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 World Wide Web page in Japanese. Now Hunt has a new business: helping small companies market their products and services via the World Wide Web to Japan, in Japanese.
Hunt's company, Global Strategies Inc., in Monterey Park, Calif., helps clients avoid the mistakes entrepreneurs often make when they try to sell to the Japanese. For starters, says Hunt, you can forget about scoring big with an English-only Web page. "You wouldn't market a car in Japan using an English ad campaign," he notes. Also often overlooked: Japanese-only Web search engines. Listings on those search engines are critical. Hunt encourages clients to state their return policies on their Web sites; the Japanese are often leery of overseas companies, and a return policy seems to ease their worries. And Hunt's translators alert companies whenever their logos or themes are likely to strike a sour chord with Japanese consumers. Finally Hunt is likely to suggest that his clients find a mascot. It seems that Japanese audiences respond positively to the use of symbols or characters on Web pages. (Hunt is developing a cartoon character for his own Web site.)
Hunt assesses potential clients' products to decide if they have much chance of selling under any conditions. If your product won't fly with Japanese males in their twenties and thirties, he says, there probably isn't much the Web can do for you. The hottest Web-marketed products in Japan: outdoor sporting goods, Macintosh software, popular-music CDs, and gourmet-cooking items.
For information, call Global Strategies at 818-288-0376; check out its Web page at http://www.globalstrategies.com; or send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Sarah Schafer