As marketers, many of us are accustomed to using multiple channels for marketing communications, such as email, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, direct mail, and advertising, among others. But how many of us do one-to-one marketing? I don't mean sending out personalized mass communication. I mean marketing to one person at a time.

Of course, one-to-one marketing is time-consuming, but a recent social media campaign I developed and implemented taught me a valuable marketing lesson that sales professionals have known for eons: The personal touch—communicating directly with the end user or decision maker—can be very effective.

The Challenge

As chair of the American Marketing Association's 2011 Nonprofit Marketing Conference, I really wanted to see a substantial increase in registration over 2010 levels. But the economy had taken its toll on everyone, especially on the nonprofit sector. When corporations don't meet their revenue projections, shareholders and employees can suffer. But when nonprofits don't raise enough funds—especially in human services—vulnerable people's lives are at stake.

The conference marketing plan included a variety of communications channels that many of us use regularly to market products and services. We mailed a full-color brochure; sent emails; posted articles, podcasts, and registration notices on the organization's internal community platform; mailed postcards; tweeted using a unique hashtag; set up a Facebook event page; and created banner ads for the association's newsletters.

Sponsors and exhibitors promoted the conference in their own channels, including a media partner with excellent reach to the target market. Some of the other planning committee members and I included blurbs about the conference in our targeted client e-newsletters.

Though registration was steady, I wanted more.

The Solution

That's when I started a one-to-one marketing campaign—what sales pros (and nonprofit fundraisers) do on a daily basis—but without ever picking up a telephone.

Although event survey results are not yet available, here's how I went about it and what the preliminary results were.

  1. I reviewed the member lists in my LinkedIn groups, targeting appropriate conference prospects. I messaged them individually, inviting them to the event and to join my network.

    Some accepted my link invitation but didn't respond about the conference. Others replied with questions or thank-yous for the heads-up. What I was hoping for was to generate word-of-mouth from this group of influencers to their colleagues.

    Results: The exercise helped increase conference awareness among several people I contacted. In addition, I gained excellent connections to like-minded colleagues and professionals, increasing my personal network.
  2. I began mass-tweeting—infrequently during the first two months, and increasing in frequency thereafter—using the event hashtag. Although that doesn't qualify as one-to-one, I did it as a precursor to individual marketing. After a few weeks, I went through my list of Twitter followers and sent invitation tweets to each one individually, or in groups of two or three, depending on how many characters their Twitter handles consisted of.

    Since our target market segment included American and Canadian nonprofit marketers and suppliers, I used TweetDeck to ensure that the tweet pipeline flowed throughout daytime and early-evening hours to capture all continental time zones.

    Results: Many of my followers retweeted my tweets, increasing exposure for the conference—and providing the opportunity for me to follow up with their retweeters. TweetDeck's software was perfect for that. It enabled me to segregate event tweets by hashtag and easily access them in separate columns. Bonus: I gained new followers.
  3. I then used TweetDeck to monitor tweets with specific keywords that could identify conference prospects. I invited those people individually.
  4. As registration increased, within three weeks of the conference I did a LinkedIn search to target prospects working within driving distance of the conference location. Those people could easily register at the last moment without the need for air travel. At that point, our block of reserved hotel rooms had been sold out.
  5. I posted that we had made arrangements for conference rates at nearby hotels, creating a sense of urgency to register immediately to ensure registrants had a place to stay.
  6. Finally, in the last 10-14 days before the conference, I used Google to search for organizations within a 30-mile radius of the conference location. I dug into websites to find email addresses for the best prospects and invited them individually via email. That produced exceptional results, the highlight of which was a telephone call from one organization's vice-president of marketing inquiring how his company's nine-member marketing team could register for the conference at the member rate. We gained not only nine conference registrants but also nine new association members!

The Results

Registration grew an astounding 75% over 2010 levels. Of course, I can't attribute that success to my efforts alone; that increase was the result of a multichannel approach undertaken by several people. Plus, slight economic improvements may also have affected the outcome. What I can say anecdotally is that one-to-one marketing efforts paid off big time. Many of the people I contacted had never before attended this conference.

I look forward to seeing the conference survey results to learn how attendees heard about the conference and what motivated them to register. That will be the real test. In the meantime, I encourage you to try one-to-one marketing. It's worth a shot, depending on your organization size, your target audience, and how feasible this approach is in your environment. Track and analyze your results. Then send me an e-mail with your results or leave a comment below. I'm curious to learn how you did.

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image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel