Is Lead Generation in China Enough for Real Estate Companies?

What Is The Next Step To Increase Lead Quality and Sales Rates?


At GMA we are lucky enough to work extensively in Real Estate Marketing & Lead Generation. Over the last 3 years we’ve learnt a thing or two about what it takes to stand out in this lucrative yet competitive market place.

Indeed with more players vying for a slice of the pie your strategy also needs to step up.


How Stand Out In The Chinese Market?

  • Invest in Long Term Growth
  • Utilise Direct Lead Gen & Marketing to Support Sales Effort
  • Build Your Reputation Overtime
  • Source Chinese Specific Projects
  • Develop an Effective Sales Infrastructure

Smart Real Estate Marketing

I like the distinction here of ‘Smart Real Estate Marketing’, anyone can drive huge quantities of uninformed leads but how to take this to the next level for an increased lead to sales conversion rate? How to really pin point and engage with your target demographic? Let’s dive in!


You need to carve a niche, Ronald Serry established himself as a leading property legal expert, a simple/static landing page was enough to drive high quantities of interested leads. 


A Booming Market

2017 is set to rank as one of the top three years ever recorded for Chinese outbound investment, according to Juwai COO Sue Jong. This is despite state restrictions causing fears over capital investment, evidently money flows regardless of policy and is not limiting demand.

2016 saw Chinese real estate investors spending a record US$ 101.4 billion on both residential & commercial properties globally, this is up 845% over the past five years, and a 25.4% growth from 2015.

According to the Global Property Investment Report, the US is considered by the majority of investors as a ‘near perfect market’ explaining the $50 billion dropped on US real estate.

Australia still comes in at second, followed by HK, Canada & the UK.


Room for Substantial Growth

It’s important to realize that these current stats still represent a small percentage of potential investment from a developing market. China ranks as 18th in the world by aggregate ownership in foreign real estate compared to GDP at just 12%, well below the OECD average of 42%.

Estimates are that Chinese Investors will acquire more than $1.5 trillion of overseas assets in the coming decade to close this ‘underinvestment gap’.


Juwai data on Increasing Outbound Investment.

A core aspect of their success lies in quality content based on their own market research.  


The Real Estate Eco-System in China

Anyone new to China needs to realize that the whole eco-system from research to sales is mainly online in China. China’s leap forward towards a more tertiary, service based economy is in full flow with digital developments placed at the heart of this.

Therefore here we have an online process of research. The biggest players acting as a conduit between buyer and seller include;

  • Juwai (the most famous listings and advertising platform)
  • Caimejiu (China’s second largest listings platform)
  • Anjuke (a Real Estate advice forum/site)
  • Twillis (Platform in China connecting Developers, Agents & Buyers).
  • GMA (We are China’s Leading Direct Marketing Service for Prospect Generation).
  • A multitude of Chinese sales agents working on commission through sales conversion.

This is a competitive arena with a mixed reputation.  Outsourcing sales takes the customer service process out of your hands.

There is always an element of risk with Sales Agents when your reputation is so essential.


Protecting Your Reputation is Invaluable. Chinese Investors moving their capital outwards do so for long term gains & preservation, they need to trust that your platform can provide that security.  


The Distinction between Listings & Direct Marketing

It’s important to make a distinction here. Listings allow projects to be listed based on sector, region, and keyword search but prospects have to be actively looking on that platform to find you. You are also one of many options, what makes you the right choice?

Direct lead generation allows you to place content in-front of high net worth individuals researching for data, information and most importantly advice.


The Positives of Direct Marketing

  •         Invest in branding yourself as a localized expert in Mandarin Chinese
  •       Allows you to build your own database of prospects which you can leverage in the future
  •       Engage directly with prospects on multiple channels and start the conversation
  •        Reduce commissions and fees
  •      Content in-front of users based on targeted keyword searches for property enquires, high value consumer goods, luxury travel etc.
  •     You understand how to reach high-net-worth individuals in the smartest way.

Direct Marketing Allows You to stand out through EDUCATION & PROVIDING UNIQUE INSIGHTS. 


Figures such as Zhenjiaojun provide insights to their communities allowing them to leverage their influence for specific promotion of developments. You need to build this community in your area.



Listing on Juwai is Not Enough

Juwai as China’s largest Real Estate Platform is an indispensable tool for listings, their content & insights are superb and they sit on a lot of big data when it comes to buyer trends (think 1.5 Million + active users). 

However there is a problem, this has become a very competitive and crowded space, a lot of traffic is great but there’s also a lot of listings. How can you differentiate your projects and company from the rest?

There is also the risk of becoming reliant on Juwai’s brand as a platform. You need to also invest in your reputation & project visibility outside of Juwai to both increase sales on the platform and directly from engaged buyers searching in multiple ways.


