5 Elements: The Anatomy of a Winning KOL Marketing Campaign in China
Most companies who engage key opinion leaders in China do it for the same reason: let the customer know that they exist and boost their sales because of that. We all want to win, and Key opinion leaders are a no-brainer for those local and foreign companies aspiring to scale in China. Regardless of business size, brands in China allocate a substantial portion of their marketing budget to KOLs.
For many years, China has had a streamlined process; all social media are fully integrated with local e-commerce and digital payment solutions. China is a truly unique market to tap into, but this attractive market ecosystem poses nuances. Miscommunication, mismanaged expectations, and inadequate market knowledge can serve as a hurdle and prevent you from cashing in on opportunities.

You have seen how KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) will heavily influence your success in entering the Chinese market.

Were you determined to use KOL marketing as part of your strategy?

Observe five critical elements as you kickstart your influencer marketing initiatives. These elements give you a clear picture of how the campaign will run.

Element 1: Platforms
Like any influencer marketing strategy, you need to select the platform(s) where your marketing team and KOL partners will promote the brand.

With a unique set of platforms and dynamics in China, it goes without saying that you can't expect your YouTube marketing to work great on Youku.
 Comparison Between Global vs. China Web Giants - Sinofy.Studio
Determine your target audience (age, location, and other demographics) and check whether the platform matches your audience.

For example, Neal Schaffer suggests that Toutiao is an ideal platform for promoting B2B brands since its users are working consumers between 18-30 years old and located in first- and second-tier cities.

Overall, your choice of platforms will influence your selection of KOLs, content strategy, and much more.

Element 2: Budget and ROI
Realistically, 1M followers on Weibo can bring you 100K organic views, 15% commercial CTR (i.e. 1.5K clicks), and only 25 immediate sales. Whereas on WeChat, 100K organic views will bring 15K commercial clicks, and 225 immediate sales
If you plan to run a campaign in one top-tier city, Hicom states that the estimated cost of 200,000 to 300,000 CNY or up to 45,000 USD per month.

Your budget will vary depending on the number of cities you want to cover and the KOL you're going to hire.

To measure results, you can set up tracking links, analyze buyer trends to have an overview of the effectiveness of your campaign. You can even give your KOL a unique promotion code which can make it easier for you to track sale referrals.

Element 3: Criteria for Selecting KOLs
Your KOL should be relevant to your brand to ensure that it can produce engaging content.

There are several industries and [ types of KOLs - link to topic 2 ], and one of the things you need to avoid are fake KOLs.

If you're starting with a limited budget for KOL marketing, micro-influencers may be the best option for you as they are cost-effective compared to popular KOLs.

You don't need to do all the research yourself. You can seek professional help from marketing agencies in China.

Element 4: Establish Effective Communication
There's no doubt that clear communication is key, but it's easy to underestimate what it takes to maintain and grow relationships with local influencers.

Your marketing team has the option to contact KOLs directly. Through the process, they'll learn the communication styles, tools, and other cultural subtleties. It helps if a local expert will bridge the communication gap.

Not only can they connect you with the right KOL, but they should also assist in the everyday relationship management that aligns with your brand values and business goals.

Whether you choose to develop an in-house ability or engage a China-based expert, you'll have to get used to local communication tools and styles while juggling other marketing responsibilities.

Element 5: Collaboration Agreements
 KOLs showcase products with their expertise - Sinofy.Studio
There are several approaches that your KOL can work with your brand.

In the beginning, an easy arrangement is to send free samples. With a relevant product for your KOLs of choice, you may expect a number of them to produce reviews.

However, especially if you're to work with more popular personalities, free product samples may not be enough to get a KOL to work with you. Considering their audience size, you may pay for sponsored posts or enter a commission-based agreement if your campaign is focused on sales.

As your KOL campaigns mature, you may explore deeper, ongoing collaborations. For instance, you could produce limited-edition variants of your product co-branded with your KOLs.

Over To You
The KOL industry is booming in China. While it's a promising way to reach and engage your audience, it will be challenging for international companies unfamiliar with the Chinese market and its subtleties.

Confusion can be paralyzing, but it doesn't have to stop there; an incredible turnaround for a successful market entry sets up a solid KOL marketing system.

The first step is to define what each of the five critical elements is for your brand.

92% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, relatives, or their research online, including KOLs.

KOL marketing is just a part of your overall digital marketing strategy.

Working with a specialized PR team in China will help you fill the gaps for your KOL campaigns and beyond.

Learn more: Top 10 social apps not to miss for PR success in China.

Looking to better understand how your tech or blockchain company can expand in China? Drop us a note.