Matthieu David: I’m delighted to say I’m joined today by Kai Hong, founder of JINGdigital. This SaaS company improves brands’ conversion using marketing automation tools. From customer acquisition to lead nurturing and life cycle marketing to customer retargeting, their solutions allow businesses to engage with their customers through their most important social channels in China. In particular, they provide CRM solutions for companies on WeChat. Do you want to add anything to that description of JINGdigital?
Kai Hong: I think you pretty much covered it. So, JINGdigital is a CRM/Marketing Automation platform providing digital optimization solutions to customers and has been involved in marketing automation in China since 2014. We help brands to define better, reach out to, and target Chinese consumers on WeChat.
What is the current company size and revenue? How many employees?
Kai Hong: Almost 10 million dollars in revenue and 130 staff.
How did JINGdigital acquire luxury brand customers?
Kai Hong: Luxury brands often spend more on speculative marketing campaigns than normal brands. They embraced having WeChat accounts first because it was potentially a more effective way of building relationships with clients than EDM emails. Also, almost everybody in China is on WeChat, so brands don’t target Chinese consumers on WeChat. They are going to fail here. They came to us because we had already built a good name for ourselves in providing premium CRM solutions for companies on WeChat. Our marketing automation in China has a good reputation.
Why is JINGdigital the top choice when it comes to CRM solutions for companies on WeChat?
Kai Hong: JINGdigital has a very feature-rich platform that gives brands a lot of freedom in creating their own tags tailored towards potential customers. Secondly, our customer service is excellent. Thirdly, we have lots of operational knowledge, which gives us lots of credibility. Although companies would like to develop their own marketing automation in China solutions, they have less money to develop and implement new solutions constantly. That is also where we have an advantage because SaaS makes sense for these companies. It gives them agility in terms of innovations, and the cost is decreased.
The JINGdigital teams – how are they categorized?
Kai Hong: Of the 130 staff, around 70 people are in R&D/product development. The remainder is mostly in sales and customer support, and then, of course, there are the managers.
What is the JINGdigital pricing policy in providing CRM solutions for companies on WeChat?
Kai Hong: When it comes to segmenting and pricing the CRM solutions for companies on WeChat that we provide, we have five main products. So, certain companies that are more B2B will not want to bring out new campaigns constantly, but luxury companies actually need to run campaigns constantly. So many things impact our clients’ price, i.e., how many followers they have. We also do ISV so clients can pair our tools with other CRM platforms they may be using. The bottom line is that companies have to make economic sense to adopt our SaaS rather than using custom/ privately developed solutions. But prices would start at roughly 1,000 USD per month.
Matthieu David: Why is JINGdigital targeting companies with 15 million USD revenue?
Kai Hong: Because the CRM solutions for companies on WeChat that we provide are better than the competition, we charge higher than some competitors. However, when we show our past figures to potential clients and generate for them, generally, the price is not an issue for bigger companies.
Initial funding of JINGdigital
Matthieu David: Initial funding – how much money did you have to raise to start JINGdigital?
Kai Hong: So, we are all entrepreneurs, so we financed the company ourselves for the first 3 or 4 years, and in the past 2 years, we have raised about 5-10 million USD from external investors.
Why do Kai Hong use the term marketing automation more than CRM?
Matthieu David: Marketing automation vs. Social CRM. You tend to use the term marketing automation a lot more than CRM or social CRM, but it seems your solutions are very WeChat-centric. Why do you use the term marketing automation more than CRM?
Kai Hong: Basically, saying Social CRM is less clear, so when you talk about it, you need to explain more, whereas marketing automation in China is understood clearly by all marketers. It’s a less vague term.
Matthieu David: In my opinion, your platform and services are much easier to use than Facebook’s advertising platform, Google AdWords, or even ZOHO’s CRM. What features do clients like about JINGdigital’s software, and which of the CRM solutions for companies on WeChat do they often end up ignoring? What are some examples of marketing automation in China that JINGdigital does?
Kai Hong: We help brands to understand customers better and to target Chinese consumers on WeChat. After adopting our solution, the solutions will help the brand better track user behavior in the very diverse WeChat ecosystem. Then we allow brands to use our platform, or we integrate their CRM system with ours. Also, we help them to implement market segmentation. We also allow them to create and execute automated responses in user journeys. Because we are on a social platform, we allow clients to easily create content with audio, pictures, and video, which they can use to target consumers. Also, our BI analytics is powerful, and it allows our clients to display results clearly.
Many systems in China like WeChat are relatively closed and difficult to implement campaigns such as ad retargeting. How does JINGdigital’s software interact with other digital assets outside of WeChat?
Kai Hong: WeChat is relatively open to innovative third-party companies like us, and we can avail of their comprehensive APIs. Unfortunately, WeChat is the only open platform, but there are other platforms like TikTok and Little Red Book with strong growth, and these could be future channels. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will target the users of China’s other huge apps in the same way we target Chinese consumers on WeChat.
Matthieu David: Is the phone number still the key to identifying the lead client?
Kai Hong: Yes.
Are there regulations similar to the GDPR for personal data collection and storage in China?
Kai Hong: So, foreign brands who want to use the data of Chinese citizens can store the data on special systems. One example is storing critical or personal data on PII servers. These servers in China will be fully compliant with data protection laws in China.
Obviously, compliance with data laws is essential for foreign brands. Many of our clients are Fortune 500 companies. Before we work with them, they will test our security systems, and because these tests are so stringent, not many other companies will pass these tests.
How does JINGdigital manage client expectations when it comes to CRM solutions for companies on WeChat?
Kai Hong: We select our customers. We will often politely decline the opportunity to provide CRM solutions for companies on WeChat who want to have bespoke solutions. Sometimes we will outsource work if there is a program the client wants that we do not have.
How does JINGdigital define their competition?
How does Kai Hong see the future of JINGdigital?
Kai Hong: Growth is phenomenal. We generate 1500-2000 leads every month, so the trend is very 5. We want to become the best SaaS company in China.
Matthieu David: Outro: We’re pretty much out of time, but we didn’t get to talk about your previous experience in founding Capvision or your experience in Entrepreneurs Organization. Hopefully, we can chat about that again. But thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Kai Hong: Yes, let’s chat again soon.
- JINGdigital is a CRM/Marketing Automation platform which has been providing digital optimization solutions to clients since 2014. They help international clients on a SaaS basis to communicate effectively with consumers on WeChat. JINGdigital is approaching the 10 million USD mark in terms of revenue and have raised between 5-10 million USD in external investment. They now have 130 staff.
- It would be too expensive for each brand to research and develop their own CRM solutions so clients use JINGdigital who they know will release new features regularly.
- JINGdigital do not provide bespoke or custom solutions. They have recently begun to outsource this kind of work.
- A strong sales team is very important to JINGdigital despite already having a very high quality platform.
- WeChat is the only platform they work on currently. Platforms like TikTok and Little Red Book are potential future partners but are currently not open to companies like JINGdigital
- Navigating data protection regulations in China can be difficult for foreign companies. JINGdigital is compliant with international standards and their security systems go through rigorous testing procedures.