The Chinese digital eco system is rich with multiple platforms.

Diversifying your strategy is key at this stage of market maturity.


Consider What’s Made Juwai so Successful – Education & Insights


What a successful platform in China does is not only engage but continually re-engage investors, they have to keep coming back (when it comes to referalls, news, insights, additional services etc).

In such a crowded market the way to stand out is to offer unique insights, as demonstrated by myself referencing such data above, in-depth reports and well presented statistics make a different. However data will only get you so far..


A Data Driven Approach for Real Estate Consultancy.

Charts, Stats & Graphs can be Embedded into Articles. 


What Really Sells Property

The location, the vision, the stories you tell, the depiction of the lifestyle. This is why it’s great to hone in and specialize in one field. Carve your niche here with Chinese investors, provide absolutely unique insight for them by leveraging your positon on the ground.

It’s a long term game, building the reputation of an area or specific project takes time but nothing worth doing happens overnight. As this market matures Real Estate Business need to be savier, smarter and invest wisely in a more digital centric approach that incorporates online advertising.


Online advertising strategy in China has to be localised 



Direct Lead Generation & Marketing

Think of listings platforms such as Juwai, Caimejiu or Jinlist as bringing potential buyers to you, the other option is you go directly to them.

The strategies I work on involve understanding the behaviour of buyers online and targeting them based on their online searching habits for news & information.


I advocate this approach because: 

a)    This allows you to reach a wider range of prospects

b)    It is focused raising your profile in a broader sense

c)     Targeted approaches increase the qualification of leads (e.g. already searching for relevant information)

d)    Through direct marketing you gain control over your Image & sales process

Reputation is your Greatest Currency in China

With so many projects, units, investment schemes and competing names your greatest currency is simple; Reputation & Trust.

In China offline networking is important but there is a greater emphasis on E-REPUTATION.

The Chinese are investing ultimately for the preservation of capital, safety, appreciation and long-term dividends. Consider with no ultimate ownership or fixed property rights the need for the Chinese to invest abroad to protect that wealth for future generations.

This is an important decision for them, they need to make the smartest decision and you need to be perceived as that brand.


DAMAC Chinese Home Page, the Luxury Feel Instills Trust 



Why Such a Focus on Online Reputation in China?

Firms need to understand that this a more digitally centric Real Estate sector than anywhere else on the globe. Chinese digital developed a unique and different eco system & influence because of the infamous ‘great firewall’.

Things are different here and digital is far more important. 

Offline events and networking for sales connections is of less important.

Referrals are obviously vital but you need to drive referral schemes online & through social media platforms such as WeChat, the bed-rock of Chinese communications.



Building Your Data Base of Prospects

A huge benefit is that we allow you to build your own database through News Aggregator platforms, that is where discerning investors are browsing for news

This can be leveraged via;

  •        WeChat News Letters to Prospects
  •        Weekly Email Drops with Latest Listings
  •        Direct Phone Calls
  •        SMS Messaging (Still a Common Strategy)  

Through this database you can also start to benefit from referrals as you build a community around your services in China.


Lead Capture Forms Allow the Driving of Traffic to WeChat Accounts for Database Growth


News APPs are Powerful

One of the most powerful methods for driving a quantity of leads/prospects is to tap into News APPs such as Tencent, Sina or Sohu News. Ifeng or Toutiao are also major players.

These APPS are a huge phenomenon in China boasting a 15% market penetration rate with player such as Toutiao boasting 150 million + MAUs (Monthly Active Users).

The strategy is to insert your ad into news feeds of targeted readers that have selected relevant categories of news, e.g. finance, real estate, luxury travel etc.

The ads then link to an in-built lead capture form (increasing capture rate) so users do not have to leave the APP. Convenient, newsworthy & offers a clear call to action.


Sample News App ad embedded into the news feed, ads are associated with the news in a more receptive space than typical banners on websites. 



Buyers Search on Baidu

This is all about  Targeted Chinese Keyword Searches , it’s a strategy for Going to Your Target

Baidu as China’s Google occupies a 75% market share of the search market.

Once buyers find an interesting listing many will search on Baidu for the firms name.

You need a quality Chinese website, how else can you be taken seriously?

Even many large firms have Chinese versions of the site which look very unprofessional.

When it comes to building that luxury aesthetic sites need to be tailored to the buyer, you need to emphasize the security they are looking for.

Not being visible on Baidu is a major problem for even very established firms. As SEO experts we understand the need to format, optimize & audit a site for the Baidu engine.

Again this is a unique process whereby the back-end (meta tags, titles etc) need to match the front-end (in-site text, keyword selection being optimized + content being produced).

