Brands who want to develop a successful, long-term strategy for KOL marketing in China will need three things: an effective tracking and management system, eager marketing staff, and the right budget.
Here is how brands can find each one.
1. The system for KOL marketing in China
Just as sales teams need a customer relationship management system or CRM, marketing teams need a system to keep track of KOL relationships. This is especially true if your company wants to scale up your KOL marketing efforts.
The most common method of managing KOL relationships is good old fashioned spreadsheet data entry. While tried-and-true, Excel and Google Sheets will become tedious as your staff spends more time updating spreadsheets than actually communicating with KOLs.
That’s one reason we developed PARKLU.
PARKLU allows users to make folders with their favorite KOLs that are available for easy access to categories that include fashion, beauty, travel, parenting, and fitness.
As you browse and categorize KOL profiles, you can access continuously updated social media handles, contact info, price ranges, and follower and engagement stats. Not having to manually check and update this information saves marketing teams a significant amount of time.
Online software has another benefit. It is harder for employees to take information with them when they leave the company. Turnover is high in the marketing industry, especially in China. Many employees jump over to a new company every 1-2 years. With them, they often take the spreadsheets.
While outgoing staff members will always retain personal connections (if they’re worth anything, they should have added the influencers’ WeChat accounts to facilitate communicate), an online platform makes on-boarding the next person easier.
2. The staff for KOL marketing in China
Remember Rocky IV? You can have all the systems and technology you want, but at the end of the day, persistence and hard work pay off. And developing long-term relationships with influencers requires extensive person-to-person interaction.
Who then is the right staff member to manage KOL campaigns?
Contrary to what you might think, eagerness to build relationships plus some content creation experience trumps years of experience in marketing. KOL marketing managers need to think like content creators to be a bridge between the brand and the KOL. At PARKLU, our best community managers are also KOLs themselves.
A manager with a content creation background will: Write better campaign briefs, understand KOLs’ needs and limitations, and communicate with the KOL in a way that makes sense. Passion for the industry comes first — a quick learner can pick up the other skills on the job.
Note that your company will only need one full-time employee for KOL marketing if working with less than 100 KOLs month. While some KOL marketing managers can handle bigger accounts, most will need additional help after that point.
2. The budget for KOL marketing in China
KOL marketing is a long-term investment. Brands must work with influencers throughout the year consistently and not ghost after a seasonal campaign or single product launch.
Why expend all this effort when tradition ad campaigns have actual completion dates?
Simply, ads on TV, print, and websites are losing their impact and therefore becoming less effective parts of your marketing spend. This goes double for China.
This shift means brands should be allocating more of their marketing budget to KOL marketing. Currently, brands in the US are spending far less than Chinese brands. Although many US companies have implemented KOL marketing into their strategies, 41 percent are still spending less than 5 percent of their marketing budgets on Influencer marketing.
In China, large companies spend 15-40 percent of their marketing budgets on KOLs, while small companies allocate much more, at about 50-80 percent.
Brands should not treat the China market like their home market — what works in one place will not necessarily find traction in the other. Therefore, you should adjust your budget and marketing focus accordingly.