2020.4.14 Column

Key things to know when expanding your B2B business in Japan

B2B market Japan TokyoPhoto by Louie Martinez on Unsplash

There are many B2B companies looking to expand into the Japanese market. And who can blame them, it can be a very lucrative market if you are able to establish yourself here. Although expanding anywhere can be a big investment/risk. So, many companies first want to test their prospects here so they  run a digital marketing campaign or exhibiting at one of the many B2B trade shows. 

Japan is notorious for being a very particular market that is hard to get started in. Despite this, many companies still make mistakes that cause their marketing campaigns here to get very little results. But why do many companies run into trouble when first trying to market themselves in Japan? What are the details that many foreign companies seem to miss with their initial expansion into Japan?

This article is meant to help B2B companies make sure they are ready for their expansion in the Japanese marketing.

Marketing insights Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

It is not translation, it is localization. 

This is a surprising mistake that many companies make when they first try to get into the B2B Japanese market. Some B2B companies do not see the need to have a fully or mostly localized content for the Japanese market. We at Bigbeat have had many clients ask us 'Is English not ok'? 

Japan is a market where many shy away from English very quickly and do not want to see websites or look at content that is not in Japanese. Although localizing your website into Japanese seems like a very daunting and costly venture, it is a vital one that is required for your company’s success. If you are unable to localize your entire website, be sure to localize the most important parts as you move forward such as the home page, product page, and inquiry page. 

Furthermore, it is not translation, it is localization. It is important to make sure that you are not just translating your material in Japanese but instead transforming it to match the Japanese market. After all, if you were to get on the website of a Japanese company and see less that natural English, it may push you away from doing business with that company. 

language code digitalPhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

To lower concern of a language barrier, it is crucial to make sure that your company’s website and advertisements are in natural Japanese. Especially because they will most likely be the first introduction to your company and its services

Put out the right content

So you are going to localize your website and content into natural Japanese. But what type of content should you use? 

Like any market, Japan has content that is more popular and does a better job at marketing your company. 

For example, if you go to the website of any Japanese company, you will most likely find a ‘company profile’ (Kaisha-Gaiyou) in the header bar of their website. This company profile is not just an introduction to your company but,  in order to gain the trust of the customers, companies use their profile to show their Japanese office address, establishment, annual revenue, etc., all in one convenient location.

Bigbeat, Japanese Company profile PageBigbeat's Company Profile

Another form of popular content used in Japanese B2B marketing is the customer case study. More importantly, Japanese customer case studies. Most Japanese companies care less about what has worked abroad and are searching for solutions that have been proven successful for Japanese companies. Although case studies from abroad are better than nothing, if you do have a case study in Japan you should utilize it if you can. 

But what is the point of making sure you have the company profile and Japanese case studies? When looking at a company’s website and content, Japanese companies are looking for someone they can trust. By making your companies profile publicly available, people are able to evaluate your company and make a more informed decision if they believe your company is trustworthy enough to contact. Japan is a very risk averse market, and so companies have to work to gain trust. 

Speaking of trust…

Having a Physical Office in Japan helps build trust

Although this may not be possible for some companies who are first looking at expanding to Japan, having a physical office in Japan with a Japanese staff will greatly help your company to succeed. This is because by having a physical Japanese office, people are more likely to believe that your company is capable of doing business in Japan. 

Furthermore, making sure that you also have an local landline phone number shows that people can contact your company very easily and speak to a representative in Japanese for support or information. 

Many of these details have been focused on building trust with potential customers and convincing them to contact your company. Many American or European companies tend to place Japan in the APAC or APJ region. And while this does make sense in a geographical sense, it doesn’t in language one. Even if you have a Japanese staff member, many companies still are worried that working with a company that does not have an established Japanese office will lead to issues and failures. After all, many B2B products or solutions require time to buy, implement, and master. If you are worried about language barriers during complicated explanations and business deals, you would be less likely to buy into a product or service. This can be especially true for expensive B2B solutions. 


One of the trickiest things for foreign owned companies in Japan, is to build trust with potential customers. The companies who have successfully expanding in Japan are ones that made sure they had built an infrastructure for success here. While it may take time in money, it makes sure that when you run marketing campaigns, you are giving your potential Japanese customers the tools and peace of mind to take the journey from a sales lead to customer. 

Bigbeat has over 25 years of experience supporting Foreigner own B2B companies with their marketing activities when they are first expanding to Japan. We have helped localize global campaigns and develop entirely new marketing campaigns for the Japanese market. We also have our own web systems team who can support the creation and localization of Japanese websites. 
If you are considering expanding your business in Japan or are looking to localize your campaigns here, do not hesitate to contact us here!

Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn!