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Small Business Week: SEMGeeks (Belmar) integrated digital marketing agency is proving to be a hit show

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SEMGeeks president Chris Delany: “There's a ton of hype in this business — it's our job to provide our clients direction.”
SEMGeeks president Chris Delany: “There's a ton of hype in this business — it's our job to provide our clients direction.” - (PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Their day begins with an early-morning surf session off the New Jersey coast and ends with the enjoyment of beers at sunset in Asbury Park.

In between, this under-40 crowd handles website and mobile development, social media marketing, creative branding and more.

Meet the Millennial Mad Men.

Or, more plainly put, the 14 current staff members at SEMGeeks in Belmar, an integrated digital marketing and web development agency created by Chris “Boss Man” Delany about a decade ago.

Straight out of college as a consultant, Delany could see where the market was going — so in 2006, he catered to those moving away from traditional media by creating a full-fledged digital agency.

“(Billboards) weren’t measureable — results are key,” Delany said. “We try here never to let our ideas outweigh the data.”

Alongside partners Martin “Bird” Birdsall and Brian “Hot Sauce” Califano, Delany continues to build a local, quality-driven team to provide multiple services to clients.

“Because we’re part of a company from the beginning, we understand the flow of their business,” Delany said. “There’s a ton of hype in this business — it’s our job to provide our clients with direction for their digital strategies.”

Delany’s plan is working.

“We’ve had some great clientele that we’ve worked with for five or six years tell us that we’re putting out a good product and need to charge more,” he said. “You don’t usually get clients to say, ‘Charge more.’ ”

In addition to working with high-profile companies — such as ABC Network, with whom they created an interactive infographic for the show “Mixology” — SEMGeeks is best known for working with 30 community colleges throughout the country, including New Jersey institutions in Brookdale, Sussex County, Union County, Raritan Valley, Bergen, Hudson County and Camden County.

“The schools had trouble moving to social media — they wanted to control what was being said about the schools … but the student or whoever wants to write about the schools is going to in some capacity,” Delany said. “They needed to start to have a reaction to that.”

Delany offers that as advice to all clients, regardless of whether they’re in the public or private sector.

“You need to solve problems rather than try to hide them,” Delany said. “You’ve got to respond to people.”

SEMGeeks also has helped design successful digital branding for several Jersey businesses.

For instance, the agency helped Amy Wax, an award-winning colorist and owner of the consulting company Your Color Source Studios in Montclair, mold her brand and create the highly publicized “Color 911” mobile application.

“Color 911” has since been featured on Apple’s App Store, as one of This Old House’s Top 100 Best New Home Products of 2013 and on KCTV Channel 5 News.

SEMGeeks also helped Raritan Americas, an award-winning power management company in the Somerset section of Franklin, move from a content-heavy website into a cleaner look and feel by suggesting all-encompassing video that showcased the young team members behind its innovative ideas.

The result?

Raritan Americas has since been contacted by one of the most successful search engine platforms ever.

And by completely changing the branding of Seasonal World — a builder of luxury in-ground swimming pools — SEMGeeks helped the company connect with bigger clients.

“When they started working with us on branding, development and marketing … they were big back then, but they looked like they were small,” Delany said.

Using video, full-frame photographic designs and integrated digital marketing, SEMGeeks created a site for Seasonal World indicative of its immersive backyard experiences.

This landed Seasonal World a contract with a senior executive for the New York Jets.

These are just a few of the types of “select” clients SEMGeeks deals with as a business that can provide cheaper alternatives to New York City-based agencies. And Delaney said it’s important to pick clients that are willing to collaborate on their strategy, rather than dictate it.

“We try to pick and choose as best as we can the clients that we want to work with and through — a key part of having a successful campaign or strategy,” Delany said.

Situated in what Delany calls New Jersey’s own “Silicon Beach,” SEMGeeks has access to a hub of creative people choosing to live in places such as Asbury Park, Red Bank and Belmar.

“We already spend a drastic amount of time in front of computers with multiple screens staring at data. It doesn’t matter where we’re doing that from,” Delany said.

“When we talk numbers and data, you can’t tell whether I’m wearing a tie or a T-shirt because our message is the same — we want to try to keep the mentality of our business very relaxed.”

For example, SEMGeeks’ idea of self-promotion is to create a post-Sandy Jersey Shore benefit, auctioning off $1,000 worth of beach badges through a viral campaign intended to drive traffic to their site.

“We already have 1,500 people 12 days in — and just look at other strategies that were intended to market the Shore that cost millions of dollars,” Delany said during an interview earlier this month.

And why do business anywhere else when business down the Shore is good and steady?

“Revenue has gone up about 40 percent a year for the last three years,” Delany said.

In addition, veteran industry executives from New York City are constantly applying for jobs with SEMGeeks.

“It’s good to know that people who have been in the game for 20 years are seeing us as a place where they want to be,” Delany said.

BIZ IN BRIEF

Name: SEMGeeks

Location: Belmar

President: Chris Delany

Employees: 14

Revenue: Increased 40 percent a year for the last three years.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry

Meg Fry covers manufacturing and retail. Meg joins NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television. She continues to write and market her own spec scripts and screenplays. You can contact her at megf@njbiz.com or @MegFry3 on Twitter.

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