Over the course of 14 years as an independent agency, the Pivot Health + Wellness team has honed its ability to, well, pivot, attempting to turn the obstacles that come with being a boutique shop into strengths. Sometimes the independent terrain is treacherous. “We have no real margin for error,” says Pivot president and CEO Cindy Schermerhorn.
If Pivot loses a client, the agency feels the hit on a grand scale. And unlike network-affiliated companies, Pivot doesn’t have the option of shifting business to a sibling agency if the fit isn’t right or additional services are needed. “I’d say we’re just as invested as our clients are in their business,” Schermerhorn adds.
Last year proved to be busy, especially on the launch front. Pivot presided over a new product launch (Ocular Therapeutix’s eye pain and inflammation drug Dextenza), the launch of a new indication (diabetic retinopathy for Regeneron’s Eylea, Pivot’s biggest account since 2013) and a brand relaunch (Millicent Pharma’s menopause treatment Femring).
Staff size increased from 27 at the end of 2018 to 34 at the end of 2019, which prompted Pivot’s second office expansion/remodel in three years. Revenue reached $10 million for 2019, representing a 9% bump over the $9.2 million generated in 2018.
The increase resulted from an expanded scope of work within Pivot’s existing client base, as the agency didn’t add any new accounts in 2019. Schermerhorn shrugs off the lack of additions, noting that Pivot’s biggest challenge “has always been procuring new business in a world where most assignments are confined to large holding companies.”
That said, she notes that independence has its benefits. “We can offer a different level of attention, responsiveness and innovative thinking,” Schermerhorn explains, also pointing to the freedom to recommend suitable partners and vendors for a particular job. Such independence is an asset during COVID-19 times. “Not being tied to a holding company allows us to bring the best of the best to the table.”
Schermerhorn is particularly proud of the agency’s work with Millicent on the Femring brand relaunch, and also how Pivot claimed the business in the first place. “They are people we’ve worked with in the past at another company,” she says. “In today’s world, a client only comes back if you’ve delivered for them.”
Pivot’s recipe for success is a simple one, she adds. “It’s about surprising clients in a good way,” whether that means anticipating needs, beating deadlines, maintaining budgets or brainstorming creative strategy before being asked. On that latter front, Pivot bolstered its creative team last year with the addition of FCB vet Dave Renner as creative director.
The agency’s boutique status is similarly a challenge-turned-blessing on the talent front. At Pivot, Schermerhorn notes, there’s “nowhere to hide.” That means the agency tends to attract candidates “who are talented and confident, and want to be noticed.” For employees, this visibility means everyone has a place at the table when it comes to collaboration on projects, a process that involves senior leadership every day.
“We make it so that anyone, regardless of level, can feel like they’re making significant contributions to the client business,” Schermerhorn notes.
The best marketing we saw in 2019…
The World’s Smallest Booth for Lartruvo was really smart. They built their congress booth in proportion to how rare the cancer it treats is in the world of oncology and defied the idea that it’s the biggest booth that gets all the attention. — Cindy Schermerhorn
From the June 01, 2020 Issue of MM+M - Medical Marketing and Media