Tuesday Thought: Filling Up The Bucket

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Charlie Jones

My daughter Savannah has become fixated on trying to help with chores around the house. I think it’s the act of watching my husband and I complete certain activities, and her trying to mimic them as part of her quest for independence. One of the chores that she has taken to is helping to water our plants every day. Our daughter has her small watering bucket, and each morning, she follows me outside to try to help me. This morning, she was growing frustrated because she kept trying to tip the bucket to water the plants, but she was forgetting to fill her bucket first with the water.

While this seems so obvious, I can see how it might not be for someone at her age. At Dotted Line, we talk a lot about the importance of personal growth and development. This interaction with my daughter this morning was a timely reminder, particularly amid the back-to-school season, the importance of filling our buckets to grow our abilities. 

I’ve learned that growth, whether it be me as a person, or the plants in our front yard, just doesn’t happen. Developing my abilities is the best chance of becoming the person I was created to be. I must be intentional about it. In practicalities, it is asking myself…am I growing to be the leader Dotted Line needs in to be successful?  This same thinking can be applied to all areas of our lives, professionally and personally.

What does growth look like? It’s developing the right attitude, learning your strengths, tapping into your passion, getting in touch with your purpose, developing your skills. And becoming a more effective and fulfilled individual starts with having a plan. For many years, I was intentional about working, reaching my goals, and being successful. The strategy was hard work. But working hard doesn’t guarantee success and hope isn’t a strategy.

I’ve learned that most people underestimate the importance of growth, and they get distracted. I know I have done that. As a result, I put growth on the back burner. Famous author and speaker, John Maxwell writes “If you want to reach your goals and fulfill your potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change your life.”

This week I am thinking about what I am doing to fill my bucket so I can pour into others more effectively. It’s hard to build strength without growing my capacity to do and be more.

Tuesday Thought: Navigating Uncertainty with Certainty

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

The pathway to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear.

Craig Groeschel

We are in a high growth phase right now at Dotted Line. The demands of our current account expansion are weighing on many components of the business and our team. We are all having to lean into the work for our clients in new ways and stretch ourselves.

But adjusting to new norms and unprecedented growth is nothing new to me. Several years ago, my husband, Shawn and I decided to move out of our townhouse into a more spacious, family-friendly home all while I was 7 months pregnant. We were trying to prepare for the baby’s due date, coordinate all the move logistics, and juggle our multiple businesses and family needs. Plus, the last stretch of pregnancy is emotionally and physically tiring. It was a stressful season for sure. We knew where we ultimately needed to be — in our new home before the baby’s arrival with our sanity still intact. But there were many moving pieces we were trying to manage through the process.

Create distance

During seasons of uncertainty, I find it easy to get caught up focusing on the things immediately in front of me.  Famous Navy Seal, Jocko Willink shares in his book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, how he grew to create distance, both mentally and physically, before high-stakes military missions to gain the appropriate amount of perspective. He shares “I made it my goal to never be completely caught up in minuscule tactical aspects of a problem; my goal was to get a higher mental and physical altitude to see more…The more often I detached, the easier it became to see and understand the tactical picture, and the better I got.”  Being intentional about creating a certain level of distance in complex situations helps me to see the way forward more clearly.

This week, I am asking myself… how can I get above a challenging situation?

Make room for margin

When the future is uncertain, we are often our most vulnerable. A good friend and mentor once shared with me how important it is to give yourself twice as much space as you’d typically need in times of high stress. It seems counterintuitive when you think about it but creating lots of margin across multiple areas of your life provides space to be more prepared for opportunities and challenges that come your way. If I make a wrong move, I have the ability to quickly cover. The margin might be in terms of time, investments, a financial situation, or capacity to remain mentally flexible.

Are there ways in which I can create space within the demands of an assignment? Or with my schedule and time?

Keep things simple

Have you ever heard the saying, “you eat a giant elephant by taking one small bite at a time?”  When faced with a complex problem, keeping it simple and breaking it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces can help provide the guidance to move forward. For me, journaling, meditating or talking through how to simplify a situation are mechanisms to get to the bite-sized pieces.

