Inward Investment Marketing and Website SEO: Why Inward Investors Probably Aren’t Finding You.

Sunday, 21 July 2013
What's at the Top of Your Sales Funnel?

This post is about how inward investment marketing agencies can optimise their websites to get found online by prospective inward investors. In other words, it’s about Search Engine Optimisation, or ‘SEO’. It therefore seems appropriate to start things off by considering the following question:

What exactly is website SEO anyway?

If you were to ask this question to a random sample of business people who regularly lose sleep over the marketing performance of their websites, you’d probably get answers that more or less boil down to this:

‘SEO is what my SEO guru does to my website to make it attract more visitors.’

The business people in question probably won’t be able to tell you what their SEO gurus do, because their SEO gurus don’t tell them. It’s all clouded in secrecy, because it’s very technical, and very complicated. Right?

Well, let’s check that…

To find out just how technical and complicated SEO really is, it’s worth consulting the people who understand exactly how Search Engines work. So here’s some of the advice offered by Google, in their own words:

‘Give visitors the information they're looking for.’

‘Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.’

‘Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.’

Google couldn’t make it any clearer. The key to getting found online is to create website content that responds to the needs of the target audience as precisely as possible. Yes, there are also structural and ‘technical’ factors to take into account, but, when all’s said and done, Content is King.

Now we’ve considered what SEO is, we can turn our attentions to inward investment marketing agency websites, and how well optimised their content seems to be. So, based on my own entirely unscientific one-man survey, here are a few general observations:

1. Most Investment Promotion Agency websites tell us ‘everything about themselves’

You know those Facebook pages where people tell you everything about themselves, in great detail but with no apparent prioritisation? Lots of inward investment marketing websites are just like that. So many things are happening in the city, from infrastructure developments to business breakfasts and sporting events. So they tell you all about all of it on the homepage, without any discernible keywords or content strategy. Because, the logic seems to go, the more investors know about everything that’s excellent about our city, the more likely they are to invest…

2. …and everything is ‘excellent!’

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re marketers, and we’re never really comfortable when nouns – ‘lifestyle’ say, or ‘connectivity’ - are left all on their own, without the support of an uplifting adjective like ‘excellent’ or ‘world-class’. And that’s how it is with many inward investment marketing websites - everything’s ‘excellent!’ There may have been a time when 'sales speak' was effective, but things are different online - investors don’t search for it and, I would argue, nor does it enhance the information that they are searching for.

3. We think investors are searching for ‘Ourtown’

In terms of SEO specifics, one feature seems to characterise inward investment marketing websites above all others. They seem to be optimised primarily for searches relating to their own place names. Type ‘Yourtown’ into Google and ‘Invest in Yourtown’ comes up near the top. Which is great, as long as you’re only targeting investors who have already narrowed their search down to sites within your municipal boundary (in which case, who needs an Investment Promotion Agency?)

All of the above can be distilled down to one essential observation. As marketers, we too often fall into the trap of talking about the things that most concern us, not the things that most concern our customers. And effective SEO is all about what matters to the customer.

So what are inward investors searching for?

To answer this question, our starting point must be to think like investors – people planning to invest their own, or their shareholders’, money in business expansions or relocations. Before anything else, they’re motivated by making money (and not losing money!), so they’re almost certainly going to start by focusing on the factor inputs that constitute the major costs of any investment, and inevitably determine success or failure.
Broadly speaking, these factors relate to property (what and where), people (availability and skills) and capital (‘got any grants?’). These, therefore, are the very practical key site selection drivers that they’re likely to be researching online, and that inward investment marketing agencies should focus on when they select their keywords and key messages.

But what about all the other factors that inward investment marketers highlight to prospective investors? Their lifestyle credentials, relocation services, quality of life bench marking, and so on. Aren’t they important too?

To answer this question, it’s worth considering the ‘Sales Funnel’ concept that marketers sometimes use to illustrate the sales process. The Sales Funnel’s basically a selling organisation’s ‘pipeline’ of enquiries, leads and prospects, but it’s wider at the top (where many enquiries come in) than at the bottom (where fewer sales, or landed investments, come out).

And the way selling organisations should engage with companies changes depending upon where they are in the funnel. At the ‘Top of the Sales Funnel’, sales activities need to focus on attraction. In the context of online inward investment marketing, that means SEO and content optimisation to address identified investor key site selection drivers. However, once investors are in the ‘Middle of the Sales Funnel’, the focus needs to change. Here, the aim should be to nurture leads by addressing the secondary drivers that become important once their key drivers have been addressed.

For example: a company’s Senior Management Team has now identified suitable premises in your city, and commenced negotiations with the property agent. At this point, factors such as personal relocation and quality of life suddenly come into play, and addressing them as effectively as possible could be the key to converting a lead into an investment. Thinking about where we are in the Sales Funnel therefore helps us to prioritise content on the website - SEO to target leads at the Top of the Sales Funnel, and secondary content to nurture leads in the Middle.

So, in summary, here are some general principles of website SEO in Inward Investment Marketing:

1. Think like you’re an investor, not a place marketer, and choose your keywords and key messages accordingly
2. Go easy on the sales speak – it won’t help you get found, or address investor needs
3. Focus on the likely key drivers of investing companies
4. Think about where investors are in your Sales Funnel, and adjust your content accordingly
5. And the next time an 'SEO guru' offers to sprinkle some magic dust on your website, just remember: Content is King!

Inward Investment Marketing Blog