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Guide to a Market Entry Specialist in Japan

Japan’s market is highly developed and competitive, providing considerable chances for foreign companies looking to broaden their customer base and boost profits. However, due to the distinct business, cultural, and regulatory environments, breaking into the Japanese market can be difficult. In our interviews with many professionals in the Japan market entry space, the consensus is that things take 3 times longer in Japan compared to other markets. It takes time to establish trust with Japanese consumers, clients, and partners, therefore we recommend you educate yourself further with our podcast series with multiple specialists or check out our article on Japan market entry.

What is a Market Entry Specialist?

A market entry specialist is a specialist who helps companies enter new markets, like Japan. This may involve conducting market research, finding suitable partners or distributors, overcoming legal and regulatory requirements, and creating a specific market entry strategy or running your operations until you can generate enough revenue to put the right team in place.

In addition to guiding you through the difficulties of entering a new market, working with a market entry specialist in Japan can help you avoid costly and time-consuming blunders and create successful tactics that improve your chances of success thanks to their expertise and understanding. You may increase your chances of success in the Japanese market by using their insights and advice to help you make decisions that are well-informed and catered to your particular business demands. Therefore, don’t be reluctant to contact a market entry specialist in Japan right away and begin your path to success in the complex Japanese market.

Key skills and experience required

To be an effective market entry specialist, one must possess key skills and experience, including the following:

Deep understanding of the target market: The corporate culture, customer behavior, and market trends of the target market must be thoroughly understood by a market entry specialist in Japan. They should be familiar with regional customs and practices like ringisho and horenso communication and have prior work experience in the target market or a comparable market in Japan.

Strong communication and negotiation skills: A market entry specialist in Japan must be able to effectively connect with local partners and negotiate contracts on behalf of their business, thus these skills are essential. They should be fluent in the language of the region and possess strong interpersonal abilities. In the case of Japan, they should ideally have JLPT N2 Business Level language skills when working with foreign ones.

A huge network of connections: It is important for a market entry specialist in Japan to establish solid connections with distributors, and professionals like accountants, and lawyers, potential clients, advisors, and people who can make introductions who will help you expand your reach. This will make things like setting up your company, providing work visas, and hiring much smoother down the road.

Industry-specific knowledge: A market entry specialist in Japan should be knowledgeable about the pertinent industry or sector, including the competitive environment, major players, and market trends. As a result, they may offer specialized solutions that are adapted to the requirements of the client.

Regulatory compliance knowledge: A market entry specialist in Japan needs to be knowledgeable about the local rules and laws that apply in the target area. This entails understanding the laws governing business licenses, taxation, and customs, among other things.

In episode 25 of the Scaling Japan Podcast about finding product market fit, Timothy Connor, a market entry specialist, talks about how in Japan your product ingredients have to be on the approved list as opposed to not being on the banned list like other countries. A small point like this could have a huge impact on your business.

Additionally, a market entry specialist in Japan should be updated with the latest news and recent changes in the regulations of the country. A post on Taurus Financial lists some rules and regulations in doing market entry to Japan.

Project management skills: A market entry specialist in Japan should possess strong project management skills, including the capacity to interact with regional partners, manage several assignments and deadlines, and give regular updates to their clients.

Analytical and problem-solving skills: Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities are essential for a market entry specialist in Japan so they can provide specialized solutions for their clients. They should be able to evaluate market information, spot trends, and create plans that specifically cater to the requirements of their clients.

Experience in cross-cultural environments: A market entry specialist in Japan should have experience working in cross-cultural situations because they frequently deal with clients from many nations and cultural backgrounds. This also entails the capacity to adjust to various communication and cultural standards.

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Types of services offered by a market entry specialist in Japan

Market entry specialists offer a range of services, which may include the following:

Market research and analysis: The target market can be thoroughly researched and analyzed by a market entry specialist in Japan, including analyses of competitors, customer behavior, and market trends. Businesses can use this information to better understand their target market and create strategies for breaking into that market. If you would like to know more about doing market research in Japan, Andrew Edsall discusses this in detail in episode 30 – Japan Market Research of the Scaling Japan Podcast.

