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Create a digital roadmap for your China strategy

  • Mobile payment is a part of life
  • Spending on digital advertising is confined to insiders but we can get in

China's digital market remains elusive to many SMEs, but theAsianIR offers a few tips to leverage a brand's presence in the scene

  1. Add campaigns to online advertising and copywriting - SMEs can launch online campaigns that encourages users to participate, download, sign-up or take action on an APP or Website, by offering incentives while growing exposure and followers.
  2. Cooperate with influential online influencers and celebrities through live streaming or other interactions - Make good use of Wechat and Weibo, WeChat is well-suited to sales conversion and customer services functions while Weibo is good for brand building and exposure.
  3. Chinese consumers paying attention to the values and lifestyles - encouraging brands to push through their messages more effectively. To convert consumers into paying customers, a common practice is to produce a series of short videos to convey the values of the brand. Be original, be consistent.
  4. Chinese consumers are seeking personalised services - so niche marketing may be required. For instance, mobile brand OPPO invited a boy band and a young actor to sell limited editions of the phones and they were sold out online in 30 seconds. SMEs can just simply bring out the right messages to the right people using industry influencers to let consumer verify and authenticate them.

Just like FANG, the overall landscape of Chinese social media is controlled by the likes of BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent). Leverage on Weibo, WeChat, Baidu and Taobao platforms that contain the largest volume of users. - Huan Johnson Koh, CIO theAsianIR

Its all relatively low cost

Costs benefits analysis is essential for any business, especially SMEs. theAsianIR feels that SMEs can consider going into China digitally because the costs aren't significant at the start, for e.g

  • Mandarin Website - RMB 1,500
  • Mandarin Android/IOS or WeChat APP - RMB 50,000
  • One month of Baidu Adwords and SEO campaign - RMB 1,500 (inc 1,000 Ad credits)
  • One month Social media account content upload - RMB 1,500 (4-5 articles per week)
  • Translation (English to Chinese) - RMB 300 for every 700 words
The above is enough to position an SME adequately to conduct businesses online in China.

A digital roadmap is a high-level blueprint for action that allows you to align digital initiatives with business objectives over the short, medium and longer-medium term.

What is an appropriate timeframe?

This really depends on your objectives. If you’re looking at a digital campaign within China in isolation, your timeframe will obviously be shorter. For a broader (i.e O2O) organisational roadmap, three years is generally an appropriate period, with the greatest density of deliverables being in Year One. The more immediate the initiative, the more details you will have to provide. Initiatives to be delivered in Years Two and Three can be outlined more broadly, with the finer details to be fleshed out and adapted as time unfolds.

Your roadmap should also have built-in timeframes for review. It should be seen as a living plan that evolves as you implement and analyse, and should be updated periodically (ideally year on year for a three-year plan). Having a roadmap is about having an eye on the horizon – and getting prepared for it – without being a slave to a pre-determined agenda.

What answers should I be seeking in a roadmap?

A roadmap should essentially answer the following questions:

  1. Where do we want to get to with our digital channels? 
  2. What are the major milestones between where we are now and where we want to be? 
  3. What initiatives do we need to implement to achieve these milestones? 
  4. What is each initiative going to cost? 
  5. Where are the barriers and dependencies? 
  6. How long is each initiative going to take? 
  7. How do we measure ROI? 
  8. What does success look like?

Especially when entering a new market, we need to factor in a certain amount of flexibility to allow for time manoeuvre around our competitors and reduce product and service gap, but a digital roadmap can identify where flexibility is expected and what is required to implement an effective strategy that can make your business succeed in China.  

Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve

Before you can embark on creating your digital roadmap, you need to have a clear idea of the direction you want your digital strategy to take.

In particular you need to determine what your business objectives for China are and a have ballpark idea of what you’re prepared to spend to achieve them.

This process needs to start with you, with input from your broader team and C-level execs. You should take into consideration all of your digital assets, present and future (websites, apps etc) as well as all supporting digital marketing activities (e.g. email, mobile, social media, PPC).

Your digital strategy should fit within your broader Chinese business ecosystem, drawing on any other information you might have available, such as your marketing plan, business plan, SWOT analysis and KPIs. Need those?

Its a good idea to involve a company such as theAsianIR to help you design a strategy to enter China digitally. theAsianIR will assign a C-level digital strategists (with support from a team of front and back end developers, content writers and a big data engineer), where collectively they can give you a solid idea of how much things will cost and any dependencies and governance that might affect the execution.

theAsianIR invites SMEs to com join us at these corporate strategy creation workshops, where we encourage all to think broadly and not constrained by what's been done before - including what has or hasn't worked.

What should we include in a digital roadmap

The two fundamental elements we typically include in our roadmaps are streams and initiatives.

Streams represent your marketing objectives, and initiatives are the deliverables (e.g. ‘Create a campaign landing page’ might be the initiative and ‘Convert prospects to customers’ might be the objective).

Objectives will obviously vary from one SME to another but broadly speaking these are aligned with the stages of your customers’ journey (e.g. Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, Retention).

Initiatives can also be aligned to departmental streams, such as IT, HR to Legal. For e.g, we can create work flow or online forms on Mobile APPs especially for IT, HR or Legal to receive and monitor work relevant to them. This helps to turn Mobile APPs into real working platforms, which can contain functions required to create and complete any professional service.

Aligning other services on the APP also determines the exact technology that is required to fulfil them. For e.g an accounting service will require an upload document function, along with questionnaire or create new expenses function, so that a Bookkeeper has the information to complete his/her work, either on the APP itself or offline.

Initiatives may share more than one stream but for the purposes of this exercise, each one should be assigned to a primary stream. For example, you may want to launch an e-newsletter (the initiative) to help with the twin objectives of customer retention and conversion (streams), however you might deem retention to be the primary stream.

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