One to One Marketing

If you’re in marketing or sales, or work in any business trying to win new customers, then you already know the essential rule for growth, which is to get inside the mind of your customers and understand their motivations on a deep, nuanced level. In fact, executives who are serious about growing their business often know even more about their customers than they do about their product or service. As counterintuitive as that idea is, understanding your customer’s needs and then acting on that knowledge will drive more growth for your business than understanding the inner workings of every last detail about your product or service.

The reason for this is because all humans share one thing in common: we all act in our own self-interest. As much as we would like to believe that we focus more on the needs of others than we do on ourselves, in the end, almost every decision we make is based on self-interest.

This inward, personalized focus is understood and leveraged by the most successful brands in the world. For example, Disney understands that the more personalized the experience is for their customers, the more likely those customers are to come back again and again. So when you enter into a Disney theme park, you’re given a wrist band so Disney can personalize your experience. If a customer makes a dinner reservation on the Disney app, when that customer starts heading toward the restaurant, the wrist band lets the restaurant host know that the guest is approaching the restaurant. When the dinner party walks through the door, the host greets them by name and encourages them to sit anywhere, while the kitchen simultaneously gets an alert to begin cooking their meal.

What makes 1:1 marketing so revolutionary is that for the first time in history, we can connect the dots across channels and track the results all the way through to purchase (even if the purchase was made at a bricks-and-mortar retailer). As a result, a 1:1 marketer isn’t interested in blasting out mass marketing campaigns to as many people as possible. Instead, they’re interested in narrowing their focus and delivering the ads to a smaller group of individuals who are more likely to buy their products or services in the first place.

The concept of 1:1 marketing actually isn’t new. For decades, local butchers, grocers, shop owners, milk delivery men, and paper boys practiced 1:1 marketing. They knew most of their customers by name, recognized a new customer who’d not been in before (and treated them differently than someone who’d been a customer for years), and communicated with customers based on how each customer preferred to communicate—long conversations with one person and short, to-the-point discussions with the people who simply wanted to transact business and get back to what they were doing.

Traditionally, one-to-one marketing was used primarily by the direct response industry. Mass marketers had to rely on other methods, like demographic targeting, for their campaigns.

Addressability changes the game when measuring the success of ad campaigns. Previously, advertisers had no way of knowing who actually saw their ads. Campaigns were measured using ratings to estimate how many people in the targeted demographic saw an ad. This, as was pointed out earlier, only loosely correlates to the people actually buying the advertised orange juice.

Ever had one of those dreams where you are in a familiar situation but suddenly everything works differently than it did before? The rules seemingly changed, people’s responses to your questions aren’t how they typically respond, you find yourself in unfamiliar places, and your head is spinning as you try to make sense of your situation.

That’s kind of how it is today with marketing and advertising to consumers. Things seemed more predictable a few years ago. The formulas, strategies, and tactics marketers used for decades worked so consistently that marketing was almost as simple as, well, following a formula. But today, marketers will tell you that reaching consumers, convincing them to purchase, and cultivating brand loyalty has evolved into a constantly changing game. At times it feels to many marketers as if we’ve woken up in a new reality where few things seem familiar and repeatable.

Truth is, advances in technology, evolving social values, and shifting cultural priorities are rewriting the rules of marketing to consumers. The way people consume media, entertain themselves, and keep up-to-date with the world around them has turned upside down in less than a decade.