Here’s how the UK government built its own international B2B marketing model

Ian Bowen-Morris, the UK government’s head of international marketing at the Department for International Trade, has built an effective investor journey using inspirational digital marketing and innovative thinking.

Here’s how the UK government built its own international B2B marketing model

A business person in Istanbul sees a digital ad with an invitation to Invest in GREAT Britain. It captures their attention, because their business has been actively exploring opportunities to expand into western Europe. They click through and visit a website, provide some contact information, and soon find themselves speaking to an investment advisor who quickly puts them in touch with experts in their sector, based locally and ready to help. Within months, their business is running outdoor ads across London promoting its newly launched UK service.

The business person in this story is an executive at Getir, the Turkish-based grocery delivery business that’s fast becoming a household name in the UK – and making a significant contribution to jobs and economic growth in the process.

What the customers having their shopping dropped off by Getir don’t realise is that, had it not been for that digital ad, the business might well not have launched in their country when it did. In fact, Getir was actively considering an investment in another European market at the time.

The story of Getir’s UK launch demonstrates the value of the digital marketing journey that Ian Bowen-Morris has been designing and refining for the Department for International Trade (DIT) since he joined government from the private sector seven years ago. It is a digital marketing journey that generates leads and connects businesses across the world looking for international expansion with locally based teams that have the knowledge and contacts to help them achieve their objectives.

“Getir is an example of a company that wasn’t at the time on the radar of our sector team in London – but the business became an opportunity because they were attracted to our marketing campaign,” Bowen-Morris says. “We were able to qualify that lead very quickly and put them in the hands of our specialist, trained people, and that led to them investing in the UK and expanding since. It shows how things can work.”

Designing a digital trade route for the UK

Exploring new ways for trade and investment to happen has been very much the focus of Bowen-Morris’s role. He took it on with timing that was either perfectly propitious or particularly challenging, depending on how you look at it. “A year after I joined, the UK voted to leave the EU and trade became an absolutely top government priority,” he explains. “It’s meant that my role has expanded dramatically.”

The UK already had an extensive international network in place to encourage investment, with trade and investment advisors building relationships in 108 different countries. It was an impressive organisation, but one that Bowen-Morris felt was missing a trick.

“We had this great, strategic approach to client relationship management and these very well-trained and knowledgeable people, but they couldn’t be everywhere all the time,” he says. “I knew that digital marketing could give us this always-on presence and so we set up ‘Invest in GREAT Britain’ as a brand founded on a digital customer journey.

“We knew that if we could establish a clear line of sight from digital engagement anytime, anywhere in the world through to jobs and growth in the UK, that would be a worthwhile achievement.”

Building a brand for soft power

Establishing an always-on, digitally-driven, inward-investment campaign didn’t just provide another route by which capital could enter the country. It also involved developing the UK itself into a B2B brand – one that could address the emotional side of investment decisions, not just the numbers making up a business case.

“The term ‘soft power’ is used a lot across government, and GREAT is our prestigious brand for soft power,” says Bowen-Morris of the always capitalised term that forms a unified brand across tourism, education as well as trade and investment. “GREAT is a well-established country brand for the UK and the Department for International Trade has embraced it and built a very strong international B2B brand that serves our purpose for trade and investment.

“The mental shorthand that people do when they encounter that brand involves creativity, innovation, and collaboration. It embodies that aspect of the emotional draw of the UK – and we try to lead with it at events, online and through our multiple marketing channels.”

Leading with a national brand associated with creativity means committing to creative thinking. Bowen-Morris has built a team with a track record for going the innovative, extra mile – and it’s a team he’s very proud of. “I’m privileged to lead the best B2B marketing team in government,” he says. “We’re a pretty open, diverse, international team – we’re very experimental and we like to try new things. Everyone has a voice and all contributions count”

These new things include a personalised online prospectus for investors looking to expand abroad, which rewards those sharing information about the sector they’re interested in with a tailored report, in their local language. They include turning the Invest in GREAT Britain stand at the recent Web Summit in Lisbon into the venue for a start-up and scale-up competition streamed via LinkedIn Live to a worldwide audience. Going forward, they’ll include experiments with automation to accelerate the lead qualification and nurturing process that results from such initiatives.

Beyond the lead: taking investors to the end of the journey

“We’re thinking about how we can be always-on as a client response function in responding to enquiries across international time zones,” Bowen-Morris says. “In the UK right now we have some amazing high-potential opportunities that represent quite complex investible propositions and when we market those opportunities we find that they need a higher level of focus and attention when the enquiry comes in.

“For example, if you want to know specifically about the opportunities in quantum computing, or what you can do with graphene in Manchester, or compound semiconductors in Wales etc then you want to talk to someone with a high level of knowledge very quickly. From our point of view, once we’ve qualified the lead, we want to be able to engage them very quickly and avoid them going cold. I think there’s more automation and intelligence that we can apply to the customer relationship management side.”

Building a more sophisticated approach for turning leads into investment is all part of that clear line of sight from digital engagement to jobs and growth that Bowen-Morris imagined when he joined DIT. It involves a commitment to measurement throughout the investor journey – from detailed brand surveys through to qualified leads and what those qualified leads go on to become.

“It’s important that you don’t just send good quality leads, but that you follow through and see the value of that lead going forward,” he says. “Using econometric modelling, we can now predict from a given number of leads how many projects will result and what the value of those projects will be in terms of economic value to the UK. Everybody wants to know which bit of our marketing spend is working and what it’s delivering. That’s increasingly what we’re able to do.”