I was asked recently what the future broker agency would look like. How do suppliers need to evolve or improve to get the best out of their agency partners? Interesting question, but it was a bit off base. It is not up to suppliers to “get the best out of their agency partners.” Retail agencies (brokers) should proactively be bringing the best, serving their clients.  It isn’t up to a supplier to proactively drive the work!

Many great agencies exist today, doing great work. I made the statement once to a supplier that Harvest had a great culture. The supplier I was visiting with said, “Everyone has a great culture, a great company, great people, and great values.” I get it.  Easy to say and build a slide talking about the great company one has. But how do you know who is going to truly make an impact on your business?

As a supplier, how can you select a great agency or broker? Or, how do you know if your current broker is all in?

On the heels of this question, I want to offer six diagnostic questions as you think about the work an agency does and how you can differentiate. These six simple questions can help one dig in deep into an agency’s structure and how they work. Sure, everyone has a great culture, people, and values, but these six questions get to the root of the work that can be expected from the agency.

6 Questions to ask Your Retail Agency or Broker

  1. How many people will work on my business?

Today’s competitive environment demands functional experts in the areas of strategy, replenishment, analytics, and digital.  And, digital takes a team. The days of one to two people handling all the work are over. The business is simply too complicated, data too granular.

Harvest Group’s model is built to give our clients access to a full team of experts across the store, digital, and advertising. Additionally, we invested in building a team of in-house developers so we can build tools and fix issues with speed and scale.

  1. How many clients will my Account Manager have on their plate?

The traditional broker model assigns a high number of clients to each Account Manager. If an Account Manager is working with too many suppliers, the individual will be spread too thin, and the business will suffer.  This often looks like a lack of proactiveness on the side of the agency.

Harvest Group keeps a very low client-to-account manager ratio to ensure we live our value of excellence through all of our client work. We want to create the capacity for our team to know our clients’ businesses deeply and function as a member of their team. This can’t be done if you have 10 clients to juggle.

  1. What technology and tools does the agency utilize to manage the business?

Data and insights drive growth, drive retail partnerships, and drive excellent work. Reporting is not the answer, but deep analytical work is. And data and insights are coming at you fast. Store POS, digital POS, buy online/pickup in store, paid search ROAS, content scores, retailer SEO, etc. Efficiency is key. The agency must have the technology, adaptable tools, and people to customize solutions for your business. An agency has two options; to rent/outsource static tools or build a customizable solution tailored to your business.

At Harvest Group, we have invested in multiple different data sources and talented people to build a customizable data and insights platform accessible to all of our clients.

  1. Does the agency work on store, digital, and advertising (tri-lingual)?

Omni is the buzzword of the last 2 years, but not the complete answer. Working with an agency that serves your in-store business and your online business is now table stakes. Today’s agency must know the store, digital, and advertising. Your advertising spend comes to life in your in-store POS which affects how your shape your digital strategy.\

Look for an agency that can create efficiencies for your company by being able to speak paid search ROAS as easily as store POS performance. At Harvest Group, we’ve coined this as being “trilingual” and take a 360 approach to our clients’ business across the store and online.

  1. Does the agency provide category breadth and depth at the retailer?

Relationships alone do not create success at the retailer. However, a deep understanding of the retailer can. Having an ear to the ground across the box gives a company tribal knowledge that is more impactful to clients.

For example, at the core, what is going on in grocery impacts health and wellness. Trends in one category offer insights into other categories. Our teams at Harvest Group compete in over 150 categories and have a broad internal sharing discipline to stay informed.

  1. How do different offices at the agency work together?

Operating offices or managing retailers in silos will create market issues rather than growth. Amazon impacts Walmart which impacts Kroger and so on. A supplier can’t manage a retailer in a vacuum. Sure, execution will look different by retailer, but strategy must be connected.

Closing Thoughts

Our Brand Promise at Harvest Group states “Connected Strategy. Customized Solutions. Common Purpose” to do just this.

Forget the famous CPG decks, great slides, and inspiring stories. Ask your current or future partner these six questions to understand how they work.

After you get these answers, then ask about the culture and people. After all, you’ll be working closely with this team to grow the business.  As the Head of Sales at Olly once told me, “We want a company that will grind through a strategy all day, then look forward to sharing a pizza at night.” Or encourage you to skip the pizza for your kid’s baseball game.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work we do at Harvest Group and how we serve our clients we’d be happy to chat! Email us at hello@harvestgroup.com or fill out our Contact Us form here.

Mike Harvey

Author Mike Harvey

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