In the previous article, I discussed ways to avoid “zombie” distributors.
In this article, I’ll look at methods for finding potential Japanese distributors.
If you’ve spent any time at all searching the Internet for potential Japanese distributors, you already know that using Google to find these companies doesn’t work very well.
This is because Japanese distributors often don’t have English language websites and don’t do a good job of marketing themselves outside Japan.
Their primary focus is on their Japanese customers and they typically don’t do any search engine optimization (SEO) to make themselves easy to find.
This means that they either don’t show up in Google at all or they rank so low that you’ll need to scroll through hundreds of pages of search results before finding them.
This is true even for companies that deal with foreign companies on a daily basis.
For example, in recent client projects, we found that:
- Only 3 of the 27 potential distributors we identified for a high-end audio equipment manufacturer had English-language websites.
- Only 9 of the 32 Japanese distributors we identified for an electronic testing equipment manufacturer had English on their websites.
- Only 1 of the top 20 distributors of beauty salon products has an English-language website.
- Only 5 of the top 25 distributors of imported golf products in Japan have English on their websites.
Another problem with relying on Google to find potential Japanese sales partners is that others in your industry are doing exactly the same thing.
This means that any distributors you find are already being bombarded by companies from around the world wanting to do business with them.
So what the answer?
In my experience, the best way to find potential Japanese distributors is to identify Japanese companies that are already importing and distributing complementary foreign products.
Complementary products are products purchased by the same end-users that use your product. For example, if you sell baseball bats, complementary products would be cleats, gloves, balls, protective gear, tape, etc.
This is more effective than targeting distributors selling competing products because many Japanese distributors don’t handle products that compete directly with each other.
Also, it’s important to go after distributors that are already successfully distributing imported products. As I mentioned already, foreign companies often make the mistake of approaching the large Japanese wholesalers or retailers in their industry. Unfortunately these companies are rarely interested in dealing directly with foreign firms that don’t already have an office in Japan.
This method works but it can be very labor intensive. It can also be difficult to identify many of these distributors unless you can read Japanese.
This is why we’ve created tools to automate the process for our clients. You can find out about our methodology here.
In the next article, I’ll address language issues related to doing business in Japan.