At last week’s MarketingTechnology 2016 event in Utrecht, the enthusiastic Thijs van der Toom, cofounder of NextportChina, shared his experiences and knowledge of marketing catered to the Chinese market. The focus of his presentation was on a lifestyle app even bigger than Whatsapp: WeChat. With more than 840 million monthly users and sheer infinite possibilities to share, connect, pay, startup, record and gain information, van der Toom is adamant that this app is the future. After his presentation we asked him some questions about what he does exactly and the importance of WeChat for western marketing strategies.
The origins of NextportChina
When van der Toom came back from studying in China he wanted to combine two of his passions; the art of marketing and China. Instead of doing a two year traineeship before he could ‘get the real deal’, he and Quinten Kemp started up NextportChina in 2013. With their agency they wanted to help Western companies to build on their online presence in China. ‘Together with 6 Chinese colleagues we help clients in Holland and China’.
What’s on the menu?
This young startup can thank the growing importance of internet marking. ‘There is more budget now and it is getting more important to gain visibility online as well’. The gamut of services NextportChina offers is big. Consultancy, setting up accounts, managing content, advertising and setting up web shops on platforms such as WeChat or other apps.
The Great Firewall of China
As van der Toom showed us in his presentation, social media in China works different. Due to the Chinese Firewall the people of China can’t use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other apps they way we use them in Europe. Instead, they created a whole spectrum of different apps with the same functions as ‘ours’. WeChat is basically all these apps in 1 and therefore it is really important. Not only for consumers but also for business purposes!
How do they do it?
Consider this example from the University of Twente. With the help of NextportChina they created a service account on WeChat. In their presentation on events, the university used a QR code that the aspirant students could scan on their smartphone to connect with WeChat easily. This strategy helps to gain respect, visibility and recognition. ‘Wow, a Dutch university that is on WeChat, cool!’ With content in Chinese and the possibility to ask questions, their Western identity is seen as easily approachable & accessible.
Not a CopyCat
Van der Toom says that instead of seeing WeChat as a result of copycatting, we should focus on the opportunities of this innovation. Compared to features of WhatsApp, you can see WeChat as a big success in terms of marketing strategy, technology innovations and social impact. ‘As soon as I come from Beijing and set foot in Europe, I feel like I am going back in time’.
Van der Toom is convinced that WeChat is the future, and NextportChina helps businesses to go along the lines of success on the marketing possibilities in China.