When Everywhere is your competition; you can’t afford to sound like Anywhere: developing successful inward investment propositions

Each year more than a thousand foreign companies decide to invest in UK facilities. Another three thousand invest elsewhere in Europe. Whatever happens with Brexit in the coming weeks and months, it is important to be mindful that there are hundreds of businesses every week deciding where and how to expand.  Evidence published by the Department for International Trade in 2018 showed how the £270bn increase in UK Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock between 2010-14 resulted in 355,000 jobs, £19bn in Gross Value Added (GVA), and a £448m net increase in Research and Development (R&D) expenditure. The value to the economy is huge but it’s a buyers’ market and locations need to be clearer than ever when it comes to their competitive advantage and key selling messages.

The role of local and regional partners in driving this economic growth is significant. It is no coincidence that the most successful towns and cities prioritise and resource inward investment activity. Attracting inward investment is often a focus for economic development teams but retaining and growing existing investment is equally (if not more) important in light of the current uncertainty. The latest data on FDI into the UK shows that 59% of all FDI projects were led by existing projects in the UK.

The current global economic climate is making all investors cautious. It is notable that the 2018/19 position has -14% less FDI projects than the previous year, including -12% less new investments and -22% less expansions of existing FDI companies. This means local and regional partners are having to work harder than ever to secure new and retain existing investment.

Hatch Regeneris and Breeze Strategy regularly collaborate to help clients secure positive economic outcomes within their local economies by equipping them with the tools and tactics they need to enable them to target and focus their inward investment proposition. The combination of our skills as specialists in economic and business research and as inward investment practitioners mean we have an excellent understanding of how to build compelling investment propositions that convey the information that investors are looking for.

What makes a successful proposition?

In the global economy, virtually every town, city, region and country is actively promoting themselves. In such a crowded and competitive marketplace, the challenge is to develop tailored propositions for different target audiences and have a well-considered and evidence-backed inward investment strategy. Adam Breeze has advised some of the world’s most successful business locations from Toronto to Manchester and has worked on more than a hundred inward investment projects. Adam understands the importance of getting the proposition right:

“It’s tempting to compile lists of features in an attempt to market your place, but this leads to the ‘Invest in Anywhere’ syndrome. Where tired phrases such as ‘centrally located’; ‘excellent quality of life’; and ‘motivated workforce’; solicit a “So what!” response from potential investors.
Successful propositions avoid the cliches and focus on clear commercial advantages based on what the customer actually wants, not what you are selling. These include how you can solve problems or maximise opportunities relating to market access; talent acquisition and retention; innovation and efficiency. When Everywhere is your competition; you can’t afford to sound like Anywhere.”
Ensuring the proposition is underpinned by a robust evidence base

Investment teams need to ensure they have a robust evidence base which is as relevant and as up-to-date as possible. This also needs to be meaningful to the inward investor and presented in a compelling way. Having a comprehensive databank of evidence which is accessible and coupled with the use of powerful imagery, cluster maps and smart infographics can tell a clear story and convey a powerful message.

Hatch Regeneris and Breeze Strategy recently supported Invest in Leicester to update their evidence base. The team identified that an interactive data tool would best meet the needs of the team as it would give them the ability to tailor the evidence to specific investment enquiries. The tool was framed around the drivers of investment capturing hard and soft location factors including talent pool, business ecosystem, place, and sectors.  As Lauren Newby, Associate Director, Urban Solutions notes:

“The interactive data tool has enabled the Invest in Leicester team to filter the evidence by time periods, locations and sectors specific to their data query in order to understand their competitive position within the domestic UK market and for foreign direct investment”

We then worked with the Invest in Leicester team to explore the implications arising from the evidence and developed a series of propositions which could inform marketing collateral and lead generation activities.

To find out more about our approach to inward investment check out our series of blogs over the coming months or contact: Lauren Newby and Adam Breeze.

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