Recession Resilience – What agencies need to do NOW to survive and thrive!

On today’s episode of Word on the Street, Katie speaks to a good friend and major influencer in our network Stephen Knight, CEO & Founder of Pimento – the UK’s leading independent marketing & communications network, Chairman at Ultimate Travel Club, Joint Founder of Now Next Why, Entrepreneur, NED, Trustee and Consultant.

A former Advertising Executive, Brand & Marketing Director and CMO with 30 years sales and marketing experience. Stephen has held a variety of positions at major international agencies including Bates Dorland, Lowe Howard-Spink and WCRS. Five years with the Walt Disney Company latterly as Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Brand Management for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

In 2003, he joined Creata, a global promotions agency, as their European MD where amongst other things he oversaw the McDonalds, Ferrari and Kellogg’s accounts. Having worked successfully above and below the line, client and agency side, he felt it was time to do his own thing and founded Pimento in 2005, Europe’s largest virtual agency. From 2013-2016 Stephen extended his role at Pimento with interim contracts at SSE as Head of Brand, Marketing and CMO. In addition to his responsibilities at Pimento he is a NED of Ebico, a non-for-profit energy company.

In this episode you will hear:

  • Inflation, recession, and uncertainty
  • Understanding how to support your clients
  • How to survive as an agency over the next 5 years
  • The secrets to success and growth

There were so many amazing takeaways from today’s episode, and these were just a few of our favourites.

Understanding how to support your clients

With Pimento – The UK’s leading independent marketing & communications network, Stephen wanted to create something truly bespoke, putting his clients at the centre of the universe, building around them the resources they need to supercharge their marketing and that’s what Pimento have been doing now for nearly 18 years. As part of the Pimento network, there are now around 165 agencies and consultants. There are a lot of different factors that are currently impacting on our economy and actually making it more difficult for clients to make commercial decisions about investing in marketing. Stephen suggests using this as an opportunity to go to your clients now, sit down with them, make sure you really understand the pressures that they are under and find ways in which you can actually support them through this period of time. Pick up the phone, go and see your clients, take time to listen and communicate, and have a strategy about what they are doing in their businesses and how you can help them.

The secrets to success and growth

Your talent is the most important thing and you have to find ways to keep them fully engaged. Giving your people a bit more time and breathing space, taking some of the pressure away from them and actually using the opportunity to actually deepen those relationships and create that strong culture so you are better positioned is a worthwhile investment in your business and something you should consider. Talent acquisition is one of the toughest things about having a business so it is really important to create a strong culture in order to keep current staff members happy, as well as attracting clients who recognise you have a purpose and exist for something bigger than just making money. Look at your client base, work out what you are really good at, do you know what your clients think of you and have you taken the opportunity to actually listen to your clients and their feedback? Are you giving time to these things? You need to be thinking about these things and addressing any issues now. Do you truly understand why clients are buying you or which marketing tactics they’ve been engaging with you via when they come in as a lead? It is important to truly understand why clients value agencies and what they want to see from their agency partners.

How to survive as an agency over the next 5 years

Maintain a positive mindset and stay positive – your clients will expect this of you! Being truthful, open, and maintaining positivity attracts talent as well as clients. Secondly, you have to work hard! Nothing is ever achieved without hard work and if you want to be successful you have to support each other, work hard, play hard, and enjoy life and work, if you aren’t enjoying work you have to communicate this with your colleagues in order to avoid burnout and mental health struggles. Be mindful of your phsyical and mental wellbeing, and don’t be afraid to share – this is important. There are always good people to talk to, Stephen always welcomes people to have a chat with Pimento if they are struggling. Struggles won’t last forever, and as a country we’ve been through so many changes over the last 5 years. As marketeers in the UK, we are a leading force in communications worldwide and have some fantastic agencies. Can you internationalise your proposition? Are there more opportunities for you worldwide and people who can represent you in other markets? What new markets could you potentially enter into and what new sectors could you move into? These are things to consider, explore, and think about in order to survive and grow.

Links & references

Katie Street:

Stephen Knight:

UK Independent Agencies Conference 2022:

How to ride out the recession storm:

Our Sponsor

Series 6 of Word on the Street is sponsored by Tanba, The Agency New Business Academy, is a brand-new initiative aimed at equipping agencies of all sizes with the knowledge, content, partnerships, and opportunities needed to accelerate agency growth by optimising their new business ‘engine’. Tanba is an on-demand and affordable solution for agencies looking to upskill their team via training courses, content and insights delivered by our panel of industry experts, leaders, and partners.

The academy is all about empowering agency teams to get noticed, attract opportunities, increase conversion rates, and reduce the costs associated with the sales process. Visit to find out more and start empowering your agency.