Being 'Always Ahead' in the World of Digital Advertising – an Interview With Ricky Solanki From Push
The world of digital has been thrown into the spotlight in recent times.
Some have struggled, while others have embraced this forced revolution leading to spectacular results.
We sat down with Ricky Solanki, the CEO of Push, who are a leading digital advertising agency based in London, UK, to find out what has changed and what others can do to ensure success while navigating the murky waters ahead.
Radek Zaleski, Netguru: Firstly, what are the most important features and values that make Push stand out from the crowd?
Ricky Solanki, CEO of Push UK: I have been involved in Google AdWords since 2005 and saw things naturally progress to the point where we opened up Push with my co-founder Steve Hyde. We could see a lot of clients moving into digital, and as our collaboration with them grew, we started to specialize in all forms of online advertising. We're now one of the leading digital advertising agencies in Europe. The UK is a great market to be in with the highest spend globally for digital advertising, and we have helped many clients expand into new territories and markets.
The same goes for our employees; the team development process gives us a huge mix of backgrounds, including people who emigrated to the UK – diversity really breeds a higher level of empathy. Typically, we have all faced some challenges and rely on that ‘sincere care’ coming from people with a real focus on community and supporting each other, including clients.
And what are the major values and principles that have fuelled your growth – what was crucial in accelerating the growth of Push?
Being open is massively important to us and is one of our main values – we of course work with transparency, that goes for both the team and with clients. We keep everyone on the same page and maintain many touch-points with clients to make sure they always feel our presence at all times. For example, when they hit the sales team, we deliberately keep things friendly and ‘non-salesy’ so that when they move onto other teams, we keep a consistent ‘tone’ throughout the client journey, one emphasizing support and understanding.
We believe the experience should always feel like you are working with one unified company and not bouncing between departments that each have their own individual goals.
Friendliness and developing a community is another core value; to treat clients and employees like family. This is the backbone of our company culture – we invite clients to meet us and get to know us – and of course, take them out sometimes. It’s really important to actually know them and develop a relationship because, at the heart of every action, we emphasize a caring attitude. We really want our clients to be happy and feel the value Push brings to them.
Another key value is something we call being ‘always ahead’. We put a huge focus on being one step ahead at all times, whether that be the competition or trends – we try to embed this attitude in everything we do. This aided the natural evolution, and I would say the success of Push – preempting challenges and finding solutions is in our DNA.
So how do you make sure customers love your service?
I think a lot comes down to the level of care and attention we give them. We ensure they feel supported and add a lot of the community elements to the way we work – that might be something simple like listening to their challenges, or supporting them along the client journey. The touch-points we've created are highly tailored to different client personas, so depending on the type of company or individual they get an experience that feels good to them.
We also run an assessment center for our employees where we don’t just test technical knowledge or their knowledge of maths and English; it's focused on ensuring they are a cultural fit and hold the same values as Push. Achieving this is massively important as we want a cohesive feeling across all touch-points with our brand. All of our employees work to not only deliver the best results but also to develop the relationship as a whole, making the client feel supported and understood.
What will Push look like in 2020? How have your plans / and challenges changed in light of COVID-19?
We have seen a massive rush to move into digital. In the past, ‘multi channel’ was more something for big companies, nowadays everyone has to do this – companies are seeing that new client bases exist everywhere – for example, with Instagram, but new social platforms are being leveraged. These consumers might not be spending now but the client base is there if you can leverage it, so it’s all about experimentation and the willingness to recognize that anywhere you find people, you can find business.
How do you see digital marketing as a whole changing due to COVID-19? What are the key challenges in advertising right now?
Right now, a lot of challenges have become an opportunit. For example, the gap in paid advertising has grown, meaning it’s far cheaper to run online ads at the moment – we have prices that have never been seen before. With industries like travel and brick-and-mortar retail essentially being shut down, they have left a huge gap in Google Ads spending, meaning other companies can jump in and take advantage of this. We are even seeing clients leverage less likely consumer bases such as TikTok, similar to how Instagram became a viable option over the last few years.
Are your clients changing their advertising plans due to the situation?
Around 15-25% of businesses are slowing down on certain channels but the rest are actually investing even more because of the advertising gap. It’s worth noting that the companies who invested during the last recession actually came out better off. There is a great study looking at 1,000 businesses during the last recession. Typically, those who invested in marketing during this time came out better off with an 8% increase in profitability post-recovery, showing how important it is to stay visible. It is worth noting we have some clients pivoting into new business models or scaling if their product or service has increased in demand.
So, what are your goals over the next two to three years?
Our ‘always ahead’ attitude means that we are constantly watching the curve and predicting where digital advertising will go next – this is the knowledge we pass onto our clients as we help them to identify new customer bases and revenue streams. We also see the value of investing in new channels and partners, including Netguru – who have not only been great at helping us with the technical aspect of our business, but when you engage a partner, and especially in times like these, it creates a sense of support and community. Essentially, you are not left alone and have more minds involved in helping you to solve challenges.
I'm sure it's been a crazy journey! What kind of hurdles has Push overcome that make you incredibly proud?
Push started back in 2005 right before the 2008 crisis which was an extremely difficult time for the entire economy and the agency itself to survive through. Despite this, we maintained a strong vision, and the dedication of our team has enabled us to go through these times and develop further across numerous markets. The company's ‘family like’ culture has created a unique environment for employees as well as external stakeholders such as clients and partners. By sincerely supporting them, we were able to make it to the other side.
Of course, the main difference with the recession linked to COVID-19 has been the sheer speed at which it has impacted the world. I have been following the virus very closely since it started and it took only a couple of weeks for it to almost completely shut down many industries, something none of us could have expected. But I maintain that despite the massive challenges, this has really opened up a lot of opportunities in the world of digital advertising.
Do you have any tips for CEO's thinking about scaling their business?
Right now with most industries losing foot-fall and stores closing a lot of companies are naturally looking to lower costs, but it’s crucial to think about new ways to bring back customer volume and engage new potential clients. We have been helping our clients move into new digital spaces to keep driving growth as everyone is online right now. It’s also worth noting that companies who further invested in digital marketing during the last economic recession, saw an increase in profitability of 4.3% after, which is why it’s really important to remain visible and always give customers a way to be reminded of, and interact with, your brand.
And lastly, I wanted to ask what inspires you at the moment – anyone you tip your hat to?
I have been pretty amazed at the different companies and celebrities either offering their services for free or giving out free training to help in these difficult times. In a way the COVID-19 situation has really put a spotlight on our morality as a society, so it’s amazing to see some of the initiatives out there.
One of the biggest inspirations for me at the moment is a friend of mine whose company is actively involved in helping the communities in the slums in Kolkata, who are desperately in need of support. And of course, any company or person trying to help health organizations such as the NHS. We have seen a real impact here in the UK due to COVID-19 so the timing has never been more crucial for additional support – I take my hat off to those supporting our carers and medical staff.