Hans Schneider – The King of Online Marketing

Hans Schneider changed the game of Internet marketing. At the time he developed his strategy, conventional wisdom held that you needed to have millions of dollars to be able to run effective ads on the big platforms like Facebook and Google. But that wasn’t true at all.

Schneider was able to build a $10 million media buying agency, SJM Media, and subsequently land a $16 million contract with online ad giant, Google, which he walked away from five years later.

In this episode, you’ll learn about the incredible strategy that made Schneider a millionaire, and how you can implement it into your own marketing strategy.

The Early Days

Hans Schneider was born in Germany in 1960. He started his agency, SJM Media, in 1993, and quickly grew it to be the largest digital marketing agency in Europe. In 2010, he was named one of the top 50 marketeers in Europe.

In the early days, running ads on social media was a novelty. People didn’t really understand the concept of paying for content or engaging with consumers on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Back in 2007, everyone was focused on newspaper websites. Those still exist today, but Google shifted the emphasis to social media. The algorithm that decides which news articles to show you and your friends changes constantly, but one thing is certain: the importance attached to social media in search results doesn’t seem to be diminishing.

In 2007, when Facebook was in its early days, it had 300 million users. Today, it has over a billion. In the same time period, LinkedIn’s user base has more than doubled, reaching 250 million. In 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available, LinkedIn had an average of 12.7 million users each day, according to Statista.

Creating A Business Around Nothing

Even though social media was growing quickly, advertising on these platforms was still considered a luxury, reserved for big companies. Only a few lucky few were able to run effective ads and make money from them. But none of that mattered to Schneider.

He saw an opportunity to change the game, and he did. By focusing on unproven markets like Brazil and Indonesia, where traditional advertising didn’t work, he was able to design an ad solution that didn’t rely on expensive TV ads or print publications. Instead, he built a media buying agency that specialized in online marketing.

“I built my agency around nothing,” Schneider said. “I didn’t have a proven business model. We just worked hard and focused on ROI.”

What did he do? First, he built a media buying agency and focused on reaching a mass audience on social media. He believed that, eventually, his ads would be shown to the right audience and would convert well.

According to Schneider, when he launched his agency, SMJ Media, in Germany, in 1993, online marketing was considered “the Wild West”. Most companies focused on SEO, or search engine optimization, which helps with webpages ranking highly in search results.

SJM Media specialized in buying ads on social media, building a community around a brand, and using SEO and social media to gain organic traction for that brand. In 2016, the agency became one of the first to implement Google AdWords into a social media buying plan, with the goal of reaching people where they are, rather than just at work.

For example, if you visit Google and type in “SJA Mechanical Contractors”, an Orange County, California-based company that provides mechanical services, you’ll see a sponsored link at the top of the results page, along with several entries for the keyword “SJA”. But if you click on any of the organic results, you’ll see an assortment of content; including news articles, reviews, and so on.

If you visit YouTube and search for “SJA Mechanical Contractors”, you’ll see several videos from the company’s channel, as well as an option at the top to click to their site, which then takes you to their homepage. The same is true for their Facebook page and Twitter account.

The SEO, Social Media, And Paid Strategies

While SEO focused on the “traditional” methods of getting visitors to your site, social media marketing aimed to engage with users and build a community around a brand. In many ways, it was the anti-SEO. Whereas SEO tries to get visitors to a specific webpage, social media marketing helps spread the word about your brand, gaining you organic, “good” rankings on search engines, without the need for paid advertisements.

Over the years, SEO and social media coexisted, with some businesses gaining significant traction through the use of both. In 2020, according to HubSpot Blogs research, 86% of marketers use SEO and social media together, and 66% of those businesses saw an increase in organic traffic as a result.

What Is A Brand?

Brands are a type of corporate identity, used to describe a product, company, or service that is consistently associated with a certain quality or characteristic. Typically, brands are used to connote trust, and that is exactly what Google and Facebook look for when assessing your brand’s marketing potential.

In the context of marketing a product or service, a brand is typically considered an extension of a company’s marketing department. In the same way that a company might have a “professional” or “creative” brand for its visuals, a brand is also used to describe the marketing approach, strategy, and creative for a company or product.

Why Are Brands Important?

Besides the fact that Google and Facebook rank sites showing off your brand, indicating that you are probably investing in a branded product or service, having a brand helps you stand out among competitors.

In most cases, companies will have a singular identity, whether that is their product or service to offer, as well as a marketing strategy and approach aimed at capturing customers. But sometimes, companies will have one for their product and another for their sales approach, with a distinct and separate identity for each. For example, Southwest Airlines’ “Fly Happy” marketing identity promotes their unique culture and values, while their product logo, the “Spirit”-themed bird, implies their approach to customer service. Similarly, Johnnie Walker has a distinct “Made In Scotland” identity that they use to promote their whiskey and a brown bear, whose name is “John”, as their official logo.

When a company’s products are considered “generic” and lacking in personality, a brand is what differentiates it from competitors and provides a reason for customers to choose your product or service. A well-known brand is often considered a sign of quality, and that can boost your product sales significantly, even if your competitors’ products are just as good as yours.

How Is A Brand Different From A Product?

When a company sells a product or service, there is always the risk of the product or service being considered “generic”. But that is a risk you take when buying a product, rather than a brand. Think of Apple or Android phones for example. They both have great hardware, but because Apple owns the “i” brand, people who use iPhones know that they are using something different than any other phone. The same goes for Android users. If you want to buy an iPad, you know that it is not the same as buying an Android tablet. Even if they both have the same basic functions, there is still a different vibe when using an iPhone or an iPad, respectively.

The fact that you are buying a brand gives you confidence that what you are purchasing is going to be of good quality, and that the company behind it is a reliable and trustworthy business that you can do business with. Brands are important because they give you an idea of what to expect, no matter what.

Creating A Brand: The Five Step Process

To create a brand, you need to consider five main factors: