This paper provides an account of a vertical market go-to-market strategy that has been used by an executive education startup in the College of Business at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. The executive education startup is titled the "Office of Professional & Executive Development" and has been in operation for approximately 18 months. The office was launched explicitly using a vertical market strategy. That is, public training programs were designed for vertical markets only, enabling instructors to design programs with deep, industry-specific examples, cases, and lessons.
Rogers, Shawna L. and Duening, Thomas N. (2013) "Vertical Market Strategy: The Case of an Executive Education Startup in a Medium-Sized Business School," Journal of Executive Education: Vol. 12: Iss. 1, Article 2.
One of the greatest challenges for the success of any university-based executive and professional development center (we will use the term "EPDC" throughout as short-hand for "executive and/or professional development center") is the ability to attract and serve customers. As such, these unique entities are "profit centers" within the university in every sense of that term. That is, they are uniquely positioned as a business organization that operates quasi independently within the larger university complex. To the extent that the EPDC has operational autonomy it functions very much like a business. And therefore, in the prevailing parlance, is a business to business or "B to B" enterprise.
Given that identification, it seems reasonable to look to the literature on effective marketing tactics and strategies of other, similar B to B enterprises and apply them to EPDC operations. In this paper, we analyze how a vertical marketing strategy was used by a particular EPDC that is in reality a startup at a medium-sized university in a mid-tier Western city. The EPDC that stands at the center of this analysis is the Office of Professional & Executive Development (OPED) in the College of Business at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. OPED had a soft launch in late 2011 and a director (SLR) was hired to run the program in December 2011. The OPED case is unique in that finding a startup EPDC is relatively rare, especially in a mid-tier business school. This rarity provides a unique view on the industry, as a startup has more flexibility to experiment and pivot from one strategy to another than does an established program with its legacy infrastructure and processes already in place. In this regard, we offer this case study as a laboratory of sorts for the exploration of the vertical market strategy approach. To date, it is the only market strategy that OPED has used and it is bearing significant fruit that should be of interest to any existing EPDC that may be searching for market strategy alternatives.