In the last article, we looked at the best way to contact potential Japanese distributors if you don’t speak Japanese.
I’m now going to discuss how to convince these companies that your product line would be a good addition to the products they already carry.
It is important that you give this some thought because the best Japanese distributors are usually also the most selective.
A quality product and a healthy profit margin won’t be enough to get their interest. You’ll also need to convince them that you’ll be a good partner for them.
The best distributors have a long-term view of things and it’s unusual for distribution arrangements in the Japanese market to last for decades.
For example, we recently helped a client find new representation after 54 years of doing business with the same Japanese company. Our client was very happy with their current agent but the sons who had taken over from their father had decided to take the business in a new direction.
Long relationships like this are not uncommon in the Japanese market and illustrate the importance of doing your homework and selecting the right distributor, rather than the first company that shows interest in your products.
So what “bait” can you use to catch the interest of potential distributors?
Here are some things you can highlight in your approach:
Your unique selling proposition (USP).
In other words, why someone should purchase your product rather than the available alternatives?
The quality of your product.
For many imported products, quality is more important than price. Provide specific details in this area.
The target market for your product.
Make this clear. Don’t assume that the distributor will be able to figure it out.
The success of your products in other markets.
How many distributors you have in other countries.
Training and support that you offer your distributors.
Indications you have that there is demand for your product in Japan.
For example, any sales you have already made in Japan or any information you have on competing products already being sold successfully in the country.
How long your company has been in business.
The “back story” of your company or products.
Let me give you an example. We recently helped a U.S. manufacturer of leather care products find Japanese distribution. In their approach to potential distributors, the client highlighted the fact that their products had been around since 1921 and were originally developed to meet the needs of loggers and dockworkers in the Pacific Northwest. The Japanese companies they talked to were impressed by the authenticity of these products.
How well your product complements the products that they already carry.
For example, if the distributor already represents ACME widgets, you should highlight the fact that your distributors in Canada, Brazil, and Russia also carry ACME widgets.
Obviously not everything in this list will apply to your products or company but this should help you get started.
The big lesson here is that you need to tell potential distributors all the reasons why they should take a good hard look at your products. Don’t leave anything out and don’t assume that they’ll be able to figure it out by looking at your website. The best distributors are extremely busy and you’ll only have one chance to get their attention.