Nowadays it is practically impossible for a company to thrive in the business world without a good digital marketing plan. This is even more true in China, where 47% of the population (around 710 million users) shop online.

Building a solid online presence is one of the foundations of the success of this century, which is why more and more entrepreneurs decide to invest in digital marketing.

Why? Because a good digital marketing campaign can position your company above the competition.

But very (too) often the return on investment does not correspond to the expectations of the companies, and many brands are discouraged by digital marketing, reducing budgets to a minimum or investing in unskilled resources, which in the best case will not produce any results, in the worst, can damage the brand.

With this article, we try to identify the most common issues encountered when deciding to undertake a digital marketing project in China and which are the metrics to keep in mind.

What we write is valid in general for all the digital marketing campaigns that you decide to activate, but we refer in particular to those dedicated to the Chinese market.

Let’s start with some concepts that are often confused or improperly used to describe the same thing.

Marketing and Promotion

Often the words “Marketing” and “Promotion” are used interchangeably, but in fact, they are not the same thing. The difference between marketing and promotion lies in the fact that promotion is part of marketing activities. When we talk about marketing we mean the set of processes put in place to make a product available based on the needs of the customer and the identified market. This process takes into consideration the product, the price, the location, the customer, and … the promotion! Therefore, marketing exists without promotion but promotion does not exist without marketing.

Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Digital marketing includes all marketing activities that involve using an electronic device or the Internet. The digital channels on which these activities take place are generally search engines (such as Google or China Baidu), social media (such as Facebook or China WeChat), e-mails and websites, used to connect with active customers. and potential.

So, social media marketing is only part of the activities that can be implemented in a digital marketing strategy. Due to the nature of the Chinese market, social media marketing is predominant compared to other digital activities, but it is not the only one that can be implemented.

Now let’s analyze the reasons why companies are dissatisfied with their digital marketing strategies in China, suggesting new points of view to improve your performance.


Let’s start with one of the most common problems related to digital marketing campaigns: the disappointment of the expectations in digital marketing.

Expectations are more or less optimistic forecasts with respect to something that must happen.

When we talk about digital marketing instead we should keep in mind what are the objectives to be achieved, the final purpose of our marketing strategy.

Why did you decide to undertake digital marketing activities in the first place?

Sometimes the answer is as simple as it is vague: “I want to sell more.”

More than when? What activities have been carried out? Is the brand present on the market? Is the brand positioned where it should be? Is the product suitable for the target audience?

We could go on and on with questions, and different companies have different levels of awareness.

As you can see, expectations are rather vague and difficult to measure. The result is that marketing campaigns are often hoped for more in a miracle than in achieving a real goal.

Marketing goals on the contrary need to be measurable over time.


Although sales are in fact the only real goal of marketing, these could not happen without good brand awareness, especially if we are talking about China.

The word “brand awareness” is used more or less improperly by marketers and companies, but very few really understand its nature.

It describes the degree of recognition by the consumer of a product and its name. Put simply, the recognition of your brand for consumers.

Creating brand awareness is a fundamental step in promoting a new product or relaunching an old brand. Ideally, brand awareness leverages the quality of the product which should thus distinguish you from the competition. The truth is that sometimes consumers are unable to assess the real difference between two products.

Let’s take a very common example, the difference between Coca Cola and Pepsi. Most consumers would not be able to distinguish them without the label and the two soft drink companies rely entirely on their brand to acquire new customers.

The world of social media has completely changed the rules of the game when it comes to brand awareness. This is no longer in the hands of companies only, but also and above all of the consumers.

This is how influencers gained power and, obviously, money, in a word-of-mouth system like the Chinese one.

Ok, so your brand must be recognizable and recognized, but how do we know if the digital strategy being implemented is working?

