Building Your China Marketing Team: Part 3 - Team Roles, Structure
This time I’ll talk about the people you should have on your team and how they should work together. This may include people currently in your company, agency partner staff or new people you may hire.
My overall concept is to stack a team with people that have excellent communication abilities, and are also highly creative and/or very strong in analysis. Then they need to grow quickly - very quickly - because digital marketing is developing at a breakneck pace. So their self-learning ability is probably most important of all.
Chinese Marketing Roles
Skills needed: Management, listening, communication
This should be somebody in your company. Part of their job is to oversee marketing in China. They may be head of marketing for the company, or a regional marketing lead.
Either way, they need enough time and resources to be able to support the rest of the China team.
They don’t need to be able to speak Chinese or understand China on a deep level, but they need to be able to make use of the advice from others that do.
China Marketing Head
Skills needed: Communication, strategy
Somebody who is able to build the China marketing engine by integrated various marketing functions. This person needs to have strong communication abilities, and experience with Chinese marketing strategy. They should be able to educate the leader and/or other client contacts about the China marketing plan.
In our case, this is often an account manager in NMG.
Skills needed: Writing, creativity
Although “content is king” has been a common phrase for Western marketers for a decade, the value of Chinese content is somehow often underrated by Western marketers. It may be due to the simple fact that they can’t read Chinese content.
But content is very important in China.
At NMG we use specialists in content creation to write articles, certain social posts, localize websites and create landing pages. This role requires excellent writing ability so usually can’t be accomplished as well by generalists.
Social Media Marketer
Skills needed: Creativity, communication
Social marketing has become an even bigger part of our marketing mix than is expected in Western campaigns.
While some other areas of marketing have lagged in China, social has grown very quickly. Be prepared, experiencing social media in China is like stepping into the future.
When choosing members of your social team, it’s important to be clear about what it is they’ll be doing.
In some cases a social marketer can start with a more general task like community management. This requires a person with strong internal motivation & communication skills, but not necessarily a very high level of experience.
In other cases a social marketer may be responsible for planning & executing a comprehensive social marketing campaign. It may involve advertising, viral components. This requires more experience & creativity.
Search Engine Marketer, Media Buyer
Skills needed: Analysis, Chinese search engine experience
This is an interesting role because paid search engine marketing is done so differently in China than it is in the West.
In China, the ‘expert’ search engine marketer is often responsible for driving traffic to the website only, based on the selection of a reasonable set of keywords. They are somewhat like technicians, and generally have little-to-no real marketing experience.
In the West, search engine marketers tend to understand marketing quite well, and they seek to drive conversions. They likely have a good grasp of copywriting and landing page optimization. They can tell you about the demographics of their target market.
Perhaps you can tell, I tend to like the Western way of doing paid search. The Chinese search platforms are unique, but can be learned by the right person.
Search Engine Optimization Specialist
Skills needed: Analysis, strategy, logical thinking, patience
SEO can be very shady in China (like anywhere else!). Baidu is not as advanced as Google at adapting for spammy SEO practices. And it makes up for this by brutally punishing websites suspected of being spammy.
Dazzle, lead SEO at NMG says “Chinese SEO is in need of revolution”. There are companies in China moving towards a more high-quality content marketing approach, but not as many as I’d like to see. The ones that do do content marketing very well tend to focus on social promotions as opposed to organic search.
We think a good SEO team should be excellent with strategic SEO thinking, good with technical audits, and able to support the rest of the marketing team in deciding what type of content to create and how to optimize it.
In short, we see SEO as something that should be integrated with the rest of the marketing efforts, and never something to be done on a silo of its own.
Skills needed: Creativity, design experience
In our case, design is something we usually see handled mostly by the head company. If the company has a strong visual identity, it merely needs to be adapted for Chinese marketing materials.
I don’t believe that marketing materials for China need to be fundamentally redesigned to appeal to the Chinese market...in most cases. Note that this isn’t a very popular opinion.
These are the functional marketing roles that have worked for us.
But what about other roles?
I left functions out of the list above. One notable one is some form of speciality in ‘e-commerce’, ‘mobile’ or even ‘digital’. We don’t see things that way. Why?
All of the above marketing functions can be applied to e-commerce. When we run e-commerce marketing campaigns, we use the same team members as we use for non e-commerce projects.
Everything we do is mobile & digital by default.
Is there really anything a “traditional” marketer can do that a digital marketer can’t? I expect “traditional” marketing will be absorbed into the digital marketing framework and will disappear as a standalone concept. Those left without computer skills & digital marketing talents will merely be considered illiterate.
How should the marketing team work with others?
It’s super important that the people involved in marketing, sales & other functions communicate with each other.
You absolutely need to gather feedback from customers, inform the whole team, and act on it.
It’s much too common for marketers and salespeople to have very little discussion. Sales leads are not all made equal, and simply having regular meetings with the sales contacts can help the marketing team gather the qualitative feedback they need to improve the quantity & quality of leads.
If you’re selling B2C, you’ll likely have access to even more feedback. Customers will tell you what their problems are and what they want. The drawback is that it might not be convenient to gather all that information and make it accessible to everybody on the team. Customers will talk about your business on social media, forums and blogs. They’ll have discussions with your customer support staff too.
For starters, I recommend setting up a regular meeting schedule between everybody involved, including marketing, sales, customer-support staff as well as whichever other people deal with your customers.
What about a regional/functional matrix structure?
Many companies will have a structure with both functional and regional experts having some influence on a team. For example, the head of the China branch may be in charge of the Chinese search engine marketing team, but the head of search engine marketing may also have some sway because it’s her area.
These structures are tricky, and in my experience, almost always lead to problems. A quote from Organizational Behavior: “Because matrix organizations do not follow unity of command, this is a situation ripe with conflict. Because multiple managers are in charge of guiding the behaviors of each employee, there may be power struggles or turf wars among managers.”
These power struggles can be exacerbated by differences in language & culture.
I’d like to hear from you.
What do you do differently with your Chinese digital marketing team?
What are your pains in figuring out how to get a team started?