Living in Hawaii, a lot of local businesses want to market to the Japanese. While it’s easy enough to allow sales of your e-commerce website to buyers from Japan, the sales will remain minimal. To really get sales in Japan, you need to market for the Japanese.

To get a better understanding of what a company would need to do, I talked with Tony Torres, owner and manager of MetaFloMarketing (www.metaflomarketing.com), based in Nagoya, Japan, which specializes in helping companies market in Japan.

Q: Tony, tell me a little about your background and your company?

A: I was born in New York City the year the Beatles launched their first US tour (go figure). After visiting Japan for a year in 1988, I returned in 1992 and decided to stay for good. My background is computer graphics and software development. In 1999 I was asked to help build the online marketing division for a well known Japanese DRTV company. After 6 years of working for someone else, my IT director (Eric Hladelik) and I left the DRTV business and launched MetaFlo Marketing. The idea behind MetaFlo was to leverage our experience in online marketing and sales and build a network of web properties that would generate revenue from the best affiliate offers online. In the beginning we acted as affiliates and spent most of our time identifying good affiliate offers and placing them on our sites. Eventually, other companies started asking us to manage their affiliate programs for them. Today, we own dozens of Japanese online informational sites covering everything from consumer loans to health & fitness products. We also manage the Japanese affiliate programs for companies like The Hilton, Paul Fredricks and Lifetime Health.

Q: Who are your typical business clients and what are they hoping to achieve?

A: Our typical client is a company selling either a health product or financial service. They come to us because they need one thing: sales. Since our specialty is driving Japanese customers to an online shop, our clients hope to build foundation of online affiliates that will help them achieve their sales targets and see a return on their investment.

Q: What are some basics that a company needs to have in order to market successfully in Japan? For example, is a website in Japanese required?

A: Yes, must have a Japanese website. But just translating product descriptions into Japanese is not enough. You must “Localize” your marketing and services to suit the needs of the Japanese shopper. This means;

– Product prices in Japanese yen
– Detailed information on shipping charges
– High level of security and a bullet-proof privacy policy
– A shopping cart that accepts Japanese addresses and credit cards
– And an explanation on how to return an order

Q: Can a company simply put a link to “Google translation” and be successful?

A: No. You won’t be successful, but you might be funny. Have you seen some of the stuff that comes out of those machine translators? Hilarious!

Q: If a site is running e-commerce in English and they want to get Japanese customers, do you have some recommendations?

A: Learn the market. Is there a demand for your product in Japan? Why not run a test? Put together a simple landing page for your product in Japanese. Include a link to order (if clicked, just show a message saying that your system is temporarily not taking orders from Japan). Spend a little on adwords to drive traffic to the site and see how many people click the order button. After a few days, you should be able to calculate your conversion rates and even profit. If the numbers look good, go ahead and invest in localizing your whole site. A test like this should not cost more than $700.

Q: If someone is interested in learning more about doing web-based business in Japan, who should they contact?

A: Who to contact depends on your immediate needs. If you already have an English shopping site, then you will need to contact a Japanese company that specializes in localizing foreign sites into Japanese. If you’re already set up to handle Japanese customers, and only need to drive Japanese traffic to your site, then a company like MetaFlo marketing might be able to help you set up an advertising program aimed at maximizing Japanese traffic to your site.

Thanks Tony. You can learn more about what MetaFlo Marketing offers: www.metaflomarketing.com