Why 'Place Marketing' Can Mean 'Bad Inward Investment Marketing', and How to Make it Better.

Monday 12 May 2014
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Some of the most confused messages in Inward Investment Marketing seem to come from organisations with a broader 'Place Marketing' remit - covering everything from tourism and events to inward investment promotion. So what's the problem? And how can inward investment professionals working for Place Marketing organisations help to make things better? Here are a few ideas.

The problem - multiple audiences, multiple 'location choice drivers'

Place Marketing is generally considered to be about communicating a city or region's brand to its target audiences - the brand being a set of 'promises' about what the place will give them, or a set of associations that the Place Marketing organisation wants to ensure are all positive.

The problem is that those target audiences are multiple - from weekend breakers to investing businesses - and very different, both in terms of what drives their respective location choices and how those choices can be influenced.

Business audiences are not like Consumer audiences

At a fundamental level, Place Marketing cuts across 'Business-to-Consumer' marketing (B2C, e.g. tourism) and 'Business-to-Business' marketing (B2B, e.g. inward investment), and herein seems to lie the crux of the problem.

Typically, consumer buying decisions are more 'emotional' than business buying decisions, and can therefore be influenced far more readily by emotive messages and imagery. Tourists and lifestylers can be persuaded to love your location, not because it'll make them richer, but because the experience your city can offer will fulfil them emotionally - through its food, its landscape or its culture. Investing businesses are different, especially at the initial stage of shortlisting locations - their evaluations are likely to be financial, rational and scrutinised by shareholders. They'll only really love you if you maximise their Return on Investment.

But because Place Marketing is generally seen to be about promoting place brands (not, say, location solutions for businesses), it tends to be the domain of consumer marketers who, by inclination, are likely to focus on those emotional consumer drivers. They get the beautiful couple kissing on the cobblestones. They have a harder time understanding the marketing benefits of a spreadsheet showing your city's property costs (favourably) versus the city down the road.

So what can you do to bridge the Inward Investment-Place Marketing divide? Here are a few ideas:

1. Work with your Place Marketing colleagues to identify your distinct target audiences and the various drivers of their location choices. Segment your marketing accordingly, and target each segment in the most appropriate way.

2. Try to ensure that your Place Marketing colleagues understand the 'Return on Investment' drivers of business location choices. And for good measure, try to understand the more emotional choice drivers of their target consumer audiences.

3. Resist sending bland, multi-purpose positive messages out to everyone - you'll end up pleasing no one, and sound like everywhere else in the process.

4. Try to work together to build a poweful location brand that underpins all your organisation's marketing interactions - not just the consumer ones. That's what the most successful cities do.

Contact Clarity today to develop your winning Inward Investment Marketing Strategy.

Nick Smillie
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