HubSpot plans to launch Japan operation

US-based HubSpot is launching a new office in Japan and will continue to expand its regional headquarters in Singapore.

Kipp Bodnar, global CMO, Hubspot
Kipp Bodnar, global CMO, Hubspot

TOKYO – After Sydney and Singapore, marketing automation company Hubspot is now aiming to start operations in Japan by September 2016.

“We’re very serious and committed to this region,” said Kipp Bodnar, the company’s global CMO. “We understand it’s a fragmented region and are fully optimistic of growth in Asia.”

HubSpot has operated its blog in Japan for over a year now. According to Bodnar, Japan is among the countries in Asia setting communication trends for the rest of the world and there is a growing need to understand the language and culture of the country.

HubSpot declined to say how many people it would hire in Japan and it does not break out revenue growth by the region. The company has made significant investments in Asia-Pacific over the last two years and intends to grow its regional headquarters to 150 employees over the next three years. Its key clients in the region include TradeGecko, Happymarketer and Oxygen 2.0.

HubSpot, Bodnar said, is currently focused on educating clients on the benefits on inbound marketing, which is defined as 'pull' rather than 'push' campaigns. The biggest challenge is the inertia around marketers wanting to try something new. “The penetration of marketing technology is still small and that is because there is real change involved. Think of how long it took email marketing to be adopted. The challenge we face is one of education.”

Observers suggest tools such as HubSpot's should find favour in Japan because they act as lead generators and therefore help marketers justify their activities. At the same time, Nori Takahiro, a Tokyo-based marketing consultant whose former company, Marketing Engine, was HubSpot's first partner in Asia, pointed to some further challenges. He said HubSpot enjoyed relatively strong recognition in Japan between 2012 and 2013—a period when "inbound marketing" was a buzzword. Improbably, since then, the term has come to be more strongly associated with targeting tourists from China, he said.

Takahiro said marketing automation service providers Marketo and Pardot had attracted a significant number of users in the interim and that HubSpot would likely find it difficult to generate renewed interest in its products.

"In terms of marketing automation, Japan is already competitive" and those in the market for such software are already using it, he said. He added that while HubSpot is "the best tool if the marketer is self-motivated", Japanese marketers in general lack that level of motivation. 

In November 2015, Hubspot released its first Asia-focused State of Inbound report, in an effort to promote inbound marketing. The study found that organisations spending less than US$100,000 on marketing annually are in fact four times more likely to practice inbound versus outbound marketing. Companies were reported to be three times as likely to see higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound campaigns. 

Updated 21 June to include commentary from Nori Takahiro.

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