Guest, Amanda Todorovich, Senior Director of Content at the Cleveland Clinic, has grown the Cleveland Clinic’s digital marketing team from three people and soon to be 80 people. She’s an award winning marketing expert passionate about building audiences by creating amazing content that is useful, helpful, and relevant to customers.
Transcript of Biz Chat Ohio’s podcast 1.2
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Biz Chat Ohio, the podcast bringing you big ideas for small businesses. Throughout this series, we hope to bring the best of small business news and industry trends from Ohio’s thought leaders. I’m your host Cathy Walsh, Director of the Small Business Development Center at Lakeland Community College, and I’m joined by my co-host, colleague, and soul sister Gretchen Skok-DiSanto, Director of Lakeland Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center and also a business advisor for the Ohio Small Business Development Center. Gretchen.
OK. Good morning. In our roles of the Ohio Small Business Development Center, also known as the SBDC, Cathy and I often find that our business clients are overwhelmed by the various marketing options available to their businesses. Digital marketing in particular, is a topic that elicits confusion and fear from a number of our clients. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about this as a tactic. So Cathy and I want to clear up some of those today, for all of you who are listening.
Yes. Today, we are so pleased to be joined by Amanda Todorovich, Senior Director of Content at the Cleveland Clinic. Amanda has grown the Cleveland Clinic’s digital marketing team from three to 30, soon to be 80 people, in the last eight years. And if that doesn’t tell you how important digital marketing is, I don’t know what does. She’s an award winning marketing expert who is passionate about building audiences by creating amazing content that is useful, helpful, and relevant to customers. So Amanda, welcome to Biz Chat Ohio. We’re so glad that you’re with us today.
Thanks so much. Excited to be here. Can you start out just by sharing some of your background and how you landed at the clinic and then, of course, what your role is there.
Absolutely. So you know I started my career, really, on the traditional public relations and media relations side for about 10 years. And I was in a media relations role at University Hospitals, have had a long time background and passion with health care. But in 2008, I kind of made a crazy decision. Left UH and took a position at National City Bank, which it was 2008, if those of you remember that year, it was a pretty brutal time to be going into the financial industry. It didn’t really end very well for me. So I went running back to health care, but it was a difficult time for hiring. And what ended up happening to me was I joined a former Plain Dealer reporter to co-found a company called MedCity News.
And I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never been a part of a startup and had no idea really about digital publishing. And so I had the opportunity to really evolve as a digital publisher, as a digital marketer and learned so many things. 99% of my job I had never done before. And when you’re in a startup and you have nobody else and you have no money, you figure it out. And you research, and you talk to people, and you just kind of feel your way through. And what happened was we ended up building a really kind of disruptive model to content development, working with hospitals and other medical companies all over the country to help them get established on social media at that time, to create blogs, to write and draft content for all kinds of different digital channels. And that really led to a ton of opportunity for me.
The Cleveland Clinic came knocking on my LinkedIn door. And the next thing you know, I was running our health essentials blog and social media. But eight years ago when I joined, you know, it was a very small thing. Content marketing was literally three people doing a consumer facing blog and a few social media channels. And it’s grown drastically. Today, my role is Senior Director of Content. I oversee the team that’s responsible for just about everything online that you see from Cleveland Clinic, so our website, our social media channels, our email marketing efforts, our podcasts, our video content, voice, anything and everything in between where we’re doing it. We’re experimenting with it and constantly looking for ways to continuously connect online with patients.
Excellent. Thank you. So how should small businesses pick the best digital marketing channels that are right for their businesses and leverage those channels for maximum impact, Amanda?
That’s a great question. You know, it really starts with where are your customers now. What are they doing– understanding which channels they’re actively using to make business decisions or look for information, which for most people that tends to start with Google. It doesn’t tend to start with social media, right. A lot of social media use is personal. And so you have to take a look at what business you’re in and what makes sense that feels natural and relevant for you to be part of that conversation.
So if your customers are constantly going to Google to look up solutions or try to problem solve for themselves and their businesses, how can you be there? How can you help them? Right. So then you’ve got to think about content and your own website, whereas, if it is more of you’re in a business where consulting or networking becomes really, really critical, LinkedIn might be a better platform for you.
