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Japanese Distributors, Importers, and Agents

There are thousands of Japanese companies importing and distributing non-Japanese products. We’ve worked with clients in dozens of different industries and find that there are typically 20 to 45 companies or more actively importing and distributing foreign products in any given product category. Here are a few examples: “A” is an importer of fashion apparel. The company was founded in 1950 and currently has 190 employees. They are headquartered in Kobe with a sales office in Tokyo to maintain close …

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Finding Japanese Distributors Using Government Services

Many clients come to us after unsuccessfully trying to find Japanese sales partners using the matchmaking services provided by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, UK Department for International Trade, The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Austrade, German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, and Switzerland Global Enterprise. Why are these government agencies rarely successful in helping foreign companies connect with the right Japanese distributors or sales agents? I’ve talked with dozens of clients from all around the world about …

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Do You Need “Connections” To Find The Right Japanese Distributor?

I’m often asked by new clients if we have experience in their industry. The underlying belief here seems to be that you need “connections” to do business with Japanese companies or need to “know someone” in order for distributors in Japan to take you seriously. This is simply not true. We have cold-called thousands of Japanese distributors and I can say with great confidence that the vast majority of Japanese distributors are extremely open to hearing about new business opportunities… …

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Japanese Distributors – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can I sell my products in Japan? I don’t speak a word of Japanese or have any connections in Japan. Almost all foreign products sold in the Japanese market go through specialized distributors (importers). These companies handle importation, marketing and promotion of your products, warehousing, and local support. They typically purchase your products at a discount and then resell at a higher price to retailers, wholesalers, and even end-users in some industries. These distributors work closely with the foreign …

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How To Convince Japanese Distributors To Sell Your Products

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. …

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Best Way To Contact Japanese Distributors If You Don’t Speak Japanese

Some “experts” on doing business in Japan say that cold calling Japanese companies doesn’t work. They insist that the only effective way to approach these companies is through a personal introduction. This is nonsense. We’ve contacted hundreds of Japanese distributors on behalf of clients and find most very interested in hearing about products that complement the brands that they are already carrying. This makes sense if you stop to think about it. Any savvy distributor knows that the best way …

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How To Evaluate Japanese Distributors

When evaluating Japanese distributors, it’s easy to ignore companies that don’t have much English on their websites. This is a big mistake! In my experience, there is NO relationship between having an English-language site and being an effective distributor. This is because the best distributors are focused on their Japanese customers, not on attracting foreign companies who want to do business with them. And, as I discussed yesterday, if a company is already distributing one or more non-Japanese products, they …

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Do Japanese Distributors Speak English?

Clients also often ask whether they’ll have trouble communicating with potential Japanese distributors and agents and wonder if they’ll need an interpreter or translator to do business in Japan. In our experience, this isn’t necessary because distributors that are already importing and distributing foreign products almost always have employees who can speak English.   For smaller companies, this is usually the president or sales manager. In larger firms, there will be one or more employees assigned the task of working …

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How To Find Distributors In Japan

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 …

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How to Avoid “Zombie” Japanese Distributors

In the previous article, we looked at how foreign products are distributed in the Japanese market. In this article, I’m going to talk about another common mistake that foreign companies often make in Japan. This is the mistake of going with the first distributor that shows interest in their product. Let me share with you part of an email I received from a company in Europe: XYZ has been been our rep in Japan for three years but so far …

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