2021.4.26 Column

Entering in the Japanese market?
A checklist for your successful marketing strategy in Japan.

Japan is a very lucrative market, but before launching your business in Japan, it is better to equip yourself with the tool and expertise to succeed here. Language, culture, behaviour, and even marketing is very different here, compare to US, Europe or even APAC, where companies usually place Japan. 
Also, in the previous year, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply changed Japan marketing and users’ behaviours, and this must be taken under consideration when planning the strategy for the launch of your business here. 

In the past we have written the ultimate guide for an effective B2B marketing activity in Japan. This time we want to share with you a checklist you should use before entering in the Japanese market and that helps you succeed here. 

Entering in the Japanese Market? Here a checklist for a successful strategy!

1.    Market Research

Market research is the first step to do before entering in a new market. It is necessary to familiarize with an unknown Country and market, with its peculiarities, characteristics and trends, which could be very different from your expectations. 

First of all, study very well the trends of your target industry and the competitor you have in your target market. 
Especially the competitor analysis is very important to help you identifying your product/service’s unique value proposition and what makes it different from your competitors’, as well as analysing your competitor strategy. This could help you understand better how Japan market works and what is relevant to be included in your strategy. 
A SWOT Analysis could help you a lot in this phase and attempt a whole market research on you own. However, as the Japan market is very peculiar, it can take up a lot of time and resources if market research is not your expertise or you do not know Japan very well. We suggest you ask a local marketing agency for support instead!

2.    Defining your target customer

After having defined the trends for your industry and your potential competitors, the next step is defining tour target customer, i.e., who would buy your product/service. 
Your target customer could not be the same of your local market or of another Asian Country, so it is essential to define and analyse it before shaping your marketing strategy in Japan. Many brands often use segmentation to help understand and target their audience. Of course, segmentation allows them to identify groups of customers or different sets, and where they live, their age range and probably some of their behaviour. However, have you ever created 
customer personas to better understand who your target is?
Personas are based on the analysis and research of real customers and this is very helpful to build a much more detailed picture of the (hypothetical) customer, including more emotive information such as personal motivations, what they value in a brand, what kind of communication they prefer, and so on.
If you are not familiar with Japanese market and people, it is probably better to be supported by a local agency, but keywords, or Social Media insights or even surveys/feedbacks can give you some hints as well. Definitely, customer personas are absolutely essential for your marketing strategy as well as for the communication strategy you are going to carry out in Japan. 

3.    Establish your physical office in Japan

Many businesses try to enter in the Japanese market, without having a physical office with Japanese staff or, at least, a local sales agent here. Japanese people are very careful buyers and research diligently before making a purchase., especially if you brand is foreign and new in the market. Having a physical office, with Japanese staff to whom speaking in Japanese, helps you building trust with your target audience: they are more likely to believe that your company is capable of doing business in Japan.
Also, make sure to have a local landline phone number. This shows that people can contact your company very easily and speak to a representative in Japanese for support or information. 
The Japanese staff could also help you in confirm your target audience, industry trends and competitor analysis. 

4.    Outline our marketing plan

Basing on the market research, the unique value proposition analysis and the definition of the customer personas, you are now able to do your next step towards the Japanese market, i.e., the creation of your marketing plan. 
Summing up what are your mission e competitive scope, value proposition and target audience, the marketing plan also indicates your marketing mix, budget, KPI, and of course schedule for your strategy. During the outline of your marketing plan, you will probably need a support from a local marketing agency, in order to be sure to set the right strategy since the beginning and increase the chances of success in Japan. At Bigbeat Inc. we helped many of our clients in outlining and setting their marketing plan, as well as, supporting them in marketing and communication activity in the Japanese market. If you need further information or support, contact us here!

5.    Choose the platforms for your marketing and communication strategy

Here we are. In order to fill your marketing plan out and give a concrete shape to your strategy, it is time to choose the platforms where you are going to catch your target customer.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s digital transformation has been accelerating rapidly and marketing trends have changed a lot. For this reason, it is probably better to focus on digital channels, rather than traditional ones. Of course, it depends on the type of products/service you are going to promote and the type of industry you are in, so we suggest you consult a marketing agency in Japan. 
In Japan, Social Media Channels are very different from oversea. In this article we have listed Japan’s Top Social Media Platforms in 2021, so check it out, especially if you are a B2B business.
Also, even if Japan is the world’s fourth advertising market, you have to pay attention where your are going to advertise on. For instance, Google is the most used search engine, especially by youngers, but Yahoo! Japan still remains very used by businesses in Japan. 
These are just few examples, but you should pay attention before choosing the platforms for your marketing and communication strategy in Japan. 

6.    Localize your website and contents for Japanese Market

Localized examples:“Building Together Japan 2020”: Connecting company and users in one team through online events

Your corporate website is one of you most powerful marketing and sales tool that you have at your disposal when enter in a new market. 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. 
We at Bigbeat have had many clients ask us 'Is English not ok'? or have just entered in the Japanese market with a website or contents roughly translated with Google translate, ending up having no success here. 
Furthermore, it is not just 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. Not only it is your business card to the Japanese customer, but it is also a matter of trust. 
We wrote in detail on how to compose the perfect website to match the Japanese customer, and if you are interested in localization services, we are happy to support you!

7.    Hire a local partner for your marketing activity

With all of the market-specific knowledge and expertise necessary for a successful market entry into Japan, we highly recommend you hiring a marketing agency in Japan with Japanese staff, able to help you succeeding in this particular market.
At Bigbeat, we have Japanese staff fluent in English, as well as foreign staff fluent both in English and Japanese, experts in marketing, digital marketing and communication strategies for Japan market.
With over 25 years of experience supporting foreign B2B IT and Tech companies with their marketing activities, we have helped them 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, and our own multilingual event secretariat team, who can support you in the organization and management of your event in Japan. 

We hope you found this checklist helpful for your Japanese market entry planning.

If you are considering expanding your business in Japan or are looking to create a successful marketing strategy here, do not hesitate to contact us now!

Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn! Also subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news and updates about Japan B2B market and Bigbeat Inc. delivered to your inbox!