When faced with an elephant, how can I simplify and create bite-sized pieces?

As a new leader, it can be easy to get caught up in trying to do our best, making the right moves at the right time.  Creating distance, making room for margin, and keeping things simple are small, tactical steps that can create a huge impact in our lives. As I continue through the rest of this week, I am thinking about how I can put these steps into practice to grow my abilities with focus and clarity.


Tuesday Thought: Remember Tomorrow

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

“Remember tomorrow.”
Jesse Itlzer

After attending a tremendous Entreleadership Summit (for those that aren’t familiar with the program, the content is focused on equipping and developing leaders to grow healthy teams and small businesses) last week, I am reminded of one of my absolute all-time favorite speakers from a previous year’s event, Jesse Itzler. In his talk to the event audience, Jesse shares stories from building several high growth companies, his personal and familial adventures, and other life resume builders. Jesse shares how he focuses on living life with as much adventure and fulfillment as possible.

In his talk, Jesse draws on his experience inviting a navy SEAL to live with him for 30 days. Jesse wanted to learn the “secret sauce” of grit and mental perseverance from a figure who was operating at a level he couldn’t even comprehend. The first day the SEAL shows up at his house, the SEAL orders Jesse to the gym to tackle pull-ups. Having self-declared that he could only do 4 pull-ups at a given time, the SEAL coaches (or forces) Jesse to complete 100 pull-ups before they can leave. In his talk, Jesse shares that there is statistical research that shows when your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually at 40%.

I love this story because it highlights that the limitations we put on ourselves are self-imposed.  Last year, when I started training for a half-marathon, I remember thinking “there is NO WAY I can run 13 miles.” And by taking it one mile at a time, working on my mental toughness, and building grit, I learned I could tackle it one small piece at a time.

Last Monday I had lunch with a friend, and we were talking about the importance of having an abundance mindset. Most people are conditioned with a scarcity mindset. Limited resources, short-term thinking, and lack of opportunity. Scarcity mentality is what keeps many of us from achieving our goals. An abundance mindset refers to the paradigm shift that there is plenty for everyone. Opportunity and abundance are born out of our grit. We each create our own luck. The small things we do daily, and the way we speak to ourselves, create the environment for what we are becoming.

As I head into this week, I am remembering Jesse’s words and training my mind to look for possibilities. If we don’t win this pitch, good – we’ll win the next one. If we have a failure, good – we’ll get it right next time. Possibility is everywhere, we just have to remember tomorrow.

Beyond Barriers Podcast: Developing An Entrepreneurial Mindset with Lauren Sweeney

You hear it all the time from super successful people, long before they were running multimillion-dollar companies, they were strengthening their entrepreneurial muscle by selling lemonade on the corner, inventing the next “big thing” in their garage or helping their parents or grandparents run the “mom and pop” family business after school. It seems that for most successful people, whether they are working for a company or running their own company, the entrepreneurial mindset sets them apart from the rest.

In this episode, Lauren Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Dotted Line, shares her own story of growing up in a family of small business owners and how developing her entrepreneurial mindset helped her succeed in her corporate career and ultimately gave her the courage to follow her passion and start her own business.

Listen to the full episode here.

Tuesday Thought: Shifting My Language

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

As we deal with the ups and downs that last year has ushered in, I find myself thinking about my personal mindset and that of our team. How we communicate with ourselves can heavily influence how we communicate with the rest of the world.

In executive coach, Tommy Thompson’s, weekly blog, he wrote “Language has power. The words and phrases that we regularly repeat instruct us as to how we should feel and what we should think. Words are not harmless. Despite the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” words regularly break bones and crush souls. Often, our own soul is the one that our own words crush. Words we speak, whether to others or to ourselves belie what is going on internally. Words communicate stress, such as “I am just worried that….” When I hear someone speak those words regularly, I am usually looking at a person who struggles with anxiety. Words communicate discontent, like “I wish that…”

Sometimes, just a subtle change in language to reframe how I communicate to myself can make a world of difference. For example, instead of constantly telling myself, “I can’t wait…” I try swapping the phrase with “I look forward to.”This small shift starts to internally communicate optimism instead of discontent.

This week, I am working on making subtle shifts to my internal dialog and I encourage you to do the same. 

I am aiming to combat my own impatience and unhealthy mindset by following some of Thompson’s recommendations. 

  • Take a few moments; take several deep breaths and relax. It doesn’t take long to bring stress down one notch.
  • Decide not to rush today. Get started slightly earlier and take it a little slower. 
  • Work to reframe that distasteful task I have or that difficult meeting by deciding to fully engage in it.
  • Have the courage to leave behind negativity.

I have come to love the phrase “our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” What more can be true amidst another week full of meetings, presentations, and deadlines? 

To read Thompson’s full blog and his other insightful posts, click here: https://tommythompson.org/reflections/

Dotted Line Q1 Updates

To our Dotted Line clients and friends,

As spring peeks around the corner, our Dotted Line team is looking forward to a new season, warm sunshine, and the next chapter. With the changing season, it’s often helpful to reflect, and as I consider the communications we’ve exchanged over the years, I see a collection of announcements, new work, ideas, and thoughts. On their own, I hope they provide value to you as an individual or your business.

However, looking at the complete collection, compiled together, it starts to become something bigger. Strung together, it starts to tell the story of Dotted Line. This season storytelling is top of mind as we think about you, our clients. We believe every company can have a tremendous impact on the world, whether you are trying to impact those on your payroll or become a rock star brand in your field. We believe the most successful organizations intentionally define their story and always try to refine their impact.

As we build in 2021, I am challenging myself and our team to ask ourselves…how are we creating more significant, more exciting, and more intense stories with you, our clients?

In today’s competitive world, we know each of us can’t just have a great product, good people, exceptional service, and success. Refining our storytelling approach is at the crux of brand power. Matthew Hussey says, “we often get obsessed with saying something that is new instead of focusing on saying something in a new way.” I hope this brings a fresh perspective and renewed focus as you continue to evolve your organization’s story.

With our feelings of hopefulness and a renewed sense of energy, we hope you will join us.


Achieving Success as a Marketing Leader

Prior to the internet becoming mainstream – along with its ability to help marketers draw a clear line connecting campaigns with sales – marketing leaders often struggled to demonstrate the power of brand and its impact on P&L. But as a marketing leader whose professional maturity occurred in the digital era, I’m a firm believer that strategic marketing can not only influence hearts and minds, but also serve on the front lines of driving business growth.

And while strategic thinking plays a central role in creating marketing impact, being a source of positive change for your team is mission critical. At Dotted Line, we talk at least on a weekly basis about marketing being a team sport – and I’d argue that this holds true not only in our agency setting, but also in the corporate world. Marketing leaders are responsible for working closely with team members from across the organization. We also work with peer business leaders to inform organizational strategy. And when the time comes for implementation, specialists from various marketing disciplines must collaborate with their peers from other disciplines to fully realize a holistic marketing program and, ultimately, the team’s greatest potential.

As one of our agency’s business development leaders, I come into contact with hundreds of marketing leaders who are new to their role. Combining insights from those interactions with my own experience, I wanted to share several important considerations for marketing leaders who are new to their organization, new to their role, or perhaps reimagining how they manage their team.

You’re a Change Agent

In my view, marketing at its core has always been about disruption (even before the term became overused). On a daily basis, we’re being asked to drive change: how a brand talks about itself, the tools an organization uses to communicate those messages, and the behaviors we’re looking to drive with our target audience.

And the same holds true as we think about our function within a business. Marketing leaders are often hired to drive change, whether it’s dramatic change at the business or brand level, or an organizational or executional transformation. It’s your responsibility to seek clarity on the magnitude and pace of change and how it will be supported internally. From here, it’s your team to build – and your obligation to find the right people, with the right skillsets and temperament to make your organization successful.

As you take on the marketing mantel, your first weeks in the role will establish your trajectory and hopefully accelerate success. To that end, sit down with your CEO or organizational leader to understand how best to focus your disruption, where the most immediate challenges lay, and the expectations related to the magnitude of change you’re being expected to drive. I’m a big fan of The CMO Manifesto, which provides some great insight and structure for those early days.

