Make It Personal

One of the things that the direct marketing industry has taught us is to always communicate to one person. I know you are writing your story, your novel, your promotional copy, or your television script to be embraced by the masses. But put that out of your head for a moment and just talk to one person. If I’m your target audience, talk to me.

The more personal your communication is, the better. That’s almost always the case. Think about it. You get two letters in the mail. One says “Dear Occupant,” and the other says “Dear David.” Well, assuming your name is David, my bet is you’ll open the more personally addressed envelope every time. If you’re walking down the street and you hear someone say, “hey you guys,” versus someone shouting your name, which one will most likely cause you to stop and turn around? People don’t want to be talked at…they want to be talked to. Yet, I continually read advertisements and book manuscripts that are clearly addressing “people” and not a person.

Tomorrow, when you go to your mailbox and see the Publisher’s Clearing House envelope amidst the pile of bills, does it say, “Dear recipient, Congratulations, one of you four million people receiving this package will win ten million dollars”? Of course not. It says, “Congratulations David! YOU may have won ten million dollars!” It’s not that our friends at PCH are trying to trick us into thinking we are the only one getting this letter. But good direct mail is like good theater. A play or a movie that engages my mind and heart, that draws me into the plot, to the point where I am identifying with the characters, feeling their pain, sharing their joy, will always be a better experience for me that a movie or play that does not draw me in. Am I fooled into thinking the movie is reality? No. But good theater engages me as if I were right there.

There are companies who have now perfected the art of duplicating a complete alphabet that looks just like someone’s handwriting. Now you can receive a completely automated, mass-produced mailing that looks just like it was hand-written by your uncle George from Ohio. This technology was developed precisely to enable companies to send out mass mailings in a way that makes them appear more personal, like a hand-penned letter from a friend. Good speakers have mastered the art of speaking and making eye contact in a way that engages their audience and makes them feel like they are the only person in the room.

As you are crafting your next promotion or penning your next best-seller, remember this simple concept. Talk to one person, and be as personal as you can possibly be. Have someone read your copy first. Let them help you spot phrases and places in your text where you come across like you were speaking to an audience, not a person. Whether you are a dentist or a shoe salesman, the better you are in making your customers feel like they have your complete attention, the more effective you will be.


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