How to target automotive firms in China?
As on September 2022, vehicle sales increased for four consecutive months, after a slowed down perceived in the middle of the year due to massive lockdowns, slowing production and consumption.
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September’s 2022 sales in China reached 2.61 million units. A year-on-year increase of more than 25%.
It is also predicted that EV/Hybrid vehicle sales will represent 1/4 of total sales for the year 2022. Pushed by a growing number of dedicated infrastructures (4 million charging units) and government incentives (tax wave, free parking hours in some cities…).
As an illustration, since Tesla started its production in their mega factory in Shanghai, the company produces more vehicles than anywhere else.
New trends are also emerging. Car rental boomed during the summer of 2022. People trying to gain some freedom back after harsh lockdowns. For their vacation this year, they preferred driving by themselves. Avoiding the pain of taking public transportation requiring passengers to provide a 24 hours PCR test. Not to mention the risks of being a close contact, leading to quarantine. RV is thus gaining popularity lately as well.
Opportunities for automotive suppliers still seem to have a rosy future in the Chinese market.
That being said, the competition is fierce. If you are looking to sell your products to automotive firms in China, you’d better buckle up.
You can imagine easily many are racing to reach these companies in China.
To succeed and give yourself a chance, you have to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t count on approaching the automotive firms with phone calls or mailing out of the blue. They receive countless solicitations every day, they won’t give a damn.
You also need to understand that most of the time they already have secured trusted suppliers. If they have new needs, they will do their research by themselves.
The key is to make you visible online, so they can find you by themselves, but how?
Forget Google. The Chinese internet is closed because of the great firewall. To be visible you need to focus your effort on Baidu (the first Chinese search engine).
In their research, they will never use English. Being in China they will use Chinese.
You need to:
-Have a dedicated website for the Chinese market
*In Mandarin: translation and content localization must be a top priority.
*Hosted in China (or Hong Kong or Singapore), it has to be geographically close to avoid being blocked by the firewall. Your website must be fast to download.
*Submitted to Baidu
*Optimized for China: forget links to Linkedin, Google maps…+ make sure it can support different reading formats (cf. phone).
*The architecture of your site should also be adapted to the preferences of local users.
*It has to have a good design and professional valuable informative content.
Don’t forget, your website will be the first showcase of your company. Buyers must want to spend some time on it. The longer they stay, the better chance they will want to contact you.
-Using SEO and PPC to make your site easily findable and visible
The law of the Jungle applies in Baidu. The strongest will dominates.
Automotive purchase managers
When buyers do their research on Baidu, they will not spend too much time. They will select the first suppliers on the first page.
To be visible to their eyes and have a chance to be contacted you have to get a strong referencing strategy, so your website appears on the first page.
Baidu SEO will help you to reference naturally your website if you select the right keywords.
It takes time, up to several months of work and adjustments to reach the first page. But the results are sustainable over time.
The second option is to use Baidu PPC. The pro is that you can get quick visibility. Con is that once your budget has been spent, the visibility stops. Still, Baidu PPC can help to boost your website ranking at the very beginning.
-A strong reputation: the holy grail
Reputation will be your best asset in China.
No matter how big you are, how famous you are. You will be seen as a newcomer in this market. No matter how good your reputation is outside of the country.
When buyers find you, the first reflex will be to check how reliable you are and how you are perceived in the Chinese ecosystem, not abroad.
You have plenty of options to build an efficient reputation:
Having online specialized media in the automotive industry publishing insights about your company, sharing your innovations, and your experience is highly valuable and impactful. Indeed, buyers have a deep trust in their media, unlike Westerners. In China, it will help build your trust rank.
Nothing is more convincing in the eyes of Chinese buyers than having feedback and advice from their peers. Having users or professionals in the industry who shares a positive experience with you and your product, will also bring you a big help in building trust with buyers.
*KOL: a.k.a. Key opinion leaders
In China, Key opinion leaders are a thing. Each industry has its pool of KOL and their influence is undeniable. Having a top expert in the Chinese automotive industry praising your company and products’ qualities can bring a bigger awareness of your company and help you reinforce your reputation.
-The ubiquity of social media
Even if in the west social media are mostly associated with leisure and private life.
In China, they are integrated into people’s everyday life, professionally and privately.
WeChat is definitely THE app you cannot live without in China. Payments, communication, PCR test results, and news platform…are only the first uses that come to mind, enumerating all its functions will make your head spin.
Every serious business in China has an official account on WeChat. Allowing buyers to get all info they need about you at a fingertip (contacting you, following your news, and sharing your info easily…). It helps you build your image and nurture your prospects.
As uses of social media continue to merge between private and professional life. As buyers are getting younger, we’ve seen recently new emerging tendencies to use short video platforms such as Douyin (Tik-Tok) being used by B2B companies to reach those new young social media-raised buyers.
If you are not afraid of competition, and you are ready to implement a suitable strategy to reach the Chinese automotive players, then success in China is close to hand.