No need to buy me a Christmas gift this year – I’ve already received the best present (professionally speaking) I think I could get!

Dropping something over to a client’s yesterday, she popped out for a quick chat.  She was talking about her business plans for the New Year.  She has a loyal customer base but would like to attract more new customers, which has been a particular challenge in her field since the lockdowns.  Quite unprompted, she then said “I really don’t know how I would have survived the last year without you.  In fact, I was only thinking to myself the other day that I wish I’d met Claire sooner.”

Professionally speaking, I was absolutely delighted.  (Personally speaking, I had to stifle the urge to give her a hug!) What lovely, lovely feedback.

But I suppose that’s all any of us want: to be useful to our clients.  (I once suggested that if my epitaph could read ‘Claire Sutton: she was useful’ I would die happy – and I wasn’t completely joking!)  As I reflect on almost five years of being useful on a freelance basis, it occurs to me how that utility can change and often in relation to the evolution of a clients’ business. 

Many of my clients are small or solo-businesses so I quite often find I am the ‘sounding board’ for many decisions.  In the last five years, those decisions have ranged from the obviously marketing-related (“Do you think it’s time I had a new website?”) to the more tangential but still customer-impacting (“What does GDPR mean for me?” or “How do you interpret these Covid restrictions for my business?”). I love being able to weigh up the options with a client so that they can feel confident they have made the right decision.  (I have previously studied both Politics and Counselling and there are days when I wonder which I call on most!).

I really enjoy working with new businesses.  My ‘sounding board’ role is often very similar but the questions usually start out on a more strategic level.  “How do I define my business so people understand what I offer?” “How do I reach those people?” When you’re a new business, you perhaps don’t realise that established businesses are constantly asking themselves these questions too. Marketing is a constant cycle of action – refine – learn – action but it somehow feels much more mission critical when you’re just starting up.

I enjoy being useful on a day-to-day basis too. A standard comment I frequently get is “I know I should be doing more social media but I don’t have time/I don’t enjoy it/I don’t understand it/insert ending of your choice.” Fortunately, this is something I do enjoy – whether turning four sketchy bullet points into a full article or simply sourcing some images to make a post more eye-catching, that’s the sort of daily creativity that I get out of bed for.  I like to think that I’m a trusted pair of hands that mean my clients have one less thing to worry about.

I also love this duality, that marketing at its best should be operating on both a strategic and a practical level at the same time. I think that’s why I have always shied away from calling myself a ‘Marketing Consultant’ (rightly or wrongly!).  To me, a consultant is great at producing strategies and plans but, often, leaves you to implement them.  For me, the implementation is the greatest opportunity to learn so I don’t think I could feel I’d done a thorough job if I left that part out.

I have to be honest and say that, as a marketing professional, the last person I usually think about marketing is myself. I’m not great at asking for testimonials for my business, for example, it’s always easier on behalf of a client. That is what made yesterday’s spontaneous review doubly welcome – and my first Christmas present of this year!

 Season’s greetings x