So you want to start a consultancy business in Japan, but where do you find your first clients?
I think the best advice to give any consultant thinking about expanding his or her consultancy business to Japan, is to contact the Japanese government agency JETRO (www.jetro.go.jp) as they should be able to assist, even to the extent of introductions to possible clients.
It’s also a good idea to leverage your home country’s Chamber of Commerce (or Chamber of Business) in Japan, and of course your home country embassy’s Commercial Section, as they should also be able to assist.
You can of course try Google AdWords on Google Japan, but how successful it will be depends on how niche your consultancy is. If you’re very niche without too many competitors, a well-optimized Japanese website on a .jp domain (.co.jp if you start a Japanese KK company, GK company, or branch-office in Japan) might well put you in the top search positions at no ‘pay per click’ cost (as of this time, Venture Japan has 39 active clients and adds new clients each month, all through this website despite not yet using Google AdWords………though I’m sure one might argue that if we had, we might have 139 active clients!).
Even in the 2020’s, many Japanese companies have internal planning teams that attend tradeshows to gather new information and meet potential partners, including writing formal attendance reports for circulation within their organization. It’s often the President and a senior manager of smaller organizations who attend such shows, so if your service is of interest to them, you are able to start the connection from the top. Japanese tradeshows and exhibitions are thus another avenue (though given the present COVID-19 pandemic, probably not until later in 2021) to consider. Although Venture Japan is not involved in selling to corporations at present, in the not so distant past we have had tremendous success exhibiting in such venues.
Other avenues for quality leads include industry associations and especially making contact with an executive or two of such associations and attending their seminars (again maybe not an option until later in 2021). We successfully relaunched a software company in the 3D analysis industry through such associations, even having the CEO’s photograph featured front-cover in trade journals more than 10 times in an 18-month period during which sales increased 300%.
In all the above there’s a lot of legwork involved. It takes time to build the relationships and create a network, but long-term it’s an excellent investment of time.