Creative agency Trebuchet aims to take growth to the next level
- Credit: Archant
Having continued to expand during the years of recession, Ipswich-based creative agency Trebuchet is aiming to take its growth to the next level - while keeping its feet firmly on the ground. Duncan Brodie went to visit the team.
Trebuchet Creative was created in 2009 through the merger of Ipswich-based firms Catapult Design, formed by Emma Dinmore and Peter Jenkins in 2003, and Stratton Public Relations, launched by Sue Wilcock in 2001.
The tie-up came about after the firms worked jointly on a project for a mutual client which was nominated for a Chartered Institute of Public Relations award.
Emma and Sue got talking together at the awards ceremony – “like you do”, says Sue – and the result was a decision to pool resources in order to offer a wider range of services.
With the name Catapult already being used by another firm operating in PR, a completely new identity was required and the idea the new team settled on was Trebuchet, the “heavy artillery” of medieval warefare which was, in essence, a big catapult.
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This, says Sue, reflected what the enlarged business was all about – a bigger range of services and a bigger impact on behalf of clients.
Emma says that, at Catapult, they often found themselves being brought in as designers when the planning for a campaign was well advanced. The addition of PR and marketing meant the enlarged agency was able to provide a fuller range of services, with web expertise also having been added to the mix three years ago as well.
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Sue says that their starting point is to ask what a potential client is trying to achieve, not what they want. This means they are able to recommend an approach they will be effective, where the client might have simply asked for, say, a PR campaign or a leaflet even if this wasn’t necessarily the best approach.
During the recession they also made of point of working with clients on to make the most of their limited budgets. Sue says that, compared with the 1990s, when the tendency was for marketing budgets to be cut in response to recession, there appeared to be a recognition this time around that businesses do need to carry on promoting themselves even during an economic downturn.
However, this may also have had something to go with the depth of Trebuchet’s client relationships. “We are more strategic,” says Sue. “We can add value in ways other agencies can’t. As a result, people trust us and recognise we give good advice, and that helps to retain clients.
“We are particularly proud at the length of time we tend to keep clients. We don’t over-promise and then under-deliver.”
Another aspect of the relationship, says Emma, is that all staff at Trebuchet operate at a “senior” level, being either directors or one level below that. This means that Trebuchet clients will not have the experience of agreeing a campaign and then finding the work being carried out by juniors.
“At some agencies you will never meet a director working on your project,” says Sue.
Emma adds: “If you have good people at all levels, you will not go wrong. We even took on staff during the recession, when other people were making people redundant.”
Emma says that Trebuchet is alive to the danger of becoming too reliant on one large client, something which has caused problems for many an agency when that relationship comes to and end leaving them with no wider client base to fall back on.
The company has between 50 and 60 customers, some for for which it acts on a day-to-day basis while for other it may only do one job a year. It has clients in Essex, London and further afield but it does not neglect the importance of its core client base in Suffolk.
During the recession, it developed payment schemes with some clients where money was been an issue, rather than put their project on hold.
“No job is too small and not job is too big,” says Emma. “We are always looking for new business, even when we are at our busiest.”
“It is easy to get to a certain size and then stop seeking new business. Here, if we have a client fall off, we will already have brought a new one aboard a month before.
“Most of our work, 80% I’d say, comes from referrals,” says Emma. “That means we must be doing something right,” adds Sue.
That said, growth since the recession has not been as rapid as hoped and, to help address this, experienced marketing communications specialist Jim Carroll was brought in as an account director in April this year with a specific role in winning new business.
Jim says that Trebuchet is very much about positioning a product in the market place – marketing communications rather than marketing – and the company’s range of expertise means that it can “go further into a company” than many agencies can.
Trebuchet is also happy to work with in-house creative teams who value the “fresh pair of eyes” that the agency can bring to a project, he adds.
In terms of promoting itself, Trebuchet was recently reception host partner for the EADT Business Awards ceremony at Trinity Park, Ipswich – just part of a wider strategy to build links in the wider business community.
During the last Parliament, Sue ran a programme of business lunches with Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and, as a result of positive feedback, this has led to the launch of the Ipswich & Suffolk Business Club.
Its members, currently around 65, continue to hold at least four lunches or dinners a year, each with an influential guest speaker, along with other events such as a recent House of Commons visit.
Trebuchet has also made its offices in Duke Street, just off the Ipswich Waterfront, something of a local landmark with a display of butterfly shapes in its windows, each one representing a specific client.
Wording on each butterfly gives a hint, sometimes highly cryptic, as to the identity of the client company, and clients visiting the office are invited to see if they can identify theirs. The butterflies also often prompt passers by to stop to take look.
The office also differs from many others in another respect. There is no reception desk, with visitors being greeted in person – often by one of the directors.
Just as the Trebuchet team believe in the importance of a joined-up aproach to promoting the firm’s clients, they would like to see the same principle being adopted to the promotion of Ipswich itself, which would be good for the local economy in general and help to solve their particular problem to attracting talented people to come an work in the town.
“We are a growing agency and very ambitious,” says Emma. And Sue adds: “Emma, Pete and I are all local people. We want to see the waterfront taking off again and if there is anything we can do to help, then great.”