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Get to know Relevance: Meet Our Commercial Director Niki McMorrough

Tell us about yourself

I have had a ‘squiggly’ career and I’m proud of it! I’ve been head of marketing / marketing director for global music and media brands, a fashion entrepreneur and lingerie designer, a luxury automotive content strategist, a tech product manager, and a travel journalist. I’ve worked in clients and agencies, for brands large and small, centenarians and startups, wholesale and retail, production, finance and sales. I think this gives me the unique capability of quickly understanding the needs and challenges of the businesses I consult for, to provide them with the best solutions within Relevance’s service offering.

What is the role of a commercial director in an agency?

I think it can vary depending on the individual, the agency and the moment in time. At Relevance my key priorities are to ensure that we are solving all of our clients needs and requirements as effectively as possible while building a sustainable culture of excellence within our team, and managing the growth and direction of the agency in terms of the new business we court and win. Relevance’s specialism is to help brands reach and resonate with ultra-high-net-worth individuals. We work for the most pinnacle and out-of-this-world brands in each vertical, nothing less.

Which aspect of your job are you the most passionate about?

I really enjoy meeting and consulting on a wide variety of clients and prospects – every day brings new connections and new business challenges to solve, it’s never boring, and it uses all my mental muscles. One minute I’m consulting on jewellery, the next on cars, yachts, real estate and space rockets! I adore the Relevance team spirit and marvel at what has been achieved in the past decade, but I am probably most passionate about getting the processes and structure in place for us to manage our growth and direction moving forward.

What has been your biggest challenge since you arrived?

This year has been a challenge for all businesses, everywhere, with planet earth calling all the shots. One very Covid-specific challenge has been to facilitate remote teamwork using tools like Miro, Google Jam and Sli.do to hold collaborative working sessions. 

It’s been really important to me to provide ways for our employees to give feedback so we can see how everyone is feeling. To ensure that all our team members have a voice, we have encouraged the use of live polls during meetings as well as employee feedback surveys to take a pulse and involved our whole team in the discussion about the future of remote vs office working. I’m really trying to promote a culture of transparency, honesty and accountability, but we have to work harder than ever at this when half the team haven’t met each other in real life yet. 

What are your long term goals for Relevance?

Relevance is the world leader in marketing to UHNW audiences, and I want our agency to represent the very best brands from each sector. I want us to hone our skills, learn every day, and manage ourselves in an effective, balanced way. I want us to continue to employ world-class experts, listen and respond to our clients needs, and grow their businesses alongside ours. We don’t need to be the biggest agency in the world, but we do need to be the highest quality, most respected UHNW experts who get results. We are already doing this, and the next few years will be about refinement of services, client mix and team expertise.

What is the most difficult aspect of answering a tender?  

Tenders are an essential and important part of agency growth, but they are costly, risky, and arguably the process is outdated. It’s an art and a science to sense when a tender is worthwhile, and when we participate there’s a special knack to perceiving the ‘true’ brief, which is often different from the written one, because it can be riddled with political and relationship issues that no professional would want to write down on paper! Most difficult of all is the perception gap – it’s been scientifically proven that a tender costs an agency at least twice as much as the client perceives it does. Therefore, it’s really important throughout the tender process to help the client appreciate the value of what they are getting.

How do you manage large projects/tenders?

It’s a long and laborious process that can take anywhere from six months to many years, each one is different and customised to the client in question. I think the single most important aspect is to qualify every step of the way to ensure the client is fully invested in each step of the process, as their internal processes as well as external factors can change the remit, timeline and priority considerably. Secondly, it’s paramount to obtain constructive and high quality feedback about how we are perceived during and after the tender process, as this is valuable information, which can be used to help the team see how their strategy, creative and communication gets understood by the client. 

How do you handle client negotiations?

Every client is different, but they all share one goal – to get their problems solved at the highest possible quality, for the best price, within a given time frame. Negotiation is a conversation – I try to listen to what the client needs to construct the best possible proposal for them and understand their entire purchasing process before we begin.

What challenges are agencies facing today?

Every challenge is also an opportunity, and there are plenty afoot. For example, ‘work from anywhere’ means new culture, new hiring practices, new thinking about the workplace and intercontinental human resource requirements. New privacy guidelines require adapted targeting and marketing practices. New artificial intelligence and apps enable brands to DIY their marketing to a point. New platforms and the metaverse bring daily skill gaps that need to be resolved. But for luxury brands to differentiate, they will always need agencies like ours to stay one step ahead within our niche, to demystify the UHNW audience, the platforms, the digital production, the immense opportunities on our horizons and how to navigate all of this.

How can you ensure agency growth during a pandemic?

This pandemic has and continues to require flexible thinking and compassion – for clients who may not be able to move as fast as they would like to, for employees who may have been asked to isolate or take furlough, and for leaders who may have had to make tough decisions they didn’t want to. We are lucky to work in digital, which can thrive during a pandemic, but we have needed to look after our clients in the hospitality, events and travel sectors, which were quite hard hit. In the past year, Relevance has been able to acquire new expertise and services, new team members and new clients to set us up for growth – but it’s been hard to predict how long the pandemic will last, how to pace our growth and what the future holds – we got some things right, and some things wrong. So, it remains crucial to regularly review the situation, take one step at a time, and listen to the needs of our clients and team as we move forward.

If you are a luxury brand and would like to discuss how we can enhance your online presence, contact us today.

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