Business-to-business (B2B) marketing in Asia is complex, dynamic and challenging compared to the other regions around the world.
During the past three years, I have had the privilege of working with many of our marketing colleagues in DKSH Business Unit Technology across the Asia Pacific region.
As a diverse organization, it is in our DNA to embrace the wide range of cultural nuance, be it language, media landscape or even political perspective from different regions. The same could be said about our B2B marketing: there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
But, with the right mindset and by applying the appropriate principles, we can ensure that the approach adopted in the marketing funnel will further enhance customer experience, drive revenue generation and improve business profitability.
Marketing automation software sales are projected to exceed USD 7.6 billion by 2025 globally and Asia Pacific markets are expected to be among the leaders in adopting these tools. Increased demand will likely come from India and China, which both possess a large consumer base, and is also due to the fact that almost half of the marketers in Southeast Asia are already using some form of software or tool to automate their marketing activities.
While the adoption of automation is essential to accelerate lead generation and nurturing in Asia, we should not blindly adopt the same Western way of automation in Asia.
Take email nurturing sequences as an example; a tactic like this might work perfectly well in the US or UK, but would probably go unnoticed in some Asian countries where business communication is heavily conducted through messaging applications.
In China, business often takes place completely over the popular WeChat mobile messaging platform. Though companies might not be able to accomplish the same level of automation on WeChat as with email automation platforms, by working with third party agencies, you can have enhanced functions such as auto reply, chatbots or segmented push messages which can help you create a more customized lead nurturing process.
Therefore, bear in mind that your local customer’s needs, especially user experience, when designing your marketing automation process is key to ensure success.
Like the rest of the world, Asian customers go online to search for product information before they even make the first contact with the company selling the item. It is critical to have updated content and meaningful information on the business website to reach your target customers.
Translating the content from English into the local language is just the first step. Only by understanding Asian consumers’ pain points and subsequently offering relevant examples and solutions will this information become effective. We call this “trans-creation”.
For example, using Ketchup as a reference to explain how your instrument can help achieve compound stability might make perfect sense in the US, but switching to Cholimex chili sauce instead will resonate better with Vietnamese customers.
Therefore, take an extra step of adding local creativity on top of the translation process to make the content even more meaningful to Asian customers.
Having the right content is only the first step. Many marketers tend to deploy the content in the wrong format. Take the use of a webinar as an example; it is an important tool for B2B marketers in Europe and the US for lead nurturing.
However, some Southeast Asian customers still prefer the face-to-face seminar approach as it is difficult for them to justify the time spent online. In some markets, when adopting a new technology such as a webinar, thorough training processes and new incentives are often needed to encourage participation.
The way your website is designed is also important. A quick scroll through many leading Asian companies’ eCommerce sites will show that they are usually more “flashy” and “loud” compared to their Western counterparts, which in general tend to be “cleaner” and “calmer” with more white space. Many companies have a standard corporate guideline on website designs and while it is great to ensure brand consistency, it is also important to allow some flexibility that can help “bonding” with the local customers.
The use of digital media varies significantly among the Asia Pacific markets. There are no two markets that possess the same media landscape. We are talking about dealing with seven different languages. In some of the bigger markets such as China and Korea, they even have their own search engines.
Besides search engines, the use of popular social media also varies among countries. Instagram is widely used in Indonesia while Facebook is the leading platform in Thailand. LinkedIn is the “go-to” social media for Western B2B marketers to obtain and nurture leads, however, its popularity varies from country-to-country in the Asia Pacific region.
As you try to navigate your business through the complex media landscape, remember to obtain the relevant data that could help you make the right choice to effectively reach your target audience.
Even though everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of digital marketing due to its ability to increase leads and opportunities, in this part of the world, offline marketing still plays a key role.
Asia Pacific’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry generated revenue of USD 229 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 441 billion by 2025. A big reason for the growth of MICE in Asia is due to business relationships building. Being physically at an exhibition and forming a genuine face-to-face rapport with business partners is still considered the most effective way for building a long last relationship.
The key for business is to select the right exhibitions with high potential of return-on-investment that can enhance both business topline and bottom line. It is also vital to maximize your company or brand presence utilizing digital marketing campaigns that can drive audience traffic from online to offline.
Other offline marketing tactics such as direct mailers are still widely used and are often seen as the more “proper” method. In Japan, we still print invitations to events and mail them directly to customers and prospects. This formal way of marketing has a higher response rate than e-invitations.
Overall, when reaching out to Asian customers, it pays to be more empathetic in your marketing approach. Instead of forcing the latest marketing techniques and content onto the customers, think about how it can enhance the “customer journey” first and it will eventually result in business profitability.
Also, with its complex culture and language barrier, businesses should also consider working with an experienced business partner who can help you achieve your marketing goals faster and efficiently. DKSH Business Unit Technology has the expertise and system in place that could help develop an integrated and orchestrated B2B marketing campaign: from branding, content, offline to online activities across different markets to accelerate your lead generation and nurturing throughout Asia.
As I am always interested to see more B2B marketing topics and discussions taking shape in Asia, do share your thoughts and ideas with me.
Irene Chen joined DKSH in 2015. In her current role as Marketing Director, Business Unit Technology, she drives marketing excellence by working with marketing colleagues across 18 markets. Before joining DKSH, she spent ten years in advertising agencies in New York where she accumulated knowledge and experience in implementing integrated marketing campaigns for many Fortune 500 companies.