Steve is one of our founders and his many strengths include an amazing knowledge of all aspects of sales & marketing. His overall vison of the future and ability to simplify complex topics make him the perfect speaker at our seminars. He is the ‘old boy’ at Push but still one of the fittest members of the team.
I am just back from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, where I’ve been for over a week and it’s been a fantastic trip. I am absolutely cream crackered, knackered!
The trip itself was very exciting. For the first time in 12 years, I managed to take a business class flight with Etihad Airways, which was a super service. I did that because I was flying overnight and I thought that the business class bed would allow me to sleep. Sadly it didn’t, nothing down to the bed, but just down to me being a bit of a light sleeper.
So that was probably a slight waste of money, so maybe I won’t share this with the Head of Finance, but realistically it’s probably going to be day-flights next time and economy or premium economy back again. The trip was amazing. We got to spend lots of time with both different and prospective clients in the tourism sector. Obviously that’s a major focus for the region.
Many of the big western businesses and others, put their MENA, Middle East and North African, offices directly in Dubai because it’s such a great place to work and network. I have to say, having been to Dubai lots in the nineties, I mean probably the best part of 10 to 20 times. I found it completely unrecognisable from what I remembered.
Now I know that’s probably not surprising in the sense that we will know that Dubai has changed, but really it was mind-blowing just how much the area between Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been built up. There are cranes everywhere, there is clearly a lot going on in the region.
We enjoyed all of our meetings with the different prospective clients that we met, and I got a real impression that they were keen for a new agency to come into the region and focus on performance as well as transparency. So that really suits us very well. We really want to give clients peace of mind that their campaigns are in safe hands and that they’re truly getting the best value they can, the best return on investment.
I am now in a surprising position, where I’m looking to go back at least twice in the next month or two, to support our team there. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been away from the region and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, and I’m very excited about going back.
The first time I went to the Gulf region was in 1992. It was my first job straight out of university, where I’d studied Business Studies. The picture you can see below is of me, somewhere in Dubai talking to a team of merchandisers about how they can best get more sales for Terry’s Chocolate Oranges.
So at the time, my first job was for Kraft Foods International or Kraft Jacobs Suchard, which was as a marketing manager for the Middle East division. It was a great job for me; I was straight out of university and spending two weeks every month in the Middle East. I’d be based in London and then fly out on a Friday night to Dubai and then travel across the region. I had a free reign on how I could develop sales for the range of Terry’s and Suchard products.
It was a really good learning experience for me because it allowed me to work with different distributors, look at marketing campaigns, look at the end sale and how that resulted through the different retailers out there.
The reason I’m posting this today is that I’m going back to the region; I think it might have changed just a little bit since I was last there in 1994. I’ve been about 20 times before, but it was all in that period, 1992 to 1994. I think it’s changed a lot, well I know it’s changed a lot, but I’m looking forward to going.
The reason that we’re going is that the Push is establishing a business, which will be known as Push MENA (Middle East and North Africa). It is being established with our very first Push employee, Anisha Patel. So we are coming into the region, we have big plans and are backing it with big investment. We are really excited about taking our knowledge of Google, Facebook and Bing (Microsoft) advertising into this market.
We’re in a position where our expertise in Europe should really help launch into the MENA region. We will be providing the same quality of service that we provide for our European customers directly in the Middle East.
Is driving diversity a load of fluff or does it count for something?
Last night in Dublin Push picked up the Google European award for Growing Business Online. We were the only UK agency to win from the thousands of European Partner agencies. The team at Push have now won a Google award three years in a row including the Global Award for Innovation in Mobile Marketing.
Naturally, agencies are asking us “How do you keep winning?”, “What’s your secret?”.I really do not mind sharing what we think makes us special and you already know what it is from the title above. It is our diversity that sets us apart. Having a team from the widest possible mixture of backgrounds absolutely kills off complacency.
All of our team know instinctively that there is no barrier to what they can achieve, no glass ceiling, no special favours for people from the right background. Ricky and I as founders of Push take this attitude of openness and inclusion as given and we remain surprised that more businesses don’t take the same approach.
We see articles in renowned, long-running marketing and advertising publications about the need for diversity in Ad Agencies year after year but little changes in these businesses, especially those long established.
Three years ago I attended a seminar at Google’s Mountain View HQ in which Ruth Porat (Google CFO) spoke. What stuck with me most of all was her quote that Google still thinks of itself and behaves like an Early Stage Business.
This week at Google Marketing Live in San Francisco I’m pleased to see that positive ethos and quest for greatness is still very much alive. There’s no way this business is resting on its laurels. There was a slew of real innovations in advertising that we were privileged to see. There’s no way this giant is running short on ideas. Last year Google earned `$116 billion. Yet some analysts worry themselves that Amazon and Facebook (particularly Instagram) are becoming the new hot spots for marketers investments to gain online shoppers.
