We’re excited to rank 22nd among Adweek’s 2022 Fasting Growing Agencies, an annual recognition honoring the 75 agencies large and small from all over the world who have achieved significant growth over the past three years. With a growth rate of 217%, we also rank 8th among women-led agencies and 3rd in the Southeast.
Jonathan Goldberg Joins Dotted Line as First ECD
Dotted Line has named Jonathan Goldberg the agency’s first executive creative director. He is tasked with elevating the creative output Dotted Line produces for brands including Worksite Labs, Bon Secours Mercy Health and Shades of Light. A 25-year advertising veteran, Jonathan has served as a senior creative at Ogilvy DC, Mono Minneapolis and Arts & Letters (to name a few), helping to promote such major brands as AT&T, FedEx and General Mills.
Continue to AdAge, Little Black Book, Campaign US and MediaPost to learn more about Jonathan and his role at the agency.
Dotted Line makes 2022 Inc. 5000 List
For the first time, Dotted Line has been named to Inc. 5000, a list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States. After reporting revenue growth of 294%, the agency is thrilled to debut at No. 2,039 – more than halfway up the magazine’s list. This makes it the highest ranked advertising and marketing firm in Richmond and the fourth highest Richmond company overall, out of 17 total. Here’s to climbing the list in the years to come!
Continue to Inc. to learn more about Dotted Line’s placement.
We also received coverage in the Axios Richmond, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond BizSense.
Tuesday Thought: The Power of What We Say
Last week, I took off on another training hike in preparation for the 29029 Everesting challenge, now coming up in less than a month. Our group, which included my colleague Emily Shane and two others, selected an 18-mile trail, which we covered in about 8.5 hours. This was a big step toward our Everesting experience, where we’ll hike more than 30 miles over 36 hours.
About 7 hours into this strenuous hike, our legs were tired, some of our crew had run out of water, and we couldn’t wait to just stop. We’d hit the point when doubt starts to creep in. Our small crew started talking about what motivated us to sign up for this type of challenge. Each of us shared details of our personal stories, what drives us and what we hope to gain from this experience.
I quickly noticed a trend in our conversation. Collectively, we recognized the life lessons we all learn when we aim to accomplish an outsized challenge. We also spoke about the personal influences in each of our lives: great mentors, coaches, friends – and the mantras we pick up along the way from these people.
As we were hiking a 20-40% incline on mile 14, our small group started voicing these positive mantras out loud in a round-robin type of fashion to keep the energy up and positivity flowing.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Growth and comfort do not coexist.
The hard is what makes it great.
I didn’t come this far to only come this far.
No matter what, remember tomorrow.
We are here to empty the tank. Leave it all on the mountain.
A few years ago, during training for a half-marathon, I kept getting stuck at mile 8. I started studying mindset coaching with retired Navy SEAL Chadd Wright, now an elite ultra-endurance athlete. One of his recommended tactics is a practice called thankful miles. At each mile, you say out loud something you’re grateful for. “We aren’t going to be negative,” Chadd says, “We aren’t going to give our pain a voice. There is power in what we articulate out loud.”
I am not good enough.
I don’t have enough experience.
I don’t have what it takes.
These are dangerous lines to feed our minds.
These important lessons have profoundly impacted my life, and it’s simple. This week, I’m paying attention to what I say out loud. The power in what we say defines how we see ourselves and what we can accomplish.
Tuesday Thought: Why you should set impossible goals
Every year, I set a big personal goal. A goal so large that it seems impossible to reach. But then, when I succeed, the impacts of crossing that threshold brings benefits I’ll reap the other 364 days of the year.
Entrepreneur and business leader Jesse Itzler calls this kind of endeavor a Misogi Challenge. By design, it helps us uncover what we’re capable of and tap into possibilities we don’t see now.
Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot from this perhaps extreme form of goal setting.
Taking on my Everest (literally)
This year, I challenged myself to an endurance hiking event, set for late August. The event is to hike the equivalent height of Mount Everest over 36 hours. My initial training started lightly last November and kicked into high gear three months ago.
