Fine-tuning your investment promotion strategy with economic data
How can you leverage economic data to drive a comprehensive web strategy as an investment promotion agency? Stéphane Paquet, President & CEO at Montréal International, shares how data, story telling and a sector-specific approach have been central to their success.
Firstly, congratulations on winning the fDi award for Best IPA Web Strategy in 2019! It’s an amazing achievement. What’s been the key to your success?
Montréal International quickly adapted to the digital age. I think a big part of our success can be attributed to the relevance of the economic data and information we provide. But that’s not all. Even though we are an investment promotion agency, we are not only focusing on numbers. We put a lot of effort into storytelling by producing videos and articles with inspiring testimonials. It’s always more convincing when somebody else says great things about you!
MI’s web portal has now become a showcase of Greater Montréal’s economy for investors, international organizations, entrepreneurs and also for skilled workers and students from all over the world. Last year, 51% of MI’s website visitors were from abroad.
How do you align your place brand with your digital identity?
Our organization has broadened its scope over time. Our mandate is to attract direct foreign investment, international organizations and entrepreneurs, but it’s easier to do that when we can also attract talented workers and international students to the region. That’s why we started recruitment missions for both. It was important to us that our corporate identity reflected the agency’s evolution and transformation over the past few years. That’s why we have given our brand image a makeover by revamping our logo in 2018. A year later, we launched a brand-new website, completely redesigned to fit this new corporate identity.
Greater Montréal is known for its cutting-edge sectors like AI, video games, VFX and animation, and life sciences. Montréal International also prides itself on being creative, with innovative practices and on the forefront of local marketing. That’s what we want people to see when they take a look at our website.
Do you have a suggestion for IPAs who are looking at creating more content?
We have a great economic affairs team working tirelessly to get the most up-to-date data. They analyse international economic studies and trends, but they also work on in-house studies and surveys. Recently, they launched a survey to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on FDI in Montréal. It allowed us to adjust our strategy accordingly but also to communicate to our partners that the future is not as grim as it looks. They are also always updating industry profiles on our website that showcase the leading sectors of our region.
I think there is another component for great content. As an investment promotion agency, data is the backbone of our activities but it’s easy to be overwhelmed by numbers. Our approach is to combine data and storytelling. It makes for a very compelling argument when the numbers are backed by an investor’s testimonial about how great Montréal is.
Economic development and investment promotion teams increasingly have more access to an ever-growing wealth of data. What economic data do you focus on? What marketing data do you find the most useful in terms of fine-tuning your strategy?
A part of our team is dedicated to research and analysis and we are using economic data for two main purposes. First, to make data-driven decisions as to which industries, companies and source regions to target for our investment attraction efforts. But also, to present the appropriate data to convince investors to select Greater Montréal for their next investment, and to help them build their business case. As you know, competition is fierce between big cities. That’s why we decided to specialize in developing comparative city-level data to help investors make informed choices.
On top of traditional information sources, we are using niche databases to offer specific answers to the needs of investors (e.g. operating costs) and to understand and predict the flow of future investments. Our deep understanding of the transnational investment decision-making process and the detailed information we can provide are key to engaging with potential investors.
Montréal has been acknowledged as one of the leaders in AI and in Gaming. Is having a sector-focus important to your approach?
We are active in a lot of different sectors, but promotion-wise, it’s almost impossible to showcase every one of them. And to be honest, it’s impossible to be great in every industry. That’s why we tend to focus on the ones where Greater Montréal is a leader and shines the brightest. It allows us to highlight the potential of our region and to attract new investors that would not have thought about expanding here otherwise.
The strength of those leading sectors can also be relevant for others. One recent example is cybersecurity. Our leadership in artificial intelligence is what caught the attention of some cybersecurity companies that recently chose to establish offices in the city. We did a great job promoting Montréal’s AI sector and that’s what brought them here.
How are you supporting your private sector organisations through the COVID-19 crisis?
We’ve been really active on that front during the last couple of weeks. We’ve adapted our communication strategy to focus on our partners and foreign subsidiaries and less on potential new investors. We put together a special COVID-19 web page to identify and explain every government measure that could help Greater Montréal’s foreign subsidiaries. We’ve also been sending a special weekly newsletter to keep our community informed of the latest updates on the situation. Finally, since economic measures can be complex, we have worked hand in hand with some of our partners to organize webinars and answer questions. We are very happy to be able to help our community every way we can in these challenging times.
Do you have a plan to rebuild momentum once the crisis has passed?
Of course, and I would even say we already started to rebuild the momentum! We’ve been really busy in the last few weeks adjusting our strategic plan. Since we are quick on our feet, we were able to transform most of our activities in a matter of days. We still have a substantial project portfolio. While some projects might be cancelled, and others postponed, we are confident that most will materialize in the coming months. More than ever, I think Greater Montréal must build on what it is known for, such as the creativity of its talent, its collaborative and innovation ecosystems, and its quality of life. And Montréal International’s team will be there to showcase that to the world.