It’s really all about understanding where your customers are and making sure that those are the channels you are active on. It’s not about being everywhere for everyone, talking about your product 24/7. It’s really about meeting your customers where they are and thinking about how you can help them solve their daily problems. How can you be relevant in their process? How can you be there in those moments of need versus just constantly pushing. So it’s kind of this magic of figuring out where they are, what they’re doing on those channels and then making sure that you’re there naturally, that it feels like you belong. And that it’s not– you don’t want to be just injecting yourself, like I said, everywhere or into personal conversations. You just you want to find the right place for your business, your products, your customers. Where are they? Find them and connect with them.
And how do you find them? I know that’s a big question, right. Like, how do you know where they are? And the beautiful thing about most platforms is you can get at some of this easily and without any costs. Google can be your friend. There’s a ton of research in most industries out there about behavior of certain demographics or certain industries and the types of connections that are happening. You can also just go on the channels and start searching things, right. Like go to LinkedIn and see if there’s groups of people that are talking about your industry or your product category. You can go– you know, same thing on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Just start searching hashtags.
Just look and see how much activity there actually is happening around your product category, your services. And if there’s enough there and it makes sense, and you can just start, right. You just kind of have to just start somewhere. And it’s not that hard, but at the same time, you got to put that work in. And don’t just assume that they’re everywhere, you know, there’s opportunity, you know, especially to also take a look at what’s happening on your own website or what’s going on with Google search. You can use free Google tools to see where– there’s search volume related to your category. So there’s lots of ways. You just kind of have to take the time to do that homework and understand, again, where people are and what are they doing that’s going to present opportunity for you.
Thank you very much. You mentioned a word that always sticks with me, assume. You know, and I think of my mother who is like, assume is the mother of all screw ups. So absolutely, you’re right. These small businesses, they have to do their research. They got to put that time in. And then of course, it’s going to yield results, right, if they’ve done that.
Well, right. And your resources are precious, right. You don’t want to waste time doing things that your customers never see. And I think that’s a big mistake people make a lot is you kind of ” build it and they will come,” right. So if you have a Facebook page, you’re just assuming your customers are going to find it. And the reality is organic follower acquisition is extremely difficult. So you really do have to do the homework and make sure, is it worth it. Is this a place where my customers are, and how do I tell them that I’m there. How do I connect with them? You know, it does require that work. And it’s worth it. It pays off when you’re smart about it and when you’re really tight with your resources. Use them appropriately on channels that make the most sense for you.
Thanks. That was really– that’s some great advice for our small businesses. Once they’ve determined though what channels of marketing they need to be involved with, how do they determine the right kind of content that they should be investing in? Can you talk about that a little bit?
I think that’s actually the hardest part, because most people tend to just naturally go into sales mode. Like, let’s just talk about how great our products are and just shove product photos and product info on all the channels. And the reality is that usually backfires. You know, people don’t like to have sales pushed in their face. They want to understand more about you as a company or more about your product’s benefits to them or provide content that’s valuable to them, whether they actually purchase your services or not.
And that’s something we take really seriously too. We do a ton of content that’s actually about keeping you healthy, which is actually counterproductive to driving our bottom line. But it helps us be a trusted, friendly resource, right. So when you create content that provides value to your customer, they want to then follow and engage with you, right. Nobody wants to sign up to follow a Twitter account that’s just constantly selling all the time, right. That’s annoying in your feed and you ignore it really quickly. But if there’s content there, that again is helping me in my business or helping me make purchase decisions or helping me understand more about the value that your company provides, that you’re a trusted resource to me, then I’m more likely to stick around, to follow you, to engage with your content on a regular basis.
Content marketing is not advertising. And it really does require that you think through how to be useful. These are my three favorite words useful, helpful, and relevant to your customer. You know, again, how are you helping them? What problems are you able to solve for them? And that’s really where you can go deep, and you can provide your expertise, and you can showcase your different thought leaders or your different experts. There’s all kinds of different ways to go. You know, it just again sort of depends on your category and your audience’s interests. I think you always also need to take a look at the competitive landscape, and how can you be different. You don’t want to just do what your competitors are doing. So finding that unique angle for yourself, finding the opportunity where maybe there’s a need that’s underserved for your customer. You know, those are great places to start.
