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How To Make Your Marketing More Personal

by Trey Ryder

When I entered high school, I was assigned my first student number, 44751. On that day I transitioned from being a person to a series of digits -- and it has been down that slippery slope ever since. From account numbers to case numbers, from credit card numbers to social security numbers, everything we do reinforces that we are numbers, not individuals.

Yet successful marketing depends on building close, personal relationships between two people. Here are 14 steps to make your marketing more personal.


Step #1: Write you-oriented copy, between “you” (the reader) and “me” (the writer).  When you write a legal brief, you use specific language that lawyers and judges understand. Legal writing is a style all its own. Marketing writing is a unique style as well.

While first person (I) and third person (he, she) might be appropriate for school assignments, in marketing it’s important that you change the focus to you, the person reading your message.

For example, which statement do you find more personal?

“When a lawyer writes a legal brief, the lawyer uses…”

Or -- “When you write a legal brief, you use...”

By using “you,” the reader becomes involved in the action. You are no longer the lawyer who is written about at arm’s length. You are right there -- part of the story.

Marketing writing is designed to attract you (the reader) in a friendly, personal, involving way. You have a problem. You want a solution. I can help you solve your problem or achieve your goal.

In third person, "his" problems or "her" benefits may not be too important, but when they are "your" problems and "your" benefits, you pay more attention. Use second person "you" and you’ll make your writing more involving--more persuasive--more alive.

Step #2: Write the way you talk. Always use down-to-earth, everyday language. Ask yourself, would most of my prospects understand what I’m saying? When you write in plain English, you increase readership. And the better your readership, the better your response. Look for ways to warm up your copy -- to make it more friendly and personal. Further, when you write the way you talk, your writing sounds as if you’re speaking, which makes your writing even more personal.

Step #3: Use short words.  Long words are harder to read and understand than short words. As a result, they sap your reader’s desire to continue reading. Your reader sets down your materials, fully intending to get back to them later. Sometime. Maybe. Well, I guess not. And your materials end up in the round file.

Short words sound friendly because most people speak in short words. Short words keep readers reading because they don’t have to translate long words into short words they can understand.

Don’t be concerned about the number of words you use. People often think it=s more efficient to use one long word in place of three or four short words. But three or four short words are much easier to understand and digest than one long word. So don’t look at word count. Instead, look at word length. If you can replace one long word with two or three shorter words, it’s almost always a good idea to do so.

Step #4: Keep your message simple.  Every day your prospects suffer from information overload. They screen out complicated messages. A simple message is the only message that has any chance of getting through to your prospective clients. The simpler your message, the more personal it appears to your reader. And the more likely you are to get a positive response.


Step #5: Write a personal message from you over your signature.  Whether it’s a quick note or a business letter, when prospects open an envelope -- or go to your web site -- they’re looking for the you-to-me communication of a personal message.

Often, we see this example in catalogs. Near the beginning or at the centerfold, the company’s president takes a moment to greet you, thank you for shopping, and wishes you well. In nearly all cases, you’ll see his photo next to the message, and his signature below -- often, just his first name because that appears more personal and friendly.

Step #6: Include your biography.  The more prospects know about you, the more they trust you -- and the stronger relationship they feel with you. In your biography, write where you went to college, where you’re licensed to practice, the courts to which you’re admitted, professional memberships, and so on. The more you include, the more personal is the impression you make on your prospect. 

Step #7: Feature your photo.  Have your photo taken by a professional photographer. Not a portrait shot, but a publicity “mug shot.” A good photo -- with direct eye contact and a warm, engaging smile -- can do wonders for your marketing. In fact, a friendly photo is almost as good as being in the room with your prospect. Your photo makes your marketing materials and web site much more appealing and personal.

Step #8: Set up a web site for you and your practice areas.  If you’re one of several lawyers in the firm, consider a web site just for you. This looks friendly and personal to your prospect, rather than what your prospect may believe is a large, impersonal law firm.


Step #9: Use an e-mail address that contains your name.  When prospects see that they’re communicating directly with you, they feel personally connected and you increase their sense of relationship.

Step #10: Give prospects your direct dial number and other easy ways to reach you. The more accessible you make yourself to clients and prospects, the closer kinship they feel with you.

Step #11: Invite prospects to call or e-mail with their questions.  When clients know you’ll respond to their questions without requiring them to visit your office, you increase their feeling of a close, personal relationship.

Step #12: Return phone calls promptly.  When you do, you make a powerful, positive impression. When you don’t, the impression you make is more negative than you might think. A prompt return call shows clients that they have your personal attention.

Step #13: Use stamps on outgoing envelopes.  Any mechanical method that applies postage tends to depersonalize the envelope. But when you use stamps, you draw attention to the fact that the postage was applied by a person.

Step #14: Don’t use mailing labels.  Most software gives you mail-merge options that allow you to print individual addresses on envelopes. Almost anything is more personal than a mailing label.

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