Slimmer Trone plans digital hires, mulls loss of Syngenta
Reposted from The Business Journal| by Owen Covington
HIGH POINT — Since a shift in ownership earlier this year, High Point-based marketing firm Trone has lost a major client in Syngenta and reduced its staff by 15 through the elimination or consolidation of positions.
Despite staff reductions this year, Doug Barton, president and managing partner with the firm, said Trone plans to hire up to eight new employees by the end of the year as it looks to strengthen its “digital bench.” That includes finding people with more experience in social media, digital interaction and project planning, he said.
“You can’t be in the agency business without change,” he said. “We are going to be looking for creative resources, planning resources within the digital space.”
Barton said the firm is also working to replace Delaware-based Syngenta, whose crop protection division is in Greensboro and had been a client for more than a decade. During a review earlier this year, Syngenta selected Minneapolis-based Martin/Williams to handle the professional products sector previously worked on by Trone. Martin/Williams has been the lead advertising firm for Syngenta since 2001 and will expand its role.
At the same time, Trone is a smaller agency than it has been. The agency employed as many as 100 in recent years, but that number had dropped to about 75 earlier this year when Barton and three other executives bought the firm from its founder, Lee Trone. The sale was part of a two-year ownership transition as Trone prepared for retirement.
The firm, the second-largest in the Triad, now employs about 60 after the loss of employees through attrition, elimination and consolidation of positions, Barton said. Despite the loss of Syngenta, Trone has recently added accounts, including new client FidoPharm, a pet health product company, and has attracted other new, smaller clients, he said.
Year to date, the firm is running about 5 percent ahead of where it was last year and should finish the year about 3 percent to 5 percent ahead of last year’s revenues, he added. Last year, the firm had about $25 million in billings.
Barton anticipates Trone building within the vertical categories it focuses on, including outdoor sports, a ‘marketing to Mom’ segment and pet care. Last year, Trone was selected to market the N.C. Education Lottery.
Roger Beahm, visiting professor of practice at Wake Forest Schools of Business, said more marketing firms are building their digital skills as client demand it.
“Clients are wanting to use digital because it’s effective,” Beahm said.