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Up Close with Matt Hickey

How teaching, nurturing, and growth inspire marketing leader, Matt Hickey

We interviewed Total Synergy’s head of marketing and growth, Matt Hickey, and discovered that (from teaching primary kids, to being an international Flight Attendant, to working across multiple industries in various marketing roles) making a difference in a business, nurturing and growing his teams, and being creative lie at the heart of Matt’s success for many different reasons.

At the age of eight, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a primary school teacher. I think it was because I really admired what my teachers did and always felt inspired by them. In high school, I had the opportunity to do my work experience at a primary school. I was really involved in running the class and was given the opportunity to design and lead the students through an exciting project that enabled them to present their projects at the end. It was fantastic. I loved working with the kids and seeing their ideas come to life.

I actually got into Deakin University in Melbourne to do my Bachelor of Education. I decided to defer my first year because I wanted to work full time and earn some money. It was at this point that I discovered the world of marketing, and I have never looked back.

Can you tell us about the journey of you career to this point?

I originally started with a property investment firm on a three-month contract as an admin assistant. At the end of the contract, they approached me with an opportunity in marketing as a marketing assistant. That’s where it all began.

What made me love marketing was the creativity and the fact that marketing was forever changing. There were always different projects on, opportunities to make things look good, give people an experience, and focus on how to stand out amongst the crowd. That excited me!

After many years and promotions in various marketing roles within medium-to-large multinational brands, a big change in my personal life brought me to Sydney. When I relocated, I decided to take a break from marketing. “Long service leave” I called it. I decided to go and fulfill a lifelong dream of being an international flight attendant. I was selected out of 16,000 applicants as one of the first 100 long-haul cabin crew for Virgin Australia. Two years of international flying taught me a lot about myself, a lot about people, and a whole lot about how to understand all walks of life. After all, we are all different and that’s exciting to experience every time you go to work. I travelled to many amazing places and worked with some incredible people. Aviation is a highly competitive industry to get into so I will be forever grateful for the experience and the steep learning curve.

After 2 years on and off an aircraft, I was really missing marketing, and decided I would get back into it. I landed a great role with a global software organization, as regional marketing manager for Asia Pacific.

From there I moved into other senior marketing roles for various organisations managing multiple regions, most recently, at Total Synergy. Coming from a large multinational to Total Synergy, was a strategic move for me. I wanted to go into a smaller business that was looking to scale. A business where there was an opportunity to grow the value of marketing and clearly articulate the marketing return for the business. That was Total Synergy. I get to work with highly passionate people who are smart, and great at what they do.

What is it about your role at Total Synergy that excites you most?

I think the most exciting thing for me is being able to identify gaps and to fill them. Really looking at the opportunities that are available. Total Synergy has been around for 21 years, and has had great brand presence, consistent messaging, and a strong team behind that. Now the focus is around growth and being able to bring the team on a transformational journey to support our new marketing strategy.

All in all, the opportunity that excites me most is working closely with my team and developing them. Empowering them to be someone they never thought they could be. The marketing team have gone through considerable change in the past seven months. We’re able to demonstrate marketing’s metric performance via the HubSpot platform. Marketing strategies are linked to key channels and tactics, campaigns are now integrated using multiple channels to market and, more importantly, the team are fully empowered and accountable for their specialist areas.   We’ve now got an even stronger alliance with our product, commercial, and customer success teams. Cross-collaboration is a daily necessity for the team’s success.

What are the three essential ingredients of good marketing that make it great?

1. Creativity
Creativity is essential. Creativity in the way you go to market, the way you stand out from the crowd (not being like everybody else), and the way that you think in your day-to-day.

2. Relevance
All marketing needs to have appeal to a specific target audience. It needs to be relevant; it needs to be easily digestible; it needs to be current; and it’s essential that it’s customer focused.

3. Substance
Any marketing campaign can look and sound good, but it needs to have substance. At Total Synergy, we’re a solution-led service, but if we’re solution-focused and we’re persona-focused in our marketing, we’re more well-rounded and relevant to our audience.

What’s your vision for the future in this role?

What comes to mind straight away for my future vision in this role, is my team. If my team aren’t successful, I’m not. It’s that simple! For me, it’s all about continuing with our transformational journey and being able to add as much value and education for them as possible. Because, at the end of the day, I know that is going to show in our marketing execution and increase their level of confidence in the marketing environment. For the team and I, it’s about thinking, questioning, creating, and executing. We live by this every day.

Can you give us a snapshot of a great day for you?

If I can log off at the end of the day and have, been active, had a laugh, and made a difference, whether it’s in the team or within the business, that’s a great day for me.

Have you got a superpower? What is it? If not, what would you want it to be?

I would have to say I’ve got very good intuition about people. Being able to really understand people, being very situationally aware, and being very conscious of people’s well-being. I can usually get a very good gutfeel if something’s not right in somebody.

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