News article

Don’t “we” all over yourself

Does the headline of this article make you uncomfortable?

It’s supposed to. And not because of… well, you know.

No, this is all about business owners. More specifically, it’s about business owners and their websites.

Do you own a business? Go and look at the homepage of your business’s website right now, then come back here.

Okay, now let’s play bingo. See how many of the following sentences, or ones that look remarkably like them, you noticed on your site:

  • We want clients to be comfortable and relaxed working with us, and be confident they’ve made a good choice.
  • We pride ourselves on taking the time to really understand our clients.
  • We are fully committed to providing a bespoke, personalised and comprehensive service to all our clients.

Spot any? Got a full house? You’re not alone.

Too many websites devote too much of their precious online real estate to that little two-letter word. “We have been established for more than 20 years.” “We aim to offer only the very best products.” We, we, we, we, all the way home.

Imagine if your business was a person. How annoying a conversationalist would that person be if they did nothing but boast and brag about themselves all the time?

(Side note: your business is a person, and that person is you.)

To sound less conceited, stop “we”-ing all over your website. And to do that, just follow a few simple ground rules laid down by history’s greatest marketers and businesspeople.

You need to answer the only question your client has: “What’s in it for me?”

An annual salary of $185,000 back in 1907 would be equivalent to a staggering $6.05 million a year today. You’d have to be incredibly successful and respected to command that kind of fee, and Claude C. Hopkins was.

Hopkins’s pioneering advertising strategies focused on demonstrating how the product or service being advertised benefited the customer, and not the other way around. In his classic book Scientific Advertising, Hopkins wrote:

“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake.”

That fact holds true in 2023. And your business’s website is the place where it’s most important to get it right.

Before you’ve pressed even one finger to the keyboard to start writing, remember to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Marketing’s cardinal sin is when someone reads something you’ve written about your business and thinks “So what?”

It’s not enough to just make the right impression, though. You need to make the right first impression, and that means giving your content a better beginning.

You can always, always rewrite a sentence so it doesn’t start with the “W” word

When David Ogilvy joined the advertising agency he’d later take over, he was a 38-year-old college dropout with careers as a farmer, diplomat, salesman, and chef behind him. In 1989, the company he’d built was bought for $864 million, becoming the biggest marketing communications firm in the world in the process.

Ogilvy was infamous for his outspoken views on leadership and business, but he was also a supremely gifted copywriter. In his 1983 book Ogilvy On Advertising, he shared this golden nugget:

“Do not address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing each of them a letter […] One human being to another.”

There’s nothing more important to a business owner than their business, so it’s understandable that so many business websites are filled with proud proclamations. But the client reading those statements is on their own, hunched over a screen in their home or office, so a more empathetic approach is needed.

Remember those three sentences from earlier? Notice how they all started with that word? Let’s see how easy it is to improve that:

Don’t write that… …write this.
We want clients to be comfortable and relaxed working with us, and be confident they’ve made a good choice. While working with us, you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed, and be confident you’ve made a good choice.
We pride ourselves on taking the time to really understand our clients. As our client, you’ll deal with people who pride themselves on taking the time to really understand you and your circumstances.
We are fully committed to providing a bespoke, personalised and comprehensive service to all our clients. You’ll enjoy a bespoke, personalised, and comprehensive service with us.

Rewriting like this can make a sentence longer. Or shorter. Or the same length. But it always makes it more effective.

If you really want to unlock your website’s potential, though, don’t just rewrite a few sentences. Zoom out.

You should think hard about the true purpose of each page on your website

Joseph Sugarman was a mail-order revolutionary, making a small fortune selling pocket calculators, digital watches, sunglasses, and walkie-talkies through catalogues and TV infomercials. Later, he made a second fortune hosting seminars attended by business owners from across the globe who paid top dollar to learn his secrets.

In 2007, Sugarman published the teachings from his sales workshops as The Adweek Copywriting Handbook. In it, he talks about the importance of creating “harmony” with potential customers to capture and hold their attention:

“As long as the reader keeps saying yes or believes what you are saying is correct and continues to stay interested, you are going to be harmonising with [them].”

Your greatest window of opportunity for building and retaining a connection with the right client is when they visit your website. If they navigate their way through page after page and realise the focus is consistently on the wrong thing, you’ve blown your chance.

Case in point: your “About us” page. Guess what? It’s not about you, it’s about them – the customer.

And on it goes. Your fees  or pricing page shouldn’t be you telling people how you charge and why. Instead, it’s a place to show your client what they get for their money.

Your client journey or sales process page isn’t you simply explaining the steps you follow when dealing with customers. It’s showing them how they can save time or effort or money with your support.

Even your careers page could and should be turned on its head. Rather than using it to talk about all your impressive achievements, help candidates visualise their life at your company, the perks, responsibilities, how you’ll nurture their talent.

So, the trillion dollar question: does your site fall short? Want to know what to do about your little problem? Help is at hand.

You have someone to turn to if you feel embarrassed

Listen: don’t worry. It’s more common than you might think, and it happens to the best of us.

That said, if you want to stop “we” from becoming a stain on your business’s website, you’re in the right place.

Email or call 0115 8965 300, and you’ll get the support you need to spare your blushes.

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