Inward Investment Marketing: How Location Brands Can Really Add Value for Investing Businesses

Wednesday 9 March 2016
Alarm bells always start to ring when I hear inward investment professionals talking the language of brands (usually with reference to their investment promotion agency or location).

It's not that brands aren't important in marketing locations to businesses - they are. It's just that a preoccupation with brands is usually a sign of a misdirected inward investment marketing strategy.

What's the problem with brands in inward investment marketing?

The problem is this. In the world of consumer marketing, brands are promoted to persuade individuals to make buying decisions without researching them first - often by appealing to their emotions rather than their rationality. You see the beautiful people on bicycles, you read the strapline about health benefits, you buy the yogurt. The basic message is this:

'Don't ask questions, just believe and buy!'

But business-to-business marketing (B2B) is fundamentally different, especially when it comes to major procurement decisions like new locations, sites and properties. Only a negligent executive would consider a new location based on consumer-style brand communications (an advert offering 'the best location for his business', for example). That's why B2B companies are far more focused on selling 'solutions' and tangible 'benefits' to their customers (e.g. reduced 'whole life costs', based on reliable data) than on building their brands in the way consumer marketers do.

And yet, we still see plenty of consumer-style, brand-focused marketing in the field of inward investment promotion, effectively saying to businesses: 'trust us (just don't ask for the data)'. It hardly needs pointing out that investing businesses don't buy it.

When your location solutions are your location brand...

Compare that with the best B2B location marketers, which we often find in the commercial world (e.g. some site developers). Yes, they'll use a professionally developed brand identity (name, logo etc), but solutions for businesses will be front and centre of their marketing campaigns (e.g. how their site can reduce a company's costs and increase its profits). Today, most marketers would agree that your brand is everything your customers believe about you and your product (that's your brand image, not just you brand identity). And if cost-focused businesses believe your location's going to increase their profits by reducing their costs, that's your brand!

Effective Location Brands: Solutions, Stories and Satisfied Investors...

So, in the (B2B) world of inward investment marketing, your solutions for expanding businesses have to be at the heart of your marketing activities, and your brand. The good news is that modern content marketing strategies make it easier than ever before to project your location solutions to targeted investing businesses, thereby continually developing your brand image as a profitable business location.

But your location solutions aren't everything, either. Relevant stories about (e.g.) successful business expansions and case studies of satisfied investors all work together to build your brand image (as long as you never forget the fundamental importance of your location solutions!).

As an inward investment marketing consultancy, we like to start by identifying a location's solutions for investing businesses (i.e. the Inward Investment Value Proposition) before we develop the brand identity. In that way, the brand identity can encapsulate the value proposition, functioning as a 'container' for detailed, valuable location solutions, as well as informative stories and case studies. That really adds value for investing businesses, because the focus is on using the brand to deliver information that helps them - rather than just saying, 'trust me, I'm an inward investment marketer'.

Nick Smillie
MD, Clarity Business Strategies Ltd.

Inward Investment Marketing Blog