Remember, building relationships and trust early on with your executive peer set and their teams will make shifting from strategy to execution easier when it’s time for action.

Your Team Is Your Engine

Strong marketing teams are built on a sound process, collaboration, effective communication, and clear expectations. I start that list with “process” because it’s a foundational element here at Dotted Line and aids greatly in fulfilling the subsequent items. In my career, I have found that developing the process is the first step to creating focus for driving toward desired results, and when I look at the feedback we receive from our partners, our clear process often rises to the top as a valuable part of the Dotted Line experience. Knowing how you’re getting to your final destination – and recognizing the important milestones along the way – makes the process that much more enjoyable.

But the destination isn’t purely shaped by internal forces like process: There are certain expected outcomes that cost centers like marketing are held to. Your strategic imperatives, and the markers of their successful actualization, need to be a North Star for your team. That’s not to say that we should hold specific metrics over our team’s heads, reactively responding to any abnormalities. What I mean is that, as marketing leaders, it’s our job to ensure that our teams understand our goals and how their discipline fits into the equation. I often find myself feeling redundant, playing my role of Dotted Line brand advocate in our internal meetings by repeating our mission and guiding principles, but what feels repetitive to me, I’ve come to understand, is good reinforcement for the team.

When you look at our tax documents, our agency is actually listed as Dotted Line Collaborations. It was the moniker we first developed when we began the business and stands to demonstrate the importance of collaboration. Now, seven years later, as we weather a pandemic, often from remote locations, I’m reminded of the importance of collaboration – and the clear communication required to ignite that type of collective thinking.

The reality is that in a single moment, an individual has a limit to their knowledge base: We have the potential to learn more in the future, but, in this moment, we only know what we know. In order to go beyond what each of your team members knows individually, it’s imperative that your business creates a culture and a forum for collaboration. It takes great intentionality and creativity in these bizarre times, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.

Start with Strategy

If I could offer up one piece of advice – a pitfall to avoid in general, but especially in those early days – it would be to lean toward the strategic versus the tactical. Understand your organization’s primary goals and how they relate to the marketing function. Take the time to understand the voice of the customer and dig into market insights to guide future decision-making. Develop an approach that addresses core business needs and articulate tangible measures of success (even if it’s just one), internally with your team as well as externally with other facets of your business.

I often frame this by characterizing the type of change I’m leading and why the status quo is no longer right for the business. That type of clear communication will help you build relationships with executive peers and partners within your organization. It will also give you assurance in the event there’s an organizational shift in priorities since people will know what you’re doing and can help give you visibility when a pivot is required.

For those who know me well, you won’t be surprised at my ending this post with a few additional reads in case marketing leaders are looking for further guidance as they ease into their new role. Dotted Line came to existence after several informational interviews I conducted with fellow female business leaders who expressed a need for a more thoughtful, intentional marketing approach. If you’re looking for insight, reach out to marketing leaders in your network and ask them about their approach. I’ve found these types of meetings invaluable. Also, there are tons of great CMO podcasts out there, and I encourage you to take a listen. Here’s one of my favorites.

And, of course, I wouldn’t be an effective marketer if I didn’t share my own agency’s resources! Our team recently put together a reference guide for building strategic marketing programs. Once you’ve taken the preliminary steps outlined in this post, I encourage you to download it and read more about important considerations for turning your strategy into action.

Facilitating Effective Marketing Workshops

In February of this year, we had the opportunity to partner with PlanRVA and Sports Backers to lead a project that would result in the naming of a new trail extending from Ashland to Petersburg, Virginia. In our onboarding process, we learned that the trail would pass through seven jurisdictions within Central Virginia, reinforcing the importance of collaboration among localities.

As we took some time to plan for how we would lead our clients and the community through the process, we landed on the idea of inviting representatives from each group to a brainstorming workshop to learn about their visions for the trail firsthand. That way, their ideas, creativity, and potential concerns could be shared collectively, with guidance and structure from our team. A successful result required thoughtful planning for  how to structure the workshop. How would we make sure 20 people with different approaches could be heard – while promoting an environment of respect and learning from one another – and come away with a name everyone could be proud of?

