Q&A with Sarah Miller, Performance Marketing

February 13, 2023 | Iowa's Multi-Generation Companies are Built to Last

Sarah Miller is president of Performance Marketing, part of the Des Moines-based Anthologic marketing and technology collective. An active supporter of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Performance Marketing works with clients in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor and is home to a number of employees with roots in the area. 

We asked Sarah for her take on the latest marketplace dynamics and how marketing can help companies solve the challenges they currently face. 

Let’s start with some background. What’s going on in the marketplace right now, and what factors will marketers need to respond to in 2023?

One factor that’s top-of-mind for just about everyone right now is inflation. Buyers are facing rising prices, so maintaining their loyalty in the wake of those increases is key.

Supply chain issues are another big factor. When buyers can’t get their preferred brand, they may be open to looking at other options. That’s an opportunity. And if your products are out of stock, you need to remind buyers why you’re worth the wait.

What do you recommend companies do to address these challenges in the new year?

First and foremost, now is the time to work on your brand — especially if it’s been a while since you’ve made any updates.

Is branding the same thing as marketing?

There is some overlap, but branding and marketing really are two separate things. Branding is about your company’s overall identity and building a long-term relationship with customers. It’s more than just your logo — it’s the personality and essence of who you are, including how you look, sound and deliver on your promise to customers every day. Your brand captures the why behind what you do, and it’s ultimately the reason people buy from you.

So, what can companies do to build their brand?

A lot has changed in the past few years, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure your brand positioning is still hitting the mark.

Your brand position is the foundation of your marketing. This is an internal statement that captures the value you offer your target customers and what makes you different from the competition. Part of that exercise is also digging in to define your brand pillars — which are how you live and prove that brand position — and then mapping out key messages and proof points for each target audience. Defining these things gives you a North Star so everyone is on the same page, whether they’re talking to customers or creating marketing campaigns.

Beyond branding, how can companies get the most out of their marketing in 2023?

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but buyers are becoming harder to reach than ever. They’re overwhelmed by digital communications, and they’ve learned to tune out anything they don’t find relevant or useful. So things like customer research and content strategy can be smart investments. The more you know about your audience, the more you can hone your message and make it more compelling.

What about technology? Any opportunities there?

Absolutely. Big changes are happening with technology right now, so we recommend being proactive by focusing on what you can control. Think about overhauling your company website for a better user experience. Or even just making sure your site is optimized to be one of the first results people see when they search for products or services like yours — because search algorithms are always changing. 

It’s a good time to give some attention to your email database too. If you haven’t connected your outbound marketing efforts and website to CRM or marketing automation, you need to. Integrating these pieces together not only gives buyers the brand experience they expect, but also allows you to pivot quickly to address new opportunities or changing conditions.

Anything else companies need to have on their radar for 2023?

There’s been a lot of upheaval in the social media world. We know brands want to engage with customers where they are, but you’ve got to remember social media is borrowed land. There are no guarantees. All the changes we’re seeing just underscore the importance of prioritizing the channels you own. And skilled social media community management is a must. It’s not enough to simply create content — you need to be listening, moderating and responding. Otherwise, you put your brand reputation at risk.

The Google “cookie apocalypse” is another hot topic. Third-party cookies have been the primary tool for audience targeting for the better part of 20 years, so these data privacy changes are going to have a major impact on the way advertisers target and track users. Google has pushed back their cookie phaseout till late 2024, which gives us some breathing room. But the clock is ticking, and businesses should take advantage of this time to adjust their digital media strategies.

Companies should also switch to Google Analytics 4 for their website analytics, if they haven’t already. The earlier you make the transition, the more historical data and insights you’ll have when Universal Analytics stops processing hits.

One more thing worth exploring and monitoring is ChatGPT — the new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot. Marketers need to continue to wrap their arms around the potential (and limits) of AI tools like this as they evolve.

Switching gears, many companies are still having a tough time hiring employees. How are your clients using marketing to respond?

The labor shortage is a pervasive problem, and it’s clear that’s not going to change anytime soon. We’re definitely seeing more interest in targeted workforce campaigns to stand out in recruiting. Several clients have invested in recruiting videos. We’ve also worked with clients to build up the careers section of their websites, and digital ad campaigns have been popular. This is just another example of how marketing can be used for more than selling products.

Final thoughts: What would you say to a business owner or marketing manager who’s not sure where to focus or what their next step should be?

I get it. Evolving your marketing can be a daunting process. We recommend starting with some sound strategic planning to identify and prioritize areas to work on. Once you have those priorities in place, you can set your goals and budget — and then select the tactics that offer the best potential return on your investment. ABI

Anthologic is a collective of marketing and technology companies that can seamlessly partner together to build brands, craft stories, accelerate business and more. Brands in the collective include Performance Marketing, Blue Traffic, Vector Haus and Flatout. For more information, visit Anthologic.com or email sarahm@performancemarketing.com.

About Sarah

A marketing veteran with nearly 30 years of agency experience, Sarah joined Performance Marketing in 2016 and was named president in 2021. She lives in Ankeny with her husband, Curt, and they have two college-aged sons. Her interests include yoga, travel and great food, and she’s a graduate of Iowa State University with a B.A. in journalism and mass communication.