2023 is around the corner. And many global marketers are planning their regional marketing communications program for the year.
While this all sounds exciting, the changing economy and looming recession have brought uncertainty to the process; and China’s ZERO COVID policy also adds a layer of difficulty to the mix when it comes time to execute these plans.
When the economy takes a downturn, businesses of all sizes feel the pinch, and one of the first measures many teams implement as a response is to cut the marketing budget.
Of course, it is easier to rally around a booming economy when the demand and revenue are up, and investing just as much time and resources during a downturn might sound counterintuitive. However, it is important to deliver the right messages consistently that signal larger business health and market leadership when your competitors may be scaling back.
2023 is another unpredictable year. And as we’ve learned, it’s time to embrace the changing environment, be more nimble, and start planting the seed through targeted communication programs for your business in China.
In this blog, we outlined some key communications programs businesses can focus on in 2023 that will help them break through the quiet time.
Content marketing is a powerful tool that can help businesses weather economic storms. But not all content is born equal. Your content strategy must focus on your Chinese customers’ specific needs, not on what you want to say.
When it comes to repurposing global content, it may be easy to just leverage existing resources your global content team has created. But one size never fits all, and your Chinese audience might find it difficult to resonate with the content that addresses a universal solution, not tailored to their unique needs. So it's best to avoid directly translating it.
Instead, create locally relevant content that attracts your Chinese audience by addressing their concerns. To do this, start with customer research or interviews with the sales team to dig into your Chinese customers’ deepest pain points. Then, leverage the knowledge of your internal subject matters — this could be your sales, product or marketing team — to show your ability to solve their business problems.
Getting Comfortable With Video Content
With the popularity of short videos and the advance of video content algorithms, videos will continue to be an important content asset to capture your Chinese audience’s attention in 2023. So comms professionals need to get comfortable with creating video content to maximize their reach.
It might seem a big investment to create video content, but video is increasingly an essential component of B2B marketing. And there are many ways you can create them at a lower cost, such as repurposing webinar recordings and short clips from live events.
Invest in Crafting a Compelling Brand Messaging
Strong brand messaging is the core of all your marketing communications campaigns. It's also the central piece of the puzzle that can’t be neglected even during difficult times.
Investing in crafting killer messaging will keep your sales and marketing departments more aligned on the same goals and make your brand more consistent from the inside out.
If you already have a brand messaging house, it's a good time to update them so your messaging reflects your current business priorities and your audience’s needs under the new realities.
Any business entering China needs a localized brand message that speaks directly to Chinese customers. Check out Your Guide to localizing your brand messaging for the China market.
Digital & Social
You might have taken the first step to localize your global website, but your efforts shouldn’t stop there. Without the right SEO keyword strategy and appropriate website setup, your inbound traffic will be stagnant, and your audiences will not be able to find you on the local search engine — Baidu.
In 2023, let’s go back to the foundation and start planning your Baidu SEO keyword strategy before you invest in other content marketing campaigns to increase your conversion and inbound traffic.
Re-assess Your WeChat Strategy
You know WeChat is the most important social media channel to reach your Chinese audience, but what’s equally important to know is that, unlike LinkedIn and other western social media, your WeChat posts are only visible to your target audience when they are shared in your sales network or promoted in the right channels.
We recommend you to re-assess your current WeChat strategy and find the gaps between your current performance and your WeChat goal. Reflect on the following questions as you plan for the new year:
What does WeChat OA mean to you?
Are you fully leveraging its power?
Are you constantly measuring your performance and aligning metrics with your goals?
Having a WeChat Official Account doesn’t guarantee you follower growth and engagement. Instead, dedicate time to understanding how WeChat works and investing resources and time to build a funnel that works for your business account will pay off in the long run.
PR & Media Relations
Focus On Building Thought Leadership
Economic disruption may slow down your product launch milestones and business progress. But your PR activities shouldn’t stop during quiet time.
When there is no major news to update the public and media, consider using data or launching research or a survey among your customers to reveal some key trends and observations. These types of thought-leadership content and data insights are sought-after by Chinese journalists and will help you build buzz even during the quiet time when there is no corporate news to share.
Prepare for a PR Crisis Before It Happens
Warren Buffett famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.“
Businesses in industries like finance, tech, and medical are constantly under public scrutiny and strict policy censorship, which only increases as the company scales. Protecting your hard-earned reputation is crucial to maintain trust among your local stakeholders, especially for multinational businesses operating in China.
The best time to prepare for a crisis is not after it happened but before it happens. When your business is experiencing slow growth, take some time to analyze the potential crisis scenarios and put together a crisis response plan so that when the next time crisis happens, you can keep it under control before it becomes a PR disaster.
There is no perfect marketing playbook to navigate business through the economy’s ups and downs. Every business must figure out its own way to build a strong brand and business resilience. But one thing is certain: Marketers need to embrace the changing economy and stay agile in riding these waves.
When planning your marketing communications programs for China, don’t get fixated on a specific scope of work or how you used to do things when the economy was booming. Instead, look at the whole picture and re-assess your audience’s new realities to determine the areas to focus on.
China is complicated, and that’s why it's even more important to dedicate time to plan your 2023 comms activities. Speak to your local sales team and agency partner to gather the insights needed to create a plan that would set your business up for success in 2023.
Don’t have a local team yet? Book a consultation to learn more about how we can partner with you to power your business in China.