school busAs hordes of middle schoolers return to their classrooms this Fall, that collective sigh of relief you hear may not be their parents, but the clothing retailers and office supply stores who stand to make upwards of $600* per family from back-to-school purchases (*according to the National Retail Federation). They may be too young to drive a car, but pre-teens are still old enough to drive the economy with a few well-timed requests in September and December. And while pre-teens may be more easily swayed by a particular brand than older consumers, don’t think for a moment that they’re not marketing savvy. In fact, the average fifth grader might know a lot more about marketing than you do.

Looking back, our own experiences in middle school prepare us for a marketing career in ways we couldn’t have imagined. For example, many of the realities of life in middle school are also marketing realities we face today…

If you want someone to like you, first learn what they like.

Common interests are the cornerstones of conversation. When you want to get to know someone better in school, you look for opportunities where your interests intersect: a mutual friend, a shared incident at school, a tough homework assignment. Marketing works the same way. If you want customers to take an interest in your brand, start by learning what they’re interested in and use that commonality to create a connection. Marketers call it personalization, but it really emanates from the idea of a person-to-person conversation.

The best seats are in the back where you can see everyone.

From the back seat, you can see everyone and everything. Today, marketers strive for the same vantage point, only now we call it the “single customer view.” It’s the result of a single, holistic view of your customer data, as opposed to having customer data spread throughout different databases and applications. Only 21% of marketing executives say they have a single customer view today, but 57% expect to have it within two years, according to the most recent Digital Marketing Insights Report.

Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster.

Before the days of social media, we had the social playground. By the time our thirty minutes of recess had passed, news of the day’s events had spread throughout the whole school. And, invariably, bad news made the rounds faster than good. The same could be said about brands today. News about your company travels fast on the Internet, and the worse the news, the faster it travels. It’s one of the reasons why more companies are analyzing social media discussions to look for trending information on their brands, and protecting their brand by contributing in an impactful and proactive way to those discussions.

Watch out for the new kid in class.

There’s something mysterious and exciting about the unknown, which is personified in school by the new kid. Are they cooler than us? More exotic? Time usually answers those questions in the negative, as we discover that most people are pretty much the same all over. But for a moment, there’s intense market competition in our small world, which is not unlike the competition that companies face from new and disruptive market entrants. In these cases, companies need to be responsive and agile to compete effectively for customers in what may suddenly be a volatile or even hostile market, and this is where real-time, data-driven decision making is invaluable.

If you want to be smart, do your homework.

Every student learns the value of homework soon enough, but companies seem to forget that lesson sometimes. If you want the best marketing intelligence, do your homework and look for a solution that delivers personalization, consolidation (the single customer view) and real-time information like, well, everything you get with Teradata’s Integrated Marketing Cloud portfolio.