Delightful Archive

Matt McGowan – The Interview on 7 Glorious Years at Incisive Media and the Future

Exactly one year ago I wrote this.

A day later I called up Matt McGowan to get some advice (and a pep talk) and the guy was so generous with his time (and a free ticket to the SES digital marketing conference in San Francisco the following month) that that conversation has been etched in my memory ever since as a pivotal moment in me deciding to set up my own company.

I first met Matt in 2008 back in my Microsoft adCenter days at the SES conference in London and have got to know him, not just industry colleague but as friend. You know, that smart funny guy you make a beeline for across an expo hall at drinky time? That guy who’ll always make time to chat even though you can see he has a million things going on on the first day of a conference.

Today I’m kind of repaying Matt’s generosity that day we chatted after I’d been laid off from exactly 7 years at Microsoft, by publishing this interview with him about his recent amicable departure from the Incisive fold.

You see, Matt is one of the REALLY nice guys in search and social who has helped companies build their brands and individuals make names for themselves, but he’s always done it without so much of a toot of his own horn.

Always found rushing about at conferences with his phone clamped to his head fielding calls, fixing things, making connections and organizing great nights out after the expo halls went dark, he’s done it all with good humour and an endearing self-effacing nature.

When I spoke to him yesterday about his recent resignation from Incisive Media, he said he didn’t want to make a fuss. But I suggested that he’d touched so many careers in his tenure at Incisive that people would want to know what happened AND that he might have some advice for us all from lessons learned from his global business experience.

The resulting interview is below. Take a read, know he’s “all good” (as is often used to describe a positive outlook on like in the US of A), and maybe learn a few things….


So what’s the story Matt? 30th of June was your last day at Incisive? What happened?

After 7 years (to the day) Incisive Media and I came to a formal agreement that allowed me out of my day to day operational responsibilities at the company.  This development was triggered by my decision to want and try something new, and it fit well with Incisive Media’s mid and long term plans.  My decision to resign my role was not an easy one as my former team and the business I was responsible for are absolutely fantastic and extremely important to me.

The digital landscape has changed dramatically since I started with Incisive Media back in June 2006 and I plan on taking the summer and fall off to explore new opportunities.

So nothing sinister right? You’re leaving on good terms?

Only the best. Tim Weller, CEO at Incisive Media and who founded the business with James Hanbury and Nick Rapley, and his team and I are on fantastic terms – which was extremely important to me. After 7 years the team at Incisive Media feels like, is, family and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

And what about Search Engine Watch and ClickZ? They’re still carrying on their great work right?, and the global SES Conference and Expo Series are in the best of hands. It is sometimes forgotten by many in the industry that these brands have been under the tutelage of Mike Grehan, Publisher of Incisive Media’s Interactive Marketing Portfolio, and his team for much of that last year. Moreover, Mike has been with the company for over 5 years. It’s safe to say he knows the business intimately.

If you don’t know Mike? He wrote one of the first books on Search Engine Marketing (and currently writing his next), he is an expert on information retrieval, has been cited many times in mainstream and industry press, and speaks at many events including invite-only internal events at some the largest players in the space. I have the utmost confidence in Mike and his team’s skills and their dedication to excellence.  

What were the most valuable lessons learned from your 7 years at Incisive?

Tough question… though something I look forward to thinking more about it this summer as I take some time to decompress, understand what it is I have accomplished, what it is that motivates me, and what it is I want to do next.

Some early thoughts include and please remember its only been two weeks since I resigned my role as Managing Director of Incisive Media’s North and South America business and the global Interactive Marketing:

  1. Lead by example.
  2. Be honest with yourself, you team, and your clients/customers.
  3. Deal with problems immediately, before they snowball. 
  4. Ask lots of questions. 
  5. Leave you pride at the door (you can learn something from everyone, have the strength to listen).
  6. A clear corporate communication strategy is vital. 
  7. Believe in the work you do, your reputation is defined by it (that and how you treat others).
  8. Be good to people –> it takes a village.   
  9. Don’t forget to thank your family for their support, it is invaluable. 


Legendary night out in Macau after SES Hong Kong with Bill Hunt, Lee Odden, Aaron Kahlow and Brent Payne

What’s next?

It is an exciting world we live in.  Digital is quickly becoming ubiquitous, and with that opportunities abound.  I am looking more at those area’s that are in the state of disruption than those that are crowded and selling based on some optimization. In that vein, and in order to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground while I look for full time employment, I have accepted advisory positions with:

– The Online Marketing Institute, which is catering to the knowledge sharing and level setting needs of the online marketing and advertising industry (education and helping marketer’s do their jobs better has defined my career this last decade);

Web Congress, an event business that serves mostly a hispanic and latino audience, is dedicated to education, and is based in one of my favorite favorite cities, Barcelona;

BtoBeacon, a recently launched resource working to define and educate the BtoB marketing industry;

and of course…

Incisive Media, where I am now an advisor to the CEO and Board of Directors with no operational responsibility. 

Where can you be contacted if a reader wants to tap into your vast knowledge?!

