As the FDI landscape becomes increasingly competitive and faces a number of international headwinds, economic development organizations (EDOs) face new challenges in attracting cross-border investment. To help navigate these tricky waters, a new report by digital marketing firm C Studios sheds light on the priorities and decision-making processes of European corporate executives.
Launched in early 2023, Winning Strategies in Investment Promotion Marketing captures current sentiment and information-seeking behaviours during the investment decision-making process. Below are four top take-aways from the data, including how the Benelux-specific responses compared to their larger European peers.
Dialogue with Industry Peers is a Leading Factor in Developing Perceptions
A location's business climate perception is a critical factor in corporate decision-making, as long-held beliefs (good or bad) are often inherent in the decision-making process no matter what the data shows. For European executives as a whole, “dialogue with industry peers” leads the way in a tie with “meetings with investment promotion agencies,” with executives selecting each of those options 36% of the time (they were asked to select three only from a list that was provided). Business travel is also highly influential at 31%, ranking third.
For the Benelux region, however, the results were quite a bit different. “Dialogue with industry peers” was still first at 42%, but it was followed by “Business travel” (27%), “Internet research” (27%) and “Advertising” (26%), with “Meetings with IPAs” placing fifth.
Contact with EDOs Occurs Late in the Decision-Cycle
As noted above, a place brand is critical because it sets the stage for much of the decision process to come. That fact is made clear by this second data point – executives are more likely to contact an EDO after the short-list has already been formed; not before. This means they are making important decisions without your knowledge.
Only 28% of European companies said that they would contact an EDO during the screening phase – the rest wouldn’t initiate contact until the short-list or later (or not at all). For Benelux, that number during the screening phase is even lower at 24%. This is consistent with B2B data in other industries that regularly shows more than two-thirds of companies are in active decision-making mode prior to contacting someone for help.
Companies Value Skilled Workers Over Everything Else
Executives around Europe certainly have talent on their minds – among the decision factors of most importance when deciding on location is the “availability of skilled workers,” ranking first in four of the five major geographies we surveyed (coming in second in the UK by one percentage point).
“Business-friendly government” and “available sites and buildings” were second and third, mirroring the Benelux region’s top 3 as well. Not much differentiation here among the countries overall, although Benelux countries did have a slightly higher preference for “efficient transportation systems” and “multi-lingual language skills” than the other countries surveyed.
Who is Making Decisions in the Executive Suite?
Among the diverse pool of companies we surveyed, which includes all ranges of revenue, employees and industries, the Chairman/CEO/President came out on top as expected. However, who is next on the list in terms of having authority on locations for operations?
Across Europe, including in Benelux, Chief Operating Officer came out number two, with Managing Directors and Directors of Corporate Strategy a distant third and fourth. This diverges from a similar study conducted in the U.S., where Chief Financial Officers were the second most-likely executive to lead a location decision; in Europe, it seems, CFO’s are quite distant on the executive tree.
More About the Survey
Winning Strategies included responses from 245 companies in five core countries that regularly produce strong outbound FDI – Germany, UK, France, Netherlands and Belgium. The audience came from a variety of industries, with financial services leading the way at 22% of responses. While executives from companies of various sizes responded, 67% represented more than 500 employees and 71% of more than €100 million in revenue.
To download the full report, which details several additional data points, please access your copy of Winning Strategies in Investment Promotion Marketing on the C Studios website. C Studios is a OCO Global & DCI joint venture specializing in digital marketing solutions specifically tailored for investment promotion, trade promotion and talent attraction. The company is based in the Netherlands.