By Asma Alsalameh, OD
July 18, 2018
As an OD with a new corporate sublease in a Target, I was looking for ways to better serve patients–and to save money. I wanted to get the word out to my community about my new office, but I didn’t want to spend so much money that this marketing effort would be counterproductive.
So, I decided to get in touch with a local college and see if its marketing students could help me. I now have a marketing intern who is helping introduce my practice to the local community.
Marketing Students Get Experience & I Get Extra Help
I didn’t go to school for marketing, or have any professional experience in that field, so I knew I needed help as a new sublease holder. I wanted the assistance of someone who knew what they were doing more than me, but I was not in a position to pay for professional services. Therefore, I decided to establish a marketing internship program.
I e-mailed the marketing department of the local university to ask about the process that would be required to establish a formal marketing internship program in my office. I received a friendly response from the department chair outlining what I needed to do to acquire one of their students as an intern. It was a pretty simple process. I was asked to specify a start date and an end date, responsibilities, and what I was offering. The application process consisted of interested students e-mailing me why they felt they were good candidates.
What Do Students Bring to Marketing?
Students are energetic and optimistic. They will do the job for a fraction of what a professional will cost in exchange for real-world experience and a great reference. I offered my intern a $500 stipend for a two-month internship term, along with a professional recommendation if the internship went well.
Students also tend to be knowledgeable on new trends and technologies in their field, so in that sense they may have more things to teach you than an older marketing professional. For example, my intern introduced me to something called Tailor Brands, a web site that allows people to design and edit logos. I had never heard of this before, but I now have an account with them, managed by my intern.
Social Media Savvy Means Better Community Outreach
In addition to their enthusiasm, young people studying marketing are usually smart about how best to use social media to market a business.
Two weeks after I started seeing patients at my new sublease location, my intern created a post announcing that we were giving out a limited supply of solar eclipse viewing glasses. We used this as an opportunity to introduce ourselves, as well as to educate patients on the importance of an annual comprehensive eye exam as they came in. This one post resulted in over 100 shares on Facebook, and was featured on the local news.
Shortly after that my intern made a Facebook post asking people to nominate their favorite teacher, and share the post. One lucky teacher would be selected in a drawing to win a gift card. We let our patients know of our teacher giveaway. This post resulted in a couple dozen shares, and provided a tie-in to our back-to-school marketing.
We also found that featuring some of our patients (after obtaining their signed HIPAA marketing release form) on our Facebook page is a great marketing tool. We found that friends and family members will likely share those posts, especially if the patient is a child or an elderly person.
Students Help Connect You to Local Young People
I recently attended a play put on by a local arts school. I noticed that it was a full house in attendance that evening with mainly families, and realized this would be a perfect venue to let people know that a new optometrist was in town. I approached the director and inquired about sponsorship opportunities. Our logo and contact information will now be printed in the playbills of a show of our choosing in the next season. The show will likely play six times, that is six movie theater-sized rooms full of people–and it only cost $100.
Asma Alsalameh, OD, practices in the Baton Rouge, La., area. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org