Paul Matsen can only shake his head when he reads yet another study about marketers failing to measure the impact of their work, especially in today’s bottom-line-driven environment. As chief marketing officer at Cleveland Clinic, a highly rated non-profit academic medical center, Matsen says measurement is as critical to marketing success as understanding consumer insights, developing strategy, and evaluating creative. And he expects his advertising agencies and communications partners to share his commitment to establishing clear goals and metrics.
"I think the most successful senior marketing leaders and organizations develop a robust set of measurements for their marketing programs,” says Matsen, who is responsible for all marketing and communications at the center, including global development of the brand. "The best way for us to demonstrate our value to our organization is to be open and transparent, to measure the impact of what we’re doing — not just show a sizzle reel of our creative," said Matsen, who recently answered a few questions about the business side of his job in advance of his address at the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, May 6-9, in Boca Raton, Fla.
Q: Describe your relationship with the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Toby Cosgrove. What practices have you put into place to ensure his confidence in marketing?
A: In my first few years at Cleveland Clinic, I would meet with Dr. Cosgrove on a regular basis. I would update him on what we were doing -- the changes I was making organizationally in terms of strategy. Having that dialogue helped me understand his expectations and helped him understand my approach. Now we meet on a more ad-hoc basis. He has a very open style. Whenever I have major issues or there’s creative work we’re trying to develop or get his approval on, he’s very engaged in the process. We regularly review our digital strategy with him, our marketing/communications strategy, our corporate communications strategy.
As a member of the executive team, I attend regular team meetings. That’s very helpful. In fact, I think for a CMO to be successful, it’s critical to have access to all the discussions on corporate strategy, budgets, and operations. You have to be fully informed. Having regular, planned interactions creates a foundation of trust, so when you get into a challenging business situation, it’s easier to have conversations with the other leaders. What I’m describing may seem very fundamental, but it’s essential. People rely too much on email and the occasional formal presentation. That’s really not sufficient.
Q: What are the secrets to maintaining a non-contentious relationship with finance? How does finance view the role of marketing in driving business growth?
A: Again, communication is essential. We have an outstanding chief financial officer, Steve Glass. He is one of the key executives I meet with on a regular basis. He successfully steered us through the difficult global financial crisis. We worked together on several key strategic planning retreats for the organization, bringing together for the leadership team both a market and consumer perspective of the environment we were facing, as well as a thorough financial assessment. That helped us identify trends and growth opportunities, many of which we have realized over the past couple of years.
We’ve really tried to find ways to work together with Steve’s team. For example, we have an extensive search engine marketing program that we use to generate leads and attract patients from outside our home market. While we felt very good about the metrics we had established and the tools we were using, we invited the finance team to validate our analysis and make sure that we were looking at ROI the same way they would. That builds trust. We also share data with the finance team before they make presentations to our bondholders and the analysts who rate bonds for health care organizations. Many times, we’ll include information about the performance of our brand, our digital growth, our brand recognition, and the programs we’re working on because they are an important part of our growth strategy and our success in attracting the right patient mix.
We don’t always agree with finance on budgets, or how much we should be investing in marketing at different times, but we all recognize that the Cleveland Clinic brand is one of our most valuable assets. You have to be as transparent and open as possible. That’s the world we live in today. You have to be willing to support the work you’re doing, share your analysis, share your rationale, share your strategy, and be willing to answer whatever questions may come.
Q: To that end, how does marketing demonstrate its value and justify the resources it spends? How do you judge marketing performance? What do you regularly measure?
A: Having strong metrics is so important. We don’t rely solely on trying to measure return on investment, and we don’t excuse ourselves from measurement if we can’t perfectly measure ROI. We challenge ourselves to measure our programs as effectively as possible, even as we’re rolling out new initiatives like social media. We’re big proponents of “test and learn” in our organization, and the best way to do that is to use the data that’s available to us.
So, whether it’s measuring social media growth or measuring media placement, we can show quantitatively the progress we’re making. We also do quite a lot of consumer research. We just launched a new advertising campaign in northeast Ohio that’s designed to promote access to our services. We were very thoughtful about going in with a pre-market study to establish a baseline so that we could demonstrate over the year what we’ve been able to do to shift perceptions.
There’s not a perfect measure for everything. When we launched our social media program, we had tremendous executive support. But we felt we had to demonstrate the value of the program before we asked for any incremental resources. I think marketing people need to take responsibility for demonstrating the value of our function. There are lots of tools to do that. And that’s what I stress to my team: “Let’s use all the tools we have to measure success.”
Q: Cleveland Clinic is a pioneer in the use of business dashboards. What are the advantages of these dashboards, and how do you make them work hard for marketing?
A: Marketing has a very robust dashboard. We don’t get all our data in real-time. We report some things weekly, other things monthly or quarterly. Our dashboard includes national awareness and preference, local awareness and preference. We have a robust scorecard for digital. We look at unique visits, online appointment requests, Web requests, and Web satisfaction, which we’re able to measure on a real-time basis. For social media, we look at the rate of growth of followers, their engagement, and where they’re coming from. We use different tools to look at our engagement relative to our competitors’ on their social media sites. We expect, over time, to get to revenue measures, and ultimately, return-on-investment measures.
We also track all our search engine marketing statistics. We look at the total number of leads generated, cost per lead and our actual return on investment. And we measure those over an 18-month period. We also track all our media activity. On a monthly basis, we report on the number of media placements, where our major media placements have taken place, the estimated value, and the tone -- that is, whether the placements were positive or negative. We continually try to innovate and push ourselves in how we measure the markets in which we compete.
We have long had a national quarterly tracker of our awareness and preference and sources of awareness. We recently revamped how we track our local market. We went from a very in-depth study that was not very timely to a continuous tracker that we report out every other month. It’s a much more nimble platform for us. We traded some of the depth of information for speed of answer. We felt that would serve us better in the current environment. You start with what you can measure, then work your way toward a more complete measurement. And if you can get all the way to ROI -- outstanding.
Q: Do you maintain a library of marketing best practices and processes?
A: We create, within the Cleveland Clinic, about 35 to 40 individual marketing plans a year for the different units of our organization. So each of our individual hospitals, and each of our individual service lines, has an individualized marketing and communications plan that we review with our respective business partners. We also have what’s called a “business case review.” That has really become our repository of best practices. Once we have someone’s marketing and communications plan approved, a director-level review process is required to move forward with any significant investments in the plan. Because of this process, we have a complete record of the programs we approved, the goals for each one, and the results.
About three years ago, we were not active in search engine marketing; it was very brand-driven. But after piloting our program in several of our key institutes and service lines, we were able to push across to our entire organization best practices for using search engine marketing to generate appointments and revenue. Now we have a core search engine marketing team that helps all the marketing teams develop their programs and utilize the tools for measurement and follow-up. We try to get all our managers to share their programs with colleagues through this business review process. If someone is managing the Heart and Vascular Institute and someone else is managing one of our regions out in the field, they can sit in on these sessions to see what their peers are doing. They can take that business case and adapt it for their business.