Some years ago a business acquaintance told me of her time as an expat product marketer in the newly established Tokyo office of an IT networking hardware company.
The branch grew like crazy, employees worked all hours (leaving at 11:30 pm to catch the last train connection home was not uncommon for the Japanese staff) and business flourished.
Two memories remain very clear for her.
The first was in response to a customer from the academic world who signed up as an early adopter of the firm’s ethernet NIC products. After some software driver incompatibility problems had been identified as the likely cause of a number of outages, the university’s IT engineering manager wanted it fixed, along with answers.
To cut a long story short, the US-based tech support specialists eventually had to bring their R&D software engineers into the conversation with the Japanese staff. Not only did they want detailed, written explanations of what my friend’s research boffins had found, they also (politely) demanded to see the driver source code changes, albeit under a signed NDA.
The R&D team had never experienced such a sustained thirst for proprietary detail from any US or European customers, and they were often stretched to provide appropriate failure analysis and correction reports.
The lesson my friend learned? Attention to detail and communication of same, is a natural cultural business trait between many Japanese businesses and their customers. (In 18 years of living here, I agree with her assessment.)
The second memory is of the time, effort and money expended in localizing the marketing collateral coming out of corporate HQ. At first, my friend and her team attempted to translate and self-publish data sheets, case studies and press releases by themselves. However, content was changing so rapidly that they could not keep up and were in danger of burning out.
Also, many Japanese customers (and some prospects) would complain that the translations were ‘rough’ and showed a lack of attention to detail! Even outsourcing the work to native Japanese-speaking translators was hit-and-miss because the assigned translator often didn’t have the specialized vocabulary and experience to satisfy locals that this foreign company was “serious about doing business in Japan.”
My friend understood how these two lessons explained why corporate org charts often had Asia divided into ‘North’, ‘South’ and ‘Japan’. For cultural, language and business reasons, the ‘Japan market’ was not only financially important but also uniquely different.
And what does this have to do with IT content marketing in Asia-Pacific?
For one thing, you need deep pockets if you are to succeed in Asia. The geographic scale means it takes the best part of a day to fly between countries here. There are multiple languages and cultures. Between India at one end and New Zealand at the other, there’s a 7.5 hour time difference!
These factors all translate into the almost Confucian-like mantra of “time, patience and money” as the traits most necessary for business success in much of Asia. (Australia and New Zealand being the ‘Pacific’ tag in the label, ‘Asia-Pacific’.)
For IT content marketers who were hoping to quickly and cheaply port existing white papers, case studies and other collateral aimed at English-speaking Western markets to the Asian equivalents, I’ve some bad news.
At best, it’s unlikely to work. At worst, it can damage your reputation as a self-styled, committed partner to Asian countries and customers.
There is some evidence of the above issues in an eleven page IDG Connect 2011 Global IT content survey. It’s well worth downloading their free report and pulling out the Asia-Pacific details. However, on second thoughts, you don’t even need to do that because Andrea Edwards, from the Singapore-based SAJE Communications, has already done so with this informative post: IDG Connect Survey – Local Vs Global Content in Asia Pacific.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, if you are an IT marketer with Asia-Pacific responsibilities, I encourage you to read Andrea’s post and then answer these three questions:
1) What type of white papers do your potential buyers want to see in Asia-Pacific countries of greatest profit potential for your company?
2) Where will you get the type of data that will satisfy these readers?
3) How many of your customer success stories feature Asian customers and how are you going to source more of them?
Finally, I’d like to wish all readers a successful and prosperous 2012, in this “year of the dragon”.
– Mark McClure
IT Case Study Writer to the Computer Networking Industry