Kansas City, MO – October 22, 2010 – Looking back 18 years from today, Greg Gragg has moved and grown his business, Gragg Advertising, from a one room basement to a two-story office building. The expansion has experienced its ups and downs but has remained a strong contender in the direct-response advertising industry.
Gragg Advertising was created by need – a client driven need. Gragg worked for National Recruitment Advertising Corporation (NRAC) in late 1980 and oversaw the account service and media departments. He worked with direct response clients ranging from career schools to diet centers.
In October 1990, NRAC went out of business unexpectedly and Gragg’s phone rang with clients on the other end requesting him to continue managing their business. Gragg answered and literally went in to his basement and worked for six months. He managed accounts that included Gateway Electronics, Computer Learning Network, US Trucking and Fort Scott Community College. After an unsuccessful attempt to partner with another advertising agency, Gragg signed a three-year lease for an office space on 83rd street in downtown Overland Park and went to work on his own. He began to expand his staff from a handful to five individuals. Focusing on traditional media with a secondary focus in web and SEO, Gragg Advertising continued to expand and moved to an office in Westport in 1996.
“The original thought for Gragg Advertising was going to be a hybrid agency that believed in direct response and image advertising. [We were going to] create marketing programs that could be tracked and quantified. We have [since] achieved that,” Gragg said.
Ingram’s Magazine ranked Gragg Advertising as one of Kansas City’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies in July of 2000. Two years later, the company had grown to 15 employees and migrated into the interactive world and as it advanced, Gragg kept up. It began the development and growth of its highest revenue based service today, pay-per-lead. In 2005, it ventured into keyword purchasing and Search Engine Marketing. This increased the need for aggregation services as Gragg Advertising had to digest an enormous amount of data their clients had trouble processing on their own. On top of that, providing clients with the quantifiable return on investment as promised, it was evident that building proprietary software to manage everything had to happen.
“It almost killed us. We took responsibility for anything the client couldn’t manage and [Gragg Advertising] did not have the systems in place to manage it and we got upside down in revenue. We’ve developed systems and processes [since then] and have turned that negative into a positive,” Gragg said.
Director of Information Technology Mike Schuler joined the agency in 2006 to build management systems for the overwhelming amount data. December of that year signified the development and build of Gragg Advertising’s proprietary management system for internal operations, IRIS, as Schuler was tasked with developing a system to do “more with less”. To ensure accurate data and quality information was passed through to the clients in a comprehensive manner, a Lead Delivery Engine (LDE) was built to sort, scrub and store relevant data in the fall of 2008. At the same time, ALPINE was created as the client portal to view customer data in real time, a first of its kind in aggregation. As it evolved, the LDE was updated into its current version, GraggNet, and provides multiple avenues for customization and analysis for Gragg Advertising’s strategic partnerships.
This year Gragg Advertising has grown 72% year-over-year in revenue with 57 employees and is currently located in the River Market. It has proved to be credible and competitive within the advertising industry as continued to grow with the needs of its clients.
“Our diversity of knowledge and diversity of tangible products and solutions are what we can offer our clients. The biggest difference regarding the employees [at Gragg Advertising] is we have a very unique and knowledgeable group of professionals that all have core competencies that complement one another,” Gragg said.
Even though his company has overcome obstacles while continuing to grow, Gragg looks back and feels he should be further along. He has moved from a driven entrepreneur to a realistic entrepreneur as he has seen many instances that could have killed his business and, fortunately, has prevailed.
“If I were to give advice to someone in my shoes in 1992, it would be to have “resiliency”. If you want it, if you want to do it and you want to go through the lows and the highs of running a business, then be willing to do anything and everything. Again have a ton of resilience because you are going to get knocked down a lot,” Gragg said.
Opportunities continue to be thrown in Gragg’s direction and his individual possibilities and the possibilities of his agency are unlimited.
“I want Gragg Advertising and the people who work here and put in the time and energy to go as far as they can go. I want them to have that opportunity. We need to do more; we need to do other things. We just hope [our employees] can realize their potential and hopefully they can realize it through us,” Gragg said.
Gragg currently holds the title of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman and sees the future of the current marketing technology company morphing into a corporate structure throughout the next 18 years.