On a recent trip to Japan, I met with several companies who were out on relationship make-or-break missions to Japan. What was interesting about these companies was that they had successfully entered the Japanese market and have all been dealing with Japanese agents/customers for many years. They all had viable products/services and were relatively successful elsewhere in the world. On the surface, there was no reason why they shouldn’t be successful in Japan. However, Japan was proving a difficult market for them. These weren’t the only things they had in common. Other things included:
- Frustration with what was happening regarding their communications with their agents.
- Frustration at how their agents were acting regarding their products and the marketing/PR surrounding this.
- Frustration at the lack of performance of their product in Japan as opposed to how they perceived it would perform.
- Frustration at a perceived sense of lack of exclusivity for their products/services versus competitors.
- Frustration with their efforts to communicate all of the above.
In a nutshell, massive frustrations caused by an under estimation of the leg-work, presence and patience needed for the Japanese market plus a lack of appreciation of how incredibly different the Japanese market still is concerning PR/Marketing, relationships with suppliers and customers and general communications. This is, in my opinion the most important thing for companies wanting to be successful in the Japanese market and yet is the most ignored aspect, until things start going wrong. I work with many companies who are losing thousands in potential revenue in Japan by not understanding their staff, the ways things work or are missing important cultural communicational cues as to why things are not happening according to their own expectations.
Now that market entry has been made much smoother, some markets are opening up and some are positively booming, people assume that “business is business” the whole world over and everyone will play by the same rules. Not always so in Japan. More to come on this in further blogs..