If you have ideas for me or just want to talk marketing, advertising, and technology please do get in touch…

Twitter –> @Matt_McGowan

LinkedIn –> McGowan

Google+ –> Matt McGowan

Please join me in thanking Matt and wishing him every success in the next leg of his professional jaunt in digital!

Microsoft Research Talk and Other Things Like Jack Black!



Was asked to speak at Microsoft Research a few weeks ago and they’ve uploaded it to their site – Pioneers of Digital Microsoft Research

I’ve also been posting other stuff to the Delightful Blog, like this interview with Kristy Bolsinger who gives some really smart advice on how brands should be thinking about social media strategy versus tactics and what to measure.

Embedded the video below too:

There’s an awesome interview from Cannes Lions with Jack Black to watch, and a piece I wrote on Michael Dubin and One Wipe Charlies from Dollar Shave Club – one of my go-to places for digital thought leadership.

Lots going on with the business to. Personal Branding, speech writing, social media etc etc

Oh and the sun has been shining in Seattle for over a week!

What’s new with you?

Delightful Communications Reviews & Testimonials


It’s been a little over 6 months since I started Delightful Communications and I’ve now managed to collate a healthy dose of client testimonials to add to my site.

Thanks for the kind words to, among others, Faye Sealy from Efesse Business Solutions, Dixon Jones from Majestic SEO and Gina Raebel from go-today for their time in putting their thoughts on my services down in an email.

Really appreciate it and everyone’s continued support.

Here’s to another successful 6!

Simon Sinek TED Talk & Start With Why = Fantastic for Content Marketers

Finally got around to watching this TED Talk that had been passed to me a few months ago.


“People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.”

Author of the smash hit – Start With Why – I love the way Sinek delivers this talk with a flip chart and handheld mike. Low-tech delivery of a highly charged talk on how too many businesses concentrate on what they do it rather than why they do it.

It jives nicely with a recent post of mine for the Delightful blog on what I call the So What? Factor, where I call out companies for content marketing that cries why? In a similar vein to Sinek’s mantra, I suggest content needs to reflect something useful or that resonates with the reader in themselves. They’re not that interested in what the company has to offer unless it matters to them, so providing some call to action or at least some reason to believe and empathize with what they are saying, means they have the opportunity to stop consumers simply drifting away and the content will not have been a useless effort.

If you can’t see the video, watch it here.

CEOs and Social Media, SearchFest, Covario and Book Launch

Well that was one of my resolutions blown out of the water wasn’t it?!

I promised myself that I’d be way more scheduled in writing blog posts and getting them up and out, but a month since my last post here is not what I was aiming for, so here’s a quick run down of what’s been going on in my world.

The business is going well. I’ve just written a post on CEOs and social media personal branding. Read it and tell me if you agree (or not) that there’s an opportunity there. Just after Christmas I presented a strategy to a major brand and they loved it. Can’t say who, but it gave them and their PR teams a lot to think about and execute on. I’m really chuffed it seemed to work for them.


Pool at Parker Hotel in Palm Springs

Last week I was in Palm Springs for Covario’s InflectionPoint conference with Dixon Jones and Majestic SEO. It was a fantastic trip (nice to get some sun) and I learned a lot from the brands that were there and the Covario guys who were not in the least bit salesy with their information and case studies. This year is all about “content marketing” was the take away. Mobile is already here and if you’re not playing in that end of the pool, you might end up in a spot of bother, especially if the recession loosens its grip and budgets get more fluid.

Top notch job there from Covario and their CEO Russ Mann.


Paul Springer, Carolyn Everson, Moi & Andrew Sampson

The book launch in London at JWT a few weeks ago went really well. Carolyn Everson from Facebook was there, as was Stephen Fry’s biz partner Andrew Sampson who has done a great deal behind the scenes to help Stephen and his digital presence.

There must have been about 70 people show up and have a little drinky to celebrate Pioneers. Really happy with the turn out and the feedback (especially from students) as to what people thought about the book.

Got some special news to announce in the coming weeks about all that soon as well!

Now I have a few client deadlines out the way, I’ll be concentrating on my presentation next week at SearchFest in Portland.

I’m talking with the simply marvelous Joanna Lord from SEOmoz on Digital Evangelism.

Should be a good sesh. I have the utmost respect for Joanna and her work.

So that’s it in a nutshell.

Maggie remains delightful so I’ll signoff with a recent photo of her posing for the camera and saying CHEEZE!!!!


Have a great rest of your week!

Amazon Reviews, New Pioneers and IAB UK

It’s been another very busy week for Delightful Communications. I’ve signed another client up for some social/digital strategy work and training, and delivered a personal branding audit for a major CEO.


The new Pioneers we’ve added are John Winsor from Victors & Spoils (now part of the Havas Group), Angel Chen from WPP’s OgilvyOne, the fabulous Carolyn Everson formerly from MTV and Microsoft and now the head of global marketing solutions at Facebook and Jess Greenwood the former Contagious Magazine writer who is now at R/GA.Book reviews on Amazon US and Amazon UK have been astounding. I think we’ve had about 16 now and nearly all have been 5 Star.

