To say that they hold University of Wisconsin Oshkosh diplomas is a massive understatement.
Four student interns have spent the past 10 months with the University of Washington Oshkosh’s Digital Marketing Clinic (DMC), an institution that has endured out of necessity during the pandemic — to save dozens of small businesses desperately in need of digital marketing expertise.
Justin Schmitz, a senior official at De Pere . said:And Graduated with a degree in Marketing.
“Teaching them how and why it has had a huge impact on our clients in order to help them grow their business. Besides, we build quite a few corporate websites. It is amazing how many companies do not have their own websites or even social media” .
Students have found that many small business owners struggle with digital marketing: knowing how to schedule content and post it on social media, understanding keyword research or planning new websites.
With CARES Act funds earmarked to help businesses experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the innovative program connects talented digital marketing interns to UWO students and small business owners. CARES funding is provided through the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Digital Marketing Clinic works in partnership with SBDC-UW Oshkosh.
“Small business owners usually need a lot of help with digital marketing,” said Janesville’s Yasmilet Esquivel, another intern student who graduated with a degree in marketing with a focus on digital marketing.
She said her clients’ projects cite social media scheduling and execution as one of the biggest challenges they face.
“They struggle to take the time to plan social media posts or the type of content to be posted on certain platforms,” Esquivel said.
Schmitz said students provide a lot of education. Even though it’s been about 10 to 15 years on social media, they’ve discovered that many companies don’t know how to operate when it comes to marketing, or even the impact it makes.
Schmitz said working on real projects that make a difference has had a huge impact on his future. He has worked with companies in many industries, met inspiring entrepreneurs and “immersed himself in many different angles of marketing,” with no two days alike. He said the work prepared him for the world of work in ways that go beyond just marketing.
On top of implementing a variety of marketing skills, students develop speaking skills and professional etiquette while conducting meetings with business owners.
“Our interns provide owners with an improved degree of confidence,” said Kathy Fredrickson, Clinical Director of Digital Marketing and a member of the Marketing Faculty at UWO.
DMC in numbers
Since its inception 10 months ago, DMC’s trainee teams have achieved 1,758 advisory hours, served 123 clients and supported 894 jobs, according to Fredrickson. They have also delivered four social media marketing webinars to over 200 registered attendees.
Dan Brosman, director of the UWO Small Business Development Center, said the DMC launched in February using CARES Act funds to hire a managing director and four student interns.
The response was fast. Within 72 hours, more than 30 requests for a free consultation were submitted; By May, 75 applications had been received, indicating strong demand for the program.
Four additional students and a contracted project coordinator joined the team in mid-May to increase capacity.
Brosman said one or two student interns are assigned to each company, providing approximately 15 hours of assistance per client. They address the “internet deficit” for small businesses with less than $2 million in annual income who apply to SBDC.
“DMC has been a great opportunity to apply the skills we learned from school to the real world,” said Adam Branch, a marketing specialist from Downers Grove, Illinois. “Kathy (Fredrickson) has done an amazing job leading the team to success and she’s made so many memories along the way.”
Branch said from his experience, clients are more interested in checking out social media accounts, keyword research and strategic recommendations. The standout project was Elektra Cruise, an all-electric boat tour service. Most of the work was done face-to-face and included photography, social media audits, and best practices to help them understand how Facebook and Instagram are used for business.
He said the skills developed through DMC prepared him for a career he loves and showed him that hard work always pays off. He credited Brosman and Fredrickson for their guidance. The branch said it plans to move west to work for a full-service marketing agency.
Addressing real-life issues
Esquivel said the client project that set her apart was the Oshkosh Women’s Fund. It was a large team project that involved “Brandscape” – the analysis of company brands and messages.
“I was able to take the lead in my logo design and color recommendations that helped me find what mattered most to me when it came to digital marketing,” Esquivel said. “It has guided the path to my interest in design and branding. In other words, I love working with aesthetics.”
Esquivel plans to start a marketing agency with a small group of professionals intent on helping individuals and businesses with their digital marketing needs.
SOS: Digital Marketers
Customer Steve Giese of Gain Control Electrical Engineering in Pulaski said he loved the DMC team’s presentation.
“It was very methodical and detailed for each of our social media accounts and website,” Geez said. “The changes they proposed are easy enough to implement and we’ve started with them.”
Gezi said the students provided a list of recommended changes that could be worked on over time.
“The CARES Act grants we received have been great and have put us off during the pandemic, but they haven’t helped us better market ourselves, so this has been even more helpful,” he added.
Brent Miller of TNT Fitness, which has locations in Menasha, Fond du Lac and West Bend, described the team as “amazing.”
Miller said they broke things down so that they could be easily understood.
“There’s not much (for them) to improve, just keep learning, growing, and being yourself and transparent about how it works,” Miller said in a follow-up survey.
The students have inspired clients to keep learning – especially about different social media tools.
At the same time, Fredrickson said the four graduating interns had made significant career advancements as a result of the experience.
top image: Graduate trainees gather at the DMC workspace at Sage Hall. From left, Chiana Kelly, Adam Branch, Yasmelt Esquivel and Justin Schmitz.