Live: From North East kitchen table to global consultancy – The story of Costello Palmer

Marie Grieve, managing director of Costello Palmer Communications, started her business from her kitchen table in rural Northumberland. In the past six years, it has grown into a global marketing consultancy operating from three offices in the UK and US. Over the course of international expansion, digital revolutions and unpredictable challenges, Marie credits her continued success to her compassionate approach to business – for her clients and her team alike

For Marie Grieve, a typical working day starts at 7am with clients in Australia.

Morning meetings with team members keep her up to date with progressing campaigns, then she’ll bounce through time-zones from Sydney to New York, speaking with clients about their projects.

By 7pm, she is catching up with the LA projects and planning for what’s next.

It’s hard to imagine that in 2015, Marie was sitting at her kitchen table in a small village surrounded by the beautiful Northumbrian countryside, single-handedly strategising a new business idea.

She had recognised a niche for a marketing agency specialising in supporting pioneering organisations at the forefront of building information modelling (BIM) adoption – a new digital technology that she saw was going to change the course of history for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.

Already an experienced marketer, Marie had been introduced to ‘digital construction’ while working for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the National Building Specification (NBS). She worked on two huge BIM launches – the NBS National BIM Library and the NBS BIM Object Standard, gaining expert knowledge and seeing the potential of its industry-wide use.

Her strategy paid off and 18 months into founding Costello Palmer, she set up her London address.

A healthy string of word-of-mouth referrals meant the business was growing organically with architect, engineer, contractor, manufacturer and membership body clients.

Soon she was delivering talks and hosting discussions at global conferences, where she would attract clients from Europe, Australia and the US.

By year three, she opened her third office, this time in Los Angeles.

As Costello Palmer expanded, while protective of the brand she had established, Marie knew she had to grow her team.

First came copywriters, then web designers, videographers, digital content managers, social media specialists and administrative support to keep it all running smoothly.

 

Costello Palmer Communications’ bases include an office in Los Angeles’ Water Garden

 

Today, Costello Palmer – which also has an office in Newcastle’s Clavering Place – has grown into an international marketing consultancy specialising in creativity and innovation for forward-thinking businesses operating in the built environment.

When you turn the page of a magazine to see a stunning residential masterplan, or attend a conference to see the chief executive of a fast-growing software company on stage – Marie is the one behind the scenes making these things happen.

Her business’ growth has always been about a face-to-face approach at every stage of the journey.

Marie says: “For me, when setting up my own business, it needed to be a face-to-face thing – people buy into you, and that’s really important to me, to be able to build trust and confidence in our brand.”

She says setting up the US office was about having a dedicated ‘face’ for Costello Palmer in that region, so the business could grow in the same organic way through networks and events.

“Opening the US office was a turning point,” adds Marie.

“We already had global clients, but the need for an international base was a benchmark of our success.

“We are ambitious, and we know there is a need for our marketing specialisms internationally, particularly across North America.”

Though her job is very creative, Marie starts every marketing campaign by drilling down on a client’s key objectives, after which she formulates a unique strategy.

She says: “I’ve always had the premise that when I start working with a new client, they’re not going to engage our services unless we positively impact their bottom line.

“That’s what Costello Palmer Communications is about, and that’s what sets us apart from other agencies.”

It might be surprising that ‘empathy’ is such a key tool for Marie, a target-driven strategist with experience in public, private and government sectors.

Yet somewhat like a therapist unpacking a life story, Marie uses empathy to quickly discern the identity of a brand.

“We are chameleons,” she adds.

“We adapt to what the client needs.

“All of our clients are individual and their marketing has to reflect that.”

Once the story is understood, it needs to be told in an engaging way to appeal to our human nature.

“You never sell, you tell and that’s the key,” says Marie.

“You gain people’s trust by telling stories about what makes you different.

 

Costello Palmer Communications’ clients include Darlington-based architects Corstorphine + Wright. The firm is working with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen on the redevelopment of Redcar’s former Steel House building [pictured above], which was once the headquarters of the town’s steelworks and is now part of the Teesworks project  

 

“You should always be proud to tell your story, to show legacy and authenticity, where you came from and what drives you.

“If no one has trust in your business, you will never succeed.”

For Marie, in-depth stories are best communicated through thought leadership and opinion pieces.

She uses events and articles, as vehicles for showing off her client’s in-depth industry knowledge and expertise.

Marie once set up a client on an 18-month global tour of events and talks, and the business grew three-fold.

Though the year of 2020 has challenged the events arm of Marie’s strategy, Costello Palmer found ways to support businesses that adapted digitally to the new situation.

She says: “Digital is hugely important, but it will never replace the human aspect.

“It’s so nice to have someone stand on a stage and tell you their story, then have a coffee and a conversation afterwards.

“That’s where business is won – social and digital marketing is brilliant for mass consumer products, but it will never replace the human touch.”

Though changes to the industry, and the world, have pulled her in new directions and thrown up challenges, Marie always prioritises people and “being a good human”.

Using the skills of empathy, authenticity and trust, she says her work is about empowering others and ensuring they have the confidence and the right tools to succeed.

“We all have a great story to tell and my role is ensuring the right people hear it!”

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