Thank you so much. Useful, helpful, and relevant, in three key words. Thank you.
Perfect. So what are some common misconceptions about digital marketing that small businesses should be aware of?
The biggest one I think is, you don’t need some young person to do your social media. Don’t– not to dismiss the amazing talent of young people, that’s not it. But you know, there is a lot that goes into marketing for a brand, right. And you want good marketers doing your social media. You want people who understand what you’re trying to accomplish or what your brand is all about and who know your customer base. The best way to sort of think about this is, again, you don’t need to be on every single channel. Most businesses don’t need to be on TikToc, right. So you do not need some young person trying to figure it out on their own, because I’ve seen this so many times. I’ve gotten so many calls from people who are frustrated or trying to just navigate their way through this. And they just say, well, they’ll just handle it, right. That young person I just hired, or that intern I just hired can just do it for me.
But chances are, that new person who is coming into your organization doesn’t really know your products very well or doesn’t really know your customer extremely well. And those are the two things that matter the most. Because you’re really trying to marry all of that together and build a relationship. Social media and digital channels are all about that. Whether it’s any newsletter, you know, or YouTube, or Twitter or whatever, it’s again, a relationship building mechanism. It’s an opportunity to be in front of your customer regularly. So you know, it’s really– the messaging architecture is more important than flashy, new channels, right.
While young people might know more about some of the channels, and they might know more about some of the functionality, those are easily learned, right. And you can do your research, and you can do your homework and understand that. But what’s not easily learned is really your core business and your core customer connection. And I think that that’s more important than anything. And the other misconception that I would say is that, again, you kind of do not need to be on every channel everywhere for everything. Most cases, one or two social channels is probably enough and really effective. You want to do less, but do it really well.
Study it. Learn it, right. Post something and see if it gets engagement. If it doesn’t, try something else and see if that gets more. You want to iterate and evolve so that you’re maximizing, again, the resources you’re putting into that content development. So if you’re only going to do Twitter, then really go deep on Twitter and understand what’s happening on your channel. How can you improve that every day? Small incremental improvements are honestly 100% how I’ve gone from a three person team to now will be an 80 person team. We have grown and just constantly shared small growth, and we’ve tested and experimented constantly to just do more.
No one ever went to me and said, you must hit these millions of visits. And you must grow the traffic this much. It was asking ourselves, what if. What if we try this? What if we do this? Will it be better? Will it drive more? And ultimately, you know, we’ve had a lot of wins. We’ve obviously had a lot of misses too along the way, because we’re trying a ton of different things. And that’s the beauty of digital. It’s never permanent. You can constantly be evolving it, and I think that there’s just so much potential and opportunity. But again, you don’t need to be everywhere. You don’t need to do everything. Figure out the right places to connect with your customer.
Yeah. And I liked your comment about, just try it. Like you’re– not everything’s going to hit the target where you think it is. But if you’re not trying, you’re never going to figure that out and develop–
And you might be missing a huge opportunity, you know. You never know. And again, digital is constantly evolving. You can take things down. You can put things back up. You can try something new tomorrow.
I want to talk a little bit about lingo. So can you just summarize for us the difference between SEM, which is search engine marketing and SEO, search engine optimization. And where should small businesses be spending their time, on one or both? Can you go into that a little bit, please.
Sure. The biggest difference between SEM and SEO is money. Search engine marketing.
That’s a big difference.
Yes. I mean search engine marketing is inclusive of paid search, so when you are doing paid advertising on search platforms and bidding on keywords and doing things to appear as an ad. And so that’s different than– search engine optimization is the work that you do on your own website to optimize your content for particular keywords and ranking. So you really honestly need to kind of consider both, depending again, on your budget and on your business and kind of what your customers are doing.
For us, we’re very aggressive in both areas. But from an SEO perspective and an organic search perspective, so no dollars involved, we really take a lot of consideration into what are people going to Google and typing in that search box. And where do we rank for those terms. Sometimes the answer is not at all. And that could be a problem, right. So then we look at what’s actually written on our pages. What are the words that we need to work into that copy? How do we take our entire SEO approach to that page to try to make the ranking higher?
Where on the search engine marketing side, that’s a big business. And we’re bidding and spending money on certain keywords to appear in the ad top spots, right. And those drive to a different kind of experience. Our search engine optimization efforts are driving to just our library pages on our website or institute pages on our website. The stuff that you do typically with paid, you want to measure the impact and know if your dollar is getting you anything. So those we tend to reserve for our lead generation efforts, so they drive to gated content, which means we require someone to provide an email address to us to access what we call treatment guides.
And we do a lot there that’s more, again, to capture leads, to measure impact. Is it worth the money for us. Are our paid search efforts are anywhere from 11 to 13 to 1 Roi. So it’s big business for us. That will probably not be the case for many other businesses. But health searching, as you can imagine, is huge. I think one in every 20 searches on Google is health related. So it’s a big deal. But it might not be for you. So you have to kind of, again, understand the scope. What are your customers doing? Are they spending a ton of time doing internet searching? And if so, then you probably want to look at, again, what are your competitors doing. And you can tell pretty easily if they’re doing paid search efforts.
But you also then, for the organic side, it’s really more about what are you doing on your own website. What pages do you really need to invest more in developing the content around. What are those keywords that you want to rank for? And really understanding. I mean this is a complicated, long discussion to be had. And those are areas too where if this is something that’s vital to your business, you may want to consider a consultant. Because it is complicated. Google’s constantly changing. And I say, Google. It’s not the only search engine. But it definitely is the biggest and accounts for the most of the effort.
But this is a lot of stuff. But you know, again, you can start small. You can start on your own. You can do things to your websites to make it better. I think, one thing to know, that even if you never talk about SEO, you really still do want to make sure that your website and your content on the pages that are critical to your business are a great experience for your customer. Because Google rewards that no matter what. If you have good content and a good site experience, and especially on mobile– make sure it looks good on a mobile device– then you should do pretty good with Google anyway.
Yeah. That’s absolutely excellent advice. Do you have a success story you can share with us that illustrates the power of digital marketing?
I think our entire department is a success story and shows the power of digital marketing. When I started at the clinic eight years ago, our website traffic was like 300, 500,000 visits a year. And now we’re at 260 million visits a year. So we are reaching millions of people across the globe with digital marketing efforts. And we’ve grown our national and international brand awareness substantially through digital marketing efforts.
And our– parts of our website are also monetized. We’re driving advertising revenue through our blog and through our health library that’s coming directly back into marketing. Again, no one ever told me I had to do that. We just started experimenting and testing things and iterating our way to it. You know, and I mentioned before, we’re hiring a lot of people. That came from a big strategic plan being approved. And I will tell you that one of my proudest moments ever was knowing that when we were making this big ask of our executive team, our CEO said, marketing has a track record of proving they will deliver.
And so you know it– when you can show data and you can go back again to your leadership team and show success and show what you’ve done and show those experiments that are leading to your bottom line or to more leads for your business, you know, it’s really powerful stuff. You can measure the impact of your work, in a way with digital, that a lot of standard traditional print or other types of tactics you just can’t get with. So I think that digital is extremely powerful, and it lets you really understand what your audience, what your customer is looking for, what they’re doing. It makes meaningful connection. And it’s been a critical part of our business growth and our brand growth. And you know, I’m excited about how much more we’re going to be doing in the future.
So yeah, I mean, I could give you a million examples of small tactics we’ve done. I mean, every day there’s something that’s being tested. So we ask ourselves all the time, what did we learn yesterday, and what are we testing today. You know, it’s just always learning and always evolving. And digital is amazing, and I love it so much. So–
No wonder you’re so successful. You know, obviously that passion for things is going to yield the good results.
Amanda, a little bit earlier you mentioned TikTok. Is there anything on the horizon in digital marketing that businesses do need to be paying attention to? Like, where do these– where does TikTok and some other things that we haven’t mentioned, where do those fit in a small business digital marketing campaign?
Yeah. So we are on TikTok. We’re one of the only hospitals on TikTok. And that came very recently. But it came because we have a partnership with them. Like, they actually helped amplify our mask up campaign. I think the pandemic has drastically changed some of the opportunity with many of these channels, because they were looking for trusted health information. And so we were able to do some things there that we probably otherwise wouldn’t have.
