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Introducing Matt Daley, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer at Circulate Digital

I’m Matt and I am the CMO and Co-Founder at Circulate Digital. I’ve been running our agency for almost a decade alongside my brother, Danny Daley. In that time we have successfully delivered digital growth across creative search and social for numerous big-name brands and global businesses. I hope you enjoy my interview conducted by Circulate’s Creative Marketing Specialist, Indre Kusleikaite.

What made you get into marketing and how long have you been in the marketing space?

My love for marketing started during a placement year at University. I worked at one of the world’s largest Pharmaceutical brands, a company named Roche Diagnostics. Here my job was to support the marketing activities for a sub-brand called Accu-Chek. 

This gave me huge amounts of experience working in a challenging medical space. Marketing medical devices come with a range of problems and this is why I loved this job. I genuinely believe that this job helped me to fast track my learning, and during my time there, I learnt about Google Ads, email marketing, website management and user experience. That was around 12 years ago! God, I sound old…. 

What made you take the leap to create your own digital marketing agency?

Funnily enough, Circulate wasn’t my first digital marketing agency. After working at Accu-Chek, I managed to start a business with Danny in our final year of university. It was a massive learning curve for us as we realised that we were maybe a step too far outside of our comfort zone, specifically with the numbers and finances. 

Imagine being a 21-year-old, running a business whilst keeping active on the clubbing scene at University. Our money here didn’t go that far, but I learned a lot. Fast track to 24 years old, I had worked at some of the biggest agencies in the UK where I had gained a wealth of experience working on a range of Search and Social campaigns. 

Back then paid social had become a new phenomenon and I was at the forefront of it, leading strategies for some of the biggest brands out there. After gaining some of this valuable experience in the field, Danny and I had a conversation about returning to run an agency. 

We had a couple of grand each and took the leap. This time it was different, we had more experience, bigger goals and could back that up with expert knowledge having crushed it for several years in what was the very new world of paid social media marketing

How has your relationship with your brother helped Circulate get to where it is today?

Danny and I are upfront, transparent and we always talk honestly with each other. A lot of businesses sometimes struggle to maintain those relationships and I feel this is what has helped us as a business over the years.   

Don’t get me wrong, we have had our ups and downs, but that’s what I like about running a business together. Its all about having trust in one another and we’ve been through a lot personally which we can both relate to. This has helped our business to become a success as we have grown. 

What do you like most about owning your own agency?

If you’d have asked me this question some time ago, I’d have said the money. My business mindset has evolved so much and I just can’t relate to that anymore. 

It has so much more meaning to it and I love being able to control my schedule, give back to our team and make everyone else’s lives great. 

My main purpose for the agency is to create the best working environment, not just for myself, but for everyone. We live once and I firmly believe that we need to make it a good one and this is what I love most about running the agency. Maybe you can add living in Barcelona to that too haha! 

What’s the best thing about being Chief Marketing Officer at Circulate Digital? 

Over the past year or so, I have started to step into the role of Chief Marketing Officer. We’ve got so many plans around the business at the moment, including our new Podcast and YouTube channel that we recently launched. 

Speaking completely transparently about it, it feels like it’s only just getting started. We have experienced so much growth over the past year so I’ve had my head in lots of different areas within the business, but it feels like it’s time to get out there and get Circulate more well-known in the digital space.

We’ve grown very silently over the years, purely through recommendations. It has been so much fun documenting this new part of our journey and I’d say this has been the most enjoyable part of the transition so far. 

Where did the name Circulate Digital come from and how has the branding and the look and feel of your agency evolved through the years?

Danny and I were sat in our kitchen and we were talking for days about “our agency”. Sometimes it felt like we were just sitting on replay!

We went through hundreds of names and it was massively challenging to identify one that we both connected with, let alone one that was available to buy a domain name for. 

Danny was actually the one who came up with the name Circulate, he connected it with constant movement and that’s exactly how we operate as a business. We’re always moving forward, even if sometimes we have to take a couple of steps back! Our agency has become more well-known now for being the creative search and social media agency. We’ve worked on many different projects, including website development and several other services. Now we’re streamlined to what we know best. 

What did you do right from the start to make sure you stood out from other agencies in the digital marketing space?

I truly believe that our branding has really helped us in our journey. Danny is a great designer and when we started there were loads of agencies popping up and I think Circulate has always stood out because of its branding and our values around developing deep relationships with our clients. Developing relationships has always been one of our strong points at the agency, this is something that I believe every agency should put their focus into from day one.  