Partner identification and due diligence: A market entry specialist in Japan can assist organizations in locating possible distributors or partners in the target market and in conducting due diligence to verify the partners’ dependability. Many software sales partners and distributors in Japan are hesitant to work with foreign firms and having a trusted partner can greatly reduce the time to make a deal.

Regulatory compliance and certification: The complex regulatory requirements in the target market, such as business registration, taxation, customs, and licensing, can be navigated by enterprises with the aid of a market entry specialist in Japan. They can also assist businesses in obtaining necessary certifications and approvals. Industries such as food and healthcare have strict individual regulations which can be easily worked on by a market entry specialist in Japan. As mentioned above, Japan has approved a list of ingredients that must be abided by businesses. 

Additionally, having knowledge of accounting regulations is a huge advantage for businesses trying to penetrate the Japanese market as it can be complex for foreigners that are new to the Japanese landscape. Here is our article about a guide to tax accountants in Japan if you would like to know more about this topic or find an English-speaking accountant.

Ultimate Guide to an Accountant in Japan

Business incorporation and licensing: Incorporating a legal entity in the target market, including company registration, legal compliance, and licensing, can be assisted by a market entry specialist in Japan for enterprises.

Sales and marketing support: A market entry specialist in Japan may assist companies in creating sales and marketing plans that are specific to the target market, including brand building, advertising campaigns, and customer acquisition. They may also have a firm that they outsource the work to or have the capabilities in-house.

See our guide to digital marketing in Japan for more information about advertising campaigns.

Guide to Digital Marketing in Japan

Complaint handling and customer service: It is important for a market entry specialist in Japan to provide excellent customer service to businesses. In Japan, people are very particular with how their complaints are handled, and they may most likely base their trust on how well you handle an issue and resolve it. Kim Pedersen specifically mentioned this as a key skill in his article on Japan Country Manager.

Localization services: A market entry specialist in Japan can assist companies in customizing their goods, services, and marketing plans to the target market’s regional customs and languages. They may also do research in advance to make sure that you have a product-market fit in Japan before expanding sales here. They can also provide guidance on how to improve the product or highlight different features to succeed here.

Localization and local targeting are very important in doing a market entry to Japan as the country has a very diverse regional culture. A market entry specialist in Japan should be knowledgeable about creating effective strategies for penetrating a region depending on the business requirements. This may mean working with SEO marketing as this can aid in diving deeper into local target areas. See our guide on finding an SEO marketing (agency) in Japan, for more in-depth tips and recommendations.

Project management and support: A market entry specialist in Japan may help organizations manage their projects, including managing deadlines, finances, and local partners, throughout the market entry process.

Benefits of Hiring a Market Entry Specialist in Japan

Market Entry team in Japan

Hiring a market entry specialist in Japan offers several benefits for businesses looking to enter the Japanese market. Some of the benefits of hiring a market entry specialist in Japan include

Access to local market knowledge and networks

One of the key benefits of hiring a market entry specialist in Japan is having access to local networks and market knowledge. Market entry experts are well-versed in local markets, including consumer behavior, market trends, and legal and regulatory requirements. Businesses can use this information to better understand their local market and choose appropriate market entry strategies.

A network of local partners and stakeholders, including distributors, suppliers, and government officials, has also been formed by a market entry specialist in Japan. In order to succeed in Japan, businesses may need to create significant contacts and ties in the local market.

A market entry specialist in Japan also has a thorough awareness of regional business customs and practices, which can be difficult for companies from other nations and cultures. They can offer direction and support to firms so that they can negotiate cultural differences and stay clear of miscommunications that might have a detrimental effect on their operations. One common reason foreign companies go out of business is poor customer support and a qualified specialist will make sure both your foreign and Japanese staff are up to par.

Reduced risk and cost of market entry

It can be costly and risky for foreign companies to enter a new market like Japan since it takes several years to get established and tiny oversights can ruin your chances of succeeding. They offer insightful analyses of the regional marketplace and customer behavior, spot potential dangers and difficulties, and suggest workable solutions. They not only assists companies in avoiding costly errors but also guarantee that they make well-informed judgments that support their corporate objectives.

