INTEREST in the export marketing category of the Hong Kong Awards for Industry continues to climb as the competition enters its third year. 'This year we had 15 applicants, last year it was 14 and the year before it was 11,' Lee Chi-sang, senior manager of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), said. 'There's growing emphasis on export marketing among the manufacturers and exporters,' he said. The category recognises excellence in the field of export marketing and heightens awareness in the manufacturing and trading communities of the importance of export marketing strategies, methods and techniques. 'There is a growing awareness that export marketing is a planned programme where you set up targets and implement strategies rather than working on an ad hoc basis,' Mr Lee said. Entrants must be Hong Kong companies which export products manufactured wholly or partly in the territory. The judging process begins with an independent evaluation done by a consulting firm where each company is invited to make a presentation. Judged by a nine-member panel made up of bankers and trade and industry association members, they will look at various aspects of each applicant company. These include the company's export marketing strategy, selection of markets, promotional methods, campaigns and results, product innovation and the way the company adjusts products to deal with specific characteristics of different markets. The winners will be announced later this week. Mr Lee said that once a company had competed in this category, it would not enter in subsequent years. 'I think once you have your programme evaluated you work out new priorities,' he said. The HKTDC puts a lot of emphasis on encouraging export marketing. 'In recent years, more and more Hong Kong businesses are creating their own product brand names for export,' according to Mr Lee.