A few days ago, I went for one of three lengthy training hikes to help prepare for the event. As with any intentional goal setting, I identified a desired future state: the right hike in terms of distance, elevation gain, and time that aligned with my training plan. I prepared driving directions, gathered supplies and got a good night’s sleep the night before.
But the first few hours of the journey didn’t go as planned.
Our driving directions took us to the wrong side of the mountain, and we lost an hour just getting to our designated starting point. About a mile and a half into the hike, we took a wrong turn due to poor trail markings, costing us another 45 minutes as we realized we were hiking in the opposite direction. With no cell service, we couldn’t rely on GPS. And our fuel supplies didn’t suffice for the added time on the mountain. I had to stop and rest at one point because of unexpected cramping due to dehydration.
I threw my hands up and said out loud, “Let’s just go home.” After all those setbacks, maybe it just wasn’t the right day and under the right conditions to complete that training hikes.
But we stayed and finished the hike. And, as you’d expect, the trek back down the mountain was much easier and more efficient than the hike up.
A universal roadmap for big goals
These types of challenges have taught me numerous lessons over the years. This specific challenge is so large that it is equal parts terrifying and exciting. Because of it, I’ve been studying how to overcome big business or endurance challenges.
According to Itzler, setting a roadmap to accomplish big goals is the same no matter the challenge:
- Identify and visualize what you want to accomplish and what it looks like when you get there.
- Acknowledge the personal fear created by the goal.
- Recognize your internal doubt over your ability to reach the goal.
- Define your plan to achieve the goal.
- Do the work and execute the plan.
- Solve the right problems when you face unforeseen gaps, setbacks, and challenges. (These problems will happen. Expect them.)
- Demonstrate optimism and confidence in your mental resiliency.
Too often, the problem phase stops people in their tracks. They become so overwhelmed by obstacles in their path that they can’t find the energy to overcome them.
What people don’t recognize is that they’re so close to accomplishing the goal – much closer than they believe and can see. And success is likely just on the other side of that challenge if they can persevere.
My recent training hike was a perfect reminder of this principle put into action. My ultimate August hike is a big challenge. Problems, small hiccups, and setbacks will arise, and we should expect this. But we can’t ever forget that success often is closer than what we might be thinking in the moment.
So, ask yourself: “Am I setting goals that scare me? What am I doing to overcome those fears? And am I closer to succeeding than I tend to believe?”
Dotted Line CEO earns Virginia Business Women in Leadership Award
Lauren Sweeney, founder and CEO of Dotted Line, was named one of the 2022 Women in Leadership by Virginia Business. This year’s list honors 42 women, culled from more than 300 nominations, who set the standard for leadership in business and nonprofit agencies of all sizes across the state.
Continue to Virginia Business for the full list of honorees and a profile on Lauren, which calls out her investment in the next generation of Dotted Line leaders.
Tuesday Thought: How your core principles can drive results
When teams put their core principles into action, they find themselves on a clear path to achieve desired results. Whether we refer to them as principles or values, these guiding tenets come alive in people’s daily conversations, decisions, and choices.
If you need further convincing, just look at Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen – a brand she helped rescue from a serious slump.
I’ve recently had the privilege of getting to know Cheryl and learning more about her mastery of brand management and servant leadership. From working on brands including Domino’s Pizza, Nabisco, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble, she knows how effective leadership can drive a company’s revenue performance.
Cheryl often talks about the need for a bold destination and a compelling strategic plan – a roadmap that gives clarity as to what a team will accomplish. While the roadmap is essential, Cheryl notes that it can’t drive superior results on its own. Rather, the roadmap is the what; teams need to decide how to work together to accomplish a plan.
This is where core principles (the how) come in. Popeyes’ six core principles are:
- Be passionate.
- Listen and learn continuously.
- Be fact-based and planful.
- Coach and develop people.
- Be personally accountable.
- Value humility.
Popeyes had suffered from declining revenue, a tired brand, low employee retention, and other issues for years. But look at what happened when Cheryl came aboard as CEO and rallied the company around those core principles: Popeyes’ share price grew from $8.90 to $61.31 from February 2008 to December 2016, and its stock outpaced the S&P 500 restaurant sector.
