Affordable B2B marketing in Japan
There are many different angles that you can look at when it comes to starting your marketing in Japan. If you are well-funded, you go straight to hiring local talent or sleek agencies, but a few can afford that luxury. Leave these to high-paid marketing talents or similar price range agencies. Here, we’ll be looking at things from the ground up, with more dirt work so to speak.
Localization in Japanese
Marketing collaterals, sales pitches, corporate brochures, business cards, video content, blog posts, client testimonials, and the list goes on and on. You’re bombarded by piles of localization material, and you prioritize which comes out first. You can also search online for translation companies.
You might type
“best japanese translation companies”
Then, you get results like these.
There are a whole bunch of different lists if you look into the Japanese, and yet it is almost impossible to find and pick one company that has great quality and affordable pricing offerings. I will be writing about the localization article in a separate section, but for now, here are our suggestions:
Honestly speaking, when a local person looks at a “localized” website, she or he instantly recognizes it’s from overseas because of its wording, unique phrasing that we don’t even know, strange spacing and indents, and also a very non-Japanese layout. If it were Amazon or Apple, nobody would care, and of course, they wouldn’t make that mistake. The point is, if a website is localized unnaturally, there will be consequences.
The difficult part about localization is that even if you are paying a high fee, it does not guarantee quality. So what does quality guarantee? The answer is ONLY from your own employee, not someone from the outside.
Here are my suggestions: Hire a 3-6 month marketing intern or freelance locally. Train them, get familiar with what your product is, what your brand is about, and how you want to market it in Japan. Get the translation company to translate the collateral and review it with the local person, then finalize.
Like it or not, translation accuracy is not that perfect especially from English to Japanese. Every single perfect translation goes through its internal checks before going live. That’s what big companies do, or at least what a company knows or has the resources to do.
Lowest possible marketing activities
Once your collateral is localized, you might even try Google ads just because you already have them in your HQ. Keep in mind that a good landing page means a good user experience which is nothing to do with great translations. Putting those points aside, some try to run Google PPC ads for $500 per month for 3 months. They then say let’s see what happens. Nine out of 10, nothing happens. It might happen, but some garbage is popping up on a general marketing email list.
It’s also very hard to find a legit, credible ad consultant or agency. Thus, what we suggest is to use a third-party media provider that already has your target audience as their visitors or house-list. They might charge you a good upfront fee for it, but some media can guarantee the number of leads that they generate. If you’re already testing your product in Japan and if you’re crystal clear about where to place your ads, this sharp as an arrow approach will work. Even if not, still get a good feedback as well.
These independent media outlets are widely available across industries. We will be writing about that content later on.
After you captured leads
You might need to auto-reply to messages, or even send messages manually. These are not heavy translation tasks you do on collateral. But don’t even try using Google Translate or DeepL. Well, DeepL might be good in a couple of years. Anyway, it seems like a small text translation, but remember God dwells in the details, so as your manual messages to the inbound leads.
Eventually, if you are marketing a B2B solution, product, or service, you will need some human communication to get the job done. If you have an employee who has N1 , aka JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), more often than not, that’s far from OK. N1 is great, and it’s very hard to get that certificate. Many Japanese companies put a lot of credit on it. On paper, that works, but in real life, we doubt it.
Your certificate does not mean you can win the trust of others. We will have another article about how the Japanese think about people with N1 N3. For now, we know a person who has N1 and can’t even have a smooth conversation at all. Contrary, we know a person who has no language certificate and yet that person communicates perfectly in both business and casual circumstances.
If you are hiring a person who uses Japanese as their second language, you need to properly validate her/his abilities, otherwise you are throwing your marketing budget at them. How do you validate ? You definitely need some local support.
All in all, with a little bit of help from locals, marketing activities in Japan have gotten far better than without them, and not to mention, that leads to better ROI. If you need help locally, we’re keeping our doors open.