The trick to writing riveting and persuasive marketing copy is simply this: Know – and I mean really know, your audience – and get over there into their shoes and talk with them, not at them.
This age-old marketing truism makes a lot of sense and it works. And yet, I encounter so many blogs, websites, brochures, letters and other marketing vehicles plastered with “we” language. This is particularly true with professional service businesses… after all, you are selling yourself or the people in your firm, so it seems natural to convey your expertise and services by saying, “we” and “I.”
Let’s look at an example comparing the traditional selling statement (the kind that sends most marketing copywriters into a loud groan, and leaves your prospects yawning) against a more riveting, grabbing alternative.
Small business owners seeking financial advice
“Acme & Associates is a results-oriented financial consulting firm that advises businesses in meeting the challenges of today’s economic uncertainty.”
“If you are like most business owners, you are passionate about your clients’ success and expect your financial advisor to be equally passionate about your bottom line.”
I’m sure you can see the compelling differences between the “Groaner” and the “Grabber.” The Groaner example conveys a posture of, “It’s all about us and we are assuming that you care!” And you aren’t going to resonate with your audience by taunting them with the ever-so-vague and generic “challenges.” Notice that this example does not actually use the term “we,” and yet it takes a “we” stance, loud and clear. So it’s not just your word selection, but your stance and tone of writing that matters.
The second example – the “Grabber” – literally steps over to the reader’s side of the table. Clearly, the message is that it’s all about your reader and shows an understanding of what is important to your reader as a business owner.
You may prefer a more formal writing style. Your style is a reflection of you, and I encourage you to write in a way that feels most natural and comfortable. But I do stand firm on this: The effectiveness of “you” language still applies, no matter what your preferred writing style is.
Great Trick: Name Your Audience
Start every writing project by naming your audience – actually write it at the top of the page, as I did in the above example (be sure to delete it before you send the final out for real!). This is a trick I learned from a very effective English professor I had in college. He took points off our grade if we had not named our audience. I still use this technique today – when you can clearly define who you are writing for, you have a much better chance of hitting the mark. The more specific the better.
Let’s face it, your readers are inundated with distractions and plenty of reading material… if you want their attention, you have to cut through to the heart of the matter. And that means speaking to your reader’s heart. Whether you are selling life coaching, accounting services or engineering design, your clients are human beings with worries, fears, dreams, hopes, and desires. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “This is business, let’s keep that ‘emotional stuff’ out of it.” If you speak to your audience at the level of their humanness, they are going to pay attention.
This approach doesn’t mean you need to eradicate all use of “I” or “we.” You need to talk about yourself — just be sure the overall flavor of your persuasive copy leans more toward being you-oriented.
Now. Go write some brilliant marketing copy!
I’d love to see your examples — feel free to run a few paragraphs by me here in the comments and I’m glad to provide pointers.