Does your business have bold goals you hope to achieve in the next year or three or 10? That’s great – it should! But you can’t reach those goals with a compelling strategy alone. Your values determine how you will work together to accomplish that strategy. Get aligned on your company’s core principles, and the work will speak for itself.
So, ask yourself: “What are my company’s core principles? Is my team aligned on them, and are they driving the results we want to see?”
Tuesday Thought: How the Golden Rule Drives Success
“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.” – John C. Maxwell
“Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships.” – Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson
Dotted Line’s core values guide how we work with each other and with each client every day. At the top of that list: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. But it tends to be the least talked about and most misunderstood value.
We intentionally listed this first among our six values because it’s our guiding star for how we operate in our team-based model. In other words, if we do our best to treat others well in our daily work and interactions, living the rest of our values will come to us more naturally. It’s a big reason why this is a rule we’ve encouraged our team to follow since our earliest days.
Our decisions can impact more than just ourselves. How we treat others is how we invite others to treat us. This goes beyond simply being kind to each other. It’s thinking about others the way you want to be thought of. Feeling about others the way you want to others to feel about you. Speaking to others the way you want to be spoken to.
A well-intentioned culture, competitive benefits and rock-star team members who are known and recognized by our clients – these things are all wonderful. But if we don’t build strong one-to-one relationships within our own team, nothing else really matters. Treating others the way we want to be treated is an easy start to relationship-building. If we forget this, the risk of becoming our own worst enemy becomes greater.
Bringing this Value to Life
Each day, I approach how I engage with those around me – in my family, at work, among friends and within my communities – by aiming to live this value. To start, this means treating people with kindness and respect, but it goes much further. For me, that means I want to know:
- my hard work will be noticed and recognized by my people leader;
- team members are excited when I join them on a new assignment;
- I can contribute new ideas in a group setting without being shot down or ignored,
- others value my contributions to making our team and agency better;
- if I have an off morning, someone will notice and ask;
- my leaders listen and understand where I want to go with my career and are proactively helping me perform at the next level; and
- my peers see I’m committed to an amazing work product – one we’re all proud of – and that its completion makes the client happy and generates a big team win.
How we embrace and interact with each other will differentiate how we elevate our work and deliver consistent successes for the good of each team member, our agency and our clients.
So, ask yourself: Does the way I treat others within my organization lift them up and further our collective goals? How can I go beyond merely treating people with kindness and respect?
How the search for clarity fueled our latest brand refresh
A lot has changed in the past year for Dotted Line: our size, our clientele, our growing presence in the Richmond marketing space. But one thing that we didn’t expect to change as much as it did was our brand identity.
Earlier this year, as we began re-assessing our target audience, we tapped one of our brand strategists to simply crisp up our message – we expected a refresh at most. However, once we dug into insights collected from our clients and network, we realized an equal need to more clearly define Dotted Line’s product offerings and perspective.
And now, months later, perhaps you’ve noticed the fresh look of our website, but that’s just one result of our dedicated efforts to update Dotted Line’s brand positioning and messaging.
Of course, you might think that a marketing firm has the ready tools and resources to consistently update its brand, but a targeted exercise ensures you’re doing that strategically and effectively. At the same time, we saw the opportunity to practice what we preach to our clients about continuing to analyze your brand. So, we invite you to peek behind the curtain on our process and re-walk that journey with us.
The meaning of meaning
The secret to effective branding is creating authentic, personal connections between the business and the customer to foster greater trust in the buying process.
Studies show that 84% of millennials don’t trust advertising, but that 82% of individuals base their purchases on reviews and effective content that engages with consumers. In short, consumers trust other people’s perspectives before they trust a company’s paid message. Brands that communicate like people wanting to help other people create trust more quickly – facilitating a faster, more effective sales process. And the positive effects of these brand touchpoints last long after the immediate sale.
We all know actions speak louder than words. People trust actions, not lip service. Demonstrating that your organization is oriented toward its stated goal by living it through your work and beyond is the best proof point you can give a consumer.
At Dotted Line, the insights we collected – which prompted a search for deeper clarity – led us to develop a set of belief statements to serve as a North Star for Dotted Line’s brand and our team’s day-to-day work.
