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MarCom Matters

January 2014
Issue: #51

Last Kid on the Bus

There are times when following a school bus has its upside.

The most recent occasion occurred a couple of weeks ago, after finishing some last-minute Christmas shopping (is there any other kind?) in one of our neighboring towns.

While driving home I found myself a few cars back behind a bus full of elementary schoolers. It was nearly 4:00 p.m. and getting mighty dark, mighty fast.

Every block or so, the bus came to a stop and discharged three or four passengers who scurried off to houses and waiting cars.

When our parade came to the last intersection before the town line, the bus driver took a left. I figured it was just to make a U-turn. But glancing at the windows, I noticed the silhouette of a lone boy sitting in his seat.

As the bus rolled on to its final stop, I could only imagine the relief he felt as the long day finally came to an end. Because it dawned on me that not only was he the last one off, he was probably the first one on in the morning, too.

What also dawned on me was that being first on and last off can be a blessing of sorts – something this boy probably won’t appreciate until he’s 40.

He’s the only one to experience one-on-one time with the bus driver. He gets to feel the energy rise and fall as the bus fills in the morning and empties in the afternoon. And he gets to watch how his schoolmates interact with parents as they say “goodbye” and then “hello.”

In short, he has the inside scoop on what most of us see as just a “bus full of kids.”

So the big question is: What would you give for an opportunity like that?

Here’s what I mean…

As marketers and communicators, part of our job is to understand the informational wants and needs of various audiences.

Mostly, it’s done using segmentation techniques, like demographics, firmographics, roles, titles and responsibilities. The more adventurous among us create personas to characterize drivers, motivations and behaviors.

Regardless of the approach, the idea is the same: to identify and aggregate what is and what isn’t important to individuals who are customers, employees, prospects, partners, analysts and investors.

But where does the information come from that describes these audiences?

Truth is, we usually cram ourselves inside a meeting room and make it up.

Sure, we’ll ask sales and customer service reps for their input. Or we’ll recall our own conversations with investors. But mostly that’s anecdotal stuff. It’s like describing the kids inside the school bus by following behind it for a few blocks.

So what’s the alternative?

You guessed it: Get on the bus!

In other words, discover first hand things like…

How do you get this primo seat? Slip the bus driver five bucks. No, I mean…

Like the last kid on the bus, the closer you are to your audiences – and the more time you spend with them – the more you’ll come to understand how they think and act, and what is important to them.

And that information will earn you an A+ every time.