Picture of Cara Wagner

Cara Wagner

October 2, 2017

Why One-To-One Marketing is a Startup’s Differentiator

1:1 marketing is often referred to as personalized marketing or 1:1 personalization.

The objective is to craft highly personalized content to current and prospective customers as they have now come to expect that their interactions feel tailored to their unique needs.

1:1 Marketing In Real Life



You’ve probably heard the tale of Target knowing a teenage girl was pregnant before her father, right? Statistician, Andrew Pole, detailed how the company assigns a unique ID to each shopper and tracks their shopping history, payment methods, and demographics.

From that data the customer experience was tailored. Customers would receive relevant coupons based on their shopping patterns, frequency, and average spend. Oddly, customers liked it because it felt like someone inside Target knew them and could anticipate their needs. Who doesn’t like feeling like someone cares about you, right?

Once Target endured the brief PR storm following their data collection exposé where they were compared to the ominous “Big Brother”, they expanded personalization through their reward program — Cartwheel coupon app.

This permission marketing disrupted the way that we, as marketers, approached sharing content with customers. These actions proved that the 4-P’s of marketing were no longer flat, but multi-dimensional.

Target crafted highly personalized coupons to shoppers based on their unique purchases by leveraging 1:1 marketing and permission marketing.



Starbucks has grown to be a coffee, real estate, and brand giant now, but they weren’t always. Before Starbucks was Starbucks, it was a small coffee shop created by three coffee connoisseurs who were interested in introducing quality coffee to the market, one person at a time.

Margins were nil, the staff was downsized to just the founders, and many experiments took place. During that time a bigger objective was born. Starbucks learned, through a type of 1:1 marketing, that people need a place where the vibe is dependable, the staff knows your name, orders are consistent, and fellowship can flourish. When Howard Schultz became CEO he worked to maintain the blueprint that had proven successful in small towns, cities, and in other countries — keeping shops small and personal.

Fast forward to 2011, when Starbucks launched a mobile app. As the 1:1 experience on the app evolved, users were given an even more tailored experience with the brand, as their orders were retained, birthdays were recognized with a free drink, frequent visits were rewarded, and customers could give their friends virtual gifts.

Starbucks established a stable, replicable, 1:1 marketing experience that delivered ambiance, drinks, and tailored offers that met each customer.



Netflix was founded in 1997, but by 1999, customers could rent DVDs through a no-hassle mail order service. By 2006, Reed Hastings knew that 1:1 marketing had to be part of the equation and thus the “Netflix Prize” was born.

This $1,000,0000 contest was aimed at improving the company’s recommendation algorithm so that customers could have a personalized viewing experience. Although the winning idea wasn’t used, the company remained agile and built an algorithm that could suggest new shows and movies based on the user’s previously watched queue.

Netflix tapped into something deeper within personalization though, didn’t they? By suggesting the next thing to watch and/or triggering it as soon as a current stream ends, viewers become hooked. They sit down for a ‘few more minutes’ and before they know it, they’re turning shows like House of Cards (a Netflix Original) into top performing content for Netflix’s brand and further catapulting the company’s overall success. This cause and effect is incredibly important to keep top of mind as competitor Amazon shifts into a second-based streaming model.

Amazon saw that 1:1 marketing was a differentiator that could impress, retain, and acquire customers — even as their streaming strategy was perfected.

Integrating 1:1 marketing into a scaleup

…my day had begun and would proceed exactly as it had for every other marketing executive for the last seventy-five years. Buy advertisements, plan events, pitch reporters, design “creatives,’ approve promotions, and throw around terms like “brand,” “CPM,” “awareness,” “earned media,” “top of mind,” “added value,” and “share of voice.”
— Ryan Holliday, Growth Hacker Marketing

Whether you’re a marketer, a developer, or CEO for a startup—your customers are challenging you to improve the one-to-one experience. Are you meeting your customers, holding conversations, and anticipating their needs before they’re humble enough to tell you?

Don’t rely on traditional marketing tactics to hover around a green line — use those methods as building blocks to stay intentional, personal, and relevant through 1:1 marketing.

  • Price — how does your product pricing reward your customer for making referrals, renewing contracts, or scaling? Personalize pricing so that customers feel they’re being rewarded for continuing use of your product. If discounts can’t be offered just yet, consider how to encourage growth with scalable pricing, recognition, or user testimonials.

  • Product—how is your product able to serve customers on a highly individualized level? If it can’t, how are you using the other P’s to create a one-to-one interaction?

  • Placement — how is your product meeting customers where they are in a very specific, individualized way? Can you also define ‘where they are’ as the targeted customer’s niche versus a physical location?

  • Promotion — how are you spending your marketing dollars to meet your targeted customers where they’ll most likely see your promotions or product? Remain creative by exploring grassroots marketing to supplement large marketing spend or increase targeting on a light budget