— October 26, 2018
Interns probably aren’t worth the trouble. Right?
Whether it is Ryan Howard from The Office, April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation, or your own internship experiences, you likely have a pretty dismal view of interns. If you are lucky they can work a Keurig and not get in anyone else’s way.
While, unfortunately, this can sometimes be the case, interns can actually be the key to getting your marketing efforts off the ground. They bring a fresh perspective. They’re energetic, willing to learn, and can be the “hands” of your marketing department if guided correctly.
Why You Need an Intern
If you are churning out tons of content, have all the reporting systems/processes you could ever need to make decisions, and constantly driving leads to your site, then you may not need a marketing intern (although, I would argue you could still benefit from one). If, however, you aren’t consistently creating as much content as you should be, don’t have the time to dig into the data behind your marketing efforts, or can’t find the time to do the market research you would like to, then read on.
This is one of the most straightforward ways interns can create value: by creating content.
At New North, we have worked with hundreds of companies to build up their marketing, and based off that experience I can say that almost no one is creating enough content. And I don’t mean spitting out 10 useless 300-word articles a month. I mean in-depth articles around your expertise that truly provides value to your audience. Information that customers-to-be will keep referencing and information that your competition tries to recreate.
While you, the leadership at your company, should be part of the writing process, interns can be a great resource to start pulling information together in a useful way. They can help to leverage your years of experience to create great content without you having to spend three hours hunched over a computer.
The interviewing approach
Trade three hours of frustration in for a 20-minute discussion by sitting down and talking through article topics with your intern. Think of common questions customers ask, or brainstorm industry-related news, and lay your thoughts on the table. Have your intern record the conversation, ask clarifying questions, then pull together that information into an article.
The outline approach
Want a bit more control over the writing process? Take your article topic and build out the bones of the content with a brief outline. Add in overarching concepts, links to useful blogs and books on the subject, and any other relevant information for each section. Then, hand it over to your intern to have them build it out.
While the first few articles may take some coaxing, after a while your intern will be a content-creating machine with content that matches your style, provides great SEO benefits to your site, and gives prospects useful information.
The second way for interns to add value: reporting.
What marketing channels provide the cheapest CPA (cost-per-acquisition)? Where do most of your leads come from? What pages on your website do most users exit on?
Questions like these are essential when making strategic marketing decisions, but it can be difficult to track this data – let alone analyze it when making decisions. The primary reason most companies can’t answer these questions? Time. It is not necessarily difficult to find this information, but it takes time to set up the systems that track it, and it takes time to dig through mountains of data for the insights hidden within.
That is where an intern comes in.
Free tip: I’ll give you the first few tasks for your intern to do.
Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the most popular tool to measure website traffic and behavior, and it is easy to set up. Simply add a tag to your website and Google takes it from there. Have your intern take the Google Analytics for Beginners course on Google’s Analytics Academy, then have them start digging into your site. Not only will this allow them to get a certification under their belt, but it will also give them real-world experience with one of the most powerful marketing tools available. And it’s an experience you can then benefit from.
Create a reporting sheet
All of the information you see in Google Analytics, social media insights, and your email marketing tool is great, but you still have no way to see trends. While you can buy software that will pull all this information into one place, you can also just start with a simple excel sheet.
Have your intern create an Excel Sheet to start tracking the monthly progress in all the marketing channels you have.
Here is a template to get you started.
Have them update this sheet monthly, and you will then have a great data-centric foundation to make marketing decisions off of.
Now that you have some content being created and you are starting to track results, you can have your intern start looking both internally and externally for next steps. Discover gaps in your own messaging, what your competition is doing, and where your prospects are hanging out.
Here are a few research avenues to send them down.
Marketing interns have spent the last few years in school learning the theories and best practices behind marketing. While they are often lacking the “real world” experience that’s needed to turn those theories into reality, having them take a look at your marketing may reveal some gaps in your promotion that could have been missed.
Do they not understand the terminology you are using? You may be using too much jargon.
Can they not figure out who your target customer is based off your website? Your messaging may be too broad.
They can’t navigate your website on your phone? Your website is not responsive.
Before I dig into how interns can do competitive analysis, a word of warning – copying your competitors’ marketing is not a good strategy. At best, you will get their scraps, and at worst you will spend thousands fishing in the wrong pond.
