Through smart selection in advance, NOM's Foreign Direct Investment team makes the most of working visits to leading trade fairs. Project Manager Reinder de Jong talks about his approach at recent tours of the IFAT in Munich and the International Water Week in Singapore. NOM participated there together with Water Alliance in the Netherlands pavilion.
"Of course our focus is on strengthening and expanding the water hub in the Northern Netherlands, but in order to get international companies excited about establishing themselves in our region, it starts with Holland-branding," states De Jong. "Furthermore, smart selection is important, because: which companies can we best target? Trade fairs like IFAT are gigantic platforms that attract numerous parties. That is of course the big advantage, because for a few days you are in the middle of the power center of potential acquisitions. The trick here is to spend the scarce time primarily on promising contacts."
It sounds simpler than it is. To give you an indication, this year's IFAT - the world's largest water, sewage and wastewater trade show - attracted some 100,000 visitors with more than 3,000 exhibitors. How do you hit the mark there? "Fairs like this are so big that focus is necessary," De Jong knows from experience. "Desk research and selection beforehand help to talk to the right people as efficiently as possible during the event itself. Using software and analysis, we arrive at a shortlist. We define target groups and sometimes a theme, such as this year's Brexit, to find out how entrepreneurs deal with this development."
De Jong spoke at IFAT with 12 pre-selected UK water technology companies that fit NOM's profile. "We focus on companies that are not yet established in the Netherlands, already have a certain size and are operating successfully in their home market. Because these are parties that are seriously looking at growth across the border. With companies from outside Europe, we also pay attention to the fact that they have already made a small start in doing business within our continent.
Once they have the first business, that's often the momentum to get established."
In the picture after Brexit
British entrepreneurs, of course, are already close to the Northern Netherlands fire. Is that an advantage? "Possibly yes," De Jong expects. "Concrete leads are not there yet, but we did get a good picture of how these English companies stand on the Brexit. Mainly wait-and-see still, with some nerves and uncertainty. Some are already in the starting blocks to take action as soon as it appears that establishment on the mainland is necessary to continue doing good business. That is why it is valuable to already have warm contacts with these companies. So that we as a northern region are emphatically in the picture if they want to establish themselves in the Netherlands."
In cooperation with Water Alliance, the NOM also looks at the content of companies during a preselection. "You can filter out interesting service companies, but they are often perfectly capable of organizing their work remotely. In water technology, production companies offer more opportunity, whether or not in combination with service and maintenance. Companies that work with distributors are less interesting. In short, our method helps to reduce an extensive list of participants to a shortlist in advance. On the basis of one selection point, you can often already halve the list and this is how we funnel to the best potentials."
This fall, also read the article in magazine NOMMER about team FDI's acquisition approach for more business in the North Netherlands water technology sector.