As more and more consumers turn to their smartphones rather than their computers—be it for shopping, for gaming, or any other number of services—businesses need to understand the impact of their mobile marketing. Adjust, the industry leader in mobile measurement, fraud prevention and cybersecurity, provides high-quality analytics and security solutions for mobile marketers worldwide. Founded in Germany in 2012, Adjust now covers regions all around the world with 15 global offices and close to 400 employees. One of those global offices is situated in Tokyo, Japan.
We visited Adjust’s Tokyo location to speak with Mr. Naoki Sassa about maintaining a global business from the perspective of a regional office. With nearly 20 years of experience in marketing and management, he serves as Adjust’s Japan country manager. He shared Adjust’s experience in expanding business to Japan, insights about Japanese clients, and other key points that companies interested in entering the Japanese market should consider.
Opening a new global office in Japan
Q: Adjust expanded to Japan in 2014. Is there a reason why Adjust chose that time in particular?
A: The Japanese mobile app market is one of the most advanced in the world. The country is not only home to some of the most prominent mobile publishers, but also a mobile gaming hub with highly engaged local gamers. We saw the huge untapped potential in the market for mobile solutions. One of the main reasons we chose Japan was that Japan was one of the top three countries where mobile consumers spend significantly. This reflects the strengths of the mobile economy and how prioritizing mobile through infrastructure, education, and legislation will continue to have an impact on GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Q: How did Adjust prepare to enter the Japanese market?
A: From the start, we realized the importance of localizing marketing materials for Japanese clients. This remains a key priority. Education is a key tenet to Adjust, and as thought leaders in the industry, we produce a lot of research and resources for marketers in Japanese. We also host regular workshops and events – keeping clients informed, up to date, and educated about what’s going on in the mobile marketing industry.
We also focused on building our local support team to help clients. Our support team is one of our biggest assets, providing quick turnaround support to help our clients get to the root of their issues
Finally, Adjust was the first foreign tracking solution in Japan that has integration with both global networks and partners as well as all of the major domestic networks. Integration is key. It’s the competitive differentiator for Japanese apps who want to enter the market both domestically and abroad.
Q: Adjust has a lot of experience with global expansion. Did Adjust face any struggles when it first expanded to Japan?
A: Yes, the culture for implementing such tools for a fee had not been formerly established at the time. Knowing this, we set out to offer a service with superior quality and functionality, to justify this cost to our potential clients and what impact it has on improving their marketing campaigns. Today, using a variety of paid tools is the status quo for virtually all major mobile publishers.
Q: It’s been 5 years since Adjust opened an office in Japan. Has Adjust changed its business strategy in Japan over time?
A: The fundamental strategy of providing best-in-class mobile business intelligence has not changed. However, our customer base has expanded from mobile-first companies to more traditional, national brands as mobile becomes essential to every company’s marketing strategy. Adjust is now a well-established technology provider and plays a major role in shaping the future of the market. This includes challenging the current status quo, introducing new industry standards and our continuous fight against mobile ad fraud and cybersecurity. All of it being driven by our goal of making marketer simpler, smarter and more secure.
Q: Adjust’s head office is based in Germany. Do the business strategies in Germany and Japan differ significantly from each other?
A: Yes. The biggest difference comes from Japan’s strong tradition of partnering with advertising agencies for media buying. Here in Japan, companies build strong relationships with major agencies. Although many companies in Japan and in other parts of the world are trying to go in-house nowadays, our local strategy is to maintain and improve partnerships with a wide range of agencies.
We always remain impartial when it comes to agency relationships. Rather than relying on individual agencies, as is often the case, we nurture partnerships with a wide range of agencies and networks.
The global company culture
Q: How do the head office in Berlin and Japan office interact with each other?
A: Firstly, we work hard to maintain the internal culture of a fast-growing company in parallel with respecting Japanese business culture. This helps us to maintain the best relationship with clients and partners based in Japan.
We believe trust is the foundation of building a good working environment, so we have a very flat structure globally. We have an open-door policy and invite all employees to talk to management directly if they have any questions or concerns. We also put a focus on bringing the entire company—now close to 400 employees— together twice a year. Earlier this summer, we flew the entire company to Portugal for a week of work and team-building. In addition to the yearly summer retreat, we gather every winter at the headquarters in Berlin.
Adjust also places a huge focus on education. Each month, we fly all new employees – generally 10 – 20 a month – to Berlin for 3 weeks of training. This is led by our in-house Education department (a team of 7, many of who are former teachers), who have developed our Adjust coursework. The training is all done in English and consists of a mix of readings, tests, and tasks. Learning continues even after training, as our coursework includes mandatory reading and testing whenever we release new features.
Q: If the training is all done in English, does that mean that everyone in the Japan office speaks in English?
A: As an international company with offices all over the world, it’s important to have a single language so communication and information sharing can happen smoothly. For us, this is English. Working bilingually is a challenging but rewarding experience – that’s why we’re always on the lookout for talented people to join us. Our clients are Japanese companies, so the sales team usually interact with clients in Japanese.
A major part of our strategy in Japan is based on education and localization. Therefore we have an in-house translator based in our headquarters, so when new features are released, we have a Japanese version available immediately.
Q: Which office makes hiring decisions for the Japan office?
A: Both the head office and the Japan office play a role in deciding who to hire, and the interview is done in both English and Japanese. We generally schedule a face-to-face interview in Tokyo, a call interview with headquarters, and finally a team interview to check culture fit.