We’ve sold out on the US site and our publishers are upping the ante to make sure people don’t have to wait to get their hands on a copy.

That, plus the launch in London next week should see some additional exposure. I spoke at the Microsoft Trends Council last week, and I have had a number of queries about other speaking opportunities that you can see (if they come off) when I update my professional speaker page.


Stephen Fry on the cover of our Facebook Page

Lastly, we have started a 4 part series of articles for the IAB in the UK starting with this: What content providers can learn from Stephen Fry. They’ve kindly let us talk about some of the Pioneers and the lessons learned and are conducting a Twitter competition along with it too!

Can’t wait to get to England next week to see family, for the book launch and to see clients.

If you’ve not got your copy of the book you can get it here, and if you have it please, please jot down a review on Amazon for us as they all help!

My 5 Start Up Tips for Any Small Business or Consultancy After 3 Months of Going Solo

Yesterday marked exactly 3 months since I kicked off my foray as a start-up by setting up my small business as a consultancy specialising in social media, digital PR and personal branding.

In those 3 months I have learned many things, so thought I could give a little back by jotting down 5 tips based on my experience.


Long and Winding Road

1 – Believe in Yourself

Sounds obvious right? But you need to have the courage of your convictions during the first three months because it isn’t going to be smooth sailing. You have to get your head around a ton of new stuff from accounting, to invoicing, to marketing, to sitting in a café on your own, to the highs of getting a proposal accepted, to the lows of not having phone calls or emails returned.

You shouldn’t be going solo unless you really think you can do it, and really thinking you can do it means you have to have done lots of research and have psyched yourself up into a frenzy of self-belief.

 2 – It’s OK If You Fail

Really it is. I had a lot of self-belief when I left Microsoft, but what has also kept me going is that friends and family have admired my courage and helped me understand that if I gave it my best shot, if I was truly prepared and gave it everything I had and it didn’t work out, then at least I could say I tried.

How many people do you know have started their own business even though they have had a slew of lucrative job offers waiting in the wings? I bet it’s not many. So to branching out on your own is a pretty unique escapade in the grand scheme of things, so if you fail, you fail, but people will think more of you for having given it your best try, and you will think more of yourself.

3 – Know Your Value

When you start your own business a curious thing happens. People get a whiff that you’re just starting out and try and get your services for free or at radically reduced fees “because you need the experience right?”

My advice is to stick to your guns and know your value. If you truly trust your experience and worth then charge accordingly and don’t do free stuff as it sends you on a spiral you’ll find it difficult to get out of.

I don’t charge by the hour. I charge by the project or on a retainer basis because if you charge by the hour, there are only so many hours in the week that you can bill for. You’re restricting your potential and your value to time.

With 12 years experience in digital marketing, companies are paying for that experience and my connections. That doesn’t translate into an hourly rate. It translates into a fee that adds that experience and value into that client’s company and people.

Know what you’re worth and know that you’ll respect yourself better if you turn down work because it cheapens your value.

4 – Keep It Small

After I left Microsoft, I must have asked 50 people for their opinion on what I was about to do. Many had small businesses, agencies or consultancies themselves and most of them them asked if I had grand plans for Delightful. When I said I did, I was repeatedly warned to keep it small. It might sound awesome to be heading up an agency of 25 people with hundreds of clients being billed tens of thousands of dollars a month, but how much of that money is actually going to go into your pocket? How many of those clients are you actually going to interface with? How much of your experience and value will actually be used on real work?

Chances are you’ll be the CEO and buried in payroll, tax disputes, legal wranglings, HR issues and marketing conundrums, instead of actually doing any of the work you love to do. Chances also are that, unless you plan on selling the business, you could earn as much, if not more by being a one man band with a couple of contractors on hand for busy periods.

Keeping it small reduces headaches I’m told and I’ve not had to reach for the professional Advil once in the last 90 days.

5 – Know Your Niche

When setting up your business really try and research your market to find a niche. I knew setting out that if my business specialised in something I could potentially charge more. It would be crystal clear exactly what I did and (sometimes more importantly) what I didn’t do, and it created talking points with potential clients that built trust because I was demonstrating I understood their business problems and could really, REALLY help.

I’ve hung my consultancy on three specific pillars: Social Media Integration, Digital PR and Personal Branding. I tell the story that these were the three areas I had the most success with during my time at Microsoft and it’s true that businesses struggle very often with these channels. I’m not a catch-all marketing agency. I won’t set up your Twitter account or Facebook page. I won’t manage your social online reputation on an on-going basis, but I will set you up and teach you how to do that. I know my niche.

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P.S. Also, read “Million Dollar Consulting” by Alan Weiss. The book sounds ghastly but was recommended to me by Jun Young, so I thought I’d pick up a copy. It’s a remarkable read packed full of advice from how to market yourself, how to write a killer proposal so it gets accepted and how to navigate the minefield of fees and what to charge.

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