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Every so often I come across the topic of hiring an intern -or a high school kid- to run your promo business digital marketing.  The fact that this is presented as a viable solution, every time this topic pops up in the various industry forums I frequent, made me want to shed some light on this misconception, based on my own experience.

Back in 2009, shortly after we delivered a brand new client website, he hired a high school kid to perform his SEO and Social Media in-house. The kid lasted about 2 months. My client called to ask if I knew a student I could send his way. When I asked, he said he fired him because he produced no results, and had poor work ethics. After I said I couldn’t help him, I didn’t hear from him until about a year later, when he called again to pick my brains.

He was happy his website was ranking on top of local searches for his main specialties, and had pages in the top social networks. But he was not getting ANY calls from the internet. NONE. He had gone through a bunch of kid-employees, each lasting 6-9 weeks.  He was hoping I would give him pointers he could pass on to his employee du jour. I responded that we could offer a marketing game plan and coach his employee to implement it, at a cost.  In his mind, this was unnecessary, and any student should be able to handle this tech stuff with ease.

A  couple of months later, he called me in panic mode.  His website had gotten hacked and was redirecting to a porn site.  How could he turn the site “off” immediately, so that the horrible porn site wouldn’t come up with his domain?  Did I have a backup of his website? Could he recover it?  Meanwhile he had hired another kid, this time with programming knowledge, who was not getting anywhere.

We offered to perform a full scan, shut the site off immediately, and get him back online quickly; and presented him with an estimate. He was reluctant to pay. He waited a couple of days hoping the kid would figure it out, but gave up and hired us. My team had his site off within an hour, a simple page with “our site is down” message and contact info, and his full site restored within a week.

He was afraid one of his employees had harmed his site on purpose. I don’t believe this was the case at all, but I’m sure their inexperience certainly exposed it to hackers.  Since then we’ve had enough clients come to us after their websites got hacked, or with totally exposed sites that can be easily hacked. Security is a very important issue that cannot be overlooked. It’s not rocket science but not everybody knows what to do.

But even if your website, or any of your online properties, never gets hacked when you hire an intern, the results speak for themselves. In the case of this client, after over a year of expense he had no new clients, a hacked website, plus a long list of SEO issues.  Just getting back to square one required hours upon hours of work -and money- to fix. Plus all the money he paid the various employees. That’s one way marketing money goes down the drain, all too often.

This is an extreme example of what can go wrong, but over the years, we have found that this solution to a business digital marketing never works. It just doesn’t. Just like hiring someone who has no clue on how to to do any job doesn’t work.

Internet Marketing is Not Child’s Play

We live in the instant economy. Younger generations are born tech savvy. From an early age they easily find their way around web based platforms and apps, and they always seem to know what buttons to push in any device.  But that doesn’t make them marketing experts.

A student or an intern will be eager to work and tech inclined, but will have little to no work experience, much less marketing knowledge. That said, there are many ways an intern can help your business. We’ve had great experiences in that respect. One thing to keep in mind, regardless of the assignment, they will always require very specific step by step instructions, training, and close supervision.

Another thing to never forget, they are kids.

Why You Must Take Online Marketing Seriously

Just like for any business these days, marketing your promo business online is vital for sustained growth, and you can’t afford to ignore it.

Having an online presence that commands authority and expertise is the only way to stand out in the sea of look-alike distributors. Being a top sales producer willing to make 100 calls per day is no longer enough. Those prospects you reach will look you up online, and will judge your expertise and service level by what they find -or don’t find- about your business. Just like you do, when evaluating a new provider to do business with.

The challenge is that online marketing is everything but easy.  You could hire a high school kid to help with some tasks, but only after you have a strategic plan in place. You must know exactly what parts can the intern be expected to accomplish. And you must also have the proper step by step instructions, training and supervision process in place.