With our goals clearly set, our team spent the weeks leading up to the event planning for a successful morning. We tested activities and brainstormed potential outcomes. We considered the time needed for the various exercises and thought through how to keep our community players engaged. Without careful planning, leading a team through such an exercise is like showing up to a big game without practice. In our “big game,” we needed to accomplish three things:

  1. Brainstorm and concept potential names
  2. Maintain a collective sense of community throughout the process
  3. Encourage participation from everyone in attendance

While we were incredibly passionate about the project, pulling the session together was no small task. Only by placing an emphasis on intentionality in our approach and execution were we able to set the stage for a successful outcome.

Whether you’re leading a session to inform a naming process, generate content ideas or facilitate communication between disconnected groups, the five key elements listed below can provide critical structure for driving productive dialogue among stakeholders with disparate goals. The elements work in conjunction with each other and act as a roadmap for encouraging discourse, helping groups reach their goals, and creating long-lasting relationships and impact.

  1. Know what you want to achieve. It sounds simple, but start with the end in mind. When all parties involved know what they’re working toward, it provides content, focus and clarity for individual contributors. It’s best to start your session by clarifying the ultimate goal and reinforcing that key objective as the day goes on. Tip: Have materials on the groups’ tables that reinforce the goal – and consider bringing a visual that supports the goal into the space to keep it front and center.
  2. Understand your audience. Who are you collaborating with, and what is/are their background(s)? It’s important to understand what your attendees’ day-to-day roles are and how you can engage with them. You may want to start by asking them to work in teams, which can help draw out those who are more reserved and get them involved in the conversation. Leaning into team work first, before sharing with the larger group, also allows for collaboration and trust-building to get the creative juices flowing. Tip: Choose groups that are diverse in both background and personality. This will hopefully lead to creative thinking and a mix of viewpoints
  3. Create the environment and define the rules of the road. It’s important to set the tone for the session so that participants will be engaged and inclined to add value. This begins with the facilitator, the space and the materials provided. Tip: Share with your participants what they can expect ahead of time, stick to your schedule (everyone’s time is precious), and acknowledge and encourage the group’s work along the way.
  4. Be adaptable: Not every activity will go exactly as you had envisioned, and that’s okay. It’s important to find a facilitator who is able to read the room, encourage teamwork, and pivot as needed. Sometimes it’s best to hold back and let the group work through its own obstacles, which may be a hidden opportunity to let them use their own momentum to reach the end goal. Tip: The right facilitator makes a difference. You may have the perfect fit in your organization, or you may need to partner with a research firm based on the size and structure of your workshop.
  5. Have fun! These kinds of workshops are meant to bring together individuals to work collectively toward a common goal. Tip: Bring in props and quiet fidget activities to keep participants’ minds clear. We gave our group Play-Doh, markers for coloring, and stress balls to keep their hands busy while their minds were doing the heavy lifting.

Workshops and brainstorming sessions are a great way to encourage collaboration and discussion, develop new ideas, and expand participants’ thinking. With the right planning and an adaptable structure for the day, you can achieve valuable results for everyone involved.

How much should I be paying for marketing?

Selecting the right marketing partner for your organization is no easy task. First, CMOs must navigate a saturated market of competing full-service agencies, creative collectives and freelance outfits. Once the hurdle of identifying an appropriate partner type is cleared, more questions arise about how to select the right choice from within that subset, how much it will cost to work with them, and how much additional funding to allocate towards non-agency costs, including media spend, trade show costs, print production and marketing technologies.

To combat the complexity of these decisions, Dotted Line has developed a series of six questions aimed at helping organizations find the right marketing partner for where their business is now and where it’s headed next. These questions and their corresponding answers have been outlined in our new marketing costs white paper, which can help you determine how much you should be paying for your marketing efforts, what to consider when choosing a marketing partner, and how you and your team can contribute most effectively to your marketing endeavors.

Our guide can be a valuable resource whether you’re entering into a marketing relationship for the first time or if you have an existing partner that you want to assess. After downloading this white paper, we encourage you to use it as a workbook of sorts to keep track of your questions, rationale and the solutions you unearth. As you proceed from one question to the next, answer each as honestly as you can to help create the most accurate reflection of your current state.

