What We Know Now: Craig Hagenbuch

Acting on our core value to “stay curious,” we’ve been interviewing fellow Hansonites to learn about what drives them. We’ve recently talked to Account Director Michael Hirsh, Director of User Experience Architecture Leslie Mohn, and others. We’re continuing this series today by talking to Craig Hagenbuch, Director of New Business Development.

Sally: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into business development?

Craig: I’ve been working in the advertising industry since about 1994. My first job after school was working in sales for a commercial printing company, interacting with production managers for a variety of regional agencies and in-house marketing departments. I’ve always been fascinated with the different facets of advertising. Eventually, my knowledge of print transcended into “digital media” in 1998 when I started my own company called Vertigo Productions, producing music packaging and optical media (CDs and DVDs) for a variety of clients including music labels, corporations, and ad agencies.

I sold the business in 2007 as the need for content on DVD was thinning. Digital delivery of large files, digital animation, music, and video were now all taking place on this thing called the internet, so I jumped into New Business Development (NBD) with a small boutique design studio and then eventually went to a larger full-service agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After some time at the agency, I realized that technology was driving the most innovative things happening in marketing and advertising. I felt that a digital agency like Hanson provided me the best opportunity to experience these firsthand.

Sally: What’s something that surprised you when you first started working in new business?

Craig: One observation would be that people buy people, not so much capabilities. I’ve found that some of the best client engagements begin with good conversation. And those conversations lead to a level of trust which is developed over time. Clients don’t choose new agencies hastily, and if they do, it should be a red flag. I’m a little surprised this industry is still driven by the RFP ( request for proposal) process. I don’t think this is the best way to pick an agency partner because I believe it essentially removes personal chemistry and creativity from the process.

Sally: Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Craig: Network. Network. Network. Your personal network is like a bank account for an NBD guy. But you can’t just make withdrawals—you have to make deposits, too. I try to make deposits by connecting people I think would be good for each other. I also provide opinions, insight, and sometimes lunch to prospects that may not even be a good fit for our firm. People are always appreciative and goodwill goes a long way in business development. Start this process as early as you can.

Sally: What advice would you give to someone going into this field?

Craig: I think there are three simple steps:

  • Step 1:  Start building your network.
  • Step 2: Listen to your prospects. You can’t solve their problem if you’re not listening to their pains.
  • Step 3:  Surround yourself with people smarter than you. (I may be biased, but this is easy to do at Hanson.)

Sally: That’s a great way to break it down! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Craig: I’d like to share a funny story about the power of networking.

Twenty-three years ago my soon-to-be wife, Julie, was meeting with a photographer who was going to shoot an event for her job. She worked in marketing/communications for the local Port Authority which oversaw shipping traffic into the Port of Toledo. It was always a big marketing opportunity to photograph the first overseas ship coming into the Port. You had to hire a real pro who could get the shot right (500-foot ships don’t stop for photos).

During the pre-planning meeting with the photographer, he noticed that something was off with Julie and asked if everything was okay. She replied, “I’m getting married in a week and the wedding photographer I hired just bailed due to a scheduling conflict.” Without hesitation, the commercial photographer told her he he’d be happy to shoot the wedding to help her out. Julie was shocked because commercial photographers almost NEVER shoot weddings but he had offered this up. I remember meeting this guy and thanking him profusely for helping out in a jam and keeping my wife calm and cool on her special day.

The photographer’s name, you may ask? Steve Hanson.

Steve’s card never left my Rolodex. And 18 years later, I was able to pick up the phone and call him to discuss transitioning from a full-service agency to a digital agency. Steve’s good gesture 23 years ago was a deposit into his personal network account. My call to him 18 years later was a withdrawal!


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