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#009: Matt Isaacs

July 20, 2017


44 mins








“If you really really want to be successful, you have to pick an arena and become absolutely excellent at it”


Founding partner of one of the world’s largest digital marketing agencies, angel investor, and father of 4 just in case he’s not busy enough! In this episode we chat with Matt Isaacs, Chairman of Essence … and it’s a beauty! 


Matt co-founded Essence with his two friends and colleagues in 2005. After some seriously explosive growth (at one point growing tenfold within 3 years), and with turnover into the 100s of £millions, Essence were eventually acquired by WPP, the world’s largest marketing group. Essence focus on the paid media component of advertising, and across their 11 offices and 750 staff, they manage $1bn of digital media. Their customers (spanning 70 countries) include Google, The Financial Times, Universal Pictures, and eBay, just to name a few. What’s more impressive, they never received any external funding and managed this growth organically.


We cover a whole heap of topics in this episode which I’ve listed below, and I personally found it very inspiring to see how a company can reach such heights by focusing on what they need to do well, and doing it without the need for external finance. There are so many takeaways from this recording and I’d be really keen to hear feedback, and perhaps any follow up questions you might have.


In this episode we discuss:


• Background on Matt Isaacs

• Who are Essence and what do they do

• How to compete with (and beat) the ‘big boys’ when you’re a startup

• The importance of a business plan (and not because of what you may initially think)

• Building a diverse team that is multi-skilled and multifaceted

• Goal setting and creating a mission for your company

• Mergers and acquisitions - the right time to consider MnA’s, the challenges, how to integrate different cultures

• Why and when you should consider external funding, and when to say no

• The future of marketing and advertising

• Top marketing tips from an industry expert

• When to start paid marketing

• Angel investment and what Matt looks for in new companies

• New technology Matt is excited about

• Must watch TED talks


Links from this episode:


Essence Website

Essence Twitter

Essence YouTube

Matt Isaacs Twitter

WPP agrees to acquire a majority stake in leading global digital agency Essence

TED talks:

Simon Sinek - How great leaders inspire action

Sean Achor - The happy secret to better work

Accounts Lab



Quotes to listen out for and live by… I usually only pick one quote as the title of the episode, but this recording was absolutely littered with them so I had to list a few more :) You’ll notice a number of these quotes are referring to a similar thing; that’s no mistake.


“This idea that you have a fixed plan and follow it - that’s not how it works, that’s just not how it works”


“If you really really want to be successful, you have to pick an arena and become absolutely excellent at it” 


“You can build a great brand without doing any marketing”


“The best form or marketing is to have a great product that you deliver in an incredible way to your customers, to the extent that they recommend you to all of their friends and you don’t need to spend anything“


“The biggest barometer of whether you’ve got a winning proposition, is whether your current customers are referring you”


“Don’t get distracted by marketing, get your product right, get your brand right, and the rest will follow”


“When you get those chances to shine you have to be able to show you can do something that’s extraordinary and goes above and beyond what they might expect from an organisation at your stage”


“All the traditional rules of marketing apply: have a great product, tightly align your brand around that product, and be consistent “


“Nirvana is: someone sees marketing from you, and they know it’s you without seeing your name”


“Setting some tangible goals, and a clear mission as a business, are incredibly powerful motivators, and mechanisms for alignment of your organisation”
















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