Click here to download your copy today.

How Multi-Channeling Your Message Optimizes Your Impact

Effective marketing is about understanding how, when and where to engage with your target audience.  And the options for doing so are vast, ranging from events and conferences to social media and website interactions.

But in light of the current pandemic, many of these options are no longer viable, at least for the immediate future. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever for organizations to take another look at their marketing strategy to ensure you’re effectively interacting with your various targets by meeting them exactly where they are during this unique time.

In five years from now, I think we’ll all look back at 2020 in agreement that it was the year multi-channeled marketing efforts became a must.  So that we’re all on the same page, a multi-channel marketing approach uses varied communication channels – social, search, display advertising, email or even traditional channels like print or outdoor – to reach your target audiences. By branching out and utilizing several strategically chosen resources, based on the consumption habits of your audience, organizations can continue to meet your goals by increasing visibility, establishing familiarity, and building trust with your audience despite changes in the marketing landscape.

Know Your “Why” and Create a Plan

Before adopting a multi-channel approach, you need to first identify your key objectives. Do you want to simply drive brand awareness? Are you hoping to convert your consumers to some sort of action? Establishing the purpose of your efforts is a vital step that informs the rest of the process. If the ultimate strategy does not help you reach your core goals, then it should be reevaluated.

Next, make sure you know your audience. Successfully multi-channeling your message requires you to have a solid grasp on what channels should be utilized, how often, and in what specific ways. Look at your customer base and ask yourself if there are any trends or segments who are purchasing your product or services at a higher frequency – you charge should be to find more of these actors from outside your current network.  According to Jon Simpson of the Forbes Agency Council, by conducting research via methods like persona exercises, you can determine “. . . where your demographic spends time online, what resources they trust and what pain points they’re facing.” You can then build a strategy around these results that accurately reflects consumers’ needs and priorities.

With foundational data and goals understood, it’s time to build your actual strategy. In this stage, you want to determine the key messages you’ll want to convey (and their priority), the channels you’ll employ, the mediums that will best support your story (graphics versus text, photos or video) and the required frequency to get your message across. When goals are understood and you’re working with the right team who can apply benchmarking from previous campaigns with up to date best practice, building the plan should be the easy part.

First, recognize that an ineffective digital presence is an easy pitfall. For example, think of how many ads you likely saw within the last week on social media. Then consider how many of those ads were relevant to your current needs and interests. Even more, how many of the memorable ads left a positive impression that inspired you to take advantage of the promoted goods or services? Whether you deal primarily in B2B or B2C marketing, you want your strategy to not only be memorable, but effective—especially given the budgetary implications, which can range anywhere from $500 into the billions, depending on the scope of your message and audience. It is said that you need to get in front of your target audience approximately seven times to make a lasting impression, so maintaining regularity while conveying a clear message is the best way to support your goals.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that a multi-channel strategy and all the planning that goes along with it are partly hypothetical. Your research is an informed starting point that requires flexibility and should never be set in stone. Consider the first three to six months of the initial implementation as a period of learning—then, spend time analyzing the results and building upon that experience, altering your strategy as needed. For instance, if you start using a social media platform that is generally popular but does not meet industry expectations as it relates to your goal (impressions, engagement, conversions) from your specific audience, do not be afraid to stop using it and try something else. In taking this approach, you can continually tailor your plan to better satisfy goals, meet the needs of your target demographic, and ultimately add the most value to your business.

Multi-channeling your message in a way that benefits you and your audience will provide positive outcomes in light of COVID, but keep in mind that this strategy will also serve you well post-pandemic. After all, finding new ways to effectively reach your audience now will help future-proof your success within a world of marketing communication that is constantly evolving. Start taking steps today and reap the benefits that multi-channeling will inevitably bring. You and your goals have nothing to lose!

And if you’re interested in learning more about digital marketing and digital lead generation, make sure to sign up for Dotted Line’s Digital Marketing Forum: Forming Connections with Customers in the COVID Era.