Borders might be a human-made invention, but cultural differences aren’t. No two countries are the same, and past attempts to uniform different nations under one “culture” failed dismally.
If you get in a car in Amsterdam and drive to Paris, six hours later you would have gone through the length of two countries and could be sipping wine in a third in the shadows of the Eiffel tower. Not only would you have been in three countries in one day but three very different cultures.
The point is, a successful sales strategy designed for one country doesn’t transfer as easy as a quick drive, cultural borders are a much bigger reality than country borders. Fundamentally, you can design a plan of action based on a predetermined Sales Enablement strategy, but there’s no one size fits all solution available. What works in the USA won’t necessarily work in China.
Oxygen work with clients from all over the globe but are (at the time of writing this article) the only certified Hubspot partner in China. Needless to say, working in both China and Hong Kong has given us a unique insight into how inbound marketing and sales work in the region.
No doubt you’ve received some form of email advertising one or other product from China. And it was likely a hodgepodge of grammatical errors, with a lack of spacing or formatting that resembles what you'd see in the Western world. The sad part is that the products are probably excellent, but no one is going to take an email like that seriously.
The adverse is true when Western companies are marketing to China, it's a different landscape altogether.
Why are Western companies active in China? If you’ve followed the news the last two years, you’ll know that China is making a switch from a manufacturing driven market to a consumer-driven market. But how you’d sell in the USA or Europe won’t necessarily work in China.
A few points on what's happening in China:
Smartphones are where it all happens. The bulk of information in China can be found on platforms like WeChat or Jinri Toutiao and an array of similar apps. Apps which aren’t actively used in other countries. WeChat subscription accounts have a mix of content and ads. WeChat recently introduced mini-programs that brings somewhat traditional sales activities directly to the public’s WeChat accounts. These programs facilitate convenient transactions and are used for both b2b and b2c sales.
- Inbound marketing is active in China; it just isn’t called Inbound Marketing. It is, however, a relatively new concept for marketing and sales teams, but some companies do have content strategies mixed with social media marketing (not Facebook as it’s blocked in China) in place. There has been a fundamental shift towards SEO and companies are increasing efforts to feature online. Essentially, there’s a mix between what we know as inbound methodology and traditional Chinese marketing strategies.
- Short video and Live Streaming is becoming more popular by the day in China. The general public is much more receptive to well-produced, attention-grabbing video marketing strategies than most countries. Timelines are full of videos and ads that people are sharing. If you’re not doing video in China, you’re leaving money on the table.
- Sales teams have basic training and content, but it’s often outdated and lacks inspiration or anything “fresh”. There’s not a lot of innovation, and those sales who do well in sales by taking initiative don’t want to share the methods they developed to sell more. Which makes the need for a China-specific sales enablement plan prevalent. Sales pitches need to be adapted and perfected continuously, figures compared monthly, CRM’s updated and used and most of all regular meetings and training are a must.
- Customers in China are becoming very price sensitive and looking beyond products and are seeking a quality experience when purchasing a service or a product. People tend to lose loyalty quickly if the buyer's journey isn’t clearly defined to make it both attractive and convenient.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the world, you can’t copy paste an inbound sales strategy when crossing borders. You need up to date local knowledge and input to craft a working Sales Enablement Strategy for the region you’re in. Be malleable, adapt to change as Darwin suggests and use the fundamentals of sales enablement to make a working strategy stick, especially in China.