Meet and assist leads and prospects

Voice of the Practitioner

Sylvia is the lead for international business attraction; she speaks Spanish, English, and Mandarin. We have a good relationship with local higher education, including a productive intern program that Sylvia came through. [Our higher ed partners provide] a pipeline for staff.
Tim Kelley, CEO, Imperial Valley EDC, interview 12/17


There are a variety of ways to meet and work with leads and prospects. Three of the most common resources are with leads identified through the market intelligence research conducted to support trade missions or trade shows, through the contacts of domestic consultants or in-country representatives, as well as people met at trade shows and events. These practices help to engage potential prospects in different ways.

Many U.S. states have offices or foreign consultants acting as their in-country representatives, and these individuals are paid to identify leads. Their business focuses on building relationships that states and their partners can leverage. While few regional EDOs have the resources to invest in foreign offices or representatives, state foreign offices and reps are assets for regions in their respective client states. In some cases, states and regions turn to “strategic marketing firms” that may have unique expertise and intelligence about a particular industry or region. These firms help to organize leads by mining database tools. These resources support both out-bound and in-bound trade missions as well as related trade shows or events. They can help generate leads and ultimately introductory or follow-up meetings with prospective investors and key stakeholders.  

Another commonly used approach to attracting investment is reverse trade missions. In this case, foreign companies travel to the U.S. to examine how  foreign subsidiaries operate and to better understand local products or services.

Potential Activities

  • Conduct foreign missions to reach out to targeted companies in key markets
  • Participate in sector-targeted international events and trade shows
  • Support foreign offices or representatives to help identify and/or set up meetings with leads in target countries
  • Engage staff (and/or consulting support) to identify FDI prospects
  • Develop a target list of potential marketing ‘leads’ in key clusters, industries, and/or markets
  • Develop a protocol for managing the process for reaching out to and managing marketing leads
  • Conduct competitive intelligence about leads most likely to be converted to ‘prospects’
  • Identify best approaches for interacting with leads and determining whether they are actual prospects
  • Develop a common approach for determining when a lead converts to prospect and determining who will be the prospect’s main point of contact


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Pittsburgh economic development officials sometimes travel with the city’s world-renowned Symphony Orchestra to leverage performances to develop relationships with foreign companies and intermediaries. This provides a good example of leveraging cultural connections to foster economic development opportunities. (David Ruppersberger, President, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance interview)

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

Fairfax County, Virginia, provides an unusual example of county-level FDI attraction efforts because they choose to invest more resources than most. The County has five economic development offices abroad to promote the county economy and generate FDI. In 2012, more than 400 foreign-owned firms from over 40 countries had operations in Fairfax County, with more than 25,000 Fairfax residents employed by foreign-owned firms.

Washington State Biomedical Device Summit

Washington State hosts sector specific summits (p. 14) designed to attract companies to the state to learn more about key industry activities and to showcase the region’s supply chain and ecosystem strengths. One example is the Washington State Biomedical Device Summit, an annual event that convenes industry stakeholders and examines industry trends and innovations. The state provides information during the event to support site selection activities, a good example of state and regional economic development collaboration to identify leads and turn prospects into investors.

Pennsylvania Foreign Reps’ US visits

Pennsylvania has a network of foreign representatives in target foreign markets. Annually, Pennsylvania convenes those representatives in the U.S. for briefings to reconnect to state priorities, messaging, and companies. This practice allows foreign representatives to stay up to date on FDI attraction goals and targets for their region. Representatives directly connected to the region through these visits and discussions will be prepared with the most up-to-date, personal, and detailed knowledge of the region and will be able to provide a more effective marketing effort to potential foreign investors.

Nebraska Reverse Trade Missions

Nebraska began traveling to other countries in 2008 to recruit companies to visit Nebraska (pp. 14-15). Those visits have resulted in successful return visits. A recent mission attracted 114 foreign firms, and Nebraska created a match-making service to help businesses meet Nebraska companies and stakeholders. The state was able to attract the businesses by paying all of their local expenses while the company paid their own airfare.

SelectUSA Summit Spinoff Events

SelectUSA encouraged regional EDOs to convene spinoff and collateral events around the 2018 Summit to expose potential investors to additional regions, and many responded with a wide variety of events. These events are “stop-over meetings” that interested parties can attend on their way to or from the SelectUSA Summit in Washington DC, to make introductions, build relationships, and foster potential investor understanding of the assets in the region. Some examples: St Mary’s County, Maryland developed an event to highlight the county’s ability to support aviation/aerospace, unmanned systems, and advanced manufacturing sectors.  Various cities in northeast Kansas organized a Food Processing & Agribusiness in the Heartland Tour.


The SelectUSA Summit is the highest-profile event dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. It provides an outstanding venue for meeting and developing leads and prospects.

Calendar of international SelectUSA events. SelectUSA hosts or attends several events all over the world, including road shows, seminars, international conventions, trade shows, investment missions, and roundtables. This website provides a calendar of those events.

“Attracting Investment at Trade Shows,” All Out Location Consulting, 2016. This blog includes 5 tips for getting the most out of your participation in trade shows.

Trade_Mission_Toolkit-Canada. Although prepared for a specific trade mission in 2011, this toolkit has practical advice for steps you should take in advance of, during, and after the trade mission to increase your chances of success.

The Export section of this website contains additional information on trade shows.