B2B advertising in China: How much does it cost and which platform should you use?
So you’ve set your mind in expanding into the lucrative and enormous Chinese market but aren’t sure where to start when it comes to advertising. Creating an advertising strategy for China isn’t as straightforward as it is in other countries but it's possible for anyone willing to learn, even businesses without a legal presence in China.
In China, there is no Google, no Facebook, no WhatsApp and limited use of platforms like Linkedin that we’re all accustomed to using for highly targeted advertising campaigns. Given that you’re restricted to Chinese platforms, how do you know which ones are right for your business and your buyer personas?
We will break down some of the top advertising platforms (ordered by preference) and discuss the pros and cons of each:
#1 Baidu Ads
Baidu is the Google of China with the majority of all search traffic and leading the pack in terms of advertising options. Baidu is possibly the best advertising platform to start with because you can reliably target certain keywords and keep tight control of your budget which means your ads will show in front of the right people at the right time (when they are actively searching for you!).
Who’s it for?
Baidu really does work for everyone, but B2B businesses (especially those in niche markets) will see the best ROI for Baidu ads.
If you don’t have a registered Chinese legal entity yet don’t worry, certain platforms like Baidu are open to advertising from foreign businesses. However, without a Chinese business, you won’t be able to use your website as a landing page and will instead need to use Baidu’s native landing pages and forms. Learn more about registering a Baidu account here.
Baidu minimum account deposits start at RMB 20,000 (USD 2,945) but can be as low as RMB 6,000 (USD 1,030) if you go through a Baidu registered agency. This deposit you can spend as you like after getting set up. You will need to spend a minimum of around RMB 60 per day (USD 9) and depending on your keywords and competition this could be a lot more but on average Baidu is much cheaper than Google Adwords in terms of CPC. We recommend that most niche businesses budget around RMB 2,000 a month (USD 294) in order to run enough ads to get significant data. Baidu agencies usually charge an account set up fee, the fee for new creative content and a monthly management fee. Get a full breakdown of all the Baidu costs and deposit promotions here.
#2 Tencent Ads
Tencent is one of the largest digital companies in all of China and owns apps like QQ, WeChat and various other search engines. Tencent centrally collects data on profiles based on user engagement and search history and allow your business to target people who have previously expressed interest in your keywords. These ads are then shown via many of the Tencent apps through both search and display.
Who’s it for?
Businesses who have hit their market budget ceiling limit in Baidu ads and need to find other avenues for advertising to generate more leads. Basically, if you can spend more in Baidu on your current campaigns you shouldn’t need Tencent yet. Tencent’s targeting isn’t as great as Baidu’s and you’re likely to have a smaller audience which you will need to pay more for.
Tencent advertising is only available for businesses that have a legal presence in China. You must have a WFOE (wholly foreign-owned enterprise) or rep office in order to apply for Tencent ads. If you want to advertise on WeChat as a foreign company you must open an account directly with WeChat (see below).
Tencent minimum account deposits start at RMB 5,000 (USD 740). Like Baidu, after setting up your account, you can use this deposit to run your ads. You will need to set up a minimum of RMB 50 budget per day (USD 7.4) for the account and depending on your keywords and competition this could be a lot more. The average CPL (cost per lead) on Tencent is more expensive than Baidu because most of Tencent ads are feed ads (like Linkedin or Facebook). Tencent also has a huge user base and their targeting options aren’t as precise as Baidu keywords which means it can consume the budget quite fast and is more suitable for B2C businesses. For B2B businesses we recommend that you keep track of and manage your CPC (cost per click) and bidding on Tencent ads, otherwise, your account may run dry each day very quickly. For niche B2B businesses, budget around RMB 500 a day (USD 74) in order to run enough ads to get significant data. Tencent agencies usually charge an account set up fee, the fee for new creative content and a monthly management fee.
#3 Linkedin Ads
While Linkedin China is actually one of the largest countries on Linkedin (3rd), market penetration in China is nowhere near where it is at for other countries at only three percent. This means you can use Linkedin, and use it to target specific roles in specific industries – but realistically you will be looking at a very small audience.
2018 data from the following report.
Who’s it for?
B2B businesses with a bigger advertising budget (yes, Linkedin is notoriously expensive, even in China) and have the marketing and sales collateral to create free offers and content for leads to interact with.
Linkedin China does not work like Linkedin ads everywhere else in the world. Subject to China’s strict digital monitoring policy all your ads must go through a Chinese Linkedin representative who will help you create your campaigns, send your ads off to the government censors for approval and assist with monthly management. There is no ‘fee’ for this per-say, it’s basically included when you run a campaign.
Linkedin China has a minimum deposit of RMB 40,000 (USD 5,890) for getting started. This deposit can be used as you like but expect CPC to be significantly more on Linkedin than other platforms – especially if you are targeting individuals with higher titles.
