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Using Hubspot in China: Insider Tips for Optimal Performance

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Can HubSpot Be Used in China?

The short answer is yes. HubSpot is (currently) not blocked by the Chinese ‘great firewall’ and can be used in China. For companies who want to use the HubSpot CRM to manage their global sales and marketing teams, this is ideal as they can use the same system as the rest of the organisation – providing using the English interface isn’t a barrier for your Chinese team. For businesses having issues with loading the HubSpot CRM or other back-end systems in China, purchasing a corporate VPN from a government telecommunications company, such as China Telecom, should solve the problem. 

However, outside of the CRM, HubSpot hosted websites – HubSpot CMS websites (content management system) – will not function as smoothly in China. HubSpot uses global CDN (Content Delivery Network)  servers to ensure that websites hosted with HubSpot load quickly no matter where the website is being loaded. This doesn’t apply to China as HubSpot does not have servers in China.

While HubSpot CMS sites will load, any website hosted outside of China will face difficulties with loading speeds in China, which will be problematic for companies marketing in China. Websites hosted outside of China are also penalised by Baidu (the main Chinese search engine) for being ‘foreign’, which can hurt organic traffic.

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Does Inbound Marketing Work in China?

Baidu (Chinese Google) isn’t as developed as Google, and “contextual search” isn’t used in China the same way the rest of the world does. Organic traffic also often plays second fiddle to paid search so while you might have great content, you need an ads strategy on Baidu to amplify your marketing efforts. 

There are shifts in Chinese user behaviour towards finding answers online – WeChat finally has a search function following Tencent's realisation that consumers aren't simply passive, and have search intent behind their actions. There are also other search engines like SouGou (搜狗) who are starting to gain more market share and are investing in AI like Google to assist with search terms instead of being aggressively advertising-focused like Baidu.

The rising popularity of Zhihu (知乎) also shows that Chinese consumers are searching for answers to their questions. Zhihu is now China’s largest knowledge-sharing community, sort of like the Western equivalent of Quora. Zhihu can also support your Chinese SEO efforts, by ranking Zhihu articles in Baidu’s SERPs.

Companies who are willing to invest in quality content, whatever the format (video, audio, written etc.) will not only be ‘marketing pioneers in China’ but will also benefit from being ahead of the competition once more people begin searching for answers on the internet.

Do Chinese Teams Find it Easy to Use HubSpot?

Traditionally, sales and marketing in China are done a bit differently from what is currently done in the rest of the world. Reminiscent of the West in the 1980’s – most of the current China sales and marketing strategy relies on recommendations, relationships, personal connections and cold-calling. While this strategy undoubtedly does, to a degree, work in China, it is not a scalable practice and means eventually your China team will not generate leads as fast as their Western counterparts once their networks become saturated.

Chinese sales and marketing teams may be uneasy with switching from their standardised methods to the inbound marketing and sales approach HubSpot is offering. While it might be tempting to use successful processes from your international office in your China office, the cultural differences and different internet ecosystem with specific user behaviour - it becomes almost impossible.

That said, your team in China can be trained to understand the relevance of these new sales and marketing techniques by showing quick wins. If the team is provided on-the-ground educational resources and support with successful case studies, you’re likely to report positive results for the HubSpot integration in your China office.

3 Best Practices for Integrating HubSpot in China

If you want to get the most out of HubSpot in China, there are a few best practices to ensure your website loads quickly like having your forms link properly to HubSpot, and your conversion pathways working.

 

If you do want to get the most out of HubSpot in China, there are a few best practices to ensure your website loads quickly, your forms link properly to HubSpot, and your conversion pathways are working.

1. Wordpress + HubSpot

The most popular method is to set up a Wordpress website hosted on a Chinese server which is linked to your HubSpot CRM using programmatic forms. You could in fact use any CMS, or custom-coded website, as long as it doesn't rely on Google services and is not a Software As A Service (SAAS) product. To host a website in China you will need a registered Chinese company, usually set up as a WFOE, in order to set up the hosting and apply for an ICP (Internet Content Provider) registration number. To be completely compliant with Chinese government internet regulations, you will need to list your ICP number in the footer of your Chinese website via a link that leads to the website of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. This is an important step as it will be useful in the future as an ICP is required for any kind of paid digital advertising in China.

China marketiing teams using HubSpotOnce you have a Chinese hosted website that is designed and translated according to the needs of your Chinese clients, you can create programmatic forms in Wordpress to synchronise data submitted in with forms created in your HubSpot CRM. Developing this link isn’t "marketer friendly" and you may require the services of a developer experienced in using the HubSpot API and Wordpress back-end. Using this style of forms will ensure that your website loads very fast in China as even using landing pages hosted in HubSpot can dramatically slow down your loading times which can be a huge conversion barrier for forms - especially in China.

The second best way to generate leads in China is to have a QR code that directly and immediately links to a sales representative. As mentioned before, this is because China’s sales and marketing strategies rely on relationships and personal connections.

2. SMS confirmations instead of emails for workflows

Unlike the rest of the world, email is considerably less important in China where the majority of the internet-using-populace grew up on mobiles with social media and instant messaging instead of email. Email campaigns in China are significantly less effective than SMS campaigns which has created a need for SMS marketing automation in China.

At Oxygen, we have developed our own SMS automation tool specifically for China on HubSpot with SendCloud. Thus, if a contact fills in a form in China, they will get a subsequent automated follow-up via SMS.

3. Social CRM integration (WeChat)

WeChat can be connected to the HubSpot CRM through WeCom and managed in a centralised manner. If you're going to do lead generation in China (especially in the B2B market) then having a WeChat integration will be very important to not only ensure that the company owns all of your leads (instead of the individual sales reps owning leads) but also that all your data is consolidated in one place. 

Getting help marketing to China

Setting up these systems and making sure they are correctly optimised and used by both the sales and marketing teams in China can be a challenge. It’s important that your Western team understands the importance of doing things differently in China (as the same methods often do not work the same!) and that your Chinese team understands the importance of using scalable marketing and sales methods to stay ahead of the competition in this increasingly digital world.

Finding the right balance between two very different strategies is important if you want to conquer the Chinese market and it’s often best to have a 3rd party who understands both sides of the story to mediate and set realistic goals for both teams. To learn more about what Oxygen can do to assist your China operations please get in contact with us to speak to one of our experts.


Looking to get started on HubSpot? Speak with one of our marketing experts to find out how we can help!

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Laurent Ross

About the Author

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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