With imaging technology developing at a rapid pace, competition in this sector remains strong and industry players need client-focused marketing strategies to ensure business growth.
"Canon is known for its range of quality imaging products such as photocopiers and cameras, but we sell more than just intelligent hardware," says Raymond Fung, vice president, business imaging solution group, Canon Hongkong Company Limited.
The company differentiates itself from its competitors by positioning as a comprehensive imaging solutions provider. One strategy has been to combine the benefits of hardware and software technology by developing an innovative open platform for multifunctional peripheral devices (MFP) such as office printers.
In fact, Canon was the first manufacturer in the industry to launch an MFP software development platform. Trademarked multi-functional embedded application platform (MEAP), it allows the creation of embedded applications for Canon's MFPs. This simplifies the interaction between users and Canon's devices.
"MEAP greatly expands the potential of networked devices," Mr Fung says, noting that this enables the company to customise applications according to end-users' specific requirements.
Although the company's MFP products score well in terms of their hardware features such as printing quality and high-speed paper handling, Mr Fung believes it makes marketing sense to emphasis their value-added qualities.
For instance, Canon's multifunctional devices are able to secure digital documents stored on office networks, preventing unauthorised individuals from viewing or changing them. "We offer a personal authentication and data encryption service to help our clients protect their data," he notes. "Security functions such as these are essential in this era of digital documents and electronic office management."
Canon also employs a team of software consultants to serve its wide range of business clients. These consultants react to customer demand and suggestions by sales staff and tailor applications on the open platform to streamline document delivery and workflow for specific industries and needs.
"Staff at law firms, for example, tend to scan, edit and then distribute documents to designated parties through email and fax," Mr Fung explains. "Understanding this, our software programmers combined all these actions into a one-click function, which enhances business performance and efficiency."
The company's team of corporate sales professionals forms an integral part of its service delivery. Not only are they well qualified to explain the benefits of advanced technology to clients, they are also responsible for identifying any problems that customers may have and matching client needs with available technology.
"Our corporate sales professionals do a lot more than merely sell hardware products. They are professional consultants on office management, equipped with the technological know-how and industry knowledge," Mr Fung emphasises.
As part of its vision for expansion and growth, Canon Hongkong is planning to increase its frontline sales force. Past experience has shown that times of downturn often provide opportunities for recruiting quality staff, leading to improved customer service in the long run, Mr Fung points out.
Today, most of the team members at Canon Hongkong hold a university degree and the company is targeting candidates with tertiary qualifications from a range of industry backgrounds. The sales role also requires good communication skills and an outgoing personality. "We also welcome fresh graduates who are passionate and willing to learn," Mr Fung notes.
Canon Hongkong offers new staff three months of full-time training on its products, sales techniques and typical workflow scenarios across various industries. New recruits are assigned senior staff members who act as mentors to help them settle into the company culture.
Mr Fung emphasises that outstanding soft skills are also essential for dealing with customers and identifying their specific needs. Team members must be able to offer their clients a pragmatic consultation service.
"We expect candidates to be open to new business concepts and technologies since the imaging industry changes constantly," Mr Fung says. He adds that working in the frontline can be stressful at times and experience has shown that the first six months in the job are crucial for future career success.
The company's corporate philosophy is "living and working together for the common good" and there are opportunities for internal transfers and promotion. "We strive to create a workplace where our staff can be happy and develop their full potential," concludes Mr Fung.