When small business owners wonder if their web, ad, or other copy should be written as “I” or “we”, I think the right answer is neither. The right answer is to refer to yourself, your company, or your product with its proper name. The other right answer is to refer to yourself, your company or your product less often and refer to your customers more often.
Widget’s R Us
I read a comment about the use of first person and third person in Jeffrey Fox’s How to Become a Marketing Superstar: Unexpected Rules That Ring the Cash Register. Fox intelligently makes the case for using third person form in web and marketing material.
Third person form (e.g. “Widgets R Us” instead of “we”) allows you to do two things and leads into a very important third benefit.
- Get your company or product name in front of your readers as often as possible. “we…we….we…” or “I…I…I” are not nearly as effective as “Widgets R Us…Widgets R Us…Widgets R Us” at making a name stick.
- Increase credibility in the mind of your reader. When you hear someone talk about themselves, don’t you automatically take it with a grain of salt, as they say? When you hear someone talking about a third person, that doubt is subconsciously reduced – even if just by a miniscule amount.
No one wants to read about you, but everyone loves to see the word “YOU”.
Reviewing copy for first vs. third person also gave me a chance to see if our company and product website had too much about us and too little about prospective customer benefits.
You can go on and on about how great you, your products, or your services are; but you really need to show what you can do for your customers. Reducing the references to yourself and increasing the use of the word “you” in copy is one way to show that you are in business for your customers.
People love to see references to them, even if with a tangential “you”. Companies that can point to customer benefits naturally find they write less about themselves (no matter if first or third person) and more about their customers.
I took another look at our product copy with the aim to:
1. replace references to “I”, “we”, or “our product” with “Synap Software” and “LeadsOnTrack.com” and
2. talk less about ourselves and let readers see the word “you” more often. (The first was accomplished easily, the later is more difficult).
I just made these changes so do not yet know if it has any impact, but I already like it better.
It is not about you, but it is about “you”.
p.s. One exception to this approach is when you are writing a personal note like a “Letter from Bob”, an entry in a web log, or any piece of writing that is meant to be a personal story or observation. Those, of course, should use first person.
One thought on “It’s Not You, It’s “You””
I use to be a news broadcaster and ‘you’ is one of the most engaging words ‘you’ can use. We’re actually taught to say it more. MerchantCircle is a sight that basically gives small business owners a presence, similar to Myspace. Business owners can blog, (which in this case, they should say ‘we’ or ‘I’ to make it more personal), upload pictures, build coupons and link to other businesses free of charge. MerchantCircle also aggregates business reviews accross the web for businesses to see. Check it out -it’s really helpful.
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