Marketing takes place at many levels across a wide swath of industries: an entrepreneur may find herself managing outreach for a newly-developed product, while a whole team might be involved in developing branding for a new line of apparel.
And in a fast-moving business world where digital and social media marketing are causing shifts in consumer behavior, marketing's significance is becoming more important, even for general managers.
“If you don't know the basics, it's going to be hard to walk the walk and talk the talk,” says Kurt Carlson, who co-teaches a three-day course called “Brand Advantage: Standout Marketing in a Saturated Market,” at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.
Fortunately, there are many such short courses that are specifically designed for people who have little to no formal knowledge of marketing, and who need to start talking the talk. For some who are looking to switch careers or functions, an executive course can be a more time-effective alternative to a full-fledged degree program.
Jodie Conduit, who teaches the two-day course “Marketing for Managers” at the University of Adelaide, often sees “people who are trying to retrain themselves but don't have enough time to be enrolled in an MBA.”
According to Angela Tong, associate director of executive education at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, some participants who come into the school's five-day “Strategic Marketing Management” have recently been thrust into marketing roles, and want to quickly get up-to-speed on the fundamentals.
“A lot of people who are in the marketing field kind of get thrown into it,” says Tong, who adds that the course can help by providing an academic framework.
“It will go through a customer analysis, a competitor analysis,” Tong says. “There's a day on pricing, there is a half-day on branding - it really covers all aspects of marketing.”
Michel Tuan Pham, Kravis Professor of Business at Columbia Business School says that a good number of people who attend Columbia's week-long program in “Strategic Marketing Management” already have some kind of experience in marketing. For even seasoned executives, he says, a course in marketing can help them get a higher-level view of how marketing works in their organizations.
“Some executives who manage marketing on a day-to-day basis tend to lose sight of the bigger picture,” he says. “So, we bring them back to the foundations of marketing at a strategic level.”
But beyond understanding the strategic level, students in a short course on marketing can also expect to come away with a more cohesive understanding of the people who are going to buy their products and services. Georgetown's Kurt Carlson, whose background is in behavioral economics, says his program holistically integrates insights from disciplines like psychology and decision sciences, which allows participants to more fully grasp what consumers need.
“It's not about advertising, and it's not about selling things that people don't want,” Carlson says. “If you do marketing right, you understand the consumer well enough to figure out what they need, so you're not producing unnecessary goods and services that people aren't going to use.”
Another benefit of an executive program in marketing is the robust interaction and discussion that can result from attendees bringing their own experiences. Adelaide's Jodie Conduit says that participants often come to “Marketing for Managers” with issues they've faced in the workplace and want to address.
“Hearing people talk about the different industries and the different challenges they face,” she says, “makes them realize that that a lot of those challenges are quite the same across industries.”
Georgetown's Kurt Carlson agrees.
“There's always discussion, in every class that comes from students' problems that they face, and how the material that we're discussing can help them resolve those problems,” says Carlson.
After doing a short course in marketing, participants often walk away with a tangible plan that they can start immediately applying to their business. At Adelaide, Jodie Conduit says that during class, she works with participants to help them develop personalized statements of value propositions, where they can start understanding where to look for new markets.
“Especially for some of the smaller businesses, it's actually quite interesting how often they haven't done that,” Conduit says.
Likewise, participants in Columbia's “Strategic Marketing Management” course are asked to bring in a specific marketing problem that they are currently facing in their business. Throughout the course, they can continually apply new tools and ideas to the problem, and by the end of the course they have an action plan and a timeline to address it.
“By the time that they leave the program,” says Michel Pham, “there are many more changes that they want to make than they can do immediately.”
But perhaps more valuable is the increased competence that a course like this can add, especially for executives who are increasingly exposed to marketing. Angela Tong says that after completing Booth's “Strategic Marketing Management” course, executives “can go into a meeting, and they'll be able to better understand the customers, the competitors, and much more of what goes into marketing.”
“If you have these fundamentals, you should be able to go into any situation and be able to understand what's going on.”