Every brand has a tone of voice. Getting this right is a critical stage of your business planning. Not only can it help you set the tone for all your content, but it can also make or break the communication to your ideal client. It’s a big part of how the outside world will perceive you.
It can seem like a really daunting task. To get to a brand voice that’s right for you, it’s sometimes easier to take it in smaller steps. This is true for the biggest to the smallest companies. Let’s have a look at some of the things which you need to consider.
So what is a brand’s voice?
Sometimes an easier way to think about this is as your brand personality. If your brand were a person, what would they be like? What words would they use? What would be their attitude towards things? What are their values?
For us, The Smart Bear is all about being straight talking and no-nonsense. We believe in using simple language. We talk in a friendly way. We believe in offering good value and hard work. We do not believe in overselling.
It’s basically an amalgamation of both Suzi and my personalities!
Have a think about some of the brands that you love? What is their brand voice like? Which ones do you not like? What is about their tone that you don’t love?
What is your company’s mission statement?
Being familiar with your company mission statement (or ethos) is a good starting point. This is true if you are a sole trader, small business or one of the big boys. Your mission statement should be what your company is all about in a nutshell.
This is part of ours:
‘We want to help facilitate small businesses looking better and working better online and our ethos is to never oversell or over-complicate the process.’
As you can see, this pretty simple in terms of the words, but what it says about us is quite powerful. This gives us a part of our brand voice, where we use plain English. We’re a digital agency, but we realise that a lot of our clients are terrified of tech!
Who is your ideal client?
You should already be well aware of your ideal client if you’ve already got a business! If you’re not, then you need to really sit down and think about this. This can seem like a really hard thing to do, but again – think about the person. Imagine that person in great detail. See them stood in front of you.
Our ideal client is a small business owner, perhaps they have a website already. They’ve most likely been in business a couple of years and they’re looking to move to the next phase of business and grow their brand. They’re not always comfortable with technology, so they need something which is easy to understand and maintain. They’re looking for a polished website, which is within their budget. These clients may not be tech biased, but they are really good at what they do!
If you’ve not done this yet, then here are some good questions to think about.
- What problem are you solving for that person?
- Do they have a pain point that you can help with?
- Where do they hang out?
- How old are they?
If you can get real clarity on this, then the next step is easier…
How would you speak to that client?
Brand voice is all about how you communicate your messages to your client. I often work with people who are not sure what to say on their website copy, or their social media for example. My best piece of advice is to imagine you’re sat with your client. You’re having a coffee, having a business meeting. How would you talk to them? Now, for those of you who know me, you’ll know I have no trouble with talking! But this is more about how you’d engage with this person to get business.
The days of the pushy sales approach are long gone. Clients of any business, large or small, are savvy. They don’t want to be told what to do. It will literally switch them off. We like stories, we want to feel special. Not bullied into a sale. You need to play to the way our brains work. Psychology in sales is a massive topic and can be daunting. There is too much for us to go into on this blog. However, Neil Patel has a great article on this here: “5 Psychological Tactics That Will Boost Your Sales”.
Make a brand guide!
Once you’ve cracked all the above, it’s time to start to think about making a brand guide. This can be as simple as you want, or as complex. A full brand guide will include colours, fonts and all manner of thoughts about the words you use. It could even include key phrases. There is a great article here on Canva’s blog if you’re looking for more details.
For a small business, this may just be as simple as thinking about three words which describe your business and the associated feelings which go along with that. So for example with us, we say we don’t use jargon so our guide could be like the following…
- No jargon – we do not use complicated language.
- Do – use simple terms, explain complex concepts as simply as possible.
- Don’t – fall into tech speak, three letter acronyms or jargon no one understands…
Another example would be if you’re a brand is passionate about widgets.
- Passionate – we want everyone to love our widgets!
- Do – use strong, positive words which convey the passion we have
- Don’t – be wishy-washy or use the passive tone of voice.
This is a very basic guide to get you going. There are likely to be a lot of other things which you may be told that you need to consider as it’s a massive subject and constantly evolving. But, because of how we are, we didn’t want to produce war and peace and cause overwhelm.
Remember, you are in control of your brand and how you portray that. If your brand is loud and feisty, then so be it. If your brand is soft and quiet, that is OK too. As is anything in between!
It’s your business and you know it better than anyone.