One-to-One Marketing

Is One-to-One Marketing Right for Your Company?

By Kathleen Garvin


If you’re a small business owner, you’re constantly marketing, even if you don’t recognize it as such.

Whether you’re sending a “thank you for your purchase” email or greeting a customer as they walk through the door of your business, you’re using a form of marketing. A pretty popular one, actually.

Specialized communications and items fall under one-to-one marketing. These personal touches are good for building your brand and your bottom line.

If you have a regular client base, you know what you’re doing to market your company is working, but maybe not why. We’ll go deeper into one-to-one marketing, explore why it’s a smart practice for your business, and discuss ways you can make it better.

What is One-to-One Marketing?

One-to-one (or 1:1) marketing focuses on gathering information about your customers’ preferences and designing your marketing campaigns around those results. This type of marketing is fundamental to keeping your customers coming back for more.

Think of your local Thai restaurant, where the waitstaff remembers you order ginger chicken (extra crispy) every time you pop in. Or the boutique coffee shop where you can customize your chai tea with almond milk and vanilla syrup. These are examples of one-to-one marketing.

You can use technology to help manage this level of personalization. Companies use everything from cookies that store a shopper’s username and password on their websites to applications that dynamically insert a customer’s name into an email. You can compile and organize customer data with software or an online spreadsheet as well.

There are two categories for this type of marketing:

  1. Personalization: When a business gathers personal preferences and tastes, then designs a marketing plan catered specifically to these customers

    Think of Netflix, which displays different TV shows, movies, and documentaries on your profile home screen based on what you’ve watched in the past. Many clothing retailers employ this technique online as well, showing you related items or accessories that would pair well with your choices.

  2. Customization: When a business doesn’t learn customer preferences, but allows a buyer to personalize a product based on their own likes instead

    Think of a major shoe retailer, such as Nike, that allows customers to start with a particular shoe and then customize everything from laces to the midsole treatment to the text or logo. Certain software and applications offer customization options, too, such as changing background and button colours or adjusting which features are displayed and in what order.

One-to-one marketing is popular and widely used among businesses. From keeping track of specific order details to remembering someone’s name, this form of marketing is effective for building a connection with your customer.

Why This Type of Marketing is Successful

Dale Carnegie, a speaker, salesperson, and author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, once said, “A person's name is, to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Personal touches are part of what makes small businesses attractive to shoppers in the first place. And truthfully, one-to-one marketing can work for businesses of all sizes. In fact, in a SmarterIQ whitepaper, 72 per cent of consumers reported only engaging with tailored messaging. People also responded that they were willing to share behavioural data if it equated to an easier shopping experience.

One-to-one marketing isn’t just preferred among buyers; these customer experiences are a key part of building your brand. Yes, people have had lots of fun over the years with Starbucks name fails, but think about it. The barista writing your name on your cup has become a well-known part of the experience, and yet has nothing to do with your purchase.

Marketing, especially for small businesses, should be personal, memorable, and effective, which is why one-to-one marketing works so well. There are many benefits to this form of marketing, for both the merchant and the consumer.

5 Tips to Improve Your One-to-One Marketing

You want to learn all you can about your customers, whether you operate online, in a brick-and-mortar space, or both. Here are additional ways to lean into one-to-one marketing for your business.

  1. Create email funnels: Create different email lists for your leads and customers, and strategic paths based on their actions or purchase history. Depending on where they are in their customer journey, you can create further awareness, educate them, and convince them to buy — much better than sending the same blanket emails to everyone.

  2. Customize your messaging: A customer who finds your website via social media may have a different expectation than someone who found you from a paid ad on a website. Make sure your landing pages vary to meet those expectations, and A/B test them to find the best combination of copy and design.

    If you have no or a limited online presence, make sure your messaging and marketing aligns with your ideal customer. For instance, advertising in a newspaper won’t be the most effective way to reach a Gen Y audience.

  3. Get location-specific: If you have an international customer base, send emails, SMS, and other messages based on their time zone. If you have physical stores, make sure your offers and ads are relevant to each one. Businesses that have multiple websites for their stores should display local reviews, store hours, and other information specific to that location.
  4. Re-engage customers: The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is a whopping 69.57 per cent. Get back on your potential customers’ radar through remarketing ads or by sending them an email. Per the latter, you can have fun with the copy while reminding the recipient of the items they left behind. Include a special promo code just for them to help increase the likelihood of a sale.

  5. Outsource your marketing to a professional: There’s no shame in admitting your weak spots. If marketing isn’t your strong suit, you just have no interest in spending your time there, or you literally have no additional time to spend on it, consider investing in a professional who can handle it for you. Seek out an agency, a conversion rate optimization specialist, or marketing strategist with a track record of working with small businesses.

Should Every Company Do One-to-One Marketing?

Personalized communication, such as addressing someone by their name, can be a nice, baseline touch for any company to use in marketing. Beyond that, you may want to consider the business relationship and how much personalization is needed.

For instance, customers might not need — nor want — detailed communications from a company where a one-off purchase was made. Someone who made an impulsive purchase on Amazon from a third-party seller (that they don’t realize is a separate entity from the e-commerce giant) purely because it was a good price most likely has no loyalty to the seller or brand. A marketer’s efforts would be better spent retaining regular customers than going after someone who’s not likely to return.

You’ll want to consider your industry, too. Certain privacy laws may prohibit how much detail you or your employees can share about a customer, even in direct communications to them.

When it comes to customization, you may need resources, such as money, technology, and a decent-sized staff, to produce particular options for consumers. Depending on your category, offering exotic flavours for a smoothie business, for example, might be more manageable to pull off than a business that requires a warehouse to deliver on different add-ons. 

Examine your goals and do a cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s right for your business. Regardless, just a little personalization can go a long way.


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