Yappli, Inc. Communications Department, Community Manager/ Marketing Specialist, Koichi Shimabukuro.
Bigbeat LIVE Speaker Interview #3
Yappli, Inc. Koichi Shimabukuro
Mr. Koichi Shimabukuro has worked in marketing at Parco and Kirin and is actively on the front lines of digital marketing. He changed companies to Yappli, Inc, which is a start-up BtoB app development, management, and analysis company. Although at first, it appears that Mr. Shimabukuro has had a wide variety of careers but in actuality he has always been a marketer who has challenged himself to constantly improve and has found meaning in his work.
Mizuki Nogita, Marketing Director of Bigbeat Inc., had the chance to interview Mr. Shimabukuro in the lead up to our Bigbeat LIVE event.
The reason Mr. Shimabukuro is at Yappli.
Nogita (N): What kind of work did you do at Parco?
Shimabukuro (S): I graduated college in 2004 and entered into Parco the same year and was there until 2016. I had a very general job there. At first, I was doing anything involving the management of establishing the commerce. But I first became involved in digital marketing around 2012.
It was exactly around the same time that smartphones began to take off. I was assigned to the digital marketing department because I owned an iPhone. (Laughs)
N: I understand that you started working at Kirin, but what was the reason for your job change?
S: There was a digital marketing department at Kirin. So while utilizing my experience at Parco, I wanted to improve my digital marketing abilities. I was responsible for digital marketing for Kirin Beer, Kirin Beverages, and Mercian. We used digital media to reach consumer.
N: How was Kirin different from Parco?
S: Around the time that I started at Kirin, there were about 70~80 people in the digital marketing department. It was a large department where a lot of pros had gathered. Parco is a small company that had to build its digital marketing from scratch. And for someone like me who only had experience with marketing that had to be hand crafted each time, the flow of everyday was a lot different and I was surprised by how stimulating it was.
N: I see. Could you tell us why you decided to quit Kirin after 2.5 years?
S: If you want to succeed as a salaryman at a big company, the means are there. But for my own career I didn’t just want to be a company billboard, I wanted to be somewhere I could grow and improve at a fast rate. If I were in my early 30s, I might have made a different decision, but I turn 40 this year and don’t have the time to take it slowly.
N: Is this reason, you chose a startup?
S: I was looking for a place that I could use my past experiences effectively. And I consulted with the CEO of Yappli, who was an acquaintance of mine. Although that talk was last year I started at Yappli this year.
N: Were you worried about entering an industry you didn’t have experience with?
S: They call our current time the ‘era of 100 years of life.’ So it is not uncommon to see people change jobs in their 40s. I have been in digital marketing for a while and so I know a lot of other people in the industry and there is always news about the market. And Yappli’s mission is ‘Mobile Tech For All.’ That vision really resonates with me and I never felt any sort of discomfort because of this.
Can you use B2C experience in B2B work?
N: When you started at Yappli, it was your first time at a B2B company. Did you feel any sort of gap between B2C and B2B?
S: Think Parco has the image of a completely B2C company with its tv commercials and whatnot. But as a real-estate company with tenants who are restaurants, apparel shops, etc. it also has B2B elements. Kirin is the same way. I would do digital marketing things targeted towards consumers but before the product could be bought by the consumer, it had to be stocked by a middleman like convenience stores, restaurants, and bars. It could be called B2B2C. Because of that, there wasn’t much of a gap.
The place I felt the biggest difference was the ‘IT industry.’ My positioning in the ‘having something proposed to you’ and ‘proposing something’ changed. But the kind of people I worked with didn’t change very much and I was able to smoothly enter the company.
N: In your career, has there been anything at that you consistently treated as important?
S: Yes. I have always thought ‘it is for the consumer.’ At Kirin, they said, ‘it is not company focused but consumer focused marketing’. And I really agree with that way of seeing things.
I have really gotten into Yappli probably because it is so close to the consumer and their ‘apps.’
N: Do you like being able to see the faces of your customers?
S: In a B2B business, an agency or partner usually enters in as a middleman and it makes it more difficult to see the customer’s face. But at Yappli, we directly sell our service directly to the customer, and even with a partner in the middle, we still do some in depth following of the customer.
N: Right now, your job tile is ‘Community Manager/Marketing Specialist.’ But could you explain what your role at Yappli is?
S: Yappli is a completely B2B business and we use online advertisements and booths at exhibitions to gain leads. Those are then connected to inside sales, and the field sales team uses ‘THE MODEL’ (One model of sales process management) for closing. That is the system we use to approach customers. But I am somewhat disconnected from that model and I look for what tends to be ineffective and needs improvement.
My other role is to find companies we have not yet met and ‘enlighten’ them of our existence. Get them to know ‘a company called Yappli exists.’ I create a kind of ‘wheel of Yappli.’
N: It’s community marketing, right?
S: That’s right. So be clear there is no structured ‘community’ at the moment, but we are currently exploring that option. Right now, our user events for our customers are being run by the CS Team. I am not in marketing nor am I in sales. I am colorless and transparent, tasteless and odorless. I don’t do the normal ‘product explanation seminars. ‘I do seminars where I want people to write ‘I want to know more about Yappli.’ (Laughs)
About 60 ~ 70% of our customers are in real stores or manage an e-commerce site. Because I worked in very similar fields during my time at Parco and Kirin, I understand the troubles and challenges they often face. I think I can really play a good role by listening to their troubles. I have actually gotten inquiries from companies who were not intending on having an app created.
N: Does it feel like you are your own billboard?
S: Yes, it does. And I still think that its better than being a salaryman reliant on the company. That hasn’t changed since my time at Parco. Its especially good at Yappli, because our name recognition in the industry isn’t that high yet. I think it was the perfect opportunity to reset myself and see how much work I can do ‘without being a company billboard’.
If there is new information or something I don’t know, no matter what it is, I will go out of my way to pick it up.
N: You said earlier that you don’t feel huge differences in the work environments of B2B and B2C. But are there big differences in the methods of marketing between the two?
S: At Kirin I helped run the craft beer community. The community marketing of B2C and B2B don’t change much between each other. I think it has become an era where the tactics of B2C and B2B marketing aren’t very different from each other. Of course, there are differences in the decision-making process regarding purchasing of the product. But I think there are a lot of very similar things between the two, for example the importance of referrals.
N: There are lots of new tools that are being made for digital marketing, which is the specialty that you have focused on. What kind of awareness do you have that keeps you from being swept away by technology?
S: Generally, I hate having to input information. If there is new information out there, I will go to out to learn it. When there is something that I don’t understand, I will find someone who is an expert in that thing and contact them on Facebook. And then go meet them in person.
They say that ‘brimming curiosity’ is shallow, but I am making sure to have a mindset that makes me go out and learn new things. I want people within and out of my company to think ‘If you ask Shimabukuro, he will give you information faster and in more depth than Google. I am very greedy, so I want to hold all of the cards. (Laughs)
N: Could I ask for your final comments to the people coming to this years Bigbeat LIVE?
S: As someone who has only worked at a startup IT vender for half a year, it is an event that can really open doors to new opportunities. I want people to come who are proud that they are ‘marketing beginners.’ And I want to make it the place where we can have two-way conversations. Maybe I’ll mark myself as ‘beginner.’ (Laughs)
I am really looking forward to meeting like minded people who want to improve together.
N: Thank you for your time today!