2020.10.20 Column

Japan B2B marketing: the ultimate guide for an effective B2B marketing activity in Japan

Marketing in Japan is not all that easy. A lot of companies just replicate their business and marketing strategies they use in their own Country, translating them in Japanese, or in English. Many of them still complain that they are not receiving those brilliant results they were expected. 

In this article, we want to share with you the essential steps for a successful B2B marketing activity in Japan.

Also, if you need further information or assistance for you B2B marketing strategy in Japan, do not hesitate to contact us!

Be prepared to enter in Japan market!

B-square and B-circle flow chartPhoto by Dose Media on Unsplash

1.    Set up a physical presence in Japan

Many American or European companies tend to place Japan in the APAC or APJ region, which does make sense in terms of geographical location, but not in terms of culture and language. 
Before starting you marketing activities in Japan, having a sales agency as a local partner or, even, setting your own physical office in Japan with Japanese staff will help your business to succeed.
This is mainly for a matter of trust, especially for B2B industries. 
Japanese people shy away from speaking English and, having a physical office with a local landline phone number help them trusting in you and understanding that your company can deal with business explanation and business deals, as well as for support and information about your products or services.

2.    Localize your website

We are in a digital age and having a website is taken from granted. But many companies still try to establish their business in Japan showing a corporate website translated in English, believing that translating it in Japanese does not worth the investment. 
Actually, translating it into Japanese is a vital step your company should do to reach the visibility of interesting Japanese lead. 
Also, it is not a matter of just translating it, but localize it for your target audience. UI design, contents, SEO are very important to make your website Japanese-user friendly! 
Here are some tips about how to perfectly compose your website to match Japanese customers! 

3.    Do not forget to localize your email too!

If you are a company based in Europe or America, you will be probably used to email with creative signatures, colors, and icons.
In Japan, the email format is not HTML-based, rather plain text. Hence, colorful email full of images may not works here. 
Be sure to create a plain text format signature, ad hoc for your Japanese customers or clients!

Developing a successful B2B marketing strategy in Japan

hoto by Dose Media on Unsplash

Now that you have set up all the necessary to establish your business in Japan, you need a successful marketing strategy, created ad hoc for Japanese market.
As we said before, Japan is a very attractive market and the potentiality to build trustful businesses here are very high, but Japan, like any other foreign country, will provide you with challenges. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic.
Indeed, as any other country in the world, Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed Japanese marketing situation, creating a coexistence of traditional and digital, which you should take full advantage of. 
For this reason, we believe that having a local partner in Japan, will help you building a solid strategy and avoid a waste of money and time. 

4.    Holding a B2B event in Japan: Physical vs. Online

Events are probably the best way to make your first step into Japan B2B market. Starting from exhibition, ideal for brand awareness and for target lead generation, to corporate conferences and seminars. 
The reason why events are so popular in Japan is because Japanese people like face-to-face interactions in business, and what place is better than a conference followed by a networking party?
Unfortunately, 2020 challenged everyone and we have seen many of our clients forced to suspend their already planned event or switch them over online
Especially in B2B, although some trade shows are still being held physically (check out this up-to-dated list!), the majority of events are being holding online. 
At Bigbeat, we have worked hard in the past few months to help our clients to switch over online. We are now providing them all the assistance they need,  from registering and streaming the webinar to the secretariat service in Japanese, essential if you want to held an event, whether it is physical or online, in Japan. 
If you need assistance for your B2B webinar in Japan, do not hesitate to contact us!

5.    Taking Advantage of Social Media… in a Japanese way!

If you are a European or US company, you would probably have dedicated some slides of your marketing plan to Social Media, taking for granted that Japanese people use SNS like abroad. 
Japan is unique also in regard to social media behaviour. According to the Digital Report 2020 by We are Social, Japan is at one of the lower positions compared the global average. And this trend remained the same also for 2021
 Also, you will probably be surprised but only 15% of Japanese social media users uses social media for work purposes (global average: 43%).
As in any other foreign country, Covid-19 played a great role also here, with a result of an increasing of 30% in the use of social media
In B2B, especially in the promotion of your webinar or event, or in building your Japanese community, Social Media are now become very important media for your strategy, that you should take advantage of.
Just be aware to use the right channel to target your audience! 

6. Digital Advertising 

Japan is the fourth advertising market after China, United States and United Kingdom. 
Especially Covid-19 pandemic has speeded up the digital transformation in Japan, increasing the investments in advertising and digital advertising by Japanese companies. 

Digital advertising is projected to reach ¥1,780,674 million by the end of 2020, with Search Advertising leading the market segment, followed by Banner advertising, and Social Media Advertising and Video Advertising.

Japan is a prosperous market where to digital advertising, but it is still a peculiar one. It is not only a matter of language barrier. Japanese culture is also very special, as well as digital environment. 
For instance, search engines are different compared to overseas, as well as Social Media channels. These differences remain critically important both in terms of branding and awareness building activities in Japan, and they could be a big obstacle for the ROI of you campaign. 

We believe that leaning on a local marketing agency helping you in finding the right strategy and channels where to digital advertising is utmost important to succeed here.

Are you ready to start your successful advertising campaign in Japan?

7.    Advertising: TV CM

In Japan, television is the first most reached media and both B2C and B2B Japanese companies take a great advantage in advertising there.
Brand awareness, brand reputation, and, for B2B, targeting senior and executive master class in short time
On the other hand, you should keep in mind that initial costs are quite high and there is a very strict screening process, which discourage foreign companies, almost unknown on Japanese scenario, in advertising on TV. 
In this article, we wrote in detail the pros and the cons, as well as the best time for advertising on Japanese TV. 

8.    Newsletters and E-mail Marketing

Sending regular newsletters to your leads, informing them about all the news about your products or services, or sending them invitation to their latest seminar or webinar is very common.
Recently, many foreign companies have been even using instant messaging tools, like Telegram, to be more real time.
In Japanese business scene, e-mail is still the most used communication tool for communication with clients and partners. 
Not only unified newsletters, but recently e-mail marketing, which provides required information to people who need it, has become very popular. 
However, we want just to advise you that the buying, selling, and use of personal information required through a purchased list is prohibited by law in Japan, and both sellers and purchasers can be punished by law. 
Hence, when email marketing in Japan, we recommend using an Opt-In address list instead of an Opt-Out list.
For more information, refer this article about privacy laws in Japan, or contact us for assistance. 

Taking advantage of a local partner for you B2B marketing activity in Japan!

Japan is notorious to be a unique market but can be very lucrative if you are able to establish yourself here. Also, customer behaviour, as well as marketing and trends are changing day after day, so we believe that having a local partner, who can support you in your B2B marketing strategy and localization is essential for your success here. 

Bigbeat has over 25 years of experience supporting foreign 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, and our own multilingual event secretariat team, who can support you in the organization and management of your event in Japan.

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!

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Originally published October 20, 2020, updated March 1, 2021.