As one of Hong Kong's most important business sectors, marketing has become a fiercely competitive field. Marketing professionals face a number of challenges in ensuring that their products and services make it to the top of the pile, but while copying successful competitors may bring short-term benefits, this often cannot be sustained.
The key to gaining a long-term edge in the market is competitive positioning. In view of this, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's School of Business and Management is set to launch a new executive education programme in October this year to equip marketing professionals with the tools to get ahead in the business.
The two-day intensive training programme will focus on helping participants to evaluate the market environment using relevant analytical tools, and to develop proactive and reactive strategic options for marketing management, says Joseph Salvacruz, adjunct associate professor at the School of Business and Management.
Also a seasoned business advisor for international firms, Professor Salvacruz notes that customer relationship management (CRM) is an important part of competitive positioning. "CRM focuses on creating exchanges with customers in order for firms to gain a thorough understanding of customer needs and buying patterns, enabling them to anticipate their future needs," he explains.
Using Dell as an example, Professor Salvacruz says the company built up a strong position and kept its leading position in the market by identifying value drivers to help acquire new customers and retain existing ones. However, competitors' efforts to adopt a similar positioning strategy to that of Dell have failed, because the company's market position could not be challenged.
The essence of competitive positioning is for a company to differentiate itself by convincing potential customers that its products or services will add more value than other similar offerings. This is known as value proposition.
Competition has increased because there are a lot of industry players competing for a slice of the same pie, Professor Salvacruz points out. "The other route to successful marketing is to grow the pie by drawing new customers into the market and selling across business units," he adds. The programme will adopt an integrated approach that balances theory and real-life application. Analytical tools will be introduced to help participants understand market segmentation and competition evaluation.
The programme is primarily aimed at professionals dealing with competitive analysis, product positioning and strategic marketing, but people from other industries may also benefit. The school's programmes are open to all. This enrolment policy facilitates ideas exchange, since participants from different backgrounds are able to offer varying perspectives and strategies, Professor Salvacruz says, adding that the programme's strong interactive component also assists networking between participants.