Q: Since Adjust checks the culture fit of potential hires, what does the company culture ultimately look like?
A: Cross-functional teamwork is key in the local office. Although the Japan office is split between different functions, we all work very collaboratively. Members of different teams such as sales, marketing, support, and tech all work together in one room as one Japan team to help customers and to grow Adjust’s footprint in the market.
We also make it a prerequisite that candidates must be open, accepting and respectful of all employees. Of course, cultural differences will always be there. But that’s something to be celebrated – our employees think differently from one another, and we like it that way.
The Japanese clientele
Q: You said investing in tools like Adjust’s was not standard at the time of expansion. How did Adjust get potential clients in Japan to trust its technology?
A: Building knowledgeable and local sales and support teams to help educate and assist clients in technology adoption and long-term use is key. Conducting regular educational seminars, demos and pitches is also extremely important, helping to remove barriers to adoption.. We will always show the kind of service system and documents that are available for product integration, all of which have been localized to the Japanese market.
Another characteristic of the industry in Japan is that clients like concrete specifications as well as a very detailed, complete feature set in products. Of course, customers also expect best-in-class service, so even outside business hours response speed is highly important. Maybe this is due to agency culture—many agency employees work until midnight.
Q: What is the biggest lesson Adjust has learned about Japanese clients as a global company in Japan?
A: We’ve learned the Japanese market is hungry for evolution in the market. While it can be a challenge to introduce new thinking to any region, we’ve found in the case of Japan, our strategy of education and product quality has worked nicely. Once the customer recognizes the need for our solution, they are quick to implement and want the best-in-class product.
Q: Has Adjust’s clientele changed a lot over the years?
A: In the past, gaming companies formed our biggest client base, but now we have a healthy distribution across industries such as e-commerce, fintech, and dating. We cover virtually all industries, because there are opportunities for any company, whatever the vertical, to succeed with mobile apps. Traditionally, many of our customers have been mobile-first companies. But now that mobile is becoming the most important marketing channel, traditional companies are turning to us for our service too.
Q: Japan is a gaming hub, so Adjust capitalized on that when entering the Japanese market. How did Adjust generate leads outside of the gaming industry?
A: New leads relied on the usual forms of networking, inbound marketing activities, and events. Now that many companies want to shift to app from web, inquiries from non-gaming companies naturally increased. For example, one of our biggest clients is Rakuten, Inc. They have many apps across the e-commerce, travel, beauty, golf, and payment industries to name a few.
Adjust now and its plans for the future
Q: What is Adjust’s most rewarding moment in Japan so far?
A: Considering how widely used our product is among Japanese companies, at this point, every day feels rewarding. It’s also rewarding to see clients who have used our product announce that our solution contributed to their success.
Q: How do you envision Adjust expanding in the next few years?
A: Adjust recently acquired the data aggregation platform Acquired.io and cybersecurity startup Unbotify in February 2019. We also formed a partnership with Adways, one of Japan’s leading world marketing agencies including the acquisition of their attribution analytics tool called PartyTrack. These acquisitions will be essential as we work towards our goal of making marketing cheaper, smarter and more secure.
Earlier this summer we raised $227 million USD in funding. With it, we have plans to invest specifically in Japan and grow our team. We will also use that funding to continue to invest in our product suite and provide marketers with a single platform for all their needs. We have many exciting new features and products in our pipeline, so watch this space!
How to survive as a business in Japan
Q: What has been the most important aspect of maintaining a sustainable business in Japan?
A: Many startups initially hire a sales director who is a potential candidate for the general manager position. But sales alone will not succeed. Long-term relationships with clients are essential. In other words, it’s important to celebrate when we gain a new client, when we receive positive feedback from them, and when we can make a profit as a foreign tech company in Japan. But companies also need to build a solid long-term strategy. It’s very important to be the kind of person who can build relationships with customers over a long period of time instead of being a salesperson who has good tricks and only aims to win. Of course, it’s great when we acquire a new client, but we need to continue to care for them afterwards, too.
Q: In the past 5 years, you’ve learned a lot about opening up an office in Japan. What advice do you want to give to businesses and foreign companies that are interested in expanding to Japan?
A: My first piece of advice would be to set up an office management and human resources teams as soon as possible, so that each team member can focus on their own roles rather than picking up ad hoc tasks. It’s unsustainable to do your day job while also serving as the office and hiring manager. Employees need to focus on their tasks at hand rather than communicating with real estate, construction or insurance companies. For foreign companies, employing English speakers or an interpreter is also extremely important – even if they are hard to come by in the mobile industry!
In addition to this, I would advise:
- Localize to the Japanese market and hire local native staff to better serve your customers.
- Open a Japanese bank account for accepting payments in JPY.
- Agency and partner neutral.
- Don’t force headquarters’ strategy in the new market, but instead allow country managers to adapt company strategy for the satellite office. They will have a much better understanding of working life on their own turf!
- Diversity and various personality types are important to create an environment where each person can move flexibly rather than forcibly.
We would like to thank Mr. Naoki Sassa for taking the time to share Adjust’s experience as a successful foreign company in Japan and his well-informed advice to businesses interested in entering the Japanese market next.
Are you interested in expanding your business in Japan, but aren’t sure how? With offices in both San Francisco and Tokyo, our bi-lingual team at btrax is here to help you with research, UX localization, and growth marketing. Contact us today so we can figure out how we can help you. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our newsletter! We look forward to hearing from you!