One-to-One Marketing at Scale? Yes, please

breakfast sandwich on bagel with egg bacon cheese

Good morning! One bacon, egg, and cheese or two?

That’s how I’m welcomed whenever I walk into Andrew & Frank’s Deli in Astoria—even when it’s more like lunchtime than breakfast hour. And, believe me, this place has far more frequent customers than me. Even so, the guys who run the deli know my favorite order, and know there’s an equal chance I’m getting breakfast just for my daughter (long after I’ve eaten) or for both of us.

That’s the kind of one-to-one experience many marketers strive to deliver at scale, and that Don Pepper and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., predicted would be reality—at scale—in The One to One Future. For years, Don and Martha’s message changed the outlook and career direction of countless marketers. Based on recent conversations I’ve had, it still does. In fact, to me, one-to-one marketing has never been more possible, relevant, and in this time of ever-rising customer expectations, vital.

Some marketers, however, have moved on to business-to-human or one-to-you marketing; others dismiss one-to-one marketing as too difficult or expensive. So, in honor of CXPA’s Customer Experience Day 2017, I asked my contacts via social and interviews if one-to-one marketing as Don and Martha envisioned it is a reality today. Here are several of their (edited) responses. (And commentary from Don, added 10/4/17.)


martyn-etherington.jpegMartyn Etherington, CMO, Cisco IoT Cloud

What Don and Martha did with their one-to-one marketing concept was modernize Kotler’s “Four P’s” of traditional marketing—Product, Place, Price, and Promotion—which are product centric. Don and Martha introduced the “Five I’s” of marketing—Identification, Interaction, Individualization, Integration, and Integrity—which speak to customer centricity.

So, then, is one-to-one marketing as Don and Martha originally envisioned it a reality today? I would say emphatically, Yes. Technologies and mediums may have changed, but the Five I’s are as relevant today as ever before.

And, not to tamper with simplicity or brilliance, but if one were to add one other I, it would be Implementation, because so many marketers talk the talk but few walk the talk of the Five I’s.


Alan BerksonAlan Berkson, director of community outreach, analyst relations, Freshworks

There are two themes that seem to be at odds when it comes to one-to-one marketing. We have tools to give us greater context—a demographic of one, so to speak—but we try to implement them at scale, which puts roadblocks between us and the customer. In theory, we are closer; in practice, we may be heading off in the wrong direction.

The roadblocks? First, one-to-one communications are still scripted. As [ThinkJar principal] Esteban Kolsky likes to say, AI is automated intelligence, not artificial intelligence. We’re still trying to map customers to a journey, but they make the journey not us (the vendor). We need to get to the point where we can truly contextualize the engagement on a one-to-one basis.

The second roadblock is that our mass marketing is better than it ever was, but it’s still mass marketing. Here’s a simplified example: Suppose I’m a marketer for an ice cream franchise. I can see your history shows that you love to go to ice cream places when you travel. I see you are traveling now, so I push out an offer for one of our ice cream shops that’s nearby. What I don’t know is prior to taking this trip you were diagnosed with diabetes and the last thing you want is an offer for ice cream. Rather than serving you, I’ve possibly alienated you.

If I knew you had been diagnosed with diabetes, I may steer you toward my line of sugar-free ice cream. But it’s complex. If I were seeing you in person I’d say, “Hey, how are you doing?” I’d then see you looked troubled and ask why, eventually discerning the recent diagnosis.

Yes, we’re way ahead of 20 years ago, but we’re not close to one-to-one marketing at scale yet.


Elliot Markowitz

Elliot Markowitz, director, content
marketing services, Madison Logic

Absolutely, yes. One-to-one marketing is the
ultimate in getting to the bottom of sales funnel
and leading true engagement.


Esteban Kolsky


Esteban Kolsky, principal, ThinkJar

One-to-one is decided by the customers, not the company. We live in an era where customers are past the point of controlling the conversation—as Paul Greenberg, [managing principal of The 56 Group], stated at the beginning of the Social CRM evolution—to one where they control the product, message, delivery, “journey,” and everything else. In movie terms, they are the lead and the company is the supporting cast. You will never see the supporting cast becoming the main character, but companies still try—too afraid to give up control and irked that they have to.


So, to answer your question: We are in the era that Don and Martha predicted, from the company perspective. But the model used for the relationship has changed so much in the past decade that it no longer matters. We need a new model focused on the customer, not the company: The company provides infrastructure into their data, processes, technologies, and people; customers use that to build ad-hoc experiences according to their needs.

Marketers cannot influence the customer journey anymore. That is the entire shift in marketing that Don and Martha’s [original] model is missing. We can have a discussion on the role of marketing in content authorship and distribution in an inbound model, but the core idea is that marketers in an inbound model don’t have the influence they used to have.

New world, different marketing, and most marketers don’t get that.


Lewis RothkopfLewis Rothkopf, GM of supply, MediaMath

The answer is: It depends on how you’re defining the “one” on either side. Is it one person to one person, like telemarketing? That’s time consuming and expensive to do at scale.

For one-to-one marketing to be cost effective and scalable, the “one” on the consumer side needs to be a lot of ones who have [overlapping attributes]. This allows the marketing side to create relevant “individual” interactions: A single campaign that has scale and reach, but its content is assembled in real time based on customer or anonymous data and predictive analytics and served uniquely to each recipient.

Then it’s about test, test, test. Use every interaction with a consumer to test and optimize. What is the right assemblage of assets and components that speaks to that consumer in real time? Using the data and technology available today to find the answer is empowering.

Don PeppersDon Peppers, coauthor, The One to One Future and 10 other books, and cofounder, CX Speakers

Twenty years ago people would often suggest that what Martha Rogers, Ph.D., and I were talking about was “one on one marketing.” But we would always have to correct them to say no, we are talking about “one TO one marketing”—because the preposition “on” implies a direction of activity.

Our prediction was that technology equalizes the direction and levels the playing field between companies and customers. Which is exactly what did happen.

Today we often talk about inbound or outbound interactions, but what we called it in 1993 was “collaboration” between customer and marketer—and collaboration is a two-way activity. No such thing as one-way collaboration.

What marketers have to do today is to make their brands into attractive partners for customers seeking frictionless collaboration. This means not only having a product or service that is reliable, valuable, and personally relevant, but also operating a genuinely trustable business—proactively watching out for each customer’s own self-interest. Not in the way an outbound marketer would constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to sell, but the way a friend would be on the lookout for opportunities to help a friend.

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival celebrating customer experience. It’s part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day 2017. Check out posts from other bloggers at the blog carnival, as well as my previous CX Day 2017 blog carnival post, “What Customer Experience Trend?” And learn more about CX Day at: