Mat Gardiner joined Push as Commercial Director in May 2020, bringing over 13 years’ experience in marketing and advertising.
He is responsible for all things commercial, from generating new revenue streams, developing our account servicing approach and leading new business operations.
Starting a new job in the middle of the first national lockdown wasn’t without its challenges, but it also presented a number of new business opportunities as organisations realised the value of digital marketing to a captive, at-home audience. We caught up with Mat over Zoom to talk about his role and what’s next for Push.
Nice to meet you Mat. Before we dive into the questions, tell us a bit about yourself…
Prior to starting at Push, I worked for seven years at iCrossing, a multi-national performance media agency. As client partner, I was responsible for leading performance strategies, large multi-discipline teams and client relationships across a number of market-leading brands, including LEGO, M&S, Barclays and Barclaycard, P&O Cruises, Bensons For Beds and the De Beers Group, on both the UK and international level covering over 30 different markets.
I’m originally from New Zealand and started my media career in Australia, working for News Corp, mainly on the print side. I then worked in radio and for a design agency back in New Zealand doing a variety of roles, before settling in the UK.
What attracted you to Push?
I wanted a change and to work for a company where I could make my mark. Working for a large agency owned by multi-national corporate, your impact is relatively limited in terms of how the agency grows and evolves. Push is a smaller, more dynamic agency, that wants to grow aggressively. This role provides me with the opportunity to see the fruits of my labours.
The other thing that attracted me to Push was that they were very open and honest about what they wanted and what they felt they lacked – it was really refreshing to be clearly told what I could bring to the business. Finally, where Push are in their development cycle really appealed to me. They’re a mid-size agency and I wanted to take that leap and grow with them – that’s really exciting.
What does your role at Push entail?
I do a little of everything. Anything that’s money and revenue-growth oriented, I’m involved with. A core part of that is managing the sales team and ensuring they have everything they need to thrive and develop. I oversee new accounts coming in and drive revenue that way. The second part is working with the account managers and the current clients to see if there are opportunities to provide more value for them and mutually grow. Then, I look at how we work and the things we can do to be more efficient and effective as an agency. In a nutshell, my key objectives are new revenue growth, existing revenue growth and efficiency. I really enjoy the variety of the role.
How does Push market its services?
We do thought leadership events, webinars and presentations in conjunction with our partners and networks. That builds our reputation and is a way of educating and sharing our knowledge. We’re also active on classic digital marketing spaces, such as paid search and social, and make sure we’re noticeable where we need to be. Then, we do classic soft-sell networking – connecting with people we’ve met at events or through recommendations and referrals. How we position ourselves to clients varies, but in reality, we’re driven by our company values and generating performance. These are things like being fast, agile and innovative, as well as being relationship-driven in the way we do things. We’re also transparent, both with our clients and internally with our people.
Who are Push’s typical clients?
Push has been around for 13 years and has grown outwards to become a full-service digital marketing agency rather than just a search agency. Our products range from £100 per month to £10,000+ per month, so we attract a broad stream of clients. We serve small businesses that want to grow and develop but don’t necessarily have the resources to have a full-time marketing person or department. We essentially become their outsourced marketing arm. We also work with larger, complex businesses that might be multi-regional or multi-market who want more performance orientation and the experts to guide what they’re doing from an internal perspective. What we offer across that bandwidth varies quite wildly.
AdInvestor is our bespoke, automated advertising platform. This is an easy to use platform that helps businesses identify where to invest ad spend, monitor budgets and provides real-time performance metrics and competitor analysis. Starting at £100 per month, it’s ideal for smaller businesses. Push also have the license to sell Google Local Service Ads, which basically connect clients with their customers by advertising their services at the top of Google search. This is fantastic for service industries like plumbers, pest control and so on.
As Push evolves in terms of our offerings and the channels, we can be bold, brave and confident at servicing more complex clients.
How do you hope to see Push develop over the next 12 months?
Push already do lots from an industry perspective but there are still plenty of growth opportunities. We’ve built a service for Amazon advertising last year, and that’s doing really well. Now, we’re looking at other areas, for example developing and widening our skillsets with more organic channels, organic social, organic search and organic content. It would also be good to have a more 360-view in terms of data, building out more specific capabilities around data research and insight.
There is also scope to grow our presence in international markets. We currently service a lot of clients in various parts of the world but there’s an untapped opportunity to further expand. We have new offices in MENA and Greece that we’ll continue to grow, and there’s potential in Scandinavia, North America and Central Europe. It’s about ensuring we’re not spreading our efforts too thin and we’re focusing on the right things to ensure that growth is accelerated.
Having a business presence online is more important than ever because of the lockdown restrictions. How can Push help businesses capitalise on these opportunities?