A market entry specialist in Japan also has a thorough awareness of the regulatory environment and can guide businesses through the intricate legal and regulatory landscape of the nation. This entails obtaining the required licenses, permits, and certificates and abiding by local laws. A market entry specialist in Japan can assist companies avoid exorbitant fines and legal issues by assuring compliance with regulatory regulations. This lowers the costs and hazards of entering the market and enables companies to concentrate on expanding their presence and market dominance in Japan. For instance, bank processes and regulations in Japan can be bureaucratic for foreign businesses so it is important to know how this can be navigated through a help of a market entry specialist in Japan. In my article about creating a startup in Japan, I mentioned there that one challenge for market entry for startups is the banking process.  Here is a solid article about getting a corporate bank account in Japan.

Assisting the business with overcoming regulatory barriers can reduce cost as well as risk for launching the business. You can check out more about the introduction to Japan market entry in episode 24 of the Scaling Japan Podcast with MAor Shwartz.

Being able to hire the right leader

Companies sometimes hire the wrong Japanese company leader and Japanese salespeople which will set them up for failure from the start since they don’t know how to evaluate a Japanese person. Our podcast episode with Timothy Connors on strategic leadership in Japan is a good reference for this. 

Having awareness of the above benefits of partnering with a reliable market entry specialist in Japan can help reduce the challenges in launching your business in the market. Additionally, tailoring the business strategies according to their requirements is a huge help so that they can reduce costs and use time efficiently. This may include using the right marketing strategies such as digital marketing as this has been quite the trend in businesses, particularly in Japan. See more about the guide to digital marketing in Japan below.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Market Entry Specialist in Japan

Market Entry Specialist team

Choosing the right market entry specialist in Japan is critical to the success of a business’s entry into the Japanese market. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a market entry specialist:

Reputation and track record of the specialist

Reputation and track record are essential factors to consider when selecting a market entry specialist in Japan. Here are some reasons why:

Demonstrated success: The track record of a market entry specialist in Japan reflects their capacity to assist companies in entering and succeeding in the Japanese market. Businesses can improve their chances of success by selecting an expert with a successful track record for market entry.

Credibility: The reputation of a market entry specialist in Japan is essential for building trust with the company. Choosing a trustworthy expert can give assurance and guarantee that the company’s interests are safeguarded during the market entry procedure.

Access to resources: A specialist in Japan who has a solid reputation and track record is likely to have a wide network and access to numerous resources. This can give companies access to priceless local information, contacts, and assistance services.

Risk reduction: Businesses can lower the risks involved with entering a new market by selecting a market entry specialist in Japan with a solid reputation and track record. A specialist with a track record of success is more likely to foresee potential problems and have plans in place to address them.

Expertise in the relevant industry or sector

Expertise in the relevant industry or sector is a crucial factor to consider when selecting a market entry specialist in Japan. Here are some reasons why:

Deep understanding of the industry: A market entry specialist in Japan with experience in the concerned sector or industry will have a greater comprehension of the rules, customs, and cultural quirks pertinent to the company. This might assist the specialist in creating a unique market entry plan that is adapted to the unique requirements and challenges of the firm.

Relevant networks and contacts: A specialist with industry knowledge is likely to have pertinent networks and contacts that may be used to support the company’s efforts to enter the market. These connections can assist the company in managing the regulatory environment, creating introductions to possible partners and clients, and providing insightful information about the local market.

Industry-specific knowledge: An expert in the field can offer the company industry-specific knowledge that will enable them to choose their market entry approach intelligently. Information on regional rivals, market trends, price plans, and consumer behavior are a few examples of this knowledge.

Risk mitigation: The organization can reduce risks related to entering a new market with the aid of a specialist with industry expertise. They are able to recognize potential opportunities and obstacles unique to the sector and create proactive strategies to deal with them.

Enhanced credibility: An industry expert with relevant market entry experience can aid the company in building trust with potential partners and clients in the Japanese market. They can offer assurance that the company is devoted to offering pertinent products or services and is aware of the local industry scene.

