Pivoting Your Agency: “It Took Twice As Long. It Was Twice As Hard”

by | Sep 18, 2020

Ben Caspersz is the founder of Claremont, a 12-year-old agency who have pivoted from a PR agency to aiming to be the go-to agency for behaviour change. Ben explains why they made the change and how the transition worked in reality.

In 2008, Ben set up Claremont after being involved in PR for a number of years prior. ‘The company grew very quickly, and we rode the social media wave. We grew from a revenue of 280k to one of 1.2m in a matter of two years, it was amazing and a lot of fun, but we grew by the seam of our pants.

‘We won a few big clients which constituted the majority of our income. We were making good profits, we hit 1.4m and then we plateaued. I was aware that we were plateauing, but I didn’t know what to do. Around the same time my wife had our first child so I took some time away from the business.’

‘I remember going to a networking event and when people asked what I did they would glaze over when I started to answer. It was really sad because actually, we were working on some really exciting projects. I could see that our work wasn’t a valued proposition, we didn’t have the hard evaluation metrics to prove our bottom-line value.’

‘We were doing a lot across the agency and working on producing in a lot of PR areas. The work we were doing with behaviour change was really exciting and made up about 20% of our income. This part of the business seemed to tick the most boxes. So, we downsized, said no to things and put all of our chips into moving that way.’

‘The easiest change was a rebrand, we spoke in a different way and changed our messaging. But, quickly after that, we realised we needed to change our model and needed to become channel neutral. We had to move to a resourcing model that enabled us to supply what the client needed rather than what we had on the payroll. We had to downsize, we didn’t make redundancies which in hindsight we should have, instead we helped them get jobs elsewhere. But it still wasn’t enough.’

‘We won a few clients, but we weren’t getting many leads. We, in many ways, were trying to sell a service that many of our customers weren’t ready to buy. We wasted a lot of money hiring people and working toward something that wasn’t working, all of our directors left the company. We almost ran out of cash before it came.’

‘I’m pleased to say we did make it through, and it did pay off.’

During the cross over period, Ben explains that it was ‘tough to say no to a media relations job when I knew that it wouldn’t help us move across to the behaviour change sector. I probably got that wrong, I should have done more of a taper and less of a leap over the cliff. As long as you have some boundaries and are heading toward your goal, I think taking those jobs to supplement income is probably a wise idea.’