It’s easy clickbait to promise to reveal the most powerful word in advertising…
And so you’ll find a whole variety of articles out there (including some written by yours truly) that talk about the variety of words that may fit the bill.
FREE is almost always on the list.
I’ve argued for BECAUSE in the context of Reason Why advertising.
But there’s another word that almost always makes the list…
That is, don’t make your marketing and advertising about “WE,” the company, or “I,” the spokesperson…
Make it about “YOU,” the prospect.
In fact, Perry Marshall’s Readability checker here — which checks readability scores including Flesch-Kincaid and others — also checks your “You/Me Ratio.”
I plugged in the essay I wrote yesterday, and here’s what it told me…
“The you/me ratio of your text is 11.5 : 1 – you talked about your reader 11.5 X more than you talked about yourself.”
According to Perry, that number should be at least 2 : 1. Since it’s 11.5 : 1, I did really well!
And I agree with this, to a point…
Not all YOUs and Is are created equal…
Here’s the thing.
I’ve written stories about myself in Breakthrough Marketing Secrets where I’ve barely said YOU once. And certainly my you/me ratio failed Perry’s 2 : 1 minimum. And yet…
Sometimes that incredibly personal copy is what people resonate with most!
People want to feel a connection to you. They want you to be human. We’ve moved beyond the era where decades in business drive buying decisions. Now, if you do a heartfelt live video stream on Facebook, you could drive thousands of dollars of business in minutes, if you have the right audience tuning in.
Even WE is tricky business.
One of Gary Bencivenga’s most famous direct mail promotions, Lies, Lies, Lies, was FULL of WE instead of YOU.
But it was WE in an inclusive sense. You and me. We’re in it together. “Why we investors are fed up!”
“Where should WE go out for dinner tonight?” Say that to your spouse, partner, or friend, and they’re not going to think you’re talking just about yourself, they’re going to think you’re in for a good time WITH THEM.
Here’s the thing…
If you’re talking about yourself and completely ignoring the prospect, their wants, needs, and desires, and their humanity… They’re going to tune out.
But if you’re sharing an intimate moment about yourself… Or you’re sharing a relevant story that they can picture themselves in… Or any number of different contexts… You can use I all you want and it will only build your relationship with your customers.
And WE can be even more powerful, because of the way it can be used to position you alongside your prospect…
That said… Everything you sell, market, or advertise needs to solve a problem or fulfill a need, want, or desire of your target market…
And so in your messages, you do need to be thinking about the prospect throughout, and how they’re hearing it through their ears, and seeing it with their eyes.
This has special relevance when it comes to telling stories.
In your marketing, you may find it relevant to tell a personal story. Or a customer story. Or, talk directly to your prospect about the story you create for them — the story of solving their problem.
The good news? Each of these can and should be about your prospect, even though you may almost never use the word YOU in them.
Here are 3 ways to harness the “YOU factor” by telling stories about your prospect — even though only one of them uses the word YOU much at all!
- Make it actually about your prospect.
This is the most simplistic, and likely to result in the highest you/me ratio. You talk to and about your prospect, and the journey your product or service will take them on. This is all about YOU, YOU, YOU.
- Make it about a customer like your prospect.
Maybe you have a great story from a customer who got tremendous benefit from your product or service. This isn’t about your prospect directly, but if they see themselves in this customer, the subconscious message is, “it worked for that person like me, so it will probably work for me, too.”
- Make it about you, when you were like your prospect.
There are a lot of people who started businesses to solve their own problem, and now they solve that problem for others. By telling your own story of overcoming that problem, and how it led to your current offer, you’re actually talking about the prospect while talking about yourself.
There’s a lot of ways to talk to your prospect without beating them over the head with YOU.
It’s an easy novice shortcut to simply count the use of the word YOU versus I and WE. Especially when you have a nifty tool like Perry’s to do the counting for you.
And it’s a novice shortcut to create some kind of rule that says you have to talk about your prospect twice as often as you talk about yourself.
But here’s the thing.
Novice shortcuts are usually based on a rule that’s worth knowing, but that you should feel free to break once you really understand it.
I just ran one of my million-dollar promotions through Perry’s tool, and in it I talked about myself (aka the client) 1.1X more than I talked about the prospect. That made a million. Would it have made multiples if it was more about the prospect? Probably not. Because it would’ve been off-narrative to focus so heavily on the prospect for that one.
Another promo that made a million in under 3 weeks (and was the best in the company’s history) was 1.8 : 1 — I talked about the reader 1.8X more than I talked about myself. Still under the 2+ rule.
There are certainly more examples — but my time is running short so I’ll stop there.
The point is, I’ve made millions for clients breaking the rule.
That’s because it’s NOT about the words used. It’s about the meaning behind them.
And if the meaning is right — if you’re establishing a personal connection and making it clear what’s in it for the prospect — then you’re succeeding.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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