We see pockets of businesses we work with doing fantastically well as a result of the pandemic, these are primarily eCommerce businesses, while service-based businesses are struggling significantly. The growth areas are around businesses that traditionally had a go-to-market strategy, in that they would sell their products via retailers rather than directly to the consumer. These businesses can now sell directly online to a captive market who are thinking more about what they’re buying. With our ethos of speed, flexibility and a nimble approach, we can help those businesses get online quickly with an eCommerce-enabled site and capture that captive audience.
What’s the top piece of advice you’d give to a business owner looking to increase their revenue online?
The first thing is making sure you have good foundations from a digital perspective. Experience is going to be key. If a user has never encountered your brand and they take a chance on you and have a bad experience – e.g. the user experience or customer service on your website isn’t good, or how you communicate your brand doesn’t match up to the reality of what you’re actually doing – then you’re going to turn people off and push them towards your competitors.
The second thing is to really understand your audience from both a data and an emotive perspective. Think about what makes them tick. What things could you talk to them about and engage with them that would be of interest? Have a conversation with them. Those two things combined will usually garner the best success.
What, in your opinion, will be the new trends in digital marketing in 2021 and beyond?
This year, we’ll see the continued rise of Amazon as a marketplace but also as a search engine. Pre-pandemic, over 45% of searches specific to a product started their journey on Amazon, not Google. Amazon has huge digital and logistical skillsets, so naturally the consumption of media on Amazon is going to increase. There’s huge advertising potential there.
The utilisation of machine-learning and AI is also going to grow. This will breed efficiency but it will mean that companies need to rely on their data more. Making sure that they have really strong processes in place to protect personal data is important, but also looking at how they utilise first-party data across their marketing streams in a way that’s complementary is going to be so important, not only for efficiency but for growth. I think there’s going to be a further tightening of restrictions around data – what can and can’t be sold – and we know things like third-party cookies will come to an end soon. So, first party data and personalisation are going to be really important because some of the data points marketers relied on previously will disappear.
Consumerism within digital is going to be really important, too, even in areas that have traditionally always been bricks and mortar – for example, buying bigger purchases like beds or sofas. Before, people were reluctant to buy those sorts of items online. A lot of those barriers have been knocked down because of lockdown. You’ll have a swing percentage of people who will shop primarily on digital now – the ease of it and realising the world didn’t fall apart just because they bought a product online and hadn’t tried it before. Consumerism and eCommerce will continue to grow and will have a gravitational pull for people and how they buy things.
You started your role working remotely. What have been the pros and cons of home working?
I’m a little bit old fashioned in some of my approaches in that I like to meet people face to face and to engage with people, read their body language and so on. It’s a lot harder to do that staring at a computer screen, rather than reading a room. When you are trying to be more creative or team orientated to build better, bigger things, it can be difficult. It’s also been a challenge fostering a culture and a feeling of collective being to drive a group-wide awareness and a group-wide consciousness when we’re doing certain things.
When I started, a sense of isolation and not being visible within the office meant it took a little bit longer to get under the skin of the agency and know my position. But it was also good in a lot of ways because by force adapting to some of these things means we’re going to be a more agile, resilient business moving forward. We’re well versed in working remotely and having the best of both worlds.
A really good thing that’s come out of lockdown is that the working world didn’t fall apart when everyone started working from home. The view of presenteeism rather than productivity really started to shift and it needed to happen. A lot of those barriers have been broken down. Companies realise that their workers will still produce and get on with work, so going forward more employers will be more flexible to that.
It has also helped me to assess what is my optimal balance between working from home and working in the office. We’ve forcibly road-tested both sides of things to optimise what is the best balance. Necessity breeds invention and there’s been a lot of necessity. You don’t have to have face-to-face meetings all the time. People can see the value in your work, rather than your presence.
What’s the most satisfying thing about your job?
At a top-line level, it’s seeing the changes I implement and the value of those coming to fruition. The good thing about Push being so fast and agile, but also about digital generally being a fast-paced environment, is that it doesn’t take long to start seeing the impact of your work. That’s what I find really satisfying.
Also, just working and seeing development, not only in processes and procedures but also in the way people are thinking about particular things and changing their mindsets in a positive manner is the second most satisfying thing about what I do. It’s the teaching, learning and developing and seeing the wider agency growth based on decisions I’ve made and processes I’ve put in place.
Away from work, what do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
It’s probably pretty cliché. I love sport – watching or playing. I also love spending time with my family and friends. In particular, in lockdown, it’s been great spending more time with my family. I’ve got a one-year-old and a three-year-old. I’ve been around my son Max 90% of his first year. I would never have had that if it wasn’t for Covid.
Although I didn’t miss any major milestones with my daughter, I missed lots of things because I was at the office or commuting. Spending time with my family is my number one priority.
I also love travel, most Kiwis do. I love new cultures, history and seeing the world. I also enjoy movies and video games. Some things have suffered in lockdown but others haven’t. It’s ebbs and flows.