Four Ways to Capture More Attention with FDI Marketing

November 06, 2023
Two large boats docked in the water carrying multi-colored shipment containers

It has been a roller coaster several years for foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide, with a lot of questions and few definitive answers. Are we seeing de-globalization or re-globalization? How do we take advantage of trends like near-shoring, friend-shoring and reshoring? How disruptive are new technologies going to be, and how will regulation (or a lack of it) influence where companies land?


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In the United States specifically, FDI increased in 2022 to $5.25 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. As economic headwinds reduce project activity from domestic markets, FDI activity still seems quite strong for most EDOs throughout much of 2023, especially as federal programs like CHIPS and IRA make the country more attractive to foreign investors.

Surprisingly, most marketing budgets are still focused on supporting domestic attraction efforts, which presents an opportunity in foreign countries. With FDI attraction activity alive and well, should EDOs turn more attention to foreign firms? And if so, what is the best way to do so?

Below are four practical ways U.S. EDOs can scale internationally with FDI marketing.

Maximize Events with Digital Marketing

The quickest and least expensive way to support business development overseas is by increasing visibility at trade shows and conferences. There are a number of ways to do this, from combining event-focused landing pages with ad campaigns that drive traffic to it, to securing media interviews in host countries via a PR push while the team is in market.

The benefit of maximizing events like this is that it can be done without too much time spent on all the FDI marketing infrastructure like translated pages, downloadable assets and localized ads. However, the downside is a lack of time in market, which limits the ability to move the needle on perception among foreign companies.

With this in mind, we advise clients to think beyond the trade show event itself in two ways. First, people going to a trade show are often engaged on the subject matter and relevant channels before and after the conference, so how can an EDO take advantage of those timeframes rather than just the 3-4 days of the event itself? We’d start any promotion early and extend it at least a few weeks after.

Second, can the event promotion be part of a larger FDI push, thus connecting the immediacy of the trade show to the longer-term in-market strategy? It’s not always possible, but when resources are available, it’s the most ideal.

Invest in Brand Marketing to Get on the Radar

The number one pain point we hear from EDOs overseas is this: “We’re not on anyone’s radar.” This is especially true for regions and states that are not New York, Texas, California, Florida and Massachusetts, the top 5 U.S. destinations for international investment according to fDi Markets.

Brand marketing can solve for that, although it does require several considerations that include:

  • Is the website compliant with overseas privacy regulations?
  • How to handle translations on landing pages and ads, as well as market localization?
  • Which markets make the most sense to prioritize?
  • How to allocate budget by market while not spreading the campaign too thin?

Tough questions, but there are ways to address these efficiently. And it matters, because building a more global brand fills an important need – generating awareness when most people abroad don’t immediately recognize the intricacies of U.S. geographies and regional advantages. There’s a reason the states above lead the pack – they’re the largest populations with the most recognizable major cities.

(See C Studios’ work with REDI Cincinnati, which amplified website traffic by almost six times, and increased quality of traffic at the same time.)

 Capture Success via Digital Lead Generation

One advantage of marketing places overseas is that there is often more intrigue around a region or state that isn’t immediately known. This can lead to more efficient digital lead generation campaigns to get targets into the marketing funnel, as executives curiosity is piqued as they consider alternative locations.

Channels like LinkedIn work great, but so does sponsored content with various publishers in specific markets that have lead generation offerings. This presupposes that the content being offered is relevant in an international context and is localized and translated as needed.

One recent example of a wider effort beyond social media was a recent Sifted Talks episode with Invest Alberta, in which companies debated the U.S. versus Canada as an ideal investment location for European firms, piggy-backing on the publisher’s recent series on expanding abroad. Lead magnets of this type can vary in cost, but it’s a great way to reach new audiences beyond the usual.

(Also see DCI’s campaign with Greater Zurich Area, which secured quality leads at a very efficient cost.)

Bring Them All Together Through Demand Generation

As a fancy phrase for what many people think of marketing promotion, demand generation is all about expanding the investor pool through increasing awareness among new audiences on the one end, and capturing demand by collecting leads on the other. In other words, it is a strategy that covers the full path to purchase by bridging brand marketing with lead generation. It can includes all of (or several of) advertising, SEO, content marketing, PR and more, pending resources available.

Here, the investment is higher and the commitment longer, but the marketing activities are better matched to the progression of potential investors that need to know more about a place before they’re willing to invest in it. Demand generation can solve for the issue of getting a location on the radar, but the long-term commitment helps your brand stick around long enough to see the leads come through on the other end.

For more insight on global FDI, download a copy of Winning Strategies in Investment Promotion Marketing: A View from Corporate Europe. Similar to DCI’s tri-annual report, it captures the intel from nearly 250 European executives in 5 FDI-rich countries about how they make investment decisions.

Need help with your FDI strategy and gaining renewed momentum in international markets? C Studios is DCI’s European-based sister agency focused on FDI promotion in Europe and beyond. Let us know if we can help.

Written by

Steve Duncan

Managing Director, C Studios