:

  1. Social Media

You probably know your Facebook won’t work on the other side of the great firewall, but neither will your company’s Instagram, Twitter or any Google affiliated sites (Yes! INCLUDING your Gmail).

Any business looking to break into the Chinese market ­– even with Chinese consumers domestically – you should be on WeChat and Weibo as a minimum.

Dragon Social has an excellent breakdown of Chinese social media for business use [here].

None of your current social media platforms are likely to work in China. Used with permission.
  1. Cultural differences in consumerism

Chinese people tend to look for well-known brands, are sceptical of foreign brands that are the same price or cheaper than local brands and the new wealth in the rising middle class means they’ll often pay for quality. Packaging and sales are more important to Chinese consumers, particularly when gift giving. Consumers will buy a product with better packaging but inferior quality to its poorly packaged counterpart.

Packaging can make or break a sale much easier than in Australia. Used with permission.
  1. Its all about that Guānxì (关系)

Guānxì is the Chinese word for ‘relationships’. You’ll be needing them if you are to break into the Chinese market. Joining an association like the Australia-China Business Council is an excellent way to network with like-minded individuals and get assistance in navigating the Australia-China space.

two person in formal attire doing shakehands
Its all about who you know even more so in China. Used with permission.

Bearing these key issues in mind, can you get away with merely translating your pre-existing marketing content into Chinese?

Knowing you’ll need to post this content on different platforms, it is important to consider the functions of the apps as well as their reach in China. Although incredibly insular, much like Apple devices, Chinese platforms work seamlessly together – but look like a terrifying jump for first-time users. WeChat has its own inbuilt payment platform that Apple Pay could only dream of, whilst service accounts and corporate accounts provide their own unique features.

Things to know about Chinese social media:

  1. QR Codes

Whilst dying in the English Social Media space, QR codes are used everywhere in Chinese socials and show no sign of going anywhere. Long live the QR code!

QR codes are used for everything from payments to feedback or adding accounts. Used with permission. Wiki commons.
  1. Using KOLs – Key Opinion Leaders

Much like Instagram influencers, KOLs are the who’s who of the Chinese internet. Payment is often based on the number of followers the KOL has and the specifications of your post.

  1. Rich content is good content

Much like Facebook or Instagram, video and photo rich content gets the most airtime. There may not be an algorithm like their western counterparts; but posting word-heavy or boring content is an excellent way to see people unsubscribe to your channel or put you on mute.

design desk display eyewear
Designing new posts for Chinese audiences doesn’t have to be painful. Used with permission.

If your content largely aligns with these concepts, then a minor tweak is probably all that is required to start. If your content differs greatly, it may be worth hiring a Chinese speaking expert to give your content the push it needs to be brilliant in the Chinese online space.

If you do think your English content is ready to be tested in the Chinese space, all I ask is that you do not use a machine to translate it for you – you’ve been warned!

To find out why that is a horrible idea and learn why your translator is worth their weight in gold have a listen to my podcast: Translator vs. the Machine

Header image: Chinese RMB. Used with permission under creative commons. Pixabay.

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