Interview With China Director Liya Bao

Content Marketing in China

Contentworks Agency, a content marketing agency specialising in the finance and tech sectors recently acquired top hire Liya Bao as China Director. In this interview, we caught up with Liya to find out about her impressive background in digital marketing, how she’s settling in and how she plans to transform the China/Europe content marketing landscape with Contentworks.

Liya, firstly tell us about your background in the finance sector?

I entered the finance sector in early 2008, managing consumer banking marketing with one of the top 3 Singaporean banks, OCBC.  I led the team to provide various marketing support for the launch of new products/services such as online banking, new branches, debit card, etc.  I also designed acquisition promotions to recruit high net worth clients.  The most fruitful campaign motivated new clients to double their deposit/funds in the bank.

Later on, I joined Standard Chartered Bank, heading marketing planning and channel marketing (supporting over 80 branches in China).  By developing and implementing a micro-marketing program, I managed to establish a cross-functional system tracking marketing practice for all branch sales.  Micro-marketing helped bring in over 1,000 high-net-worth clients on monthly basis, ROI exceeded 3,000%.

Cyprus based forex broker easy-forex (now re-branded as easyMarkets) invited me to create their China Marketing Division in 2013.  I built a full-scale marketing team from scratch to provide comprehensive marketing services to cover the greater China market as well as global Chinese.  I was responsible for online marketing (including display ad, SEM, SEO, retargeting), social media, content marketing, branding campaigns, PR, offline events/EXPOs, email marketing to prospects and existing customers, Chinese affiliates, etc.  I also managed the development and routine maintenance of the Chinese websites, landing pages and blogs.  Within 2 years, I grew online leads from less than 100 to over 5,000 per month.

What are the main difficulties that European companies face in China?

For any foreign companies, not just those from Europe, the biggest challenges are China’s strict regulations and a lack of understanding of the local market, or to be more specific targeted Chinese audience.

To give you a brief picture on the impact of China’s regulations:

  • Advertisement law regulates what companies can advise locally, what message/images/wording is allowed. This law applies to all media including search engine and social media in China.
  • China’s internet regulations and Great Firewall determine what websites can be loaded in mainland China. The enforcement of these regulations has been tightening up since 2016. Simply put, if your website, is registered outside of China, hosted on an overseas server or contains links of blocked western social media such as Facebook and YouTube, it is very likely that it won’t load in China or will load extremely slowly. Chinese audiences are very impatient, I can assure you!
  • The Chinese government started to tighten up its control on financial products/services in early 2016. The direct results were, products like binary, precious metal and P2P were NOT allowed to advertise anywhere in China.

You read a lot about market trends in China?  Well, the stories in English news/articles are far from the reality of ground marketing/sales activities and results, especially if you are result-oriented.  Just to give you some examples:

  • You might think Chinese (especially young people in tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) can understand simple English?  Unfortunately, online ads and marketing campaigns have shown us that when landing pages, ads or a CTAs include English wording, the CTR has been significantly lower.
  • Yes, there are more and more Chinese people surfing via mobile.  However, mobile campaign conversion is much lower than those on PC.  Even Alibaba/Taobao is struggling with this cruel reality.
  • I’ve been asked if social media like wechat is a good way to reach target audiences.  The answer depends on what and to whom you are selling.  The only winner so far is wechat itself, whose advertising income is growing fiercely, though not many advertisers have seen an acceptable ROI.  Your local ad agency, media partners and even local sales team will tell you, it is good for branding.  If you have deep pockets, you can spend and test freely.  But be aware that the traditional deep-pocket advertisers (consumer packaged goods companies like P&G) are moving away from social media campaigns, especially from wechat.

Why are more and more Chinese businesses looking to Europe for marketing solutions?

China is known as the “world’s manufacturing centre” and many local business are looking for opportunities abroad but the biggest barrier for them is language.  Most Chinese businesses will hire a translation agency to convert their Chinese marketing materials/websites into English.  But to be honest, a direct English translation doesn’t always make for high quality English marketing content, just like not every English speaking person can be a good marketing copy writer.  By the same token, not every Chinese person can write good Chinese content.


What attracted you to the position of China Director at Contentworks?

I had a very good cooperation with the Contentworks’ founders in the past.  They are very professional, have excellent skills in producing good quality and interesting English content ranging from e-books, website to social media.  After doing marketing in corporations for over 15 years, it is time for me to move forward and use my experience to help more businesses especially those who have real needs for English and Chinese marketing practices but may not be able to afford an international 4A agency.


What’s the first change you plan to make as China Director?

I would like to leverage the resources I have to establish a seamless and cost effective marketing implementation system in China, which includes but is not limited to online and offline media, social media, search engines, designers, etc.

At the same time, I will keep introducing Contentworks’ services and expertise to local marketing professionals and partners, so that they know who they can turn to when exploring overseas business and marketing opportunities.


With such a busy schedule, how do you relax on weekends?

I normally go out to dine and meet friends during weekends, and recently I’m volunteering at Vancouver Opera Festival as I’m always interested in cultural activities.


Where do you see the future of content marketing in China?

I think the China market will become more rational and mature to understand the true value of content marketing instead of relying heavily on advertising.  Chinese businesses aiming to enter into European, North American and Australian markets, will eventually adopt the western way of marketing communication and realise the critical role content marketing plays in branding and acquisition.  They will look for more help from local professional marketers in Europe and other targeted markets.


If you are interested in conquering the Chinese market, Contentworks has the marketing solutions. Contact the team now at

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