Address your customers in your marketing messages

Talking to your customers: the word YouWhen talking to customers — on websites and in sales literature — too many companies talk about themselves and don’t focus on their customers and their needs. Switch the focus from “we” to “you”, advises direct marketing guru Drayton Bird, and improve your response rates

Here's a question for you. What's the most powerful word in selling communications?

Would you say "free"?

I used to — but I suspect it's not, really. I think it is "you" — and derivations, like "yours" and "your".

Here's why.

  1. You are what you're interested in most of all — sad but true.
  2. The more time you use "you" words in your messages, the more they get read.
  3. Conversely, the more you use "we" words — like us, our and ours — the less interested people are.

Marketing is like real life. In real life don't you hate people who boast and talk about themselves? In real life don't you prefer people who talk to you about your interests? It’s the same in selling.

So, even if this sounds a bit basic, go through your messages — in whatever medium — and do a "me/you" count.

If the "you" words don't outgun the "me" words two to one — change things.

I just looked at the welcome page of one leading marketer. In less than 150 words there was not one "you" word". But there were seventeen selfish "we" words, starting with that old friend "About us".

I then spent a bit of time going through some more websites. The overwhelming majority focus on the company, not the customer. They almost all base their approach on that deadening phrase “About us” and the content of most welcome pages is inward-looking and boastful “We are the leading, etc” stuff.

Sell the benefits

Now, I realise people want to be reassured that they’re dealing with a good firm — but only after they’ve been sold on the benefits you offer.

Just think how most people come across your website. Nowadays it’s the first place they go after you’ve attracted their interest — when they’re wondering whether they want to go any further.

Here’s a good way to look at it. When you go to a site, it’s as though you’ve just walked into a store. You look for a helpful salesperson. How would you react if you said, “I’m looking for a widget” and got this reply:

“We’re wonderful. We’re the best store in Oxford Street. Would you like to read our mission statement? The board loves it. Would you like to meet our management team? Like to read their biographies? See their pictures? How about the chairman’s report?”

So here's my advice — count how many times your messages talk about your customers — and how much they're about you. And get the balance right.

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile.

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