Entering the Japanese Market: Hiring a Country Manager vs. Finding a Partner

最終更新: 2020年12月25日


1. Japanese Market

2. Things you need to prepare to enter a new international market

3. Different types of partners

4. The pros and cons of hiring a Country Manager vs. finding a partner

5. Finding the Right Partner

Japanese Market

When expanding to Japan, companies have two key options: hire a Country Manager to manage the business locally in-house, or find a partner that will fulfill similar duties. In this article, we will cover the pros and cons of hiring a Country Manager vs. finding a partner.

Source: Teikoku Databank

The chart below shows the breakdown of foreign companies in Japan by region. There is a steady increase of companies from all included regions, with the largest investments from Europe and North America. In recent years, there has also been a significant increase in the number of Chinese firms entering the Japanese market.

Source: Teikoku Databank and Meti

Things you need to prepare to enter a new international market

Due to the recent weakness of the Yen, now is a very good time to expand into the Japanese market. Before talking about entering a new international market, let’s talk about what you need to do to prepare. You should:

  • Research competitors and market pricing

  • Identify your unique value proposition

  • Create your local online presence through digital marketing

  • Localize your brand

  • Take a trip to the location

The above are all very important steps to take, but may be difficult to do on your own, so you should consider how you can complete these steps

We also made a video talking about different ways to enter a new international market and you can see it here.

The pros and cons of hiring a Country Manager vs. finding a partner

As we discussed 2 phases of entering the new market in our previous blog post, Overall, partnering is better for companies in their early stages of expanding to Japan, and hiring a Country Manager is better when the company has established a steady foothold in a new country. This is because partnering is faster to setup and results are quick to deliver, and hiring a Country Manager takes more time because it is important to find the right person.

Therefore, to get your foot in the door quickly, we recommend partnering in the earlier stages then moving to build your own team when you have the in-house knowledge and resources to do so in a new country.

For partners, you can hire 3 types of partners.

  • Export agent who also handles marketing

  • Local Business and marketing agencies

  • Local branding, marketing consultant

A good partner should understand Western and Japanese culture and help you bridge the gap. There are not many partner candidates that satisfy this requirement for the Japanese market.

Finding the Right Partner

Below are some tips on how to find the right partner for your Japanese expansion.

  • You can contact JETRO, an organization for Japan External Trade. They have lots of information regarding potential partner candidates and will recommend the ones suitable for your business.

  • Communication is essential to maintaining the alignment of corporate principles and priorities. To help you develop your company, your partner should have good communication skills. Bilingualism is important, too.

  • It takes a long time to establish relationships in Japan. One benefit of recruiting a partner is that you can leverage their business network's scope and depth. They should have a powerful network that you can tap into by partnering if you find a partner that has done extensive cross-cultural work.

  • Your partner should have some industry track record in your area of business as well as experience working with both US and Japanese companies.

  • Roadtrip: There’s only so much asking around you can do. Nothing can replace actually visiting the country and seeing the landscape in person to further understand your own needs.

  • Relative to finding a good Country Manager, finding a good partner is easier. However, a good partner should be familiar with both Western and Japanese business cultures, and have a stellar industry track record.

In Summary:

  1. When it comes to Japanese market entry, now is a good time to take action.

  2. Understand the market challenges and size

  3. Partnering is a good option

  4. Keep in mind common mistakes and key traits when you hire a Country Manager

  5. Nothing is done 100% solo – help your Japan team achieve their best performance

  6. Make your team feel valued – communicate!


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