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Custom Media has worked with a wide variety of overseas B2B companies and helped them achieve success in Japan.

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B2B Building Blocks for Success in the Japanese Market

We explore some of the key ways B2B brands can achieve their goals in Japan, and share some of the success stories that Custom Media has played a role in creating.

As a global economic power, Japan offers an appealing market to enter for overseas companies. It has the world’s third-largest GDP and the fourth-largest purchasing power parity. Furthermore, it is known for being an economically and politically stable country with excellent business ethics, which can serve as an excellent springboard into other Asia–Pacific countries.

However, entering Japan is not without its challenges, which can be quite daunting if unprepared. The language can be difficult to master, its business culture can be difficult to quickly integrate into, and both consumers and business customers can be demanding.

Dos and Don’ts

Businesses that are looking to enter Japan—including those that focus on the B2B market—need to be aware of several things when it comes to the country. Japan is a very group-oriented culture that tends to avoid uncertainty, which can influence the way that buyer committees and the approval process work. You shouldn’t expect immediate decisions to be made in meetings, which are usually held to collect information, not make decisions. Your Japanese partners will meet you to listen to what you have to say, not to reach final outcomes. Trying to reach a final decision during a meeting could harm your relationship with your Japanese partners.

As a business, even though you may have had success in expanding to countries outside your home market, it’s key to understand that you will need to take a different approach in Japan. Don’t come with preconceived notions that what worked in your home country—or other countries—will work in Japan. You’ll also want to research and select any potential business partners very carefully. Who you do business with here can mean as much as your business itself. Having the right people on your side can make all the difference.

And as Sam Bird, COO at Custom Media, explains, you need to be patient. “Keep in mind that overnight successes don’t usually happen in Japan. If you’re a foreign brand, it takes time to develop trust among your potential customers and your partners on the ground.” It’s also important to demonstrate your commitment to being here for the long run, rather than trying to make fast profits without understanding and appreciating the country.

Overseas businesses that approach the market with aggressive sales tactics are not likely to find success here. It’s important to take a conservative and measured approach, rather than a pushy one. You should also not hope to be able to conduct most of your business in English. You’ll want to have a trustworthy Japanese partner, or someone on your team who can professionally conduct themselves in Japanese.

It goes without saying that top-notch localization of content is key, and you’ll want to rely on expert transcreation services performed by native Japanese speakers. Brands that have tried to use machine translation for their copywriting have had disastrous results here.

Custom Media has worked with a wide variety of overseas B2B companies and helped them achieve success in Japan.

Steps in the Right Direction

There are some key approaches that B2B companies will want to keep in mind when it comes to Japan. One of them is putting data at center stage. Decision makers are keenly focused on the details, so you’ll want to support any claims you make about your business with case studies and survey results. Proof of concept is of central importance. Any articles you have written about your business or the brochures that you distribute should be full of facts and data, and you should ideally be creating content that’s appropriate for a variety of buyer journeys, personas, and stages.

You’ll also want to build trust and develop relationships when it comes to your approach here. This includes investing time in relationship-building activities, such as attending networking events, joining industry associations, and developing strategic partnerships. And as you make your first connections, you should establish a good reputation by delivering on your promises.

Keep in mind that overnight successes don’t usually happen in Japan. If you’re a foreign brand, it takes time to develop trust among your potential customers and your partners on the ground.
Sam Bird
Chief Operating Officer
Custom Media

Another crucial approach is to try to establish a unique position in the market. You can do this by understanding local competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and unique selling propositions—and then developing a unique value proposition tailored to Japanese customers’ needs that offers superior quality or innovative solutions. This is where overseas companies can leverage global expertise and experience.

And finally, you’ll want to hone in on the decision-making process when it comes to the B2B journey: this means identifying key decision-makers and influencers within target companies and gradually building strong relationships with them. Through this process, you should be providing clear and comprehensive information, addressing their concerns, and offering personalized solutions. You should be trying to align with the specific needs of each stakeholder to expedite the decision-making process.

A Strong Track Record

While taking these points to heart are important, for B2B success in Japan, it’s even more important to have a partner that you can count on here—one that has years in the market and experience to go with it. Custom Media has a track record of helping B2B companies enter or expand in Japan, ranging from tech companies to food providers.

For leading cloud security company Zscaler, we collaborated with them to create a series of videos that helped increase awareness among their core customer base, while also developing an employee branding program that helped to attract staff in a very competitive talent market.

And working alongside Fivetran, a top data integration service provider, we helped the company get started in Japan with its first Japanese sales and marketing material, which included a transcreated website, content creation, and a Japanese script and voiceover for their product demo and explainer videos.

And finally, when OBE Organic, an Australian exporter of premium meat, was looking to increase their impact in the Japanese market, they worked with us to support their Japanese distributors by helping to raise awareness about their products. We developed an appealing one-page Japanese website for them and used our network within the Japanese media industry to get the word out about their products with a bilingual press release.

Custom Media is looking forward to helping your B2B product or service reach the next level in Japan. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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