It’s arguably the most important word in the copywriter’s arsenal. It ranks right at the top with words like “free,” “new” and “savings.”
I’m talking about “you.”
“You” is the word that gets your prospect’s attention and keeps them involved. As Herschell Gordon Lewis says in The Art of Writing Copy, “Unless the reader regards himself as the target of your message, benefit can’t exist. Benefit demands a ‘We/You’ relationship.”
While the “We” in the “We/You” relationship is important, it’s better implied than communicated literally. If your goal is to put prospects first, then it’s best to have the “you’s” far exceed the “we’s.”
It’s the “you’s” that matter to prospects. They’re your workhorse for communicating your message and include all derivatives such as “your,” “yours,” “yourself,” “you’re,” and “you’ll.”
What makes “you” so powerful? For one thing, it addresses your readers directly. In effect, it says “Hey you,” which is much harder to ignore than “Hey somebody.”
Say “Hey you” in a crowded room and a lot of heads will turn. Say “Hey somebody” and a few heads might turn.
While your copy won’t actually say “Hey you,” it can clearly identify to whom you’re talking. Once you have your audience’s attention, use “you” to help keep it.
Why does “you” get and hold attention? For one thing, it’s personal. It’s used in personal conversation every day. What do you think? How was your weekend? You’ll be glad to know …
When people say these things to you, they’re bound to get your attention and involvement. After all, they’re interested in your opinion. They’re interested in the things you do. They have something to tell you that will make you happy.
That’s the goal of you-oriented copy. Address your audience directly, personally and in terms of their interests. Be conversational and “you” will pop up in the copy naturally.
It was mentioned earlier that “you” is a workhorse. A classic example is contained in “The Do-It-Yourself Direct Mail Handbook” by Murray Raphel and Ken Erdman. They highlight a “Newsweek” magazine subscription letter used for nearly two decades.
The subscription letter was written by direct mail expert Ed McLean, who used “you” nearly 30 times on the first page alone. More than 100 million copies of the letter were mailed, a testament to its effectiveness.
Try counting the “you’s” (and “you” derivatives) in your copy. Compare them with the number of “we’s” and first-person derivatives. If the “you’s” don’t outnumber the “we’s,” consider reworking your copy.
Can you overdo “you”? Yes.
If you load your copy with “you’s” but forget the benefits, your message will have a phony ring.
“You” can’t save you if there’s nothing meaningful to offer your audience. Likewise, it will help put you over the top if there is.
(c) 2005 Neil Sagebiel