As we mentioned, there are measurable metrics that can confirm you whether you are doing a good job or not, here are some of them:

– Visits to your website

–┬áNon-sponsored mentions┬áby the media or influencers

– Non-sponsored mentions by KOCs

– Sharing your content by others

– The volume of searches in the main search engines

– Interaction with social media

To understand if your brand awareness strategy is working, you must compare the results obtained compared to previous performances, observing a period of time long enough to identify any natural declines or anomalies.


Another critical issue is the time available to achieve the objectives.

When it comes to digital marketing, great results are expected in a short space of time.

It is understandable, but the truth is that no long-term effective strategy can be applied in a short time. The need to demonstrate adequate performance in inadequate times often pushes agencies to manipulate the results of their customers, buy followers, views, automate content and use techniques that apparently generate results, which are however fictitious.

This is probably not what you want. What you want are real customers, real conversions, and real sales.

It is therefore important to understand that there is no shortcut. Digital marketing is not a one-time activity, the results will not come overnight. Digital marketing is a marathon and you have to be ready to run long if you want to reach the finish line.

How long are we talking about? On average, you need to define a strategy and stick to it for at least six to twelve months before you can see the first significant results. The time required will be longer if you are ignoring the requirements necessary to achieve the goal, such as publishing frequently or creating high-quality content, or investing in the promotion.

The time required to be able to see results also depends on several factors: the starting point, the sector to which it belongs, the competition, the available budget, and the customer of reference.


Sometimes companies do not plan a budget to invest in a digital marketing strategy in China and ask agencies how much they should spend, giving inaccurate objectives and equally vague execution times.

Not having an idea of the budget available for your marketing activities is like going to buy a car without knowing how much you want to spend. Once you enter the dealership, ask the dealer what your budget should be.

Have you ever had this kind of experience? Probably not.

The reason is simple, there are different cars for different price ranges and different needs.

In the case of digital marketing, it is the same thing. The activities that can be put in place, the time it will take and the objectives depend on the budget you have available to achieve them.

Or, you may have a clear picture of the objectives you would like to achieve and the time you have to do it, then it will be possible to evaluate the budget necessary to achieve them in that certain amount of time.

Unfortunately, digital marketing platforms in China are aware of their potential and are not absolutely cheap. (We wrote an article on the budget to invest in China for digital marketing activities, have you already read it?)

The good news on the other hand is that that potential is real. An important factor to keep in mind is how much would you save in time and money if you were actually able to talk to your customers via the web? How big can your audience be?


Managers and business owners receive between 150 and 300 emails per day. This is without taking into account phone calls, meetings, and the time it takes to actually do your job. The temptation to entrust communication to someone and hopefully magically be able to create content, being aligned with the corporate philosophy, and updated on the relevant facts to get the job done, is pretty strong.

Unfortunately, no marketing agency is able to do a good job without interacting with its customers. The marketing agencies are the coordinators of your communication campaigns and you are entrusting him with the voice of your brand, for this reason, they constantly need new information, new material and new authorizations from you.

You are investing money in your image and entrusting it to an external entity, you must be sure that everything is consistent with what you want to communicate.

If an agency does not ask you for information on the brand, on the activities, on the strategies to be implemented, you can be sure that they are not doing their job.


When it comes to marketing, transparency is something that goes beyond honesty, it is efficiency. When you invest significant resources in digital marketing strategies, you need to know if you are achieving the set objectives and if you are getting a good return on investment through clear and frequent reports. With today’s technology and communication tools, there is no reason not to have a clear view of the workflow performed and the performance of your marketing agency.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the dynamics that move behind digital marketing, when this is applied to the Chinese market the question becomes even more smoky and vague.

Some agencies use the lack of transparency to justify exorbitant expenses and missed performances. On the contrary, your agency should have a clear understanding of the strategies to be carried out and be able to transfer the same serenity to you as regards the processes that are put in place on your behalf.

Let’s recap, to make sure you are doing a good job with your digital marketing strategy you need to:

  • Define clear and measurable goals
  • Realistically evaluate the time needed to reach them
  • Define a budget
  • Interact with your agency
  • Request reporting and transparency

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