Specifically, we hold events exclusively for client-side marketers so that they can discuss, with their peers, industry best practices, what’s working now, and some of the challenges they face every day.

At a recent Econsultancy event in Shanghai, held in association with Epsilon, we asked attendees to talk about the issues they were facing with customer acquisition and about the solutions they had come up with.  Below is a summary of the most common problems discussed and the solutions suggested by other marketers.

Should brands have their own websites for direct-to-consumer ecommerce or just use marketplaces?

Marketers were quick to agree that the return on investment of the major marketplaces in China (Tmall and JD) were not, in general, ‘satisfying’.

The main issues marketers face with marketplaces are that

  • Marketers must advertise to get marketplace traffic
  • Marketplaces advertisements are expensive
  • Marketers do not receive enough customer data from marketplaces to learn about their customers

The alternative, a brand building its own ecommerce platform, presents a different set of problems, however. Participants stated that ecommerce platforms are expensive to maintain and because marketplaces are so popular, it is difficult to drive traffic to them.

For brands selling in China, a third way was suggested. Participants noted that WeChat now offers ‘mini programs’ which allow brands to run a store on the platform. To drive traffic to a WeChat shop, marketers can strike sponsorship deals with the right KOLs (key opinion leaders, or influencers).

Many agreed that building a shop of WeChat offered a reasonably-priced and effective solution in China.

How can marketing and sales teams work together?

It came as no surprise that most marketers in attendance on the day had issues working with their sales team. It’s a common problem for marketing teams everywhere, but what can be done about it?

The first suggestion from attendees was that marketers need to demonstrate the benefits of marketing campaigns to the sales team. One participant shared that their brand had devised a campaign specifically to drive a specific lead to sales. Through the campaign, marketing and sales collaborated on optimizing it with the result of bringing the two teams closer together.

Another approach discussed was that organisations should strive to integrate marketing and sales data. One attendee said that they were evaluating a solution which would combine Google Analytics 360 and Salesforce and seamlessly connect sales, marketing and advertising data. The hope was that this would then offer a complete view of the customer journey and better marketing and sales results.

Finally, as most marketers at the event were based in China, they all agreed that leveraging WeChat as an integrated marketing, sales, and CRM platform was highly recommended.

How can marketers expand the size of their brand’s customer base?

Another issue faced by most marketers at the event was that they felt that their addressable customer base was too small. This was a problem because they did not have enough email or mobile numbers to run mass-market campaigns.

Participants agreed that marketers, even those who work for B2C (business-to-consumer) companies needed to build a database which included prospects as well as customers.

One suggestion was that marketers should review all of the touchpoints of their customer journey and see if there were any opportunities to collect and store data, either anonymous through cookies or personally identifiable information (PII) with online forms.

Additionally, it was suggested that marketers should push to get more data from marketplaces, such as Alibaba and JD.  Brands have invested a lot to get customers on these platforms, it was argued, and so they should try harder to get more value out of them.

What can B2B marketers do to reach B2B ‘long tail’ customers?

One problem faced by B2B marketers in China is that a lot of their customers are based in areas which are outside of the major metropolitan areas (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) and are, therefore, hard to reach through conventional B2B marketing tactics, such as events and traditional media.

One suggestion was that marketers should use loyalty programmes to attract and retain attention from customers who were not responding to advertising. Another warned that loyalty programmes had to be segmented, though. One should be designed for high-volume, urban companies and another for low-volume B2B consumers so that they stood a chance to enjoy the rewards offered by the programme.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank Xiaoyan Le, Consulting Manager, 55, the data company for moderating the discussions at the Creating Customer Connections table.

We’d also like to thank the sponsor for the day, Epsilon, as well as the dozens of marketers who attended and shared their experiences and insights about how brands can acquire more customers.

We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!

Five brands using employee advocacy to drive talent acquisition