Somewhere in the midst of the daily barrage of thousands of separate commercial messages, today's consumers tune out. So how does one get one's message through? In their classic text, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph. D. provide the answer with their aptly selected subtitle: by "Building Relationships One Customer at a Time."

Legendary business guru Peter Drucker once defined the ultimate purpose of business as, "to create customers and keep them." This is the rock upon which the authors have built their opus.

Written in 1993 and updated in 1996, The One to One Future introduced the world to a new way of looking at marketing. Rather than following the psychographical, demographical, statistical inference models of the direct marketers (an approach that made educated guesses about how folks "ought to" behave, based on the behavior of folks who were statically profiled to be "like" them), the authors proposed that we go back to the future and treat customers as individuals.

Back in the good ol' days, shopkeepers knew their customers' names, product preferences and frequency of purchases. This 1:1 relationship created a connection that produced loyalty and a significant lifetime value for both parties.

Economies of scale eventually took over, interfering with that 1:1 relationship. Storeowners and manufacturers realized their stores and plants would become more profitable as their customer bases grew and their processes became standardized. Bigger became better. For a while, everyone benefited--until the customer became merely an outlet for commodity goods and services. The "one size fits all" manufacturing and merchandising mentality and mass production squeezed out individual relationships.

Say Peppers and Rogers, help is on the way.

With advances in technology, now it's possible to get to know your customers as individuals based on what you know about them--not on statistical models. Technology also makes "mass customization" possible. The authors believe the future can lead us back to the past where market share can be replaced by share of the customer. Customers can then become volume dials rather than on/off switches.

Future success in business, say the authors, belongs to those who know a particular customer best, because only then can one truly serve the customer's needs and desires. Exactly how to develop that 1:1 relationship is still up for grabs.

All this comes as great news for the network marketing work force, where one-to-one marketing is the normal order of business. If success in your business is important to you, spend some time with The One to One Future. It'll show you how to get through the clutter to reach and keep your customers.

Paperback, 429 pages; $15.95; Doubleday.