The single biggest persuasive word in the English Language?  

“You.”  

Yep. We’re a self-centered, self serving bunch of egocentrics, us humans. It’s all about us. Except when it’s about you.  

Let me explain.  

One of the most often quoted marketing principles, based on an alleged study from Yale university is that the word “you” is the most powerful word in sales copy. Whether or not that study ever happened or it’s just an urban myth, there’s no doubt that email marketing providers provide email personalization for a reason: people love to read their own name. So it seems fair to say that “you” is an important concept in marketing.  

But there are a couple of simple rules you need to follow if you plan on using this technique correctly.  

First, you need to understand just why you need to use the word. It’s to point out benefits to your potential customers. You need to identify what they are looking for and what will help them, find a link between the two and relate it to them in words that they understand.  

That’s why sales pages and About Us pages that start off with “What we do…” tend to fare badly.  

How do you turn what benefit you provide on its head? You simply turn it into benefit for your reader and start the sentence with their interest in mind.  

“We provide the most efficient vacuum cleaners in history” is not a You sentence and is unlikely to convert readers to buyers in the same way as is likely from the introduction: “You hate it when your house is like a zoo. Dog hair everywhere. Your youngest just got home and dumped his muddy football boots on the hall carpet again. The only thing that’s going to work in a tough situation like that is a vacuum cleaner that’s made specifically to handle animal hairs and mud….”  

See how the features offered by the vacuum cleaner are turned into benefits, and turned around so that the focus is on the consumer?  

This will only get you so far. While it’s important to focus on your reader and what you can do for them, it’s a mistake to maintain your entire focus on them. You’d be pretty unnerved on a date if the other person refused to talk about themselves and maintained direct eye contact with you all night. At least, I hope you would.  

In the same way, there’s only a short time before your reader will start to wonder who you are and why they should listen to you. That’s when you need to break away from concentrating on them and start to introduce yourself.  

The rule of thumb for introducing yourself is to be indirect – in a way that uses third party recommendation, such as testimonials. Testimonials provide social proof, but really they say “You should listen to this person because…” putting the unspoken “You” back into the conversation.  

Try weeding out the word “we” from your sales copy – even from your About page, and replace it with You wherever you can provide an attractive benefit for your reader.