In general, choosing a market entry specialist in Japan should take knowledge of the pertinent business or sector into account. Businesses can create a unique market entry strategy, reduce risks, and establish credibility with prospective partners and consumers by selecting a specialist with industry-specific knowledge, networks, and relationships.

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Understanding of the target market and customer base

Having a thorough understanding of the target market and client base is one of the most important requirements for success when entering a new market. A market entry specialist in Japan can offer insightful information about the Japanese market and its distinctive features. In order to create efficient marketing and sales strategies that appeal to the target customer base, they can assist organizations in identifying the preferences, behaviors, and wants of their target market. To help guide corporate decisions, this can involve carrying out market research, examining market trends, and obtaining customer feedback.

A market entry specialist in Japan can also assist companies in comprehending the Japanese market’s competitive environment. They can highlight prospective areas for growth and expansion as well as reveal the advantages and disadvantages of rivals. Businesses can construct effective strategies to set themselves apart from rivals, generate distinctive value propositions, and establish a strong brand presence in the Japanese market by analyzing the competitive landscape.

Finally, a market entry specialist in Japan can assist companies in locating potential stakeholders and partners in the Japanese market. Suppliers, distributors, and government representatives are just a few of the influential people they can introduce you to and link you with. This can assist companies in building solid networks and relationships in the Japanese market, which might be essential for success. A market entry specialist in Japan may assist companies in developing successful strategies that connect with the local market and raise their chances of success in the Japanese market by having a thorough understanding of the target market and client base.

Honest communication

A good market entry specialist in Japan should be able to convey what is beneficial and what is not to the business when launching a product or service in Japan. Because they are, after all, market entry experts, providing transparency on marketing strategies can be helpful for businesses to navigate through their market entry to Japan.

This was mentioned in the recently concluded seminar about Social Media in Japan for business, a monthly Japan Business Seminar by Scaling Your Company. Guests Dustin Ikeda of Hashi Media and Dimitri Shimaniuk of Enjin Media mentioned that an agency that always agrees to a business’ suggestions can be a red flag as an agency’s responsibility is to challenge the business plan so that it fits the market and eventually become successful. This should also be true when dealing with a market entry specialist in Japan. You can watch the recording of the seminar here.

Recommended Market Entry Specialist Agencies 

It is important to connect yourself with a trusted market entry specialist in Japan in launching your business. Below are some of our recommendations.

  • Synnovate and Timothy Connors. Timothy, the company’s founder, and manager, has spent the last 20 years integrating Japan Market Expertise, Strategy, and Digital Transformation with a laser focus on customers to assist businesses and brands enter and grow in the Japanese market.
  • Gourmet Pro. GourmetPro is a global talent network that enables food and beverage businesses to increase their workforce as needed.
  • Kim Pedersen. His knowledge is based on a total of nearly 50 years of interaction with Japan, including 25 years in various business positions as a Japan specialist. Kim helps companies that want to expand, break into a new industry, fix an issue, or discover their next business partner. He has extensive expertise in startups in Japan, including market analysis, setting up offices and businesses, carrying out sales and marketing, managing P&L, developing strategies, addressing problems, dealing with customer complaints, and developing new companies.

For businesses considering entering the Japanese 

We can also advise you on finding the right market entry agency to guide your launch into the Japanese market.

Tyson Batino, an experienced business founder, advisor, and CEO of Scaling Your Company is currently assisting more than 25 companies in Japan to scale their companies. He also helped 17 companies enter the Japanese market through the 500 Global Program. He can guide you through entering the complex market in Japan. Reach out to him or to his team here.

Coaching from scaling your company

Conclusion

It can be difficult and complicated to break into a new market, especially for companies that have no prior expertise or understanding of the regional marketplace. Businesses can access a variety of beneficial services by working with a market entry specialist in Japan, including access to local market knowledge and networks, decreased risk and cost of market entry, help to navigate cultural and regulatory barriers, and the capacity to tailor market entry strategies to particular business needs. With these advantages, companies can better position themselves for future growth and expansion, strengthen their connections and networks, and boost their chances of success in the Japanese market. Scaling Japan Podcast has a podcast series mainly about market entry to Japan, you can check it out here if you are interested in launching your business in Japan as a foreigner.

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