etting your tone of voice right can be the key difference that helps you to stand out from your competitors, especially in a crowded market. By being consistent and expressing your brand’s personality you can build up a trusted relationship with your customer. This trust then leads to the ability to influence and persuade.
Usually (and a little confusingly, if you ask me), tone of voice refers to written words. This might be web content, emails, social media, packaging or ad copy, depending on how you communicate with your customers. Big brands like Wendy’s, Apple, Nike, and ASOS all use their tone of voice to help them stand out in the crowd — especially on social media where it’s all about personality. Even some less millennial-friendly brands have a specific and strong tone of voice that resonates throughout their written content. Once you figure out what the right tone is, what really expresses your brand, then don’t forget to tap into great social media features like videos. Short stories on social media can easily display who’s behind the brand, what the brand stands for, why your brand is exactly what your audience is looking for.
But, how do you find your tone of voice? And how do you keep it consistent, but evolve at the same time? Here’s my top tips to help you find your brand’s tone of voice, so that you can use it consistently and confidently in your written copy to support your sales:
1. Think about your company values and culture
Why was the company set up? What’s its purpose and ultimate aim? What’s it like to work there? If you could summarize it in 5 words or less, what would you say? Knowing your brand’s WHY really is the start of it all. Knowing your brand’s WHY allows you to determine how your brand should “sound” and what its “personality” is like. And, don’t do this alone! Speak to the other people who work at your company to get their thoughts, take a look at existing content and learn about who the brand is before you try to work out its tone of voice. Think about how the brand wants to make customers feel, what words describe the brand and how you would like customers to react to your message.
2. Think about your audience
We talk about audience so much because they’re so important. Take a look at how your audience speak to one another. How do they expect to interact with you as a brand? There’s no point in using the latest social media speak if your audience are mostly over 65, or being really formal if you’re a fun brand with a young audience. Do you want to come across as professional and business-like or casual and friendly? If you really want to get to know your audience, think about getting a focus group together (that reflects your target demographic and the voice of your audience). This could help you to make sure that your words feel more natural and genuine to your customers.
3. How are you going to say it?
Do you need to use a lot of really specific technical terms? Or is everyday language actually going to resonate better with your reader? It’s important not to alienate your audience, but equally important not to over-simplify and run the risk of patronizing them. Are you going to be super-salesy in your copy? Is that right for the audience or would they prefer a more relaxed approach that’s less focused on sales? Don’t forget language too — who are you trying to communicate to and do you need to translate content for your audience? If your audience are mostly Spanish speakers, then it makes sense to create content in Spanish.
4. Healthy competition
There’s nothing wrong with checking out how your competitors speak to their audience. This can really help you to work out what customers expect of a brand. It can also help you spot a gap in the market that will allow you to differentiate. It might even help you to work out some things that you definitely don’t want to do with your content.
5. What’s in it for the customer?
Think about your unique selling points and what you have to offer. These should be at the forefront of your content and should underpin your brand’s tone of voice. What are you offering them and why should they listen? Don’t get so focused on tone of voice that you forget the purpose of your content — to increase sales and promote your brand.
6. Take feedback on board
Feedback and criticism aren’t one and the same. It’s important to listen to what your customers give back once your voice is out there. And people will definitely let you know, especially online! Tone of voice is something that develops and evolves over time, and the only way that this will happen is through listening to feedback. Sometimes you might try something that doesn’t work, and that’s ok. Try again, just stay connected to your audience. Statistics are great feedback too, they’ll show you what posts are hitting home, and which are definitely not resonating with your audience. Social listening, be open to your audience.
A great idea is to develop some brand guidelines (If you hire a good designer, they will do this with you!), examples and a house style guide to help keep that voice consistent throughout your content. It’s really useful when someone else needs to create content for your brand too. Proofreading is also extremely important — you can develop tone of voice as much as you like, but when your content is littered with mistakes this will really undermine your hard work. Another thing worth mentioning: It takes a little more thought if you’re working across different markets as you need to take cultural attitudes into consideration as well as company culture. An audience in Japan probably expects something different to an audience in the US or in Germany, so bear this in mind when you’re creating your brand persona and tone of voice.
Authenticity and genuine passion are both a really important part of communicating with your audience, and it’s important that your tone of voice reflects this. As a brand, you can make life easier for your local dealers to use your brand’s tone of voice by distributing your content with an easy to use app like Embrosa. Are you your own brand, like a local entrepreneur, then knowing your audience is one of your biggest strengths. Once you decide on your tone of voice, just go — be out there — expressing yourself within your community and let the audience get to know you!
Remember, your audience is looking to connect! They won’t connect to your paper mission statements, they will however connect to your tone of voice if it shows your brand’s values and culture.
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