How To Promote Real Estate To Chinese Property Buyers
Chinese property buyers are one of the most sought-after customers in the Real Estate industry, but can also be one of the more trickier audiences to reach. There are multiple reasons for this. First, it’s an audience that speaks a completely different language. Second, the way Chinese property buyers look for real estate, choose a property and make the sale is a totally different way of doing business. And finally the online tools Chinese property buyers use are totally different.
Tips for promoting real estate to Chinese property buyers
So how can you get past these hurdles and reach this lucrative audience of property investors? Let’s start with each of those three key hurdles.
Despite seeming the most difficult, the language barrier is actually one of the easiest things to get around! There are loads of translation services, including ours, that can help you translate your marketing materials into Chinese. We highly recommend having translated versions of your listings if you want to reach this market.
When it comes to inquiries, for existing homes (rather than new) we find most buyers that are already here in Australia are able to speak English and converse with agents. However, translating listings is still important so they can be sure they are across all the details. Plus, it not only signals that you’re willing to deal with Chinese buyers and go the extra mile for them, but it’s also far more comfortable to read something in your first language.
As for offshore buyers, this is where you may need to enlist the help of an interpreter. However, many buyers in Mainland China will have an agent or adviser helping with the transaction, and there’s a good chance that they speak English.
How Chinese property investors do business
One thing you simply cannot underestimate is how much business in China relies on relationships and trust. Unlike the western world, Chinese buyers almost never simply click on an ad and make a purchase. Instead, they purchase based on recommendations and referrals from those they trust – their family, their friends, and their advisers. That’s why many Western businesses have tried and failed to launch in China. Before you can even start to make a deal, you need to invest a significant amount of time getting to know and building trust with anyone you want to do business with.
This means that first, the sales cycle is long with Chinese buyers. If you’ve got a buyer who makes an inquiry, be prepared for many more meetings and conversations, often with all members of their family (who are involved in the property buying decision). Don’t rush into talking about pricing or pressure them to take the next steps. Instead, let your Chinese buyers get to know and trust you first, and be prepared for at least 3 meetings before you can talk business. Even in a business meeting, Chinese buyers want to know about you, your work, your hobbies and your family, to help them decide they can trust you. Take the time to become their friend, and don’t be offended by personal questions.
Second, if you’re selling a property development or high-end home and looking to target offshore investors, remember that they will largely work with agents. Your marketing, advertising and recruitment efforts should be focused on finding the agents and advisers these property buyers work with, rather than trying to target the consumer directly. High Net Worth Individuals in China or professional investors will almost never purchase anything without the influence of their advisers.
The online tools Chinese property investors use
Finally, the most important thing to remember is that Chinese property investors don’t use the same online tools you use. Importantly, most western websites, apps and social media platforms are actually blocked by the Chinese government. So you’re going to need to use the tools these investors are using.
The top ways to reach Chinese property investors are:
- Developing a Chinese-hosted website
- Using Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo
- Listing on China’s own property portals
To have a China-friendly website, you need to host your website in China, make sure the design and code is completely compliant with Chinese website standards, and have an ICP ( Internet Content Provider) license. The biggest hurdle is the ICP licence. You will need to register your business in China in order to be eligible for one, which is a process in itself. Hosting is easier, and like Amazon, Alibaba offers its own hosting solutions. When it comes to design and code, many simple things that are basics in a Western website, such as Google Analytics tracking to report on your web traffic, will actually cause your website to be blocked in China. Finding a Chinese web developer with experience in the space means you’ll be able to ensure the code of your website doesn’t cause trouble, and it’s also optimised for Chinese search engines.
However, it’s important to note that digital trends in China mean that websites aren’t as important as they are in the west. Most businesses have their sole online presence in Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Tmall (which is China’s equivalent to eBay). WeChat is the most popular social network in China, and has developed its own built-in infrastructure to host websites in the app, take payments, sell products and many more features. In fact, it’s all of that functionality which gives it the ultimate sticking power to become, and stay, the number one app in China.
There are many other Chinese social media apps with more limited functions that have grown and declined, but WeChat has consistently remained the top app, with 98.5% of 50- to 80-year-old smartphone users in China use WeChat – a pretty incredible statistic!
The benefits of using WeChat to promote real estate
WeChat is also the most suitable platform for promoting a listing. With a verified business account (called an ‘Official Account’), you are allowed to publish longer form articles or create a website within WeChat – perfect for promoting listings. The next best competitors in terms of popularity are QQ – for hosting videos and Weibo, which allows short posts, like Twitter, so these aren’t really suitable for posting your listings.
WeChat has some search engine functionality, so people will find your account organically if it is well optimised, but in order to get the most out of it, you will need to build your followers. Unfortunately offshore real estate accounts can’t run advertising on WeChat due to Government restrictions, but you can promote by partnering with popular accounts and influencers, and using your existing marketing channels to encourage people to follow the account.
Where WeChat really shines in the property transaction is as a fast, easy way for your Chinese prospects to see your listings translated into Chinese (especially those offshore, as they can’t open your website). It also signals you are welcoming and open to doing business with Chinese buyers and are willing to do things their way. It’s also a great communication tool to share key info with your prospects, answer quick inquiries, and give your agents material to promote to their audience.
Finally, the next best opportunity is listing on Chinese property portals. Like Domain or RealEstate.com.au, Chinese buyers also look to popular websites with lots of listings. The most popular are Fang.com, Sina Real Estate, SoFang, and Juwai. We have found Fang to be most effective and the easiest to deal with as they have an English speaking customer service team. With much larger audiences in China, the costs to run an effective campaign on these platforms can be quite high.
The most effective strategy for selling to Chinese property investors
Over the years we have come to really specialise in selling property to Chinese investors. We have tried many different tactics and channels to reach the audience, for many different campaign objectives.
Overall, the key lessons we have learned are:
- Running an effective consumer driven Campaign in China is astronomically expensive
- Choose one channel at a time and do it really well
- Selling through agents is the most effective way to sell properties to a Chinese audience.
Our top recommendations would be to focus on recruiting and partnering with Chinese agents, and spend your marketing efforts on creating the right collateral for them to promote your properties.
By far and away, every agent we’ve ever worked with has requested WeChat posts they can quickly and easily share with their clients. We have seen some amazing campaign results by recruiting the right agents, and supplying them with the materials they want.
Promote real estate to Chinese property buyers with WeChat
If you’re interested in selling to Chinese property investors, we can help you both recruit agents to work with, and create the campaign materials they need to drive great sales results.