If a single word could instantly connect you with the person who reads your Web content or sales literature, what do you think that word would be?
Here are two clues:
- In grade school English, they taught you not to use it in your writing.
- By the time you've finished reading this sentence, you'll have already encountered it in various forms seven times in this post.
Clever you—you guessed it, didn't you! That's right, the word in question is . . .
Yes, "you." Say it a few times. Roll it around in your mouth and savor its brevity. Its directness. Very importantly, its ability to personalize a message in a single, crisp syllable.
Remember how, somewhere in or before high school English, you were taught to avoid using the second-person pronoun? Scrap that rule. It may apply to writing a research paper but not when it comes to selling your product. Compare the following two benefit statements:
- Imagine how great one will look and feel once one has trimmed off 10 pounds--in just two weeks!
- Imagine how great you'll look and feel once you've trimmed off 10 pounds--in just two weeks!
The first example sounds just plain ridiculous, doesn't it. The second is more like how people actually talk. More like how you
talk—and how you want to be talked to. That's good copy. Like a chat with a friend over coffee, it has a conversational immediacy that engages you from the get-go.
"You" Is a Mindset That Puts Your Reader First
That's the real power of the second-person pronoun: it makes your target reader the star of the show.
How many business websites have you visited where the content is all about the company and its products? You can read about the company's mission, history, clients, and awards. You can get plenty of specs about its widgets. What you don't get is the sense that the company cares about you, because its copy is all about them. It is filled with we
, and us
—but where do you
You-centric copy, on the other hand, prioritizes the reader and his or her needs, interests, and emotions. It does more than merely inform; it also connects.
Why is this important? Well, let's say you go out one night with a date who spends the evening telling you about his job, his new car, his hobbies, his achievements, his house, his vacation, his this, his that. A few days later you again do dinner, this time with someone else who seems genuinely interested in you—
what activities you enjoy, where you went to school, what childhood memories you treasure, what makes you happy.
Which person bored the crap out of you and which scored a big hit?
Good copy is about your target audience. Am I saying you shouldn't talk about yourself? Of course not. The person reading your copy obviously wants to know about you and your product or service. But that person's interest rises from an underlying question: What's in it for me?
In the back of her mind, that's what your reader is always wondering. You-centric copy engages your reader on a personal level in order to answer that question sentence by sentence. It makes your customer, not your business, the center of your sales message. It demonstrates that you understand your target reader's needs and will meet them in ways guaranteed to delight.
And ultimately, it generates the results you desire.
Congratulations! Your evening out was a ten-star hit! And yes, your date will go out with you again. Definitely, heck yes.