Despite being as integral to brand identity as a logo or company name, it’s easy for small businesses to neglect their brand voice. It may take some time and thought, but the rewards make any effort well worth it. A social media account that people want to follow, killer website copy and compelling content marketing all translate to greater brand awareness and increased sales.
While visuals and video are also important, the likelihood is that many of your customers will mainly experience your brand through the written word. Customers don’t want to be talked to like they are nothing but a potential sale. By presenting the human face of your business you can form relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Establish the way your business “talks” and your brand personality will shine through.
Play to your strengths
Small businesses have advantages that larger corporations don’t. Community spirit, stronger relationships with customers and a more easy-going and natural manner often comes easier to smaller organizations. You can play on these strengths, especially as large brands often try to mimic the more human tone of their smaller counterparts. Take what makes your business unique, in particular the way you naturally interact with customers, and channel it into a more refined tone of voice.
Sum up your brand voice in three words
There’s so many brands out there clamoring for attention that if you don’t find your particular personality and make it consistent, your voice will become lost. Inconsistency undermines the picture you are trying to build, and inhibits the rapport which should be built between you and your customers. Nailing down exactly what your brand to sound like can be difficult, so start simply, and pick the three words that describes your brand voice best.
For example, your brand voice may be exuberant, warm and helpful, or perhaps it’s cool-headed, knowledgeable and sincere. Once you have the basics covered, the more subtle questions are easier to answer.
Build a human personality
Your company’s tone of voice is formed from your choice of words, as well as the order, rhythm and pace they are written in. One of the easier ways of determining this is to picture your brand as a real person. Imagine how they would talk and respond to things. In a simple example, if they are a creative, fun and welcoming sort of person, they may meet praise from a customer with effusive thanks and quirky humor. On the other hand, a more contained but extremely professional person may graciously accept the praise and direct the customer to further services that may help them.
Think about the details.
Inconsistencies appear when you don’t consider the various ways your brand voice will differentiate itself from other businesses. Take social media – is your brand going to have a professional distance, or will it interact with customers more casually? Some businesses use social media as an opportunity to have jokey conversations and use popular cultural references which might not have a place in a more formal setting. However, this isn’t going to be appropriate for everyone.
Further considerations will include your use of grammar. Will you be scrupulous in your approach to language or will made-up words, “but” at the beginning of sentences and capitalization for emphasis be acceptable? It doesn’t really matter what you choose as long as it makes sense and has it’s own internal logic, the problem comes when your voice uses a confusing mix of styles.
Is your brand voice a-political, or will it take a stance on certain subjects? Is its primary short-term goal to inform, or would you prefer to entertain? What is your strategy for dealing with online (and therefore public) complaints? Thinking about these details means you won’t be caught off-guard.
Create Brand Guidelines
Once you have considered your brand voice and know how you want to execute it, create brand guidelines for others to follow. Although it won’t be set in stone and subject to change as your brand evolves, it will be a good reference document for you and your staff. As you write content, run your social media accounts and create webpages, having a set of rules simplifies the process.
It also allows you to allocate the work to others without worrying that they won’t be able to capture the tone, because they’ll have a clear guide to direct them. Determining this integral part of your brand personality will translate to consumer trust and a better relationship with your customers, helping you build brand awareness and reach new audiences.
Author: Holly Ashby is a social media manager and content creator who works with startups and charities defining their brand voice and content marketing strategies. Interested in travel, influencer marketing and the luxury market, she is also a brand ambassador for property investment fund The Hideaways Club where she can explore these interests. She’s currently working with a slow-fashion startup and lives by the sea in South East England.