How You Refer to Customers Internally Influences Your Copy

by | Feb 17, 2020 | Content Marketing, Copywriting, Digital Marketing

Be careful how you talk and refer to customers internally–it may influence the kind of copy you produce.

Just because customers can’t help what you refer to them as–be it “leads,” “prospects,” or otherwise–that doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by that act of labeling.

I’m talking about how you refer to customers internally and why the words you use might inadvertently impact your finished copy, which could send the wrong message.

And what I mean by that can best be shown in the medical industry, where customers are referred to as “patients.”

Sounds normal, right?

Well… in this case, patients are defined by their medical condition. In other words, they’re characterized by what’s WRONG with them.

When it comes to marketing, actual living, breathing people are referred to as “leads” and “prospects.” They’re defined in terms of what those people can do for the business.

Don’t even get me started on the concept of a marketing funnel. The funnel itself is about efficiency. It’s a tool that streamlines the greatest number of people into a forced march (or climb) down (or up) a conversion pathway.

This insight is important as to why choosing your words carefully to refer to customers internally matters for conversions.

Need proof? experienced an +8% conversion rate by carefully selecting the words they used in their marketing copy. This is no small feat– even a +1% rise in the conversion rate in their industry is huge.

But to understand why choosing the right words is important, you need to know why some marketers would use a common marketing language to begin with.

Following the Leader is a Natural Instinct

There are many reasons why marketers would use language of the “leads” and “prospects” sort. For one, it’s easier to deal with people if you know them only in one way. You don’t know their stories. You just know them by the name or number assigned to them. It’s not personal, just business.

Influence; The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini

That’s where Dr. Robert B. Cialdini comes in. He’s the top mind on the psychology of human behavior in terms of influence. He explains in his book, Influence; The Psychology of Persuasion, that this behavior (for instance, using a common marketing language) is an example of the Principle of Consensus.

The Principle of Consensus is, more or less, a “follow the herd” mentality.

He says,

“it [the Principle of Consensus] applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a situation given the degree that we see others performing it.”

So if every other marketer is doing it (using a common marketing language), it must be the way things are done. It must be correct.

And for you, as a marketer, leveraging the psychological Principle of Consensus is crucial. But just as important is to know when to step beyond it. For example, consider Southern University of New Hampshire.

Over there, they refer to students–their clientele–as “customers.” They’re bucking the tradition of schools calling their customers “students.” Despite the fact that this is a practice that’s been working for them, it reduces their students to no more than dollar signs–a prize to be won.

The point is that once you start treating your leads and prospects as ONLY “leads” and ”prospects” it can lead to treating them as cash, not people. And that’s where Michelle Pariza-Wacek comes in with the Love-Based Copywriting Method.

Love-Based Copywriting Method Offers a New Way

In the Love-Based Copywriting Method, by Michelle Pariza-Wacek, she calls attention to the impersonal way marketers refer to people in the funnel.

Pariza-Wacek says that:

I don’t like “leads” because it depersonalizes your prospects–and then once you’ve depersonalized your prospects, it’s not a leap then to depersonalize your customers. You might even start thinking of them as ‘walking wallets.’ (And once you start thinking of your customers as ‘walking wallets’, it’s a lot easier to use fear-based direct response tactics since you’re only thinking about trying to squeeze as much money out of them as you can–you don’t really care about how they feel.)

Pariza-Wacek goes on to mention that using the word, “customer,” is fine–she doesn’t have a problem with it–but she prefers “ideal clients” or “ideal customers.” This is because you want to attract best-fit leads.

To attract leads that fit your company the best, you need to pick the right words in your copy. In the case of Persado, they’ve built an entire business out of choosing the right words (using AI) to boost the effectiveness of the copywriting of their clients.

More information on Pariza-Wacek’s copywriting method and other tips on choosing the right words can be found here.

In terms of marketing campaign examples that have been effective through choosing the right words, consider Dell. Before they went to Persado for help choosing the right words, Dell was encountering difficulty in creating copy that was engaging.

They went to Persado for help. The result? A +45% uptick in conversions.

Choosing the right words is powerful. Customers will remember the way you made them feel when they read your words.

The point here is that how you refer to customers influences the copy that’s churned out. Although using AI to help you pick the right words can take out the guesswork, the Love-Based Copywriting Method can transform your copy by helping to choose the right words.

Using the Right Words

While it may seem like common sense to use the right words in your marketing copy, it’s not easy. Discovery Channel found this out the hard way, by using ineffective words in a banner ad. They advertised an exhibition, but left out a persuasive CTA–a CTA that would have done well if they had used the right words.

Let’s pick a part this ad to show what I mean.

The ad does everything right, except for the CTA. More concerning, though, is precisely the CTA: “Click here to buy tickets.” Why should you? Does Discovery Channel think so little of their customers that they’ll blindly pay for anything?

And while there’s nothing technically wrong with this CTA, it reflects Pariza-Wacek’s theory. Discovery Channel was so focused on what they can do for the customers (the exhibition) and what the customers can do for them (buy tickets), that they forgot to provide compelling motivation why customers should follow through.

In other words, Discovery Channel was treating their customers as the “walking wallets” Pariza-Wacek described.

It’s vital to recognize why some marketers, who don’t know better, refer to humans in marketing speak at their jobs. Equally important is to do your part to change the way you do at whichever level is practical and possible; in other words, treat your customers with dignity–use the right words–even internally.


That’s a great place to start. The Love-Based Copywriting Method is even better. Marketing copy is only as effective as the way you treat your customers inside and outside of your business. Remember that.

How have you altered the way your company sees customers? Send us a message in the chat below to tell us your successes and challenges.

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Marketing Agency

MESH is a digital marketing agency that has pioneered Account-Based Marketing via our proprietary Outcome Driven Marketing (ODM) methodology. We keep our focus on tightly integrating (or MESHing) lead generation, inbound, and outbound methodologies. We help you understand the hidden levers that impact your customers’ buying decision process, develop the right marketing strategy for your unique business case, and effectively execute and measure all aspects of your Account-Based Marketing program.

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