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The most important word in marketing

“It’s all about you”, sang McFly. Maybe those boys knew more about marketing than we thought. Because there’s a truth there - the most important word in marketing is ‘you’.

Companies forget this all too frequently, and do so at their peril. It’s not difficult for a company to spout about how great it is. It’s another prospect entirely to convey it in a way that makes the reader relate and care.

As another song reminds us, the difference is ‘you’. Adding the word ‘you’ into sentences makes them personal. It tends to make them direct, active sentences too, which means they are easier to understand (and much better than passive ones which can sound disengaged and aloof). 

What’s more, the discipline of writing ‘from me to you’ forces the writer to make the content appealing and relevant. The rule in marketing is to talk benefits, not features. 

That’s because features are about ‘me’ – look what I’ve done to make my product better. But benefits are about ‘you’ – look how you, the customer, stands to gain.

The reason ‘you’ works so well is down to human nature (and understanding human nature is the most valuable marketing skill of all). We all want to hear about ourselves and read about ourselves. 

Not just for an ego boost: more importantly we all like, and need, to feel acknowledged and understood. Fulfilling that need is why the word ‘you’ can be such a powerful marketing tool. And of course everyone always wants to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ 

So is it a magic ingredient? Sprinkle the word ‘you’ liberally across your brochure or website for guaranteed results? Absolutely not.

The concept of ‘you’ only works when you have a strong understanding of your audience. This has to be more than a notional awareness of their role or function. 

You need to know what truly drives the person; what they love and hate; what challenges they face; what matters to them most. Marketing is about building a bridge between a company and its markets – and in that bridge, the keystone is a deep understanding of ‘you’.

In the construction industry this is often made complicated by the multiplicity of audiences that could be reading your material. Who exactly is ‘you’? - the architect, main contractor, subcontractor, client? 

They may all be downloading the same brochure, or reading the same website. Each audience will be seeking different benefits from your product or service, although there may be some areas of similarity. 

Where you can, it makes sense to have separate materials for distinct audiences, so you can focus on the most relevant benefits. That’s not always possible or practical though. 

In these situations ‘you’ can still work, if skilfully used - the phrase ‘your building’ can apply as much to the architect as the client, for example.  But take care to remember those multiple audiences, and structure your text so it’s clear who you are speaking to. 

Annette Harpham is a chartered marketer and owner of SharpEdge Marketing, a marketing consultancy which specialises in B2B, manufacturing and construction marketing and copywriting. She is also a member of the CIMCIG committee.


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