How do you ensure your clients’ marketing strategies are ahead of the game?

We’re always innovating our marketing strategies and quite honestly the team are now unbelievable when it comes overcoming challenges within marketing. If you’re running campaigns across Facebook advertising, then you’ll understand some of the challenges with the latest iOS updates on Apple. 

Our team has found ways to continue to make our game strong despite issues around tracking. Having a strong adaptation to change is important. I actually spoke with a prospective client yesterday where I mentioned that our tactics now are completely different to 12 months ago. Clients come to us because we’re the experts around this kind of stuff and because we are always immersed in platforms, we can be quick and reactive to change in the market space. 

How do you ensure Circulate is constantly moving in the right direction?

When we first started out in business, we used to look at everything in a linear way. We’d be negative towards ourselves around any dips that we had as an agency and this was the total wrong thing to do. It was the wrong thing because it created negativity throughout the entire agency and this has a knock-on effect across everyone! 

I guess when we’re talking about making sure we’re constantly moving in the right direction it all comes down to having self-belief in what we do. Self-belief is always the biggest reflection point when things don’t go as well as we want. 

Let’s talk about stocks. You wouldn’t sell all your stocks during a dip, you’ve just got to understand what made you happy doing what you did before and realign your plans from there.

Results take time and it’s always going to be one hell of a rollercoaster ride, but when you have your self-belief you can achieve anything you set out to do! This is our mindset as an agency. 

We understand that you live in Barcelona and your brother and co-founder, Danny, lives in the UK. What have been the positives and the negatives of running an agency from two different countries?

It’s funny you asked this question as I am just about to do a podcast around this. It has definitely come with its struggles, but with the way of working now, it is completely possible. 

We make sure that we communicate a lot to keep our business moving forward. One of the negatives is definitely, that being together, we naturally seem to bounce more ideas around and we don’t have that as easily living in different locations.

Of course, there are huge positives too. Danny often gets to visit and get a tan (or not so much). Seriously speaking, the positives of being in different locations have meant that we have scaled our operation to work with clients outside of the UK. We have clients in Spain and have worked on some huge search and paid social campaigns out here with some very impressive brands. 

The experience for me is what makes everything key. I am so happy here and for me, happiness is my key driver behind what we do. Not just for me, but for everyone on board. I love our team, previously before covid shocked the world, we’d do regular team trips out here and this was a lovely experience for everyone. 

What is the best advice you have ever received?

God Indre, where do I start… We’ve had a couple of mentors in our business and they have given us really sound advice. The greatest bit of advice came from our current mentor who has helped us to shape our offering around services to be more niche in what we are awesome at. 

In our case, we’re really great at creative search across PPC, SEO and also paid social. Putting our emphasis on this has helped us to rank #1 in the UK for a range of terms that drive new projects.

I also asked our current mentor what made his business so great when he was in the driving seat and he mentioned that he just cared. Having care for everyone in and outside of the business is really important to us. 

The purpose for our business isn’t to become the richest people on the planet from a wealth perspective. We just want everyone onboard to love their experience. You probably don’t know this, but I have a tattoo on my leg that says “gratitude”. This is a key message I practice myself every day and it’s important to everything we do in our business and personal lives.  

We know you’re a big advocate for mental health. How do you make sure you keep yourself and your employees from getting burnt out and have a healthy work/life balance?

I’ve had my fair share of troubles with my own mental health following a bit of a traumatic set of experiences with my childhood and the passing of my Mum several years ago. Mental health has usually been a bit of a silent topic, but it’s become more of a talking topic in recent years. 

When my Mum died, I was on a conference call with our team. I remember getting a message pop up on my phone from Facebook messenger. It was my uncle telling me that my mother had passed away. 

At that moment, I was lost for words. Years and years of confusion had come to an end. I remember telling Danny that he needed to get on a call to me as soon as possible as I left the conference call almost immediately. 

From this day, I wanted to learn more about mental health as it came to the surface that my Mum had struggled greatly with her own mental health and I had no clue of this. I hadn’t had the best relationship with her previously. Honestly Indre, this was the eye-opening moment that changed my life and everyone around me too. 

Our goal as an agency flipped. Over time, we realised that our goals needed to change. Our happiness and mental state needed to change and this isn’t something that happened overnight. It’s something that continues to adapt and change to this very day. One thing I’d say around this is that we’re not perfect but we always have the best intentions for our team and I want to make sure this agency is the best place to work. I want to win awards for this kind of criteria because I believe that this is what makes it a huge pleasure to run an agency. 

