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Where To Invest First In China With A Small Marketing Budget

As we have seen in previous articles, a lot of foreign brand enter the E-commerce Chinese market with little to no awareness and with limited means, hoping the first profits will pay for the marketing investment.

Once you have understood that you need to invest outside of EC platforms, the question quickly becomes where to invest your money in the most cost-effective way.

Most foreign companies usually first focus their attention on WeChat Official Accounts, but this is a mistake. You don’t want to spend your time and/or money crafting three articles a month for an account which will have very few followers at first. For sure you should open an Official Account on WeChat, which will play the role of a website in a mobile environment. It will be a reassuring presence for consumers. You can use it to give a bit of background on the brand and its products, in case people look for it, but that should be it with WeChat at first.

One of the best choices for your initial investments, providing you are targeting young female users in priority should be the Little Red Book, the social network of consumer reviews (85% of the Red users are female and 84% are below 30 y.o). The categories for which the Red is the most interesting are skincare and make-up, fashion, food and beverages, mother and baby, travel and tourism, Home living, sport and fitness.

There are several reasons for which the Red is your best choice. The first one is the fact that the articles will stick. Whereas most advertising formats come and go, an article on the Red will stay and pop up long after it was published. It will be the first stone in building a durable presence of your brand online.

The second reason is that even if you want to build the awareness of your brand, you probably also wish your investment could at the same time help do other things including leading traffic to sales. The Red does exactly that in the way that it allows you speak to consumers who are on the look for new products. They are not in full buying mode as they would be inside EC platforms, therefore not paying much attention to brands which are not already on their radar, but they are in a browsing mode, opened to new ideas, new brands and new product suggestions. A Red viewer is open minded, yet definitely much closer to the purchase moment, than a WeChat user browsing his Moments looking for news about his friends.
This last point is key. Because the Red allows you to speak to an audience who is in the right mindset, provided you are advertising through the right KOLs, your chances of getting noticed are much higher. Considering the length and the details of the articles, chances are also that you will be building awareness and consideration at the same, thus increasing your chances to lead the viewer to a marketplace.

Building Consideration is the one of the things the Red is really good for. When someone hears through friends about a new brand or product, chances are that the Red will be one of the first places where they will go to look to find out more about it. They will trust consumer reviews much more than they will trust your brand’s Official Account on WeChat. This is true in general in China. The voice of the influencer weighs much more than the voice of the brand. It makes sense, as long as the influencer is genuine, but that’s another debate.
Even when people hear about a brand on an EC platform, they will often go to the Red to see how many reviews the brand has and how positive they are.
This is why, when you invest on the Red, don’t just invest on that single post from one big key influencer. It will look suspicious if there isn’t anything else. It is far better at first to invest on very small influencers which have around 5000 followers to build a significant yet credible presence on the platform. The other advantage of those small influencers is that they often have a small group of loyal followers which are very likely to follow their recommendations, which is less the case with bigger ones. Chances that you will have an immediate impact on your sales are therefore higher.

Another advantage of going with very small influencers is that the number of KOL you use minimizes your chances of picking up the wrong ones, that is to say those who inflate their numbers. Picking up the right influencers is the most difficult part of the game. Following KOL agency platforms recommendations isn’t necessary the best way to go. To begin with, their recommendations will be limited to the KOL they have in their pool. Besides, being judge and jury, they can hardly be considered neutral.

This is why the best is to create your own ranking. You can for example give a mark from 1 to 5 for the number of followers, repeat that for engagement, quality of the post, capacity to follow the brief etc. Then add up those numbers and make comparisons. Of course, you will make sure, prior to those calculations, to have checked whether the numbers seem genuine or not. For this I refer you to a previous article where you will find a few tips. * Another important thing to do is to only take into account the 5 last posts of the KOL. KOL often have a short life span and their performance can vary greatly over time.

Another complementary way to go is to do product seeding via an Online platform on which you will upload a brief. Small influencers who are interested in getting those products for free can pick up the brief, receive the products and write a review on the Red in exchange. It goes without saying that the higher the value of the products, the better this is likely to work.

In short, the Red is probably the most cost effective way of building a credible presence of your brand online, while at the same time driving traffic to EC platforms. And there is even a cheery on the cake. By monitoring comments, you can also start understanding how your brand and products are perceived.


Written by Patrick FAURE, brand expert in Full Jet

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