Integrating your CRM with WeChat in China

By Laurent Ross - November 17, 2019

In China there is really only one dominant platform, where to an increasing degree, it’s hard to function without it. WeChat has an estimated 902 million daily users and now over 14 million active corporate accounts who are aiming to reduce friction with their leads and customers by being available through the most frequently used app in China. These days, if you want to be taken seriously in China, your leads are going to expect to be able to contact your sales or customer service team through WeChat – not email, and they do not want to wait.

Traditionally, sales and marketing teams in China work through a network of ‘contacts’ held privately by the individual reps on WeChat who leverage their 关系 (connections/relationships) to build more relationships. This presents a large problem for bigger companies who have a relatively high staff turnover and are taking two steps forward and one step back when staff leave. The Western solution for this, the CRM, is still a new concept in China and it’s common to find a lot of opposition in training a Chinese team in how to use them. Luckily, as technology matures in China, there are now ways to connect CRM’s with WeChat and make the best of both worlds.

WeChat Functionality

On its own, WeChat offers most of the essential front-facing tools you need to interact with your customers. These features depend on the kind of WeChat account you have:

  • Personal Accounts: accounts for regular users, cannot be used for company or marketing purposes.
  • Subscription Accounts: for companies or individuals wanting to promote themselves, very similar to having a company page on Facebook.
  • Service Accounts: same as a subscription account but appear as friends in the chat section meaning they are more visible.
  • WeChat Mini-programs: these are mini-apps within the main app. Usually used for e-commerce platforms, games or productivity tools.
  • Enterprise Accounts: meant for internal management of companies. They require both the account and the follower to approve each-other.

Please note that many of these accounts require you to have a legal presence in China, as creating an account will require verification from the government and lots of red tape.

Without any external programs, your WeChat funnel will look something like the chart below:

WeChat funnel without CRM

As you can see, while your WeChat page can attract and potentially engage with leads, however, moving leads into your CRM would be an entirely manual process. It’s advisable to avoid any manual process where possible (especially in China) as they will be prone to human error. This funnel is still not a bad start for many businesses new to China, especially in B2B as Chinese people are very direct and often want to go straight to sales – skipping inbound content etc.

Top WeChat CRM Integration Platforms

So, you know you want to use WeChat, but you want to track interactions and give your leads and customers an optimal experience on WeChat? The good news is that there are already software systems designed specifically for this that have integrations with some of the most popular international CRM systems.

1. JING

To create a better funnel and completely remove manual processes of logging leads, JING was developed as a supplementary product to WeChat by JING Digital, a company based in Shanghai. JING uses API connections to interact with WeChat and measure engagements and contact information. As WeChat is still a very closed system, there are lots of restrictions as to what contact information can be exported, but JING does a good job of nurturing leads and getting more contact information (phone, email etc) which it can pass to a CRM. JING is probably the most comprehensive of the solutions and best suited to bigger businesses that require more functions.

Here’s what your WeChat funnel could look like with JING:

WeChat funnel with JING digital

Here are some of JING's top features: 

  • Many businesses going into China choose Salesforce as a CRM as it supports a Mandarin interface and works in China. However, it does not have a WeChat integration. On the other hand, JING does have a native Salesforce/WeChat link so you could use JING to integrate both systems.
  • O2O (offline to online) tracking through custom QR codes which can be generated within the application. This is super useful for businesses doing lots of trade shows or other non-digital marketing/PR activities.
  • Advanced chatbot in WeChat linked to your CRM: engage with leads in real-time using complex logic to nurture engagement and improve conversions.
  • Customer Service: allows sales to interact with leads through the company portal without needing to use personal accounts.
  • Custom Workflows: show the right content to the right people at the right time.
  • For more features, please check out the full list on the JING website.

2. Parllay

If you are looking for a ready to use solution with an intuitive interface, Parllay is your best bet. As an official HubSpot partner, Parllay lets you import all customer data into HubSpot so that you can keep the same centralized lead management system while expanding your reach. 

Parllay was designed specifically to implement digital marketing projects on WeChat and specializes in measuring engagement and data analytics. Parllay does an excellent job of nurturing leads, and it also enables your business to interact with them easily by creating personalized responses that WeChat falls short of. If you're getting started with WeChat in China and don't need a full suite of features for a large team, Parllay is the right system for you.

To learn more about the top features of Parllay, check our our latest blog posts here

3. Knight

Also based in Shanghai, Knight are a more 'China-focused CRM' tool (as you can see by their Mandarin-online website) that has an existing integration with Salesforce. Although Knight are not an official HubSpot partners, it can connect with some functions on HubSpot through their developer API. In addition to WeChat marketing, Knight also provides user management and WeChat e-store capabilities. In comparison to Parllay, Knight's biggest advantage is their ability to provide retail brands with micro-mall and shopping guide management functions, and integrates online store with an offline store, proving to be very suitable for retail brands. This has led them to be awarded as the "Best Retail Industry Award" and "Retail Industry Most Innovative Award" by Salesforce. 

Knight is powerful for WeChat precision marketing, including the personalized menu settings of the public account, intelligent 1vs1 interactive communication, template message automation marketing, coupon marketing, WeChat membership system, etc. 

Steps for getting started

It is very important that you carefully consider your WeChat CRM integration based on the needs of your team and business. Here are some best practise steps to ensuring that your onboarding process runs smoothly:

  1. Map out what automation will be done inside your China social CRM vs what automation will need to be done in your international CRM.
  2. Understand your audience. This is probably the most important step as many businesses just assume they know their buyer persona in China and use tactics that have worked elsewhere. China is like no other country and you really need to understand how to market and sell to Chinese people if you want to succeed here.
  3. No matter which China social CRM you choose, you should use an agency who are experienced with integration and automation who can assist you with best-practises, red-tape and create the first ‘gold-standard’ campaign.
  4. Make sure that your Chinese teams are well trained in how to use the new platform and understand the power of nurturing leads with content.
  5. Ensure that your new Chinese team has reasonable and achievable KPI's which are consistent with domestic averages in China and not international metrics.
  6. Test test test! Make sure that all your processes, automation and notifications are thoroughly tested.
  7. Once your campaigns are live and running you need to continuously test and improve your processes.

Is your company right for WeChat automation and CRM integration in China? Speak with one of our China marketing strategists to find out.

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About the Author

Laurent Ross

11+ years of work in client and project management in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand - Laurent is uniquely qualified to manage campaigns which require a deep knowledge of both Western and Chinese digital systems.

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