Tone of Voice: Keeping it Real
Capture the right tone of voice for your brand and you'll win your audience over before you've even begun the sales pitch. Your aim is to speak to your customers in their language. We all subconsciously gravitate towards the familiar and step away from difference. If someone calls me 'mate', I will mentally take a few paces back. Whereas, my friend Dave, who employs the word 'mate' in every other sentence, will feel like he's finally found his mother planet.
Work out who you're speaking to
The first crucial element is to really pinpoint your audience. Don't just decide your audience are 'business people' and leave it at that. Your tone of voice will be too generalised to appeal to anyone in particular. Tie down exactly who you are selling to.
Be honest with yourself as well. If you're selling water coolers, for example, there's no point in pretending your customers are all at Director level. The majority of people you deal with will be office managers and PAs. They'll be juggling a dozen other jobs whilst researching water coolers, so you'll need to make sure your brand voice is loud enough to cut through the noise. They'll want clarity and straight-talking above all else.
Keep your voice genuine
The second key element is authenticity. The trouble faced by many B2B companies in particular, is finding that point of difference. Say your three core values are reliability, knowledge and responsiveness. It's a fair bet that many of your competitors will have very similar values. The danger is to then attribute values that you don't really have, just to create that point of difference. If you decide that, in order to stand out from the rest, you are going to be modern, exciting and bold, you're heading for trouble.
Self-consciously 'funky' copy is uncomfortable to read. It also won't take more than a couple of minutes on the phone for your customer to realise that you aren't actually that young, fun brand after all. You're actually solid and professional. Nothing wrong with that. Many people are looking for exactly those qualities in their business partner.
If the tone of voice you've decided on doesn't come naturally, then it's very likely you're not being true to your real values. Your brand values and tone of voice can't be a work of fiction. Your tone of voice should mirror the way you usually speak and interact with people. Otherwise the mask will soon fall off and your sales will follow.
Aim for total consistency
Once you've decided on your brand values and your brand voice, it's essential to ensure it remains absolutely consistent across all your communications.
How do you do this? The answer is to define it in a summary document. This doesn't need to be a 50-page brand manual that will end up being used as a door stop. It can be just a single page defining those three core values and how they translate into your tone of voice. Ask yourself the following questions:
Is your language formal or chatty?
Is it professional or warm?
Is it serious or witty?
This document should include examples that are both correct and incorrect. Illustrating what it looks like when done wrong is actually a great way to pinpoint what you're really looking for.
Just be yourself
Find the right tone of voice and it will flow seamlessly across all your company communications. It will shine through in the way your receptionist answers the phone to the tone of your invoices. The trick, as with most things in life, is to be yourself.