#4 WeChat Ads
WeChat is basically the combination of WhatsApp and Facebook in China with a bigger market share. You can’t function in China without it and most payment gateways and stores now only accept WeChat pay as a form of payment (no cash or cards). WeChat does like to boast about their targeting options which are similar to Facebook in that you can select demographics and interests. However, from experience, these demographics and interests are never that accurate and you will end up with a very large audience and lots of low quality or junk leads.
Note: WeChat and WeChat Work are two different platforms (run by Tencent), think Facebook and WhatsApp.
Who’s it for?
Because of the lack of job information associated with your WeChat profile, WeChat is better suited to B2C businesses. However, if you have a wide target audience and the budget to run WeChat ads on top of other platforms, it is one of the best for market exposure and you are guaranteed to been seen by a lot of people.
WeChat ads are open for both overseas and Chinese businesses, but you need to register a WeChat official account first (either service account or subscription account). After creating your official company account you can find the ads platform in your WeChat official account management backend (available in English and Mandarin).
Your WeChat ads balance can be topped-up via the account backend with the minimum being RMB 1,000 (USD 148). WeChat ads have three types, WeChat Moments, WeChat official account, and WeChat mini-program which will dictate the costs:
- Moments ads: support two purchase methods: scheduled purchase and bid purchase. It charges according to the number of impressions. The minimum for running scheduled Moments ads is RMB 50,000 (USD 7,418), and the minimum daily budget for bidding Moments ads is RMB 1,000 (USD 148).
- Official account ads: display your ads on WeChat articles. It supports both CPM (cost per 1,000 views) and CPC (cost per click), the minimum daily budget setting is RMB 50 (USD 7.4), the cost depends on the competition for your industry and keywords.
- Mini-program banner ads: support CPC and only appear within mini-programs (other apps) that other companies have built to load in WeChat. Daily advertising budget starts at RMB 50 (USD 7.4). The cost also depends on the competition for your industry and keywords.
#5 Huo Dong Xing
Huo Dong Xing is China’s leading industry event and local event platform. It has more than fifty event types, such as entrepreneurship, internet, technology, design, outdoor, music shows, open classes, etc. Huo Dong Xing has gathered more than thirty million local users, with their ages being mostly between 18-35 years old, and many users who are specifically interested in or working in entrepreneurship and technology. It also provides event organizers with easy and convenient event management tools, including venue reservation, event release, registration promotion, check-in, event data analysis and other comprehensive event related services, similar to Eventbank.
Who’s it for?
Although Hong Dong Xing is now a comprehensive event platform, it was initially developed for technology industry events, and its users are still largely interested in the internet and technology industries. Hou Dong Xing is more suitable for B2B companies, especially those in tech or newer industries who are running either online events (webinars etc) or trade shows and other events.
Hong Dong Xing registration is simple. You can use your personal mobile number (Chinese mobile numbers only) and email address to register, or you can access the platform via one of the many other platforms integrated with Hong Dong Xing such as WeChat, QQ, LinkedIn, Weibo, Alipay, or Baidu.
It is free to open an account with Huo Dong Xing. There is an optional company ‘account certification’ fee of RMB 300 (US 45). This will grant you access to additional benefits, such as priority access to events, higher ranking of your own events, a certification mark, and access to the “Recommended Event” advertising space which has a lot of exposure.
There are two main ways to promote your event. The first is through advertising on their website (banner advertising), another is via their SMS or EDM database. The general advertising banners cost around RMB 5,000-10,000 (US 743-1,486) per day. SMS and EDM campaigns can send messages to your target audience according to users’ tags in their database (industry etc), the cost is RMB 1 (USD 0.15) per message per user and starts at RMB 10,000 (USD 1,486) or 10,000 messages per campaign.
Honorable Mention: KOL's
Chinese KOL's (Key Opinion Leader's – or influencers, as we know them in the West) are a massive part of marketing in China. As most social media platforms aren't very reliable for advertising, sometimes sponsored content through KOL's are the best way to get in front of your target audience.
Who’s it for?
Businesses with a big marketing budget. KOL's in China are not cheap and it's common to pay exponentially more than you would for a similar sponsored post elsewhere in the world. These channels can be particularly effective if you have a new campaign and you want a lot of quick exposure to the right audience.
As this is something that you will need to negotiate with each KOL on, payment terms can vary. Most, will prefer that they are paid by bank transfer in China. There is no need to register with a company or the government.
Costs vary wildly per industry, channel, KOL and type of sponsored content. Many popular industry channels around RMB 30,000-50,000 (US 4,500-7,500) per sponsored post on WeChat or WeiBo.
Does your company need assistance with getting started with marketing or advertising in China? Speak with one of our China marketing experts to find out how we can help.