When "Conversational" Copy Fails

You have undoubtedly heard of the "Rule of You": To write effective, conversational copy, you must use the word "you" a lot.

Well, this rule isn’t true … at least not in the way it’s stated.

Instead of blindly peppering your copy with "you," you need to understand that your goal is to make a personal connection with your prospect … a connection that persuades him to listen to what you have to say.

It’s hard to make this connection if you start talking about yourself, your experiences, and your ideas right from the start of the letter. You have to grab the prospect’s interest and have him feel that you understand his needs, wants, fears, irritations, dreams, and desires.

That’s how the Rule of You started. Unfortunately, many copywriters got the idea that the only way to make this connection was to use "you" early and often in the promotion … without regard to two important underlying copywriting principles that we’ll get to shortly.

But first, let’s look at some copy that has lots of "yous" in it. Ask yourself if this copy helps establish rapport with the prospect:

"Have you stopped procrastinating about making your life healthier? Are you ready to finally take control of your health and stop depending on other people to do it for you? Now is the time for you to do the right thing and … "

Six of those 42 words are some form of the word "you" – about 14% of the copy. But did that make you feel the copywriter wanted to speak with you personally? Did it make you want to read the rest of the letter?

According to Michael Masterson, the Rule of You is nothing more than a crutch to help ordinary copywriters. Instead, they should be following two universal selling principles: the Principle of Benefit and the Principle of Intimacy.

The Principle of Benefit

The Principle of Benefit states that the best way to sell any product or service is to talk about all the advantages it will give your prospect.

We will discuss this principle in detail in next week’s Golden Thread. Today, let’s concentrate on …

The Principle of Intimacy

The Principle of Intimacy depends on establishing the additional benefit for the prospect of becoming intimate with you, the seller.

Have you ever bought something simply because you liked the salesman or you wanted to reward him for his courtesy and help? We all have. That’s the Principle of Intimacy in action.

One effective way to use this approach is to open your pitch by offering to give your prospect something free or special.

"You’ve been selected for special membership in the National Holistic Health Society. We don’t offer this honor to many people, but we want you to … "

Another very effective approach is to describe circumstances that bind the two of you together in a mutual experience – either good or bad.

"Remember the excitement we felt when we … ? Well, I just had an experience that made me relive that time … "

Or …

"When the Doctor announced that I’d suffered a heart attack, I knew at once my life had changed … "

By making a personal connection with your prospect, you can keep his attention without using the word "you." You have given him a reason to empathize with you … to believe you. You have given him assurance that you know how he feels.

Certainly, you can and should bring your prospect back into the center of the promotion and make him and his life the focus. And when you do, you won’t be using the word "you" simply for the sake of using it. You’ll be using it because you’re talking directly and intimately to him in a personal conversation about him and his needs … needs that you and your product can fill.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: September 6, 2005

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