After MIPIM: Now it's Time for Some Sustained, Targeted Inward Investment Marketing

Monday 17 March 2014
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Cannes: the go-to place for inward investment?

There was certainly plenty of UK inward investment chatter coming out of MIPIM last week, with a reported 48 UK cities and local authorities competing for the attention of the event's 20,000 delegates. Many of those UK locations had invested heavily - with money, time and effort - in an event which, judging by the buzz surrounding it, could easily be seen as some kind of inward investment marketing 'magic bullet'.

But how important is MIPIM for inward investment promotion? And what should inward investment agencies be doing now that it's all over?

A good place to start with this is to point out what should be obvious: MIPIM is a property sector event, packed to the rafters with property investors, developers, agents and assorted service providers. So, assuming that locations want to attract more property investment, it may be an important forum for Investment Promotion Agencies.

But this is where the confusion starts. Because if you look at the UK's numerous 'Invest In...' web pages, you'll notice that attracting property investment isn't the main focus of LEP and investment agency marketing activities. Instead, there's a clear emphasis on attracting businesses into their identified 'key sectors', such as Life Sciences, Advanced Engineering, Digital industries and Financial Services. Rather than targeting property developers, their primary focus is, quite rightly, on attracting property occupiers - 'end user' companies with the potential to create sustainable new jobs and wealth for their local economies. And you won't find these companies at MIPIM.

So why all this emphasis on a property sector event?

It's a very good question. In some cases, no doubt, regional activities at MIPIM are carefully thought through; driven by an identified strategic need to secure more property investments as a basis for attracting more 'end user' inward investors. However, it's equally clear that often this isn't the case. Some of the regional PR surrounding MIPIM this year talked about the event as an essential forum for generating investment leads in key sectors such as digital industries and advanced engineering. I would simply ask: how? These are clear cases of strategic confusion - a property event has been mistaken for an inward investment promotion event, and the strategic distinction between targeting property developers and property occupiers has been lost along the way.

But there's one other reason why it might make sense to focus on a property event: property agentsAfter all, aren't they the key intermediaries when it comes to attracting those wealth and employment creating 'end user' businesses?

My own experience tells me that property agents do precisely what they're paid to do: they try to match occupiers with suitable sites and buildings. They're not paid to display loyalty to particular regions, and, typically, they're not immersed in the detailed Value Propositions that (hopefully) make your location stand out from the rest (including, for example, your large pool of skilled workers, R&D capabilities, industry clustering or excellent training provision). They can be important intermediaries, but they won't do your job for you, and networking with them doesn't justify the expense lavished on MIPIM.

The need for sustained, targeted, Inward Investment Marketing:

So, MIPIM may be a suitable forum for Investment Promotion Agencies with clear objectives relating to the attraction of property investment. However, it most certainly isn't the place to find the 'end user' inward investors which, every other week of the year, are their top priority.

The fact is that there is no 'magic bullet' event or other activity for attracting inward investment. It requires sustained, targeted marketing and business development activity, every day, year round, with regions presenting clearly defined Value Propositions and location solutions to prospective inward investors on an ongoing basis. It's hard work and finding real inward investment prospects is difficult. But that's all the more reason not to take refuge in activities that appear to be, but really aren't, quick-fix solutions.

Contact Clarity today to talk about a more effective Inward Investment Marketing Strategy.

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