“You” and “Your” vs. “We” and “Our”

Whenever I’m called upon to offer a critique on or advice about a company or consultant’s copy – whether it’s on a web site, in a brochure, an ad, a blog, or whatever – the first thing I do is read through the copy to see whether the focus is on “we/me” or “you/your.” Most of the copy I look at is the former. A quick, easy and relatively painless way to improve it is to make it focus on the latter – “you/your.”

There is some good, audience-focused copy out there. There is also some not-so-good, me/we focused copy out there. Usually (but not always) the me/we copy is written by “insiders” – people within the organization, often the owners/principles. They often simply have a tough time focusing not on what they have to offer and what makes their product/service so great (after all, they are understandably proud of their product or service!), but on what the audience might be interested in.

In copywriting there’s an old acronym – WIIFM – that stands for “What’s in it for me?” That’s the question, from the prospect or reader’s point of view, that copywriters are taught to focus on when writing copy for any audience.

Most copywriters grow to do this instinctively, but they are sometimes (okay, often!) challenged by clients, bosses and internal customers, who don’t have that same perspective and shape all of their key copy points from the internal point of view. This can be particularly prevalent when writing for technically-oriented products/services. Do I really care what exactly is inside my computer or do I care how what’s inside will give me the functionality I need – ability to store lots of stuff, open programs quickly, etc. ? Now, of course, how much detail I require will be driven by my demo/psychographics. But, the point – as always – is you have to know your audience and you have to write to their needs/interests. It’s not about you–it’s about them!

The ability to translate internally-focused product or service-related features into externally-focused benefits is critical in terms of convincing prospects that you have something they may need – or better yet, something they can’t live without.

Getting rid of “we” and “our” and focusing on benefits (“what’s in it for me?”) are important first steps in improving or developing great copy. Not the only steps, though.

Next step: positioning what you have to offer against “other available alternatives.” More about that later.

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