Online Inward Investment Attraction Has Come of Age. So How Can Business Location Marketers Seize the Opportunity?

Thursday 22 April 2021

For several years, internet marketing has been part of the inward investment promotion toolkit. But now, through developments in internet technologies, platforms, and marketing techniques, as well as the ways we do business, online inward investment lead generation has truly come of age. Here's why, and how Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) and site marketing teams can seize the opportunity to attract more investing businesses online.

1. Investing Businesses are Online, Researching New Locations and Sites

According to recent data, 98% of investing businesses now research new sites and locations online. [1] Big opportunities are, therefore, out there. The challenge is to make sure those businesses find you.

2. Every Location Can Attract Investing Businesses Online

Not surprisingly, many inward investment professionals fear that their location is at a disadvantage in the online investment attraction stakes, up against bigger, higher profile locations. But fortunately, having partnered with places large and small, we can say with confidence that every location has its USP (or USPs), sometimes in very specific, high-growth niches - think biofuels production or specialist insurance, or a thousand other slivers in between. The trick is to successfully project those distinctive investment value propositions to targeted online audiences.

3. Coronavirus Has Made 'Online' Even More Important

The pandemic has transformed the way we do business. With face-to-face activities curtailed, online channels are now of central importance, increasing opportunities to engage and interact with investing businesses online, in addition to presenting our location solutions via online content. Hopefully we'll soon get back to normal, but we can expect it to be a 'new normal' in which substantially more investor engagement takes place online.

4. Most of Your Competitor Locations Could Do Better Online

Another reason to have no fear is that most of your competitor locations aren't doing online investment attraction as well as they could - even the big, high-profile places. Most obviously, too many organisations use online channels to talk about themselves and their priorities (or their stakeholders'). But that's not what investing businesses are searching for. By focusing relentlessly on investor needs, even 'challenger' locations with relatively low profiles can stand out in the online crowd.

5. Small Improvements Can Yield Big Rewards

Even for IPAs with limited budgets and resources, small, simple changes have the potential to deliver real improvements in online lead generation. If your website loads too slowly, prospective investors are likely to leave before they even glimpse your location offer. So make sure it's fast. If you don't incentivise investors to contact you, they probably won't. So encourage engagement - not just window shopping and walking away.

6. It Pays to be Strategic

Almost every IPA is already engaged in a range of online marketing activities - content creation, website publishing, social media, etc. The budget and resources are, therefore, already there, so it's not a huge step to use them in a more strategic, results-focused way. For example, we can start to combine all our online channels and activities into an integrated system, with everything we do fulfilling a specific function in our marketing funnel: to attract or engage investors, or convert investment leads.

7. Not All Databases Are Dodgy

Business databases have a long and questionable history in inward investment promotion. Too often we've seen contacts that are out of date and companies whose investment strategies are never going to align with the locations we're promoting. Now, though, every one of us has easy access to the world's largest B2B database. It has more than 500 million profiles and they're likely to be reliable - because every individual has an incentive to keep their profile up to date, for networking and career development purposes. It is, of course, LinkedIn, and if you know how to use it to its maximum potential it can be a powerful tool for online investor targeting and attraction.

8. Just Keep Going, and Going...

Here's an easy win: once you've decided on your key messages for investing businesses, keep publishing and sharing them though high-quality, optimised content, and keep building your online network. Building a strong online profile takes time and repetition, but too many IPAs change tack, or even stop marketing altogether, for the wrong reasons (e.g. a change of leadership). So, try to convince the leadership team that it's best to just keep going, and going...

9. Marketing and Inward Investment Teams Work Better Together

It can be because of different line managers, office locations or methodologies, but quite often IPA Marketing and Inward Investment teams don't work together in an integrated way. This can mean that leads generated online aren't passed on to the Inward Investment team for follow up, and, in the worst cases, that opportunities to engage investors are missed. To address this, we like to integrate user-friendly 'mini CRM' (Customer Relationship Management) systems with our marketing websites, to create a seamless online lead generation and account management process. However, close collaboration across teams is a great place to start!

10. You Can Deliver Measurable Results

Our company started to develop 'inbound' internet marketing strategies for inward investment attraction almost a decade ago. We've continually refined our strategies since then and, for recent clients, have delivered increases in online lead generation in excess of 250% versus previous approaches (year on year, with leads 'qualified' by the client).

Along the way, we've learned that attracting investors online is a little bit like fishing: you need the right hook and bait, and you need to understand the river and the fish (loosely representing content, lead conversion strategies, and knowledge of industries and business decision making). But we've also learned that in between doing it badly and brilliantly, there are several affordable, manageable changes that every organisation can make to improve their catch.

Nick Smillie
Managing Director, Clarity Business Strategies Ltd
e: [email protected]   m: +44(0)7757 305007

[1] GIS Planning

Inward Investment Marketing Blog