Business Lecturer Scoops National Award for Innovative Student Marketing Project

9 July 2024
Time to read
6 minute read
Claire Culley seated at a table at the Academy of Marketing conference awards holding her award and smiling
Claire Culley with her award

A University of Suffolk business lecturer has scooped a national award for an innovative project which sees students gain hands-on experience helping small businesses solve their marketing problems.

Claire Culley won the Marketing Teaching Excellence Award at last week’s Academy of Marketing annual conference held at Cardiff Business School.

The award was given in recognition of her project, The Marketing Lab: Bridging Theory with Practice, which she designed in 2022 as a means for students to get hands-on experience and allow small businesses to benefit from the emerging talent on the University of Suffolk’s Business Management course.

Claire said: “I’m delighted to have won this award. Having worked in social media and digital marketing for years before moving into lecturing, it’s always been important to me that we bring real industry insight and skills into the classroom. To win an award for doing just that feels very special.”

The project features small businesses visiting the ‘lab’ with a marketing problem, such as growing their digital marketing presence or building brand awareness.

Students are then set the challenge to come up with a solution. It works over a series of timed stages designed for students to understand the business and its current challenges, figure out who the customer is and come up with a strategy for the firm to implement.

The businesses benefit from a host of ideas and strategies underpinned by theory, while students can gain some practical experience applying their knowledge to business and build on their client-facing skills.

To date, Claire has led seven marketing labs, benefitting a range of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and charities across a range of industries, with students across all three years of the BA programme having been involved.

The lab will be running again in the new academic year, with applications open to small businesses and charities now to get involved.

It is one of a number of initiatives the University of Suffolk’s Business School offers to help give students practical opportunities with industry.

Students have a number of placement hours they must complete in order to graduate, and the course also gets students to practice key industry skills such as pitching and presenting, writing business reports, work on live assessments with industry and support to start their own pop-up enterprises.

In addition, students benefit from visits to high profile employers. Last year, first-year students pitched their marketing campaign ideas to Hello Fresh at the firm’s London headquarters.

Claire added: “Gaining hands-on experience is fundamental – it not only allows students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have learned but it also helps to develop those important soft skills such as team work, professional client interaction, leadership abilities, problem-solving and creative thinking.”

Small businesses and charities wishing to take part in The Marketing Lab for the next academic year can get in touch with Claire directly by emailing

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