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by Gary InwoodJun 06, 2017

by Gary InwoodJun 06, 2017

Five Ways to Generate Leads from B2B Websites in Japan

Why Have Your Sales Peaked in Japan?

Most B2B companies with subsidiaries in Japan encounter a period when sales seem to plateau. This turning point is often reached when the Japan business is still only one or two percent of global sales. Going head-to-head with Japanese competitors by allocating more sales resources erodes profitability, precipitating either a withdrawal from the market or a downgrading of its long-term prospects.

However, there is no lack of industrial demand in Japan. For example, the manufacturing sector is slightly larger than Germany and about 40 percent of the United States [1].

Diagram 1: Manufacturing Industry Size (2014 GDP)
Comparison of manufacturing value-added between Japan, Germany, and the United States shows there are many opportunities for BtoB companies to grow their business in Japan

Note: PPP adjusted for Constant 2011 International Dollars

Moreover, the requirements of industrial customers in Japan are not that different from customers in other countries and the majority of Japanese companies now have global procurement channels, so there is little resistance to using an overseas product if it is world-class and support is available in Japan.

Digital Marketing Driving Customer Acquisition Costs Down

What about the competition? Digital marketing now plays a key role in customer discovery and retention for B2B companies in Japan. For example, several FA (factory automation) companies now have marketing databases with over 100,000 registered email addresses. In other words, online marketing initiatives now drive customer acquisition costs, meaning if you are not generating leads in Japan from digital activity, then the future of your local business may be uncertain.

Every great journey has to start somewhere, and your journey to digital marketing greatness in Japan needs to start with your website. So how should you go about generating leads from your website? The answer is to focus on improving user experience.

Invest in Favorable User Experiences

The capacity of a B2B website to establish relationships with visitors (i.e. turn a visitor into a repeat visitor) is a combination of its ability to attract traffic through sound SEO practices and provide positive user experiences.

Diagram 2: Measuring the Value of a B2B Website
The value of a BtoB website is the combination of its traffic from search engines and the degree of satisfaction visitors gain from its content

When someone visits your website and does not find what they are looking for, that is a negative experience. If this happens repeatedly, then people learn to ignore your site even if it does appear in search engine results. On the other hand, positive online experiences are also reinforcing and can enable you to build strong relationships with visitors in a short period of time.

With over 400,000 visits per month [2], Omron’s Japanese-language industrial automation website ( is one of the largest B2B websites in Japan. It is a no-frills information platform requiring user registration to access a huge repository of catalogs, technical papers, manuals, and CAD drawings. Registered users can also purchase directly online and borrow equipment for testing.

Diagram 3: Layout of Omron FA Home Page
Layout of Omron Industrial Automation Website Home Page highlighting the BtoB contents most valued by visitors

Generating Leads with B2B Websites

Fortunately, you do not have to do everything Omron does in order to get results from digital marketing in Japan. Even local subsidiaries with only a small number of employees can capture business from Japanese competitors through appropriate use of their websites. Here are five ways B2B websites can be used to improve lead generation in Japan.

Diagram 4: Five Ways to Generate Leads with B2B Websites
Five ways to generate leads in Japan with BtoB websites

Establish a Pipeline of Technical Support Materials for Localization

Multinational companies that operate in English-language markets have a large stock of technical support materials which they can localize for the Japanese market at a fraction of the cost of producing new material. Content is the primary driver of B2B website success and a degree of commitment is required to keep it fresh. Creating a pipeline of technical support materials for your Japanese website will ensure visitors drawn to your site through sound SEO practices have a positive online experience and return again in the future.

Multinational companies also have an advantage over their Japanese competitors through early adoption of responsive web design, which allows webpages to be viewed easily on small screen devices such as tablets and smartphones. In contrast, many leading industrial websites in Japan are difficult to view on devices smaller than a laptop.

For example, factory automation is one area in Japan where online competition is particularly fierce, with suppliers such as Omron [3], Mitsubishi Electric, Keyence, and Panasonic competing to enhance their online presence and set new standards for B2B user experience. However, none of these sites are designed for use on smartphones. This provides overseas companies with the opportunity to serve technical content to engineers outside of the workplace.

Make Spare Parts and Consumables Available Online

Providing customers with a means to purchase spare parts or consumables online can improve customer service and free up sales support resources. It is usually possible to establish a small-scale online shop by adding a module to your website’s content management system or using a compatible third-party e-commerce tool. An e-commerce solution not only streamlines your aftermarket customer interactions, it provides you with a wealth of analytics which can be used to improve sales efficiency.

A small-scale e-commerce site will enable you to monitor your relationship with customers in real time. For instance, you can schedule sales calls for customers who show signs of reducing their online purchases, in plenty of time to prevent switching to other suppliers. You can also reduce the response time for customers in indirect sales channels, by allowing them to bypass your distributors and order direct. Long delivery times for spare parts is a major source of dissatisfaction for customers in Japan with equipment purchased from manufacturers overseas.

Make Recommendations to Website Visitors

Recommendation engines can be used to recommend content to visitors based on the web pages they visit. Examples of content B2B customers find helpful are popular services, educational opportunities, special offers, and technical support documents.

Many B2B companies make the same content recommendations to anyone accessing a particular web page. However, these links will soon appear stale to visitors for whom relevant and personalized recommendations act as motivation to revisit a site. Recommendation engines are often used (abused) to serve promotional material, so caution must be exercised to avoid loss of credibility.

Know Who Accesses Your Website

There are a number of tools available that let you see which companies visit your website. These work by resolving the domain of visitors with a database of corporate IP addresses. When one person accesses many pages or a number of persons access the same pages, then you know that this company has some specific interest in your offering.

These tracking tools can help you to identify new customers and provide additional opportunities (viz. talking points) to approach existing ones. However, the data will only be helpful if you have a healthy site with fresh content which is capable of attracting visitors.

Keep Your Home Page Focused and Fresh

The home page is usually recognized by search engines as the most important page in your website. Focusing your home page on several strategic products instead of emulating your global website will improve your Japanese-language website’s position in search engine results.

Keeping your home page fresh by renewing banners, updating event information, and displaying the latest group news will reassure visitors that your company is healthy and strengthen its branding as a global player. It is advisable to enlist your local sales team to brainstorm ideas for the home page as it is often the first contact a customer has with your company and sales people understand better than anyone the importance of good first impressions.

Take a Moment to Consider Your Website Options

Whether you have 10 or 200 persons in your Japan operation, it is worth considering how your website can be better used to support profitable sales growth and narrow the gap with Japanese competitors. By optimizing your website for a few strategic products you will be able to increase traffic from search engines and convert more visitors into customers by focusing on improving user experience.


  1. World Bank and OECD National Accounts data
  2. SimilarWeb results for February to April 2017
  3. Omron’s website provides an excellent experience for PC users, however, as of June 2017 only the top page is optimized for viewing on smartphones.