Prominent Ottawa digital marketing agency Soshal Group is jettisoning its marketing division and rebranding itself as it focuses on building and maintaining websites for a growing number of corporate customers.
Founder Dave Hale recently announced the decade-old firm has officially changed its name to Craft&Crew Corp., after the digital design branch it launched about a year ago, and is “retiring” the Soshal brand.
Hale said that with digital services now generating the lion’s share of the company’s revenues, management felt it was time to get out of the marketing business and concentrate on what it does best.
“We really just took a hard look at the business and said, ‘OK. If we had to just focus on one area, what would it be?’” he told OBJ this week. “Pick up any book on entrepreneurship or business management 101, and the first chapter probably says that you should be laser-focused on a very few things.”
While the agency began as a social media consulting firm that managed Twitter and Facebook accounts for small local businesses, Hale noted it’s evolved into a multi-faceted organization that now manages websites for some of Canada’s largest companies. Its clients include TD Canada Trust, SurveyMonkey and several large national insurance firms.
Split into two companies
With web operations rapidly becoming its main sales engine, the organization split into two companies last January. The marketing business continued under the Soshal banner, while the digital services side was spun off into a new enterprise called Craft&Crew.
Hale said as 2020 wore on, it became obvious that the organization’s future lay in website development. He said almost all the firm’s new business comes from that side of the operation, which accounted for more than two-thirds of its revenues last year.
“It’s the area of our business that our team is really passionate about,” Hale said. “It’s also the most scalable. We realized that we really were two companies that just happen to be run by the same few people.”
In addition to having a clearer sense of purpose, the renamed agency is also a leaner operation.
The firm is now at 15 full-time employees, down from about 20 a year ago. After posting record revenues in 2019, the agency couldn’t match that performance in 2020 as the pandemic decimated many segments of the economy, and the firm was forced to cut staff last summer.
But Hale said the COVID-19 crisis also forced the company to overhaul its business model. Its pipeline of new business is now three times larger than it was two years ago, he said, adding the company is poised to announce some “very significant client wins” in the coming weeks – contracts Hale said it might not have landed had it stayed on its previous course.
“For us, the pandemic caused an emotional and physical slowdown that allowed us to look at the business truly strategically for the first time in a long time,” he said.
“Our pandemic rebound is looking significantly better than had we been going down the path we were before this all went down.”