Let’s talk about your brand’s voice.
Is it something your customers can get behind? Do they laugh, think, and cheer with you? Or is it lacking luster? Is your brand voice the equivalent of someone wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie, looking down when they talk, half-hoping no one hears them?
Sorry for getting real, but maybe you needed to hear it. Don’t wear short-sleeved shirts with ties.
For a lot of us, pinning down our brand’s voice can be difficult. It’s the expression of our personalities, values, goals. A connection to the past and future as well as the the customers you serve. One of the key differentiators from your competitors in this cut-throat world.
So it can feel like a lot to take on. Whatever your brand voice is, one thing that’s for sure is it has be authentic. It’s the only way you can sustain a connection on an emotional level with your customers.
“Emotion is the adhesive that, when mixed with trust, equals loyalty.”
The Marketing Power of Emotion – John O’Shaughnessy
So how do you take your brand voice from muddled, mumbling, and impersonal to driven, punchy, and decided so that people actually care? Below I’ve collected 3 steps you can take to find your brand values & personality.
#0. Writing tips.
Before we dive into writing (yup, writing!) I’d like to share a few tips for writing concisely, the best way to write.
Don’t talk too much about yourself.
It seems counterintuitive but your brand voice is about communication not broadcast. Your spotlight should be on your customers’ needs. Test every sentence with the so-what test. If a customer can read a sentence and say, “so?” instead of “great” or “awesome” then consider rewriting.
Use the word you need.
One of the easiest ways to revive boring writing is to use specific, sticky words and phrases. Heck, the words you use should be so specific that even if your logo wasn’t on your site, I could tell what brand was talking. A quick example is…
We provide excellent service.
This doesn’t work because “excellent” is wide-open for interpretation. Instead you could write…
We provide quick service.
Our service is so fast, you’ll hear whooshes.
Try mixing in words that speak to our five senses to be memorable. For more info on this, CopyHackers has a guide for writing sticky copy that gets noticed.
Talk to humans.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
As one of the leading companies in the nation, Widgets is a world-class provider of access the power of the cloud. We offer convenience of our centralized services to run your business more efficiently with enterprise-grade ERP…
Yawn, I’m asleep. Don’t write like a robot. Write like a person talking to another person because that’s how people like to be talked to. No excuse for b2b companies—your customers are people too. One way to test this is to read your writing aloud. If you start getting nauseous or seeing zzZs, it’s time to rewrite.
Here we go!
#1. Get your story straight.
Your story is the raw material you can work with, so refine it as best you can. Three things to nail down are…
Why was your company started?
The initial spark behind your story is the invaluable core of your brand voice. A template you can use is…
- What you believe
- What you provide
For example, my freelancing business’ reason for existence is to provide great web design for purposeful startups because I believe positive design can change the world.
Kissmetrics uses this template on their about page. “We believe the best way deliver a great user experience is by deeply understanding what people want and love…”
Who are the people you serve?
How do you want your customers to think about your company? Some helpful clues are…
- How they speak to one another
- How they speak to other companies (competitor or not)
- The messages that seem to resonate with them most
The most straightforward thing you do is to ask your customers directly what they have come to expect from you.
Another way to get a peek into their preferences is to read reviews on Amazon or your competitors’ sites.
Note the exact words your audience uses because you may want to echo them in your own copy. This is a great way to find words that may not have come up before in your company.
How are you different?
Every company does things differently, from processes to packaging. Your unique methodology reveals priorities and values. You may have competitors that sell the exact same thing as you or maybe you’re the industry leader—either way, you should be able to explain in one sentence what makes you different and why that’s valuable for your customers.
Check out how ModCloth differentiates themselves: “…our exclusive line of apparel is available in a full range of sizes—because we believe fashion is for every body.”
You need to boil down your messaging to one or a few keywords. McDonald’s does this with “love,” Apple does it with “design and innovation,” and Red Bull does it with “adventure.”
Why is this? It’s because we as people connect not to words—not even to stories, if you can believe it—but to concepts. You may know the story of The Hero’s Journey. If you haven’t, it’s a Jungian archetype that we are born with, that makes us believe we are all the protagonist in our story. The thing that makes that story so natural is the strong concept. You can read more about concepts in the book Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit by Steven Pressfield which I highly recommend.
Think of your brand as a little oasis your customers can escape to when they want… [ FILL IN THE BLANK ]. Use [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] as your overarching theme that you can tie every other thing back to. If you’ve got [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] your customers wanna pay you for it.
I’ve created a guide (and free PDF worksheet) for nailing your brand’s two or three words over here.
#3. Practice and evolve.
A brand’s voice is never final. There will always be new opportunities to connect with your audience whether through your own site, social media, or an instruction manual.
So keep refining it! Believe it or not, people take notice—even if it’s not in the best of circumstances.
— Chelle (@Michelle_Heng) February 8, 2017