Intermediaries: are they worth their weight in gold?

Are intermediaries right for my agency, and how do I build a trusted relationship?

Is working with an intermediary the right choice for my agency?

Will I just be one of many to be considered for a brief?

 

 

For brands, outsourcing the pitch process is a decision not to be made lightly but since the world’s first pitch consultancy service for clients and agencies – the AAR – was established in 1975, intermediaries have been a trusted partner for clients and as a result, a rich source of new business for agencies in the creative industries.

 

In the UK alone there are now multiple intermediaries and influencers, driving new business for agencies by giving them access to established, trusted client relationships and supporting them through the process from tender, chemistry meetings, pitch, appointment and facilitating contract negotiations.

 

But is building relationships with intermediaries necessary in a world where agencies can easily reach out to potential clients through other channels?

 

The short answer is yes.

 

Against the current backdrop of economic uncertainty, pitching has become ever more complex and competitive with the pressure on CMO’s to find the right partners,  and it’s fair to say we’re seeing a resurgence of energy in the world of intermediaries. This is thanks in part to the Pitch Positive Pledge, launched in 2022 by the IPA and ISBA – and to a hungrier more strategic breed of intermediary. And there is a clear sense that this new-found vigour is driving intermediaries to work harder than ever as they build deeper, meaningful relationships with agencies as well as brands.

 

Achieving long term, successful new business results can be a) costly and b) time consuming. It requires patience and an understanding of the process – but the results can be well worth it. Partnering with these industry brokers will give you a competitive edge by structuring and formalising the agency relationship, helping you to understand the market – KPIs, performance reviews, pricing etc – and getting a robust contract in place. But you need to work at them and make sure that you engage and are top of mind. Your new business machine needs to think of them as a separate work stream.

 

But connecting and subscribing is only the first step. You only get out of it as much as you put in. As we see in our own work, creating and executing marketing-led new business programs for agencies, simply getting onto an intermediary list won’t switch on an instant, infinite new business tap.  It is a partnership and one that you need to nurture and respect.

 

3 steps to a successful intermediary partnership:

 

Trust

 

Focus on a few intermediaries and get close to them. Like all new business channels, intermediaries need to understand what makes you tick as an agency – and to have conviction in you. On the flip side, as an agency, you need to trust their judgement and if you are not on a list for a pitch that you think you should be, ask the intermediary – without really knowing what the client is looking for, you may just not be the right fit on this occasion.

 

Don’t hold back

 

Every year, intermediaries will see hundreds of agencies and hear countless creds. What have you got that sets you apart? Think about your people and the work that you deliver for your clients. Go all out, be open about your ambitions for the business and the clients that you are right for.

 

OysterCatchers MD, Richard Robinson, writes that: aside from “demonstrating your strategic leadership, creative excellence, digital mastery and operational discipline” you must “elevate your pitch to demonstrate your brilliance in helping the CMO understand today’s market dynamics, guiding them to find the right path to action & upskilling their ability to influence customer behaviour through the best adtech, channels & campaigns.”

 

Invest for the long-term

 

Find the right intermediary partners that fit with your mission, invest time in them and don’t expect overnight results. You need to get to know them as people and understand how they like to work. You need to invest in them, engage with them and support them in their roles. Intermediaries are accountable but, as CEO of the agency, so are you: simply sending in a creds deck or paying an invoice is not enough.

 

The decision to work with an intermediary will depend on your goals, budget and overall strategy and with over 50 consultancies, consultants, platforms and agencies with a diverse range of offerings in the space it can be hard to know where to start, or who to approach.

 

If you want to gain a better understanding of intermediaries, Beckon can help, with our Intermediary Insight Masterclass. For any agency wanting a better understanding of the complex intermediary landscape before potentially investing thousands subscribing to their services, this session –  based on interviews with over 30 intermediaries –  is designed to bust myths, deliver insight and offer you tailored advice, saving you time, effort and enabling you to take decisions on where to focus.