For the past fortnight I have been interning at Rooster Punk, during my time at the agency I got the awesome opportunity to go along with some of the team to Ignite 2017 – a learning and networking event in London. There were lots of interesting talks throughout the day about humanising B2B marketing – something Rooster Punk is all about. But it was the first talk, ‘Doing B2B in Asia: Here’s what you need to know’ by Katherine Almond, Head of Insight at Brayleino, that really struck a cord with me.
I currently study Chinese and Asia Pacific Studies at Leeds university and I became pretty fascinated by all things Asian (more specifically, Chinese) during my year abroad in Shanghai. So when I saw that the first talk of the day was about the must-knows concerning B2B marketing in Asia, I rushed to sign up for it. After scribbling down lots of notes, I thought about how my knowledge and experience living in China might add to what Katherine had to say. Here are four nuggets of crucial information I took away from her talk.
1. Not one market, but many
This should be an obvious one, but Katherine pointed out that many people still make the mistake of lumping countries in Asia together as one market. China alone is vast; it can take up to nine hours just to fly from one end to the other. Within China are a multitude of deeply engrained cultural norms, which also vary from province to province. Outside China, Asia (itself) is a host of culturally different/fascinating countries, each requiring a unique regional strategy. All of this means that when it comes to B2B marketing in Asia, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Imposing one European solution on Asian markets simply won’t work. The world is changing faster than ever and with growing uncertainty about how the Brexit deal will affect trading in Europe; perhaps it is time to turn our attention to nurturing even stronger relationships with the Far East.
2. Local sensibilities are crucial
Now we know the importance of not considering Asia as one market, we can start to understand all of the cultural and local sensibilities. These must undoubtedly be understood before launching a product or service to Asian markets, given the range of cultural nuances, language and the politics of a region that can affect marketing strategy. Katherine spoke about the importance of involving local partners early in order to avoid making wrong assumptions that can lead to expensive mistakes. Anybody who has travelled to Asia will appreciate how amazing it is to travel between countries and observe the huge diversity of cultures. Not only culture, but language and dialect too: another reason why it’s important to involve local partners and anybody with awareness to the region early on. During my year in Shanghai, I noticed how curious the locals were about British culture (and our facial features – yes, a lot of people want to take selfies with you). Yet despite their curiosity with all things Western – I truly believe when it comes to b2b marketing or any other form of business, we mustn’t impose our own solutions on others.
3. Don’t ignore the importance of WeChat
Anybody who knows anything about the Far East should know about WeChat by now. Yet in Japan, the preferred method of communication is Line (think Whatsapp), and in some parts of South East Asia, even Facebook. If we think that there is a blurred line between work-mode and home-mode in the UK, what with emails being so accessible from our mobile phones, it’s even more blurred in Asia. WeChat dominates Chinese messenger apps, and for good reason. With over 750,000,000 daily users, it’s the perfect opportunity for targeting consumers. WeChat’s primary functions include messaging, booking taxis, paying bills and ordering food. Katherine encouraged us to think about targeting WeChat before rushing to set up a website, as China is a mobile-first country. This is something widely talked about in B2B marketing, but it ought to be taken more seriously in Asian markets, particularly China where in 2016, 66% of digital purchases were executed through a mobile device, according to the latest data from Euromonitor International.
4. What about websites?
That being said, websites are still important to consider. Katherine advises that the preferences for website structure is for it to be content-rich. Whilst in Europe we have a tendency to rush towards clean, spacious design, she explains how: “The Chinese abhor white spaces.” She also stressed the importance for a website to be in Chinese and responsive, that a half-English half-Chinese approach just won’t captivate audiences. Another factor to consider are censorship issues which affect the likes of China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Medium and Netflix are just two examples from a list of many websites that are banned due to violations of the law.