How One-to-One marketing can help start-ups to promote, pitch and sell more effectively

As a start-up, you often don’t know the best ways to market your new business, or what works and what doesn’t.

The good news is; whether you’re selling to a market of ten or ten million, one of the most effective ways to learn how to improve your marketing is to talk with a single person and sell something to them.

Here’s how you can develop stronger sales messages, build your customer base and grow your new business by harnessing the power of one-to-one marketing.

Marketing is like a conversation

It’s easy for marketers in the 21st Century to get lost in the sea of data and analytics and optimisation and to forget that marketing isn’t exactly a science, but an art-form with a lot of science surrounding it.

It’s still a matter of human interaction, it’s still closer to having a conversation than it is programming an app.

This may sound a little too broad and all-encompassing, but it generally holds true: any marketing strategy that works in a one-on-one scenario will tend to work when marketing to the masses. Consider some of the main principles of conversation:

Speak in terms of the customer’s interests

The average customer doesn’t care that their laptop has a graphics card with a new memory feature and a super fast clock rate. They want to know if it will run YouTube videos without buffering or degrading quality.

If you’re talking to someone who uses their computer for gaming or video editing, then the specs might be relevant, but they won’t matter to someone who just needs a computer to stay in touch with friends and watch Netflix.

When speaking to any individual prospect, you go to find out what excites them, what their goals are, and then speak to them on those terms.

As an example, if you want to sell laptops to a business owner, you find out what line of work they’re in, and then you let them know which model would suit their needs best, and you speak to them in terms of how it will help them get their work done.

This is no different from analytics and targeted marketing where you crunch the numbers to determine who your typical buyer is, paint a portrait of their worldview, and adjust your advertising material accordingly.


You won’t get a second opportunity if you spend the first meeting talking about yourself, and you won’t sell anything when you talk at the prospect.

This is true in one-on-one marketing, and it’s just as true in mass marketing. Access to a media outlet isn’t what it once was.

Today, your marketing is not just the advertising that you put into the world. Today, your marketing is how your customers talk about you, the reviews that people post on Amazon, Yelp and YouTube, it’s what people are saying about you on Twitter. Whether you are there, and listening, or not.

Notch, the developer behind Minecraft, recently sold his creation for $2.5 billion. He didn’t achieve that by flooding television, radio and the web with adverts.

The core user-base for the game learned of it through word of mouth. Players tell each other stories about fun things they did in the game, they post YouTube videos of their most ambitious in-game constructions. Throughout the early days of development, Notch made a point of listening to his users and implementing their ideas and suggestions when appropriate.

Electronics Arts is an example of a game developer who simply produces games and sells them with advertising campaigns. Whilst they could choose to say what they think people want to hear, they are constantly evolving and adapting what they do, how the adverts appear, and where, and who they really talk to.

Of course, they have the advertising capital to ensure that they make their budget back, but they’ve never sold an individual game for more than a few tens of pounds. What they do has to reach many and land well with enough of them to motivate a purchase. Even in the smallest business that’s true.

Analytics play a big part in listening. You can see who’s buying your products, what their most common comments, reviews and complaints are, and what they like best about the brand.

Even so, maybe the best way to listen is still the old fashioned way: just listen. Read customer emails, and when reasonable, address their concerns directly.


Is there anything worse than somebody asking you how it’s going, and as soon as you start to answer the question, they start playing on their phone, uttering “Uh huh, uh huh, sure, yep” every few seconds?

Listening isn’t that effective when what you’re hearing goes in one ear and out the other. When you really care what the other person is saying, they can tell, and they can tell when you don’t care, too.

This is true in a one-on-one scenario, and it’s true when talking to hundreds of people at a time. In fact, the hard work of showing that you care is exactly the same whether dealing with one person or a hundred.

A personal, non-boilerplate email right from the CEO can go a long way with a dissatisfied customer, and save you from some bitter online reviews. Assuming that you’re never bigger than any individual customer, that your time is no more or less valuable, is an attitude, a mindset, that will pay immeasurably in the long run.

These three fundamentals will serve as a strong foundation for your sales skills whether you’re pitching to a boardroom, selling B2B concepts one-on-one, or writing a radio advert:

  1. Speaking in terms of the customers interests
  2. Listening
  3. Proving that you care

Add, on top of this foundation, solid analytics and a reasonable marketing budget, and it’s not impossible to make every one of many prospects feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

Here’s what it really comes down to: the only thing that anyone is really interested in is themselves. It’s easy to look at that from a cynical perspective, to wish that people were a little more selfless, that they would take more time to connect with others.

In marketing, however, you will have greater success when you embrace this aspect of human nature and do what they would like you to do. Speak, to them, in their language, and listen with attention and a caring ear. Doing that, as a strategy, is remarkable, because so few do.

It shouldn’t be remarkable, but, as we say at Abelard, being remarkable isn’t about doing extraordinary things, it’s about doing the ordinary things that others fail to do, and doing them well.

About the author

This article has been written for ByteStart by William Buist, owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the xTEN Club which helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’.

More on ByteStart

You can find more tips and advice on promoting your new business in these other ByteStart guides;

And for help on other aspects of starting a new business try these;

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