How to Generate Inward Investment Leads (or: 'Beware Men Bearing Lists')

Tuesday 18 October 2016
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When we discuss inward investment marketing with our clients, we talk about a strategic process. It involves developing value propositions, identifying target audiences, building networks, building location profile, nurturing relationships (with intermediaries and expanding companies) and, of course, generating investment leads.

But in the end it’s all about the leads, isn’t it?

Yes. So it’s hardly surprising that inward investment agencies sometimes want to cut straight to the chase, asking consultancies to provide ‘lists of leads’ instead - oven-ready to be followed up and landed by their team. After all, why go through a process when the same result can be achieved in one easy step?

All of which raises important questions for inward investment practitioners:

Is there a quick and easy route to inward investment lead generation?

Or is a more strategic approach really necessary?

Bad Lists, and Better Lists…

Firstly, it should be emphasised that the quality of 'lists of leads’ varies greatly. In some cases, companies are presented as ‘leads’ based on the most superficial ‘profile fit’ with a location (widget manufacturers for a widget manufacturing region, say). Other lists are based on sound market intelligence - identifying companies with expansion plans and niche capabilities that align with a location’s specific strengths.

But for the vast majority of inward investment agencies, the problem remains the same: the probability of landing investments from companies identified in this way is so low, it's almost zero.

The Probability Problem…

It's not that speculative approaches to companies can never work - they can, under favourable circumstances with the right resources. National or state government agencies, for example, may be able to link highly profitable inward investment propositions to large-scale strategic developments – think national transport, energy or industrial strategies.

But in the case of smaller, regional locations and investment agencies, a whole series of factors dictate against success.

Think about what’s being proposed here:

Armed with your list of ‘leads’, you’ll be approaching companies out of the blue, asking them to make major investments in a location they’ve probably never considered, or even heard of. And if there is a highly attractive business environment or market opportunity, it will probably be at a national or even continental level – making yours just one of several possible investment locations.

Your timing will have to be just right for the company, and their investment timeframes will have to make the exercise worthwhile for you. Their executives must be amenable to your entirely speculative approach, and your regional offer must align with business strategies about which you can only have limited knowledge. Meanwhile, with each challenge that arises, an already low probability of success gets lower and lower…

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So, what’s the alternative?

Put simply, the alternative is to make the lead generation process easier for you (you’ll notice that the ‘easy way’ wasn’t so easy after all!) and the probability of success far greater.

In practice, this takes us back to the strategic approach summarised at the start of this article, including the following key steps:

1. Start by developing high-quality location and sector value propositions, supported by high-quality data. Yes, we've said it before, but these underpin all your lead generation activities, and are therefore essential.

2. Build and leverage your network of advocates and ‘multipliers’, both online and offline. Arm them with your value propositions. Start local and work outwards, especially if your resources are limited. Right at home, regional developers and property agents have an established interest in promoting your location. They also have real inward investment leads that your value propositions and support can help to land.

3. Adopt ‘inbound’ marketing strategies based on the principle of attracting investors to you when the time’s right for them, not chasing them because the time’s right for you.

This means projecting your high-quality value propositions outwards through your online and offline networks and marketing platforms, creating trails that will attract companies searching for your location solutionsi.e. real inward investment leads – back to you.

Nick Smillie
Managing Director
Clarity Business Strategies Ltd.

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