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Success With SEM: A Chat With Frequence's Search Engine Marketing Manager

A crucial part of a successful omnichannel effort is a robust search engine marketing (SEM) strategy. We spoke with Frequence’s SEM manager Derek Malecki about his role, how Frequence’s SEM product has grown, and the professional and personal opportunities he’s had since joining the Frequence team.

What drew you to Frequence?

What really drew me to Frequence was how different it is from a typical advertising agency. It’s well-known that our tech is our bread and butter; it makes our partners’ lives better, and as employees it makes our lives better. What struck me was that Frequence offered a very different take on the type of work an agency might do, within the scope of Frequence’s technology. The work was in the realm of the world that I wanted to be working in - marketing and advertising - but it was a unique approach to it.

Getting here and going through the process of meeting everyone, it was very much like a family atmosphere, and that really drew me in. When it comes to different departments, different teams and different individuals, there’s no egos. That’s something that stuck out to me from the beginning. I met with Tom [Cheli, Frequence’s CEO]; he walked me through the office after my interview and asked me if I wanted to have lunch with everyone. I hadn’t even been hired yet! 

Tell us about your career journey at Frequence.

When I moved to the SEM side of our business, it was a newer product for us; we didn’t yet have a lot of partners using it, we didn’t have a lot of campaigns to manage, but it was growing and the Frequence leadership team really wanted to see it succeed. There are always growing pains with a new product, but I was really fortunate that the team trusted me to move to SEM and help manage something new. 

The work involved managing hundreds of SEM campaigns. It was very hands-on, which allowed me to grow my skills a lot faster than I could have ever expected in any other type of role. I was fortunate that the leadership recognized my ability and my grit, and I’ve been very happy to see SEM become a successful component of our omnichannel offerings. The number of campaigns we manage has continued to grow at a fantastic rate.

As the SEM manager, I work with my team to ensure that we’re exceeding our partners’ expectations. We’re using our experience and knowledge along with Frequence’s technology to make the digital advertising journey an enjoyable experience for our partners, from start to finish. For me, that means growing our product internally - coming up with new processes, and ensuring that the work we’re doing surpasses even our highest standards. And it means growing our product externally - working very closely with our partners, and with our customer support, engineering, product and creative teams, to deliver the best possible SEM results. 

The Frequence advantage to me is clear: it’s the pairing of the personalized service we deliver with the technology that Frequence offers. 

Tell us about a favorite project. 

There are two that come to mind. One is the work we’ve done with a partner who’s set up to sell larger, “high-touch” types of accounts. Onboarding that partner and seeing what types of business they could have Frequence manage was exciting. These were high dollar campaigns just for SEM. We worked very closely with our Customer Support team, our partner, and even one of our partner’s biggest advertisers to make sure that everything was set up exactly how they wanted it. It presented a lot of different challenges, and required us to have a very hands-on approach, but exceeding their expectations was a lot of fun. 

The other project was a bit more overarching. Part of my role as the SEM manager is to grow SEM as a product, and continually develop how we at Frequence service that product. My goal is to make every aspect of our SEM product top-notch. One way to reach that goal was to build out specific teams within the SEM department. When we started, everyone on the SEM team touched everything, from launch to updates to performance to client outreach. I felt that to reach the next level, we really needed to break out all of our functions into separate divisions, so that we could give the best possible level of service in each category. So now we have an ops / client division that works directly with our reps at each partner to assist with inquiries from basic problem solving to discussions about SEM strategy. We have a dedicated execution team that launches and provides updates for campaigns, making sure that those campaigns are running as they should. We have a performance group whose sole purpose is to make sure that ongoing campaigns are performing at the highest possible level - handling any optimizations that might be needed along the way. 

You recently returned from a pretty amazing international work experience. Tell us a little about it.

I was going through a master’s program at the University of San Francisco, completing an MS in Sport Management, and I was selected to do an international work trip in South Africa. Out of a couple hundred students in the program, 15 are selected - you go through an interview process, and you submit an essay on why you want to go and what you want to learn from it. I was very, very fortunate to be chosen. 

We traveled to South Africa and met with business and sports professionals to learn how the country provides sports to the communities, and how they’re able to market sport and other businesses to the South African market. In South Africa, there’s a huge challenge with the townships - the poverty rate is extremely high. In the main business hubs, Cape Town and Johannesburg, those places are very built up. But if you go ten minutes outside of those areas, you’re in those townships. The chief question we wanted to answer was how do businesses that have money to spend connect with people who have very little? 90% of townships don’t have internet, so there’s no way to do typical digital marketing. We met with professional soccer and rugby teams and their governing organizations, and they’re using a lot of the methods and products we see at Frequence - pre-roll, geofencing, and SEM as well. One notable campaign involved getting community members to vote for soccer and rugby players to be selected to their sport’s all-star games. That got buy-in from the whole community, from the townships to business owners to people in the big cities. It was great to see that this kind of digital marketing can grow, even when there are these kinds of obstacles in place. I was really grateful that Frequence supported me - it was a life-changing experience! 

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