I communicate differently with my mom than I do with my husband. I certainly don’t speak to my grandma the same way I speak to my closest friends. Whether you realize it or not, it’s human nature for us to carefully select our words, tone, and communication style based on who we’re speaking to.
“Voice” is a buzzword you hear pretty frequently—particularly when it comes to content marketing. But what exactly does it mean? How can you identify a voice for your organization that really resonates with your customers?
Well, we’re answering all of that (and then some!) right here. This post has everything you need to establish a brand voice that’s sure to hook your customers—and keep them coming back for more!
What is Your Voice?
The concept of a brand voice is actually quite simple. In fact, it’s exactly what it sounds like—the communication style you employ when talking to your customers.
Since you don’t have the time or resources to consistently communicate face-to-face with your customers, much of your brand’s personality is conveyed through written words. So, your voice is the tone and identity you use to communicate with your customers through blog posts, marketing copy, newsletters, and more.
For example, think of a company like Duluth Trading Company. Much of their communication and marketing is direct, humorous, and entertaining. In contrast, a company like The North Face has a written style that’s more sleek, polished, and inspiring. These companies offer many of the same items, but their voices are vastly different.
Maybe you want a brand voice that’s more authoritative and informative, like a traditional news outlet. Perhaps you want to be friendly, funny, and personable like Frank’s Red Hot—with a catchphrase like “I put that sh*t on everything!” you know they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Which style you want to represent your brand is up to you—there are tons of different options. The important thing to remember is that your voice sets the tone (quite literally) for your brand’s entire personality.
Why is Your Voice Important?
Acting as representation for your entire brand sounds important enough. But, in case you need the point driven home a little more, let’s elaborate on why identifying and polishing your voice is extra important.
Think back to your time in high school. Everybody had that one teacher that seemed to drone on and on in a way that was not only disengaging, but mind-numbingly boring. We also all had at least one teacher known as the “cool” one. He was not only funny and easy to listen to, but he also engaged his students—even if he was just talking about balancing equations.
I’m willing to bet that you not only got better grades in his class, but that you also enjoyed your time there more.
Why? He knew exactly how to connect with his students. He recognized that a monotone lecture wouldn’t get the job done. So he tailored his personality and communication style to teach in a way that was engaging and effective. His students liked him, but they also respected him.
A solid brand voice also helps to differentiate you from your competition. Everybody knew that cool teacher, and they never confused him with the dry science teacher down the hall. He carved out his own space and reputation. That’s exactly what you’re trying to accomplish with your own brand.
How to Identify Your Brand Voice
Needless to say, you want your brand to be the “cool” teacher. Luckily, accomplishing that isn’t nearly as tough as it sounds. There are just a few steps you need to take to really draw your customers in with communication—and keep them coming back.
1. Know Your Audience
Before tailoring your message, you need to know the nitty gritty details of who exactly you’re talking to. This involves some in-depth research and analysis. You need to study your customers to find the best way to communicate with them. Ideally, you want to dig deeper than standard analytics.
When researching your customers, there are a few big questions you should be able to answer about them:
- What does he or she do?
- What does he or she want?
- What challenges does he or she face?
- What does he or she expect from your brand?
- Where does he or she go for similar information?
Determining the answers to these questions will help you get inside your customers’ heads and identify the type of voice that resonates with them. How do you find this information? There are numerous resources you can use, including your analytics, surveys, and one-on-one customer interviews—something we use here at Audience Ops.
Paying attention to how your customers communicate with you is another great indicator of how you should craft your own messaging. As you might have guessed, the way people speak is typically how they like to be spoken to. Are they polished and professional? Or do they feel like they have a personal relationship with you—more casual and conversational?
There are plenty of written indicators to clue you into this. For example, do they begin each email with a formal “Dear Mr. Smith,” or do they start with a warm, “Hey there, Jason”? Do they include personal anecdotes—or are they strictly business?
Keeping your finger on the pulse of customer communication preferences will be extremely helpful in refining your own brand voice.
2. Determine Your Goals
Your customers are important, but that doesn’t mean they need to dictate every single aspect of your brand. In the end, your voice should also help you achieve the representation that you want—not just the one your customers crave.
So, along with considering your customers’ goals and wishes, take some time to evaluate the type of brand voice you aspire to achieve. How do you want current and potential customers to perceive your brand? What voice and personality do you think fits best?
It’s important to remember that developing your brand is a fluid process, and just because you’ve been operating one way for quite some time doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that methodology forever. You’re free to change—especially if it’s not really working for you. Take the time to think about the exact reputation you’d like to build for your organization and determine what tweaks and adjustments you need to make from there.
If your desired characteristics match up with the clues you’re getting from customers, great! If not—you have some decisions to make. The most effective strategy is to find a happy medium between the voice that best resonates with your audience and the voice that you’d most like to employ. That helps to build the brand identity you think is best without sacrificing audience trust and loyalty.
3. Create Guidelines
When it comes to your brand voice, consistency is key. To establish a true identity for yourself, you need to continuously use and reinforce the voice and personality you’re trying to create. This allows customers to recognize and connect with you.
Consistency isn’t as difficult if you’re a one-person show, since you have ultimate control of all your written communications. But, making expectations clear is especially critical when you have numerous people crafting written messages on your behalf—like we do here at Audience Ops.
This is when it’s especially important to outline your brand guidelines. Who should writers imagine that they’re talking to? Further, is there a specific person they should pretend to fill the shoes of when they’re writing? Are there specific words and phrases writers should avoid? Are there brands they should look to for inspiration? Do you use the serial comma or not?
From the broad to the basic, giving your team members all the information they need is important for ensuring they can build on your brand’s personality. After all, a message totally out of left field will confuse your customers and knock that voice you’ve been working so hard to refine down a few notches.
4. Refine and Polish
I’d love to tell you that crafting your brand voice involves a few steps upfront, and then you’re done. But that’s not the way it works. It’s a constantly evolving process. When you receive feedback or have an enlightening interaction with one of your customers, you should use that to further tailor your voice and personality. Keep an eye on what voices your competitors and other leading brands are using.
Continuously learn new things and find fresh ways to communicate. It’ll help ensure your messages are always relevant and important to your customers.
No matter how critical or important your message is, it loses its impact if you don’t communicate it in a way that resonates with customers. Creating and refining a brand voice and personality is crucial for establishing credibility and developing a relationship with your customers. Just think: you’ll listen to Oprah’s advice about relationships, but you probably don’t want her providing instructions for a brain surgery.
Put these steps into play to hone in on a brand voice that’s sure to make your message stick! After all, nobody wants to be the boring teacher.