Beliefs fuel brand identity
Our first step was to ask ourselves some central questions. To name a few: What has happened in the past to drive our passion? What’s happening now in our world that gets us fired up? Why do we exist? And what really matters to us?
From there, we dug into what our target clients care about. We interviewed several core clients and augmented that research with team observations, which informed the creation of several target personas.
Ultimately, we arrived at four powerful belief statements:
- We put creativity to work to grow businesses because problem-solving is the fastest way to achieve ambitious growth.
- We start by putting the dots in a row because we know a strategically led approach fights inefficiency and ineffectiveness for our clients’ marketing.
- We bring together top performers in new and traditional media to execute omnichannel campaigns.
- We are people who care as much as you do. Strategic partnership requires co-ownership of goals and results.
By determining which beliefs drive meaning for our agency, we could then analyze our visuals, messaging, and client experience to see if they were consistent in executing our ideals. Moving forward, we’ll continue asking ourselves what actions we can take to generate the right moments that prove our beliefs, and how we’re teaching and reinforcing these beliefs to our team.
Brand building is never finished
The operative words in that last sentence? Moving forward. As Dotted Line continues to grow and evolve, we’re always working to build our brand: enhance our visual identity, sharpen our message, and create meaningful moments for clients.
It’s tempting to view brand building as a destination, but it is, in fact, a journey. A company that consistently evaluates its own beliefs, and whether those beliefs drive its brand identity, is better equipped to drive traffic, leads, and conversions.
That’s not just conjecture. Lucidpress and Demand Metric found in 2017 that brand consistency drove an average 23% revenue increase for companies. If your beliefs don’t align with your messaging, identity, and moments, it’s time to consider a shift.
As a team of creative, content, and brand strategy experts, Dotted Line is equipped to build your brand through collaborative, research-driven methods that yield lasting results. Click here to reach out.
Tuesday Thought: Re-Engineering Our Habits for Success
“Vision without action is just a dream.” – Joel Arthur Baker
“Destiny is not a mystery. Destiny is daily habits. It’s mind over matter. It’s nurture over nature. It’s a daily grind in the same direction. Show me your habits. I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Batterson
I’ve never been a big fan of setting ambitious goals or dreams without having a supporting action plan. I talk with many people who share grand hopes for the future, but in follow-up conversations a year or two later, I learn most didn’t achieve what they’d dreamed.
Days turn into months, and behavior changes never happen to instigate the necessary activities that turn actions into outcomes. For example, a big problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we fail to consistently practice the action that’s needed for us to succeed. Whether it’s getting out of debt or getting into shape, the habits we adapt dictate our progress.
A recent Duke University study shared that 45% of our daily behavior is automatic. So if we want to see meaningful change in our lives, we must reverse-engineer the steps toward a goal to put the right habits in place to achieve that desired outcome. As I think about some of my goals this year – for me personally, for my family, and for our agency team – this topic of habits and building a successful system is top of mind.
I recently heard author Mark Batterson talk about how he thinks about his habit formation, as he explores more deeply in his newest book, Do It For a Day. He assesses his habits with three questions: “Are my habits measurable? Are they meaningful? And are they maintainable?”
- Measurable: We map miles, count calories and budget dollars. Our habits are quantifiable.
- Meaningful: If I take on the desired persona, I believe I can do it. I believe I am a runner, so, therefore, I am able to run 30 minutes today.
- Maintainable: Can I do it for one day? If so, I can do it again tomorrow. I spent time writing today, so, therefore, I can also write tomorrow.
Batterson looked at the habits of some of the most successful leaders in American history to hack their routines. What he found is that the top trend across all of them was their ability to focus and put discipline around their daily habits. Batterson shares that we often overestimate what we can do in a year or two and vastly underestimate what we can do in five or 10.
The encouraging news is that you’re always only one habit away from any goal you set.
In those moments when I feel like I just don’t have the time, I remember that a friend told me the average person spends two and a half hours per day on social media. That’s 15% of our typical waking hours. Unfortunately, when I look at my weekly iPhone activity report, my social media usage isn’t far off (even if some of it is work related).
So how do I accomplish big goals? This week, I’m focusing on one new habit to integrate daily.
What one habit could you adopt this week to see if it makes an impact in a month?