As the director of marketing, you are one person.

You are one person who acts as the chief mouthpiece, the brilliant broadcaster and the tenacious town crier for your big organization. With limited resources, it’s up to you to manage publicity, message, brand voice, campaigns, digital, visuals, and video, all while vetting new marketing advice and services, newfangled technology and CEOs who wonder out loud, “What are you working on in marketing?” Oh, and somewhere inbetwixt all of that, you need to hit your annual goals and objectives.

And stand out big in the market.

It’s a lot, enough to make you spin out, stall out or just go into reactive/order-taker mode.

Here are a few ways to avoid doing that.

Let’s start with the first thing you have direct and full control over: your mindset. Effective marketers work within the constraints of reality. They eliminate the “if onlys” and the “wouldn’t it be nices” and focus on what’s real and available. These are the constraints that breed creativity.

Once your mindset is calibrated, consider these six insights:


  1. Be obsessive about consistently using a powerful message. The goal of effective marketing is to emotionally move your audience. This is the best way to go big as a small team. Be honest with yourself and ask, “Does our message move me?” Check in with yourself. How do you feel when you read it? Say it out loud? If you are not moved by your own message, then it is not a message anyone else will be moved by. Once you have a compelling emotional message, use it consistently. Tweak it slightly for certain mediums, but use it over and over again. A compelling and powerful message feels like the most important thing you say all day. Think of Nike. Are you tired of hearing “Just do it” yet?
  2. Commit to what you are conveying. Marketing these days is like fingerpainting. It gets messy. Like your kiddo’s pre-K classroom, it’s good to stop before the end of the day and spend some time tidying up. Take time weekly, monthly, quarterly to sit with your core message (what we uncover in a Root Session and call a “root belief”). Edit out other messages that might have crept in over the last quarter or year. Refocus. To break through the noise in your industry, you must have just one clear message. In our opinion, that message should be six to eight words. This is the message that conveys the soul of the brand. As such it underpins every campaign, informs every conversation and gives you the guidance you need to do your job effectively, inspiring you to share it creatively in different ways. The more creative (and consistent) a brand is, the more it will stand out.
  3. Take inventory of all available assets. You can’t seem to see a way to do more than you are doing. So don’t. Instead, set aside time to create a list of every asset available to you. Once you have that list, ask yourself if you are making the most of each asset. Many times as directors of marketing, we haven’t taken the time to fully learn a tool or use it to its full potential. Also, look for underutilized existing tools. An example of overlooked assets might be natural storytellers in the org who may be willing to provide you with regular content. Often sales people fall into this category. Naturally gregarious, they have access to your clients, usually have a lot of stories at the ready and they don’t mind being in the spotlight. If they can string a few sentences together, recruit them to do that for you once a month. Storytelling is a must-have element of your brand and it is easily the most memorable part of branding.
  4. Spend a lot of time simplifying the strategy. As professionals performing at high levels, we tend to spend a good deal of time at the end of the year crunching numbers, scrutinizing goals and making plans. But how often in your career has that robust annual marketing plan become moot and out-of-date simply because there was too much in it? Once you have your annual marketing plan in place, we encourage you to go back and spend time SIMPLIFYING the heck out of it. Get out your red pen. Remove anything you do not realistically think you can get done. Cut the amount of content in half. Take away superfluous events or communications. Get it down to nuts and bolts. We use agile methodology (both in our brand discovery and brand coaching) and find that setting quarterly sprints with no more than three to four projects helps keep us lean and efficient. Each month we focus our clients on a top 5 list of brand priorities that flow from these projects. Slash the marketing activities and you’ll boost your productivity and the quality of your work, gaining momentum quicker. You can’t be a big brand by doing everything all the time.
  5. Onboard, onboard and onboard again. Whatever the size of your team, it is always a good idea to return, again and again, to the brand’s mission (often called brand promise), root belief or core message and current projects. Start every meeting with your team, including any outside contractors or support resources, with those pillars. Review them. Ask the team how they connect to those ideas. Seek out any new thoughts around those objectives. Share progress, celebrate wins. As a small team, alignment is vital and we all need to be reminded regularly why we are doing this work and how our roles are connected to the larger impact. An aligned team is a lithe team better able to convey the message to your brand’s ideal audience in a big way.
  6. Choose outside resources carefully. As the leader of a big brand with a small team, you likely have outside support. So you need to make the most of those relationships and resources. One of the most common things we hear from our clients that stands in the way of doing so is the nature of the relationships themselves. Too often we hear how outside vendors are out-of-alignment, draining or inefficient partners. And yet, you soldier on. You don’t have to! We live in the age of plenty. You ought to love working with your outside support team. They ought to be energy positive folks. If not, there are probably hundreds or thousands of other options. In the sunsetting of the agency era, there is a rising of specialists, freelancers, contractors, and small teams, that put client focus and experience at the forefront — and deliver a stellar service. Don’t believe us? Reach out and we will connect you to one of them from our Root + River Partner Studio.


As a last thought, your ability to execute efficiently is dependent upon the buy-in of your CEO. Take the time to loop her in, bring her onboard, to update her on progress. Ask for her opinion about what to cut out of your marketing plan and what is most important to keep. Ask for her stories, for her insights into the industry or her recommendations on who is the best storyteller in your squad. This will have the dual effect of positively impacting your marketing and engaging her in your strategy.

Your company exists because of its culture, its mission, its brand. That’s also the reason why you have chosen to work there. As the director of marketing, you have the honor of sharing that story, of showing the soul of your brand. It’s OK to step away from the nitty gritty every now and then to reconnect to that as a form of motivation for you — or just to soak in some personal rejuvenation. This is a great time of year to schedule and do just that, whether its a day, a long weekend or a longer vacation at the end of the year. A big part of being a small team is taking care of oneself in order to be able to continue to operate at a high level and have a big impact.


Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.



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