As Indre knows, we’re just about to work towards a 4.5-day working week. This means that we give everyone on board a special bit of time every week to actually relax and recharge. I tested this recently finishing at 1 o’clock on Fridays and I’ve got to say, Saturday felt like a Sunday and it was so confusing. But this is the point. Giving our team more perks around doing a great job is important for us as a business. Rewarding the team for doing an awesome job means that everyone wins. Time is the most precious thing and I want everyone to enjoy their time here at Circulate. 

How long did it take to land your first big client and how did you get them on board?

We had a really interesting starting point at Circulate. We had a client collaboration with the Agency that I worked at before which equated to around £500 in revenue per month. At that point, it was just Danny and I and most of our clients were paying around this kind of budget. 

Fortunately, we were able to grow that account and eventually, they came on to work with us directly after several months of our previous agency collaboration. This client ended up paying around 4k per month before they took services in-house after around 3 or 4 years of working together. 

Our biggest and more well-known clients started to come in around 18 months of starting the agency. A lot of our clients came through from recommendations. We even have some clients that have been around for the entire length of running our agency. Our entire strategy was built around developing relationships with other business owners and agencies who could refer us to other businesses that wanted to grow their marketing efforts. 

Digital marketing is always evolving. How do you make sure as a CMO you stay ahead of the game?

I think when you’re in marketing you need to read a lot, but also take in feedback and learn from what the team are doing on clients’ campaigns. I really like to get my hands dirty too which is how I keep in the game with marketing. 

I think one of the most important skills to have as a CMO is problem-solving. Sometimes, we can all be guilty of not taking a step back to review what is going on around us. It’s funny how we can get so stressed in our heads when a solution to the problem is sometimes quite simple. I’ve found that the only way for me to find that solution is to take a step back and get a holistic view on things. This really does keep me ahead of what is going on around me. We’re in a marathon here, not a short sprint. If you’re a CMO looking at things like a sprint, you’re probably going to lose the race. 

How do you define success, and what lessons have you learned so far that you could share with our readers?

When people think about success, they usually think about flashy cars, fancy offices and how much money you’ve got in the bank. I genuinely used to think like this, and how wrong was I for thinking that.  

You can have all of the above, no problem, but that shouldn’t be what defines your success and I genuinely don’t look at success in the same way now. 

For me, success comes down to having perspective in life. I’ve been in a situation where on paper it looks great and a lot of my focus went into getting all of the above, but I honestly wasn’t happy. In fact, I ended up selling everything and now live a much more basic life. All my friends in Barcelona used to laugh and joke at me for being a spender, and I used to go along with that too. I feel a bit stupid thinking back to those moments, but this is why perspective is so important. 

For me, success at Circulate comes from feeling fulfilled in what we’re doing, how much value have we driven for our clients, how much are we enjoying what we’re doing and finally are we doing something that helps others. When you realign your focus to these types of values, it makes us better as human beings and 9/10 all of the financial status will follow. Never do it the other way around.

What inspires you in life and how do you strive to inspire your team at Circulate Digital?

Just before this interview, I asked Indre what three words she would use to describe me. Her response was “fun, positive and energetic”. 

For me, this kind of feedback is great and actually, this backs up some of the values that I have behind why I do what I do. Everything needs to be fun and I love to bring energy into our business. Even when things don’t go as planned, we will always try our best to remain positive. I love to listen to feedback from our team and I find this really useful to make small and subtle changes to make everyone’s lives better. 

What are your favourite digital marketing avenues and why?

As I mentioned previously, my journey began working in paid social around 2 years after it even existed. This still stands as one of my favourite channels of activity. When activated properly, paid social can have positive impacts across every channel of marketing and it can drive huge amounts of awareness outside of the platforms directly. 

Investing into paid social can drive huge growth in visibility in search engines, support with email database growth and direct sales through the specific platforms. This doesn’t mean that you can just activate a campaign and it will be an overnight success. You need to test, learn and adapt your activity as you progress with your campaigns. It is worth mentioning that paid social requires a different approach depending on your brand. A new brand will need to invest heavily in their content strategy and yes, the product or service needs to be something that turns heads. 

Love diving into the minds of experts?

I’m Indre, the Creative Marketing Specialist here at Circulate and I love interviewing successful business owners, marketing, PR experts and professionals from all sectors! I hope you enjoyed this interview with our CMO & Co-Founder Matt Daley and were able to take away some nuggets of gold to apply to your own life and career.

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