That being said, it is valuable to see what your competitors are doing for any interesting strategies. Have them put together a list of your competitors and start researching the marketing strategies they are using. Have them look at competitor websites, sign up for newsletters, download eBooks, look at website architecture, see who is beating you in SEO rankings, etc. While you definitely don’t want to copy strategies, this information could spark new ideas for your company and your next steps.
Target Customer Research
As Gary Vaynerchuk would say, advertising is simply day trading attention.
“…when you understand where [attention] is and where it is underpriced by your competition, that is where you need to strike, create, and spend”
With a limited marketing budget, it is essential that you are getting the most ROI out of each dollar you spend and that you are constantly lowering your cost-per-lead. A big part of doing this is…
Finding their Watering Holes
Figuring out where your target market spends time and where their attention is placed is the first step in being able to get your message in front of them.
- What associations are they a part of?
- What newsletters are they signed up for?
- What do they do on their free time?
- What social platforms are they active in?
- Are they mostly men/women?
- Do they play sports?
While some of these questions may seem strange, the more you learn about your ideal customer the better you will understand where their attention is.
Getting in Front of Customers
Now that you know where they are looking, you just have to get your message in front of them. While there are obvious ways to do that like buying an ad in a magazine, use that information in more creative ways like sponsoring the next local half marathon.
How to Build an Internship Program
While content creation, reporting, and research are just the tip of the iceberg in utilizing an intern, they’ll give your intern a great start.
The next question is: how to actually find an intern?
One approach to hiring interns is very similar to the approach to getting leads – fill the top of the funnel with applicants, filter through the good and bad ones, then pick the best of the best.
Throughout the process, figure out what is working and what isn’t, then adjust accordingly. Look at the different attributes that the “good” candidates have, identify where they are coming from, and even dig into what they are looking to get from an internship. Craft the position, your message, and your sourcing to meet those things, and – voila! – you will have several candidates to choose from.
Where to find them
The first step is to start filling the top of the funnel. The easy way to do that is to formalize the job description and start posting it on online job boards. Places like internships.com, InternMatch.com, Indeed.com and more. You should start getting submissions after a day or two.
Don’t stop there, however. While the online postings are the blanket approach, the best interns often come from alternative sources.
Social Media – Post the position in your business’s LinkedIn/Facebook profile, along with a description as well as a link to the application then have your employees share it to get it out to their networks. Do this a few times and the word can start to get out.
Friends/Family – Mention it at the next family gathering or double date. Don’t be annoying, but don’t hesitate to speak up, either. Getting the word out organically can keep you top of mind – and you’ll be surprised by the connections that can lead you to a great fit.
University Professors – If you know any university professors, give them a call or shoot them an email with a link to the internship. Students will often go to their professors when looking for an internship, and professors can connect you to the cream of the crop. If you don’t know any, look on some local university websites. You can often find faculty there that could point you in the right direction, or even get the position listed on their internal job boards.
Filter through the good ones
Hiring an intern is like hitchhiking. You could have found a cheaper and faster way to get where you want to be, or it could be something you try once and never repeat. As with employees, not every intern is a good one – even if they are free. There is a cost in the form of the time and effort you and your team expend on attaining, training, and managing them. Their value has to outweigh that cost.
Finding the right one, then, is essential. Obviously, you aren’t going to spend the same amount of time hiring an intern that you would in hiring an employee, but at the same time, a five-minute phone call isn’t enough. I recommend an abbreviated version of Top Grading.
At the very least, make sure you have some form of process. Every candidate should have the same process to go through. You can’t recognize a Lebron James until you see 50 Javaris Crittenton’s.
Set them up for success
Unfortunately, finding a potentially good intern is not the end of the road. You need to give them the resources and support they’ll need to bring value to the team. That starts with onboarding.
It is easy to tell interns to “just figure it out”, but sub-par effort on your part will lead to sub-par results on theirs. Give them the tools they need to thrive. Have someone prepare their desk for them before they come. Have them shadow a few employees. Have clearly defined tasks for them each day. Give them real work that actually provides value to the company.
For your intern, as with most things, you will get out what you put in.
An intern may not provide you with strategic marketing guidance and direction – and, really, if that’s what you’re relying on them for, the struggle to find an intern is probably the least of your problems. But interns can provide value as you get started, and they can be even better assets if you do have a team that can provide that guidance.
Best of luck finding that intern.