Amazon, in particular, look like they will start to eat into the advertising market dominated until now by Google and Facebook. Google has combated this threat by finding even more ways for shoppers to buy and indeed for online retailers to spend. Coming soon, Google will offer targeted ads for retail products on Gmail, Google Images, YouTube mobile app and by no means least the voice-based digital assistant. Google aims to offer YouTube viewers a way to buy products during a video clip, while still watching it.
In travel, Google is combining its related products such as Google Flights, Hotel Search, the mobile Google Trips app and other features under a single landing page called ‘Trips’. This will let users plan their travel by searching for a destination to find options for hotels, hotels, travel guides, or holiday packages. Once you’ve booked your trip (even if you don’t book through the Google tool) you can use Trips to see all of the booking receipts to outline your travel itinerary, booking confirmations, and travel information and present them alongside weather reports on your specific travel dates.
There’s just loads more to report back on which my colleagues from Push will be doing over the coming days as we gather our thoughts on what has been another pivotal week in marketing.
When Ricky and I started Push in 2007 I had no idea quite how hard the journey would be from our small room in an accountants office in the loft to where we are today with 50 people, managing over £50 million of digital advertising spend for hundreds of businesses.
Equally, my expectation about the ‘payback’ and the rewards was in hindsight, misguided. Along the way there have been some really tough times and moments of pure joy. I thought I would share some of the personal lessons in some sort of order.
As well as starting an entirely new business we all started families. Ricky’s oldest son (Arjun) is exactly the same age as Push and my boy (Zac) is just 18 months younger. Our wives were both working too so it turned out to force a lot of pressure on family life.
(Ricky & I winning the Google award for Highest Customer Satisfaction in EMEA)
Have enough cash to get started.
When we started Push in 2007 we did so with very little capital. A year later the recession kicked in and this led to lots of businesses being starved for cash. We made some poor decisions chasing the money and ended up working with customers who were ‘ok’ for cash flow but poor for profitability.
Know your core values very early on.
We worked with customers whose business ethics turned out to be in conflict with ours. Our gut instinct was that we shouldn’t work with them but we didn’t listen to ourselves and when they turned out to be ‘wronguns’ we felt rather silly.
Core values are very important as they allow us to – develop insight and know ourselves better, choose the relationships we have, clarify and guide our decisions and intentions and establish a relationship between us and the outside world.
Ask customers what you’re good at.
To be completely frank, in the first five years of our business up until 2012 we were a jack of all trades. Want a website with your AdWords campaign? Sure no problem. Need email marketing too? Absolutely we can do that. And while we’re at it why don’t we do some direct mail and stationery design?
Then it dawned on us, we would occasionally lose customers but they kept coming back for AdWords management and more PPC. This was a core service that we were great at. Rather than working on our weaknesses, when we focused on our strengths and built a business around these strengths we started to thrive.
Get a coach!
2012 was a pivotal year when we employed our first coach (Paul Thomas). He really helped us focus on what we were really good at and help us understand the importance of effective teams. In 2014 we started working with Shirlaws who have been absolutely vital in helping Push to develop into the company we are today. They’ve helped us increase our capacity, understand our unique culture and develop our relationships with our customer base.
We now work with Robert Craven, who is also a coach for Google and Robert specialises in helping agencies grow as fast as possible, so our objectives are very closely aligned. Robert has also helped to develop our senior team and we are passionate about training the future digital leaders of Push.
(Nic Rixon, our business coach at Shirlaws)
Love learning but love implementing more.
We have a saying at Push about being ‘Always Ahead’. This means we keep on learning about all the new techniques in advertising. This does not mean we prioritise research at the expense of action. In our world expressions like ‘Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap are the mantra and we all work hard to roll out new approaches to marketing quickly.
(This famous quote from Steve Jobs is on the wall in our office)
It’s all speeding up.
We’ve all heard and yawned at the expression ‘the only constant is change’. Now though the new rhetoric about change is that it is accelerating. We really have felt this pace quicken in the last 3 years. Our team now have training every Friday in order to learn about the very latest developments and techniques in digital advertising. They then collectively agree the changes that need to be implemented across all of our customers by the Tuesday of the following week. This is not going to slow down so businesses need to think about how they can organise themselves in the future to respond quickly to change. As a business we have had to continually evolve and my one message to all businesses is they do the same and try to keep ahead of change.
The culture at Push has developed over 10 years with contributions from every member of our team. It’s no secret that we try to ‘work like Google’ and this respect we study their culture too.I read recently in Work Rules (Insights from Google) by Laszlo Bock a great quote ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. I think I’ll end on that point and look forward to the next 10 years.