The #1 Rule in Writing Marketing Copy - Don't Break It!

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Copywriting – marketing with written words – has dozens of "rules." They range from keeping your copy "tight" to staying on one topic to avoiding jargon.

But there’s one rule that every marketing guru and copywriting instructor stresses and repeats - and yet I see it broken every day.

 Maybe there's another rule that tops the list, but I really believe it to be the #1 most frequently broken rule of all. Unfortunately, it's the most important rule of all.

It's so important that I first learned it about a century ago, when I took a college course in business writing. It's one of the two specific pieces of information I still remember from those 4 years. marketing letter in the trash

What is it?

Never, ever, ever begin a marketing message with:

  • I
  • We
  • My
  • Our

Why not?

delete buttonTo do so almost guarantees that your letter will be headed to the waste basket before the reader gets past the first line. If you've sent an email, it almost guarantees a fast finger on the delete button.

 If you stop and think about your own reaction to the letters and email you receive, it shouldn't be too hard to understand this cold, hard truth:

 Your prospects don’t care about you.

 They care only about you might do for them.

 So begin your letter with a "you" centered statement or question. Then continue with more about them and their concerns.

 Look at the difference between these two introductory sentences to an expired listing letter:

 "I see that your house just expired off the market unsold." (Yeah, so. What's it to you?)

"Are you wondering why your house didn't sell?" (Yes, I do wonder.)

Later on in the message you''ll need to mention how your service will benefit them.  But even then, keep those words to a minimum. Try very hard to use a form of “you” 3 times more often than any form of “I.”

If you aren’t sure of your ratios, go to your "find" feature and count. Then if need be, go back and re-work the offending sentences to turn the focus back to your reader.

Always remember this: It isn’t about you. Ever. It is always about your prospect and the benefit he or she will gain from reading your letter and acting upon it.

 For more reasons why your copy might not be getting the results you want, see:

 Excessive Adjectives – too Much of a Good Thing."

 Blame Your English Teacher

 Blame Your Mom

 Blame Your Fear of Breaking the Law

 You aren't addressing your prospects' concerns

 You aren't spending enough time

And of course, if you want help with that copywriting, get in touch. Helping agents succeed through the written word is what I do.

Comments (42)

Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

I preach this every chance I get. When you visit a persons web site, it shouldn't be an introduction centered around that person, but what that person can do or does...

Feb 09, 2012 02:19 AM
Dylan Taft
Dylan Taft Broker/Owner Taft Street Realty, Inc. - Woodstock, NY
Ulster County Area Consultant

Thanks for the reminder!  It's very easy to revert back to "I" because in our business we are trying to prove we are better than the competition.  Thanks for sharing!

Feb 09, 2012 02:46 AM
Peter Michelbach
International, IT
i Sell Real Estate

Thank you Marte - will check my blogs and marketing to adopt the GOLDEN YOU RULE. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Feb 09, 2012 03:06 AM
Gabrielle Jeans
WebTech Dezine, Gabrielle Jeans Real Estate Coach - Toronto, ON
Real Estate Web Solution, Real Estate Trainer and Coach

The best advice that applies to any salesperson in any field. Real Estate or not. "It isn’t about you. Ever. It is always about your prospect and the benefit he or she will gain from reading your letter and acting upon it. "

Feb 09, 2012 03:28 AM
Tammy Emineth
Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing - Frenchtown, MT
Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer

Great job Marte and congrats on teh feature!! This is a great reminder and I admit I am so guilty of it, even when writing for others. Thank you for the tip and I am off to change some of my copys for the day! ;o)

Feb 09, 2012 03:51 AM
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

Great suggestions!  Most folks don't have experience with writing marketing content (besides describing a house) and this helps them focus their content to appeal to the vanity of potential clients.

Feb 09, 2012 04:41 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Lenn - I love it! Thanks for the giggle.

Gabe - Good - glad to help.

Michael - We all have a lot to learn. Thankfully, we get to do that every day.

Gita - Thanks - and you're welcome!

Chris - We all have to remind ourselves of the basics now and then. Sometimes things we know well just kind of slip away. (Not just things about marketing, but all kinds of things.)

Barbara - Probably because they're thinking "I want more clients" instead of "More clients need what I can do for them."

Debbie - When you focus on the benefit, you are focusing on the customer and their needs. And I know you do that every single day.

Richie - Keep preaching it!

Taft Street - Yes, that's why it's so natural to do it backwards.

Peter - I like that: The Golden YOU Rule." Thanks!

Gabrielle - It absolutely applies to everyone. Can you imagine walking into a shoe store and being interested if the sales person started telling you about his or her years in the shoe business?

Tammy - Thanks. You share so much good information that I can and do use, I'm glad to have the opportunity to share some back.

Feb 09, 2012 05:33 AM
Mike Warfel
Mike & Rita Warfel Real Estate LLC - Avoca, MI
Associate Broker

You make a very good point.

thank you

Feb 09, 2012 08:14 AM
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Now that's some great advice!                                                             

Feb 09, 2012 11:07 AM
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

Marte, Great advice and easily forgotten.  Wonderful of you to remind us. 

Feb 09, 2012 03:08 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Mike - Thank you.

Eric - and thank you too!

Marge - some might call it nagging... and some (my husband) say that's my best talent.

Feb 09, 2012 03:42 PM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Marte, Love the tips. And so true about the clients caring about you. Especially if they are in a bad situation, they want to know what you are going to do for them. Nice job!

Feb 09, 2012 04:35 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Sandy. It's hard to know that they don't care - and it's not that they don't care and even like you a lot once you've gotten acquainted - but at first all they want to know is how you're going to help them.

Feb 09, 2012 05:24 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

This post should send everyone to their marketing files to double check everything they have ever written!

Feb 11, 2012 03:47 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Sharon - Oh my, that sounds like a LOT of work!

Feb 11, 2012 04:50 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Marte:  My english teacher was the meanest nun on the planet. Even though she's dead I still don't want to envoke her rath! Good point that we often forget, too much I.  That's also a good idea to use the 'find' feature to actually show you the numbers. You might not even know that you're doing it!

Thanks for the reminder.

Feb 11, 2012 10:16 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Lyn - Good idea! She just might be mean enough to come back and haunt you.

Feb 11, 2012 06:52 PM
Ralph Post , Realtor
Suntree, FL
Melbourne Florida - Post Real Estate Group

Marte ,  You gave us all such great information to think about and use.

Thank You  Ralph

Sep 09, 2018 08:51 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Ralph Post - you dug up a real oldie, and reminded me that it might be time to repeat that message!

Sep 09, 2018 11:01 AM
Michael Guercio

This kind of writing is a real challenge. And need to follow many rules. Moreover, for me, writing is not an easy task at all. Recently I needed to do my economics homework and I decided to delegate this task. It's great that there are qualified sources to which you can turn for help.

Sep 28, 2022 02:35 AM