Doing what others might not do
This digital agency from Mannheim is all about performance marketing. To find out how this idea transformed into a successful corporation with over 60 employees, we sat down with founder Denis Lademann. Over a plate of lasagna and a soda pop, at Italian restaurant Da Mauro in the city, we got the whole story.
Denis, Suchdialog focuses on performance marketing. What is that exactly and what led you to found an agency that revolves around it?
My colleague Tobias Reinhardt and I were on the lookout for a performance marketing agency. We discovered that there wasn’t really the kind of thing we were looking for, and that the whole sector was very badly professionalized. We analyzed online ads of car manufacturers and discovered that 26 out of 30 included typos. This is a real no-go in the print sector. The online sector was in obvious need of help! This led us to focus on online marketing. But we approached the task with a marketing mindset, rather than with a tech point of view.
And how did things take off?
We placed an ad in FAZ to find investors. Former GM procurement officer Dr. Yorck Schmidt got in contact with us. It had been our vision from the start to setup a three-party constellation, involving someone who was experienced in the business world. And of course we needed cash! In Yorck we found not only this, but also a friend and mentor. Even though we three are all very different. He’s a real economist and Prussian, I’m the weird sociologist and Tobi is somewhere in between. We started up in my flat in inner-city Mannheim. There was one table, that could fit one, and that was where Tobi set up camp. I was on the sofa generating burns on my legs from uninterruptedly using my laptop.
Okay. So what exactly does Suchdialog do?
We’re an agency for digital marketing. More exactly we offer performance marketing: we use the instruments of online marketing to create user reactions that are instantly measurable. Best case: you see an ad by one of our clients and then buy the product shortly after. We help our clients optimize Facebook marketing and SEO, which enhances the amounts of business they get through search engines.
So you work for Facebook and Google?
No. We see ourselves as agents of our clients, representing their interests towards Facebook and Google. if you don’t know what you are doing, you might as well flush the money you are spending on Google and Facebook ads down the toilet. The whole area has grown very complex. A layman won’t be able to figure things out on their own. We help our clients spend efficiently on marketing and to achieve the best amount of exposure.
Which is only possible thanks to the big online players.
Sure. Since Facebook developed Lead Ads a whole new market has come alive. By today it is easier to generate direct requests through this, compared to search engines. The market is changing immensely. Facebook has become very relevant to marketing. You have to keep a very open mind, keep a close eye on the newest developments and integrate them accordingly; otherwise you can’t keep up. The issue of measurability has changed extremely. You are able to directly see how much revenue an ad will create, due to the clicks. Nowadays advertising is real numbers game.
So I assume you have a bunch of physicists and mathematicians in your team?
Not really. We’re very diverse. We have business engineers, sociologists and even a philosopher.
You studied sociology, right?
Indeed. I preferred it very much compared to something like business administration. As a university student I always wondered about creating a system that puts humanistic values before the economy. In reality things aren’t that simple. As diverse as the people themselves, are their values.
What led to founding in Mannheim?
I studied in Heidelberg. And after I while I had enough of all the tourists and the small size of the city. Its too expensive and there are no apartments. I always enjoyed Mannheims post-industrial charm. And mayor Peter Kurz brings a neat combination of social democratic values and a strong association with economics to his office.
Is Mannheim an affordable spot for startups?
We got lucky with our location here in the city. The rent is fine, its centrally located and I prefer the rugged architecture in an old printer’s workshop, over some functional building in the outskirts. Surprisingly, even amongst our employees the ideals are very diverse. We once lost a guy because of the parking situation!
I know you are very considerate of your teams needs – you wanted to found a stock company right away, to ensure everyone gets a piece!
That’s true! Yorck gave us a very stern look and said: „This is your first endeavor and you’re already keen on becoming stock company to share the wealth?“. It wasn’t his idea of how to handle things. He wanted us to hit one million in revenue before we even considered it. We hit a million and became a stock company. Since then we have created a gifting system to give something back to our employees. The lawyers were not amused, but we went through with it.
What kind of effect did it have?
There is more pressure on us to act in a morally responsible fashion and alumni tend to stay attached. To be honest I had higher hopes. Our plan was to break down some old walls and turn employees into partners, thus creating something symbiotic. Sadly the gap between our idea and reality was larger than we had anticipated. Some people got on board and showed increased commitment. On the other hand we also expect a lot and are tuff and direct with our team. We wanted to get where we are now, and always knew it would take some real work. Our business model may not be that scalable, because as an agency we are purely service providers.
How many people work at Suchdialog?
We have 65 Employees. We have 30 shareholders consisting of former and current employees, family members, friends and investors. We plan on further growth, as we are always interested in working with good people and want to distribute responsibility early on in the process. This works best with new projects.
Interview: Paul Heesch / LA.MAG
Photos: Ricardo Wiesinger