As far as what’s on the horizon, that’s always hard to answer. You know, there’s no crystal ball, and these things change all the time. And with small businesses, my advice would be to be cautious and careful before jumping into a new channel. Really make sure, again, that there’s audience there, right. You can create all the most amazing content in the world, but if nobody finds it and no one’s engaging with it, it’s worth nothing. So you know, I’m sure you’re hearing things about Clubhouse. And I know everybody wants a podcast. And shiny objects, I think, can be really detrimental. So you’ve got to be careful. And you’ve got to be smart.
As far as new things coming down the pike, you know, there’s nothing we’re anticipating adding to our stack. We have plenty already. But I think it’s more about, again, further optimization of what you do use, which channels you are on and paying attention to what changes are coming. Because they’re always evolving, right. Google algorithms are constantly changing, the way Facebook works. And the experience is always evolving and changing. And you know, I think one thing that is never changing for us is that mobile is critical. Most people are using the apps. They’re using their phone. They’re not really going to desktop, for most businesses. Again, there’s caveats there for sure. But you know, I think it’s really just important to stay kind of on top of the trends on the channels that are the most valuable to you.
So if– think for a second that you started your own business, and which tool or app or resource would you use to basically easily leverage all of these tools? I mean, what do you think you would do?
Well, the biggest thing that I could never live without is Google Analytics. and really, again, understanding what’s happening with our content and on our site. And I think if, my role aside, not being at the Cleveland Clinic, you know I would still recommend this for any business. Because if you have stuff out there, and almost all businesses have a website. It’s sort of table stakes at this point. And you don’t understand what people are actually doing on their site, what your customers are coming and looking for or what they’re trying to maybe actually transact with you. But you’re not giving them the opportunity. Google Analytics is free. And it gives you an opportunity to study what’s going on.
And if you’re going to take your digital marketing efforts further and try some of the things that we’ve talked about today, you want to be able to measure whether or not they’re making an impact. And you can’t do that if you’re not looking at your website metrics. You know, all the social channels typically give you metrics for free as well. So you don’t need to go invest in a ton of platforms to be able to do this. Like, you just need to be able to use the free tools to understand if you’re actually getting engagement, if you’re getting traction. Because that helps inform your next steps and what to do more of, what to do less of.
And with precious resources, you always really want to make sure there’s some data informing the decisions, and it’s not just a shot in the dark or a guess. And you know, I think those types of tools, the analytics tools, are hands down most important to me. And Google Analytics for sure. Like, I can’t imagine a job an industry a role I would be in related to digital marketing without it.
OK. Thank you. So Thanks so much for spending time with us today. This has been incredibly valuable. Your insight will certainly help listeners as they look to grow their businesses using digital marketing. You shared a lot of great information. Now, if listeners want more on digital media, is there a course or resource or website that you would recommend to people who want to better understand it. I mean, the first thing comes off top of my mind is the Content Marketing Institute, which used to be home here in Cleveland. But do you have any suggestions?
Well, really, it’s still–
I’m sorry, what?
The content marketing world still is happening this year. It’s hybrid. So there will be some in-person [INAUDIBLE].
Oh. Good. Good. Good.
We’re actually– yeah, we partner with them too. And we’re hosting the content marketing world Cleveland Clinic Health Summit again. So our event will be virtual. But yes, the content marketing Institute is hands down an amazing, amazing resource for a lot of different aspects of what we talked about today. I would also recommend if you’re looking to get more into search engine optimization, Andy Crestodina is an awesome thought leader to follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. Shares a ton of great insight around Google and visually shows you kind of a lot of examples that are really helpful.
You know, and again, depending on your industry, I think there’s always groups on LinkedIn that are so powerful and helpful to just talk and ask questions. And you’ll find experts there. You know, and again, all the Google tools that are free and easy to use. You know, Google Trends and things let you also find out what’s popular, what are people looking for, all those kinds of things. So you know, I would just investigate what you can use and what’s at your disposal. But content marketing Institute and content marketing world as an event, absolutely amazing. So.
Perfect. Thank you, Amanda. We’ll also add those resources into our show notes.
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