William Hunt struck out when he tried to market his earthquake kit in Japan's largest department stores. So his wife, a native of Hiroshima, helped him develop a Web site in Japanese. Now Hunt has moved into a new business. He helps small companies market online to Japan, in Japanese.
Hunt's company, Global Strategies, in Alhambra, Calif., helps clients avoid the mistakes entrepreneurs often make when they try to sell to the Japanese. Forget about scoring big with an English-only Web site. "You wouldn't market a car in Japan using an English ad campaign," he says. Also, he notes, people too often overlook Japanese-only Web search engines, and it's not hard to see why those listings are critical.
Hunt encourages clients to state their return policies on their Web site. The Japanese are understandably leery of overseas companies, and an explicit return policy seems to ease their worries. Hunt's translators are quick to alert companies should their logos or themes be likely to strike a sour chord with Japanese sensibilities. Finally, Hunt may well suggest that his clients have mascots. Japanese audiences, it seems, respond positively to the use of symbols or characters.
Hunt cautions that if your product is not one that will fly with Japanese males in their twenties and thirties, there probably isn't much the Web can do for you. What are the hottest Web-marketed products in Japan? Outdoor sporting goods, computer software, popular music CDs, and gourmet-cooking items.