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Nine Common Phrases Made Great by Using 'You' Instead of 'We'

by Tim Riesterer  |  
February 12, 2013

When the littlest piggy cries, "Wee, wee, wee" all the way home, that isn’t a good thing. And neither is saying “we, we, we” all over your website, campaigns, and marketing and sales messages.

If you could do only one thing this year that could make an instant difference in your messaging, you’d replace all your “we phrasing” with “you phrasing.” You phrasing is more effective because it makes sure your prospect or customer is at the center of your story and engaged in the conversation.

Why Use 'You' Instead of 'We'?

Using the word “you” instead of “we” helps transfer ownership to your prospects and customers because it causes their minds to unconsciously “try out” your solutions as you describe what they can do with it. Your audience member is no longer just a passive listener; he will be more actively engaged in your ideas and your story. In fact, you probably noticed I’m already using the technique in this blog post to gain your attention and give you ownership over implementing this strategy!

Still skeptical?

You phrasing has been proven to have a measurable impact. Researchers in Tempe, Arizona tested attitudes toward cable television. They used two different scripts to sell the cable services---one using the third person and one using you phrasing. Researchers found that when you phrasing was implemented, it doubled the number of cable sales. Now, that’s impressive!

Start Changing Phrases Today

Once you start practicing with you phrasing, you’ll find yourself in your customers’ and prospects’ world more than you have ever been. That will help you connect your story to your customers’ story in a powerful way---one that they’ll want to listen to because you’re addressing their needs and concerns, and not your company’s.

Here’s a list of common phrases that can become more effective by using you phrasing:

  • “Our company allows you to… ”

  • “Next, I’m going to… ”

  • “We need to be able to… ”

  • “What if I could show you… ”

Now, see if you notice a difference in these phrases...

  • “What you’ll be able to do is… ”

  • “Next, you’ll be able to… ”

  • “You need to be able to… ”

  • “What if you could… ”

  • "What you can do is... "

The difference is subtle but powerful. By using you phrasing, you are helping your prospects’ and customers’ unconscious minds feel like they’re participating. In fact, you phrasing isn’t just a technique;  it should be your mindset. You phrasing forces you to live in your prospects' and customers' world, the place they need you to care about and understand if you want to close more deals with them.

Using "you" instead of "we" is a simple and quick change, but one that will have notable results if you apply it correctly. So, next time you’re creating a marketing campaign or other marketing communications content, use the word “you” to capture the attention of your audience. By doing so, you’ll make them want to consider making a change and to pick you.
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Tim Riesterer is chief marketing officer and SVP of strategic consulting for Corporate Visions. He is also the co-author of Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing's Impact on Selling.

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  • by Cheryl Sigman Tue Feb 12, 2013 via blog

    I have been trying to redo the front page of our website to include phrasing that would attract more people to review our website. Thank you for this tidbit of information about using the word "you" in our marketing speak. You are absolutely right. The customer is the most important person in our business.

  • by Malissa Kelsch Tue Feb 12, 2013 via blog

    Thank you. I really do feel this will help.

  • by Kip Meacham Tue Feb 12, 2013 via blog

    You mean you really believe this?


    I completely agree with this approach, and will be making some copy changes...

    I would note the one case I've consciously done the exact opposite--when delivering a sermon or motivational message to an audience. The "we" instead of the "you" recognizes we're all working toward the objective of the message being delivered. It also prevents the audience from perceiving the messenger as positioning myself as "better" than the audience.


  • by Gemma Holloway Wed Feb 13, 2013 via blog

    This is quite an old, established technique yet it surprises me the amount of companies (in particular sales teams) which still don't implement this. I think people have finally got to grips with benefit focused selling as opposed to feature focused selling but they still do this from a 'we' perspective rather than 'you' phrasing.

    Very good post!

  • by Joe Wozny Thu Feb 14, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for the tips. I plan to tweet this so others can gain from your insights - since as another commenter points out, it's easy to forget.
    Joe Wozny
    Author of The Digital Dollar; Sustainable Strategies for Online Success

  • by TraiaN Tue Feb 19, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for this post Tim! Great advice and, I have to admit, a hard one to follow. I am not a salesman but I kind of understand how difficulty it is to get away from "you" and "I".

    As a personal experiment, I've tried one day to not use the word "no". You should try it too :) - it's amazing to realized that it's almost impossible to achieve.

  • by Christina Tue Feb 26, 2013 via blog

    Wow! Thank you! It's so hard to explain to clients the importance of "you." Your sample phrases are top shelf! Thanks again! Definitely a "share-worthy" post!

  • by Ben Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    Hmm. I'm sure this works in some markets (e.g. the US, young demographic), but as a middle-aged Brit, when I read copy like that it puts me off. It's hard to define, but my local friends might comment on such text sounding "too American/Californian/in-your-face" etc. So conversely, if you're trying to sell to the UK, you might find a more subdued approach works better. Then again, the young generation here are more susceptible to this style, so it all depends who your target is.

  • by Andrew Rudin Wed Feb 27, 2013 via blog

    I'd like to agree, but can't. Sure, like many people, I like Mom, America, and apple pie. And being "you-centric" is so much more acceptable these days than being "me-centric." But put yourself in the prospect's shoes. At what point does all this "you-centric" stuff become over-the-top?

    The question is useful because it happens. I can't tell you how many presentations have been directed toward me as a buyer in which the vendor failed to impart even the faintest notion why he or she is even WORTH talking to. For me, that point comes when the thought bubble over my head contains the statement, "Enough questions about me and my business. Get to the point! What the [expletive] do you guys even do?"

    Too many salespeople are shy about communicating what they do. "Telling isn't selling." That's nonsense. You have to know what to say, when, and how. And done right, "me-centricity" isn't always bad.

  • by Mike Thu Apr 4, 2013 via blog

    The headline says "nine common phrases", but the article only lists four common phrases with five suggestions for other ways of saying them. I paid attention for nine common phrases and only got four. I want my attention back.

  • by Shawn Fri Oct 25, 2013 via blog

    I agree, this approach has some definite strengths, but as a customer, who are you to tell me what I can do, or what I need, or how to do something? Aren't you limiting what I might be able to do with your services if your presumptuous enough to assume you know what I need, or what my concerns are?

  • by Tim Riesterer Mon Dec 23, 2013 via blog

    Ben and Shawn, Your conscious brain is reacting and may disagree with this approach, but 'you' phrasing happens at the sub-conscious level in your audience. If done right, you will still sound natural, but you'll notice a more engaged response. It literally wakes a part of the brain that says, whoa, you're talking to me? I guess I need to reckon with this as a dialogue instead of a monologue.

  • by Tim Riesterer Mon Dec 23, 2013 via blog

    Thanks, Andrew... see my reply above. This has to look and sound natural. When you focus on 'you phrasing' something literally clicks in the reader, viewer or audience's brain that forces them to deal with what is being said vs. being able to keep an arm's length view. Even as you talk about your own stuff, this is an important tool for bringing them into the story.

  • by Tim Riesterer Mon Dec 23, 2013 via blog

    Ha... good one. I don't get to write the headlines, that honor goes to mprofs... but, there were five examples not four.

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