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Professional achievements in 2nd year, issues to solve for 3rd year

As we enter the final days of our last quarter of this financial year, I want to take stock of what we have achieved in the last year and what lies ahead. It’s been an exciting year, if a little turbulent particularly in the past 1-2 months.

Last year in review

I joined Sophola during Q2 of last year. It took some time to familiarise myself with their products and way of working, but over time I became more involved particularly in my coworker Kenta’s work with our partner AdScale. I also took a more active role in our cooperation with our partner Longtail UX, particularly after one of our coworkers Kaori went on maternity leave.

Over Q3 and Q4, this developed further and I began working with Kenta on our JME project. There were two disparate projects under this umbrella term: firstly, supporting international brands and agencies entering the Japanese market and, secondly, expanding the AdScale platform to agencies in APAC. 

The first of these had some success, although suffered to some extent from having to wide a focus initially. The JME service went from being conceived as a one-stop service to something more focused. Our initial clients in this project were more focused on the e-commerce management side with a lot of initial implementation, these clients have now been phased over to ad management. Our clients in Q4 have also fallen into the ad management side.

As a result the Japan market entry side of the JME project has increasingly focused on ad management. This goes hand in hand with SOPHOLA’s work with AdScale and AdScale e-commerce in APAC.

The second branch of the JME project, which isn’t really related to Japan market entry, was also a limited success. Our work with Primal has proven the viability of the service and the work with them has led to a massive improvement in our processes. We are in a much better position now to take on multiple new agencies and manage them successfully as a result.

In addition to the above I spent some of my time this last quarter trying to improve and streamline how we work. Particularly for my team’s projects we have tried to make things as efficient as possible using tools like Asana.

Overall the last year was a qualified success. Both the JME and APAC agency projects have considerable potential to grow. Hopefully the work we have done this year puts us in a good position to succeed next year. Which brings us to…

Challenges for the next year

There are two big challenges for 2020: making my projects as self-sustainable as possible while ensuring they can grow their revenue.

During the next quarter I will be working to make sure that my projects can continue even in my absence. One concern that we have discussed internally is that having a project so dependent on one person is not sustainable. I will be planning out how to make my projects work, even more efficiently, under another coworker’s management.

I’m excited about this challenge, it means rethinking everything and making things even more efficient and rational where possible. I am looking forward to putting things in place over the next 2-3 months to make things even more successful.

The second big challenge relates to growing revenue, this has been a challenge throughout the last year. The lead gen and lead cultivation processes haven’t performed well enough. We have tried different measures (events, email campaigns and a native content campaign) to improve but so far none of them have been satisfactory. In some cases this has been due to factors outside our control, such as the cancellation of events due to the Coronavirus, in other cases the quality of lead just hasn’t been good enough. Possibly this is due to targeting a niche audience in relation to the JME service.

However, we have one area which is easier to target, APAC agencies, and for whom the value proposition is much easier to communicate. The onboarding process is much more streamlined. In the next quarter we are looking to focus our sales efforts on this area and are looking to outsource lead gen to a company with extensive experience in the region. Given our lack of prior experience in many APAC countries their expertise could be invaluable. Their direct approach is also likely to work better in those markets and be more scalable.

Setting up this new sales team will also make the future of the APAC agencies project independent from my future at Sophola.

Conclusion

While progress was made in the last year, I’m excited to see what we can achieve over the next months. With improved focus, streamlined processes and clearer division between projects, I think we are in a much better position to succeed in 2020.

SOPHOLA, Inc.
Sebastian Benedikz