Susie Campbell is Chief Connector of a creative marketing and PR agency, Little Black Book Marketing. A former British Royal Navy Officer, Susie has taken a less than conventional career path into the world of marketing, adding breadth and depth to her experience with stints in retail, education, hospitality and project management to name a few. With an innate love of people and behaviour, it is her ability to ‘get into the head’ of consumers which allows her to instinctively understand target markets and how to sell to them in a way which delivers results. And with her ‘scrooge-like’ approach to finances, Susie has added a twist to her services that sees her strategies centred on cost-conscious, target-driven metrics.
I had the chance to chat with Susie about all things business, life and of course the idea of freedom. Enjoy reading and if you do have any questions for Susie, just comment below!
Susie , can you tell us about your Freedom Project?
My business, Little Black Book Marketing is a fresh, cost conscious take on marketing strategies for businesses. We simplify marketing and bring more creative ideas and often less digital and online strategies to the table. As the name suggests, we love to build connections for growth and usually incorporate some form of partnership within any strategy. We also support businesses to reach the media to build their brand. The team and I are huge advocates of using free and low-cost strategies and before embarking on any, ensure you understand your numbers and can track and measure ROI and cost per lead.
Why and when did you start your Freedom Project?
The origin of Little Black Book Marketing was fairly organic, it wasn’t something that I had set out to do or had had in my sights for years and years. I was new to the country and had begun assisting a small local business with their marketing, focusing heavily on my knack for implementing partnership marketing strategies. I’m very much a people person, so it didn’t take me long to begin to build up a strong network of contacts, which served two purposes – I had my very own ‘Little Black Book’ filled to the brim with professionals, bloggers, journalists, small business owners and entrepreneurs, and I had begun to invest in relationships that helped me to feel a sense of belonging in a new country.
Then when I was referred a new client. I felt inspired, motivated and yes, really excited to be able to help people in the same boat as me, an SME! I thrive on being able to show them how to be creative with their marketing strategies. By the time my client database had quadrupled, I knew it was time to start setting up processes, implementing a diary, and putting my skills and passion into a fully-fledged business – all the while thinking about how I could ensure my business was sustainable around juggling a family.
What does “Freedom” look like to you and how will you know you’ve made it there?
Freedom as a business owner, I would assume, may look different to each individual. I’m sure for some it means shorter hours, for others more money. But for me, freedom means having the flexibility to wear many hats throughout one day – mum, wife, business owner, team mate, client, contact, friend.
I am a passionate person, especially when it comes to my work, so being able to perform at my peak to suit my lifestyle, has been the most rewarding outcome of starting Little Black Book Marketing. Being in control of my own client intake and decide my own hours has been the cornerstone of feeling like Little Black Book could really take off.
When I look back to a time when I was struggling to juggle employment, a family, a husband who works away a lot and being without any family support, the realisation that I have now found freedom is absolutely clear and so very rewarding and fulfilling. I no longer have to work during the evenings or on the weekends. I can take meetings while walking my dog, I can be there for school pick up and drop off, and I can skype with the team or with clients when the kids are out of the house. Doing what I do best, when I’m at my best, has seen both the business and my team grow rapidly.
What excites you most about your Freedom Project?
I get most excited when I initially meet with a new client, who has been struggling with covering their own marketing strategies or paying way too much for a strategy that does not speak to their target market and therefore fails. It feels good to show people how to implement a cost-conscious way to market their business to the right people, with sustainability and time as two major factors. It is really exciting to see the ‘light-bulb’ moment, when a client is awakened to how they can take charge of their own business, decide on which direction to take and how to best brand their business. These strategies are often far more simple than people assume, so we often find clients jumping on the bandwagon and getting just as excited about their prospects and leads as we do.
What has been your major hurdle throughout the journey of your Freedom Project? Have you over come it? If so, how?
When I first started out with Little Black Book Marketing, all I had was my laptop and my phone. That was literally what I had to work with.
I didn’t have any spare money to invest in the business and I had to remain mindful that I’d have childcare costs to cover if I was really going to get serious about making this work. I worked during naptimes, at night and over the weekends until I had built up enough clientele to cover daycare fees, starting out with just one day a week and building up to full-time within a year. If my business profits didn’t cover the fees, I’d wait until they did. Simple. I used non-traditional methods of trade to get ahead – I bartered, I swapped, I shared. I have never spent a penny on paid ads. I waited until my business could sustain the costs involved in taking on staff, because for me, a business should work like that. I knew, from day one, that if I failed at managing my money, there would be no legitimacy in my giving out cost-conscious advice to my clients. Remaining thrifty and constantly crunching the numbers has allowed me the capacity to grow at a sustainable rate, within my means and with my family in mind.
What would your advice be to women who have yet to start their Freedom Project?
Try not to ponder on the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘how ‘s’ and the ‘is it good enough’s’. It can be easy to get bogged down in self-doubt and question whether your new venture will be both physically and financially feasible. If you are passionate enough and serious about what you have to offer, then find a starting point and just get the ball rolling. Build and grow as time and money allows. Prioritise your processes, you’ll be grateful when your business and your team grows. Know your limits, and stick to them. Be realistic – if you think something will take one hour, allow two for it just in case. Get out and meet people – share your knowledge and your skills. Be innovative and creative, if it scares you just a little, then it might just be worthwhile!
You wouldn’t be in the position you are today if somewhere deep down, you didn’t think you could do it. Trust your instincts, and make it work for you and your family.