Data Stories: Leaders at Work is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Rahul Jerome, founder of insight-intelligence.com and The Insight Network, co-organised by Audiense. The series captures personal anecdotes and career highlights from some of the most talented and brightest minds in the research and insights industry.
Laura Morris, Customer Director at Trinity McQueen, is my guest on this episode of the Data Stories: Leaders at Work podcast. Laura started her career by studying International Business at Loughborough University and completing her 1-year placement as a part of that degree at Nestle. She found that her natural curiosity and interest in both psychology and branding were the perfect fit for her position in market research in Nestle’s beverages segment. While there, many people took her under their wings and helped guide her future work endeavors, but Linda Sutherland and Jo Pavari, in particular, served as role models to Laura as she pursued leadership positions throughout her career.
Her year at Nestle helped her explore and gain a better understanding of the client-side of market research and her colleagues there encouraged her to spend some time in an agency to gain a broader perspective on research and insights. She always intended to return to the client-side at some point, but it just hasn’t happened.
After Laura had been working in agencies for about 10 years, she went back to school at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) because she felt like she needed a bit more expertise and training to acquire that gravitas that she felt she needed to better serve her clients. She said that while she realised that the fundamentals do not change, she wanted an added layer of knowledge to give her the confidence to deliver a high-quality return.
One of Laura’s main takeaways from CIM was gaining a detailed understanding of what marketing directors are looking for in every situation in terms of the underlying business objective. Daily, she draws from this training as she is interacting with clients, drafting proposals, and presenting insights to clients because she is constantly trying to channel what marketing directors are thinking and looking for.
While Laura started in research, after a few years she found herself gravitating towards business development and she has remained in that niche to this day. To some, business development might sound salesy, but Laura has found that it is exactly where she wants to be: thinking about how to solve clients’ problems and then being able to present them with the insights at the end of the project.
Laura sees herself as a resource to clients and she loves to connect with people who have a problem but who do not know exactly how to ask for what they need to know. Her foundation in research as well as her commercial experience and her CIM education is crucial to business development and provides her with the knowledge she needs to pull together a proposal and a pitch based on her understanding of the clients’ problems and their needs.
To junior researchers or others considering getting into the business development space, Laura recommends shadowing a new business person at the agency, getting involved in the proposal and pitch process, and carving out a role for themselves – if one does not already exist – by honing skills and processes. Getting experience with lots of different types of briefs, sectors, and client roles and being resourceful as you learn is key and will help those individuals gain crucial experience.
One of the strengths that she has developed over the years which is serving her very well in her current role of Customer Director at Trinity McQueen is networking and she attributes much of her business success to her ability to connect with people. Laura’s advice to people wanting to build up their networks is to strike up conversations with people at events and conferences once those start back up after COVID-19 lockdown is over. She says that breaking the ice at conferences is very low risk because everyone is there for the same purpose and if you get nothing else out of the conversation at least you can connect with them on LinkedIn and keep up with what they are working on in case there might be an opportunity for you to collaborate on something in the future.
Laura has many interests outside of work including being a part of a band, playing competitive tennis, squash, and racquetball, and giving back to her community. In particular, she is involved with a domestic abuse charity in her area. Unfortunately, Laura was a domestic abuse victim earlier in life and she has been committed to helping other victims ever since.
The full version of the podcast with Laura Morris can be listened here: