Sales and marketing professionals suffered more than most in the recent economic downturn. Recruitment stalled, budgets were cut, and new campaigns were put on hold.
Now, though, as things pick up speed, those same individuals once again find themselves in demand. They are, however, no longer able to rely solely on their former expertise. The business environment has changed and a new set of skills is required to keep pace with the latest challenges appearing both within and outside the industry.
"Future developments in the sales and marketing industry will focus on three major aspects Professionalism, the China market, and creativity and innovation," predicts Professor Leo Sin, senior vice-chairman, education committee, and vice-chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Hong Kong.
"The banking and financial sector, telecommunications and the logistics industry will remain the driving force in marketing, but the demand for marketing professionals in high-tech industries will grow tremendously, as will the need to promote biotech products for health and beauty."
The underlying message is clear. Traditional marketing techniques may already be outdated and a different approach may be needed. As Professor Sin points out: "New marketing skills and knowledge can certainly be picked up in the workplace. However, in order to keep fully up to date with everything that is going and have a chance of becoming a leading professional marketer, it is best to consider further education."
In view of this, the University of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE), in association with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), is offering a joint awards programme (certificate, diploma and postgraduate diploma in marketing) which caters for the burgeoning demand of marketing professionals looking to upgrade their skills. CIM brings over 90 years of experience to the programme. With more than 60,000 members worldwide, it is the world's largest professional body for marketing practitioners and is internationally recognised for the qualifications it offers up to postgraduate level at more than 350 colleges and universities.
The joint awards programme comprises 12 modules specifically designed by CIM to combine academic theory with practical business skills. Those with little formal training in marketing start with the certificate programme before advancing to the higher levels. For anyone with significant experience in the field or with a recognised degree, direct entry to the postgraduate diploma is possible.
To maintain the highest possible standards, the annual intake ranges from 100 to 200 students from approximately 1,700 applications. "The number accepted actually depends on the applicants' qualifications, marketing experience and career aspirations," says Professor Sin. "Our students come from all sorts of professional backgrounds. We hope that they will bring their respective expertise and be able to contribute new ideas to the programme to make it a genuine learning experience for all of us."
Upon successful completion, holders of the joint awards are not only eligible for the maximum number of exemptions from the CIM examinations, which will eventually lead to full CIM membership, but can also enroll for the MSc in marketing offered by the University of Hong Kong in collaboration with Napier University in Scotland.
To cope with rapid changes in the sales and marketing profession, the programme's structure and the materials used are regularly reviewed to meet the needs of the industry. "The academic world should always stay ahead of universal trends in marketing," Professor Sin believes. In fact, while the certificate and diploma courses focus on helping students build a solid foundation in marketing, the postgraduate diploma departs from the traditional path and places a lot more emphasis on strategic marketing directions along with new theories and concepts.
"The course design of the postgraduate diploma allows students to understand and master strategic planning and formulation skills while also teaching how these skills have practical relevance in the marketplace," Professor Sin stresses. "These programmes are carefully structured with the ultimate aim of equipping our students with the knowledge and intellectual capabilities to develop successful careers in marketing management."
However, a certain amount of self-examination is recommended before enrolling in any one of the programmes, to assess whether a career in the field is suitable. "First of all, ask yourself if you have what it takes to survive in the industry," advises Professor Sin. "Secondly, ask if you are prepared to make the sort of commitment that involves a certain amount of time and a lot of hard work. Most important of all, as a marketer, remember that you need to have a creative mind to go with the hard work you must be prepared to put in."
As things change, Professor Sin believes that the marketing sector will see the survival of the fittest. "Some of the less able companies may be eliminated," he says. "Only the strongest can be sure of maintaining their place in the industry because there is no doubt that the marketing profession is constantly getting tougher." Good performance is the key to success and, generally speaking, performance is solely determined by the results achieved. "Individuals who do not choose to upgrade their skills may also run the risk of being left behind," he cautions.
Staying ahead of the pack
- Renewed demand seen for sales and marketing professionals
- Vital to possess skills relevant to the changing business
- Joint programmes in marketing to teach practical and strategic
- Course material regularly updated to include the latest
- Marketers without professional qualifications risk falling