Think of this process like a developing a clear road map, the site needs to be indexed so it is searchable via the right sets of Chinese character keywords.

Without visibility, a great site is redundant.

This process is quantifiable with keyword selection based on number of searches.

A plus with Baidu visibility is it produces very qualified leads.

Consider that listing sources are at the beginning of the purchase life cycle, in-depth research into projects related to keywords produce prospects at the later stage.


Examples of our work in Baidu SEO when ranking Property Results based on Keyword Searches. The above image is based on the keyword search ‘澳大利亚房地产’ (Australian Real Estate).

The below image is a trending PR article for a high profile emigration event by Dot Property in SH.



Making Your Projects & Regions News Worthy

This is the next step, you need to create news items around projects & your company itself. News needs to be highly localized and specific to this audience.


Successful News Exposure

a)    You need to tap into trending news topics and items in the investor sphere, this can link to key dates in the Chinese calendar or local events that are trending.

b)    You have to understand & educate your target, the primary goal of PR is to develop your name as a portal for unique insights into a specific market, utilize the media as an outlet for this.

c)     Finally platform selection is vital. Outlets such as Ifeng, Sohu, Tencent & Sina News (to name a few) have dedicated categories for Real Estate & Finance News.

In China for PR it’s very much a ‘pay to play’ game, rather than independent Journalistic integrity here we have a system where funds correlate with exposure for PR content.

An analogy to consider once more is that leading a horse to water doesn’t equate to drinking, the Chinese investor needs to understand what they are drinking, they need to understand the investment opportunities in different regions outside of just listings platforms. News is considered that independent source.


Ronald Serry Consultants as ‘Native Experts’ offering Localized Legal Assessments


A Data Driven Approach in News Articles 


WeChat as a Unique Communication Tool  

WeChat is often promoted as ‘one stop shop’ in China for all things digital. In this sector WeChat is a branding tool & ultimately, it’s a communication tool for sales.

Think of your WeChat account as an information portal. Followers will receive weekly updates via push notification, high net worth are looking for insights.


Working with DAMAC to create a portal for unique insights into the Dubai Region through follower acquisition & high-quality content. A Priority needs to be Education about Investment. 



WeChat: A Poor Strategy for Lead Gen

 The data below is somewhat misleading. In terms of users searching for property keyword terms, yes there are low levels on the WeChat search, however the issue is that from this search users cannot find specific accounts, rather they will be presented with Tencent news items.


Above Data from Juwai is somewhat misleading with an under-developed search functionality. 


The WeChat Search Algorithm does not produce account results, regardless of the above search data. Your account can only be found through organic growth & sharing as ad spend is limited for Real Estate as a ‘sensitive topic’ on the platform.


So what is WeChat Great for?

1)    SALES.. Evidently sales, it’s the bedrock of commumication in China, all customer services & sales reps need to be communicating via voice, text or video to clients.

  • You can video or audio call
  • Send images/live streaming
  • Send Floor plans/ property specs
  • Send the Contract etc

News Letter

Followers can receive updates on project listings, unit prices, market/investment insights & so forth. You can use WeChat to build your portal as an educator on your specific market.

Leveraging Media Exposure

Sharing news articles and links (Or even better WeChat article versions) is an increasingly prominent practice making up 18% of all shared content on WeChat. The benefit is you can take media coverage and build conversations around this content that links directly to your service offering. It’s a smart way of leveraging this exposure.


Promoting Peer to Peer Conversation in Forums

Chinese Forums can be seen as a way of developing an online referral system.

The last & very important strategy to consider is forum reputation, local forums such as Baidu Zhidao, Tianya, Zhihu, Tieba etc are highly ranked on Baidu searches. Content about you in these forums is thus highly visible. You need to control the sentiment of investors and create topics that link to your firm and services.

The most important point is that this is PEER TO PEER, users themselves need to be praising the service, what’s more trustworthy than recommendations from other investors? Initially this can be created artificially and covertly but it needs to lead to organic testimonials, this takes time but pays dividends in an industry where referrals are highly lucrative.


Baidu Zhidao, A Question About Regional Taxation Rates in this Q&A Forum



In Conclusion

 A Lead Generation Strategy is Important but You Must Invest in Reputation

Chinese investors are highly discerning, a recent Juwai study found that the buyer process takes between 6-8 months with that journey fundamentally carried out online. A lead is important but taking the step to higher conversation rates requires reputation in the media.


We are a specialist Lead Generation & Marketing Team with a wealth of experience in the Real Estate sector. Please contact us for further info & to discuss your project, we can certainly advise with our 3+ years of experience.


Real Estate Firm in China : from Invisible to 80 Investor Leads per Month

The Super-Rich Chinese Emigration Market and How to Attract Investment?