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What Does Your Business Sound Like?

Steve Surdez

Why Identifying and Staying True to Your Voice Matters

Let’s give you kudos right up front and recognize that building a viable business is really hard. Keeping it growing is harder. And creating a genuine, lasting brand is the hardest challenge of all.

Wherever you are in your brand journey, hat’s off to you.

You’ve worked tirelessly to establish core brand values and to ensure that your team members consistently communicate a unified brand identity to fellow conference attendees, to people in elevators, to potential clients waiting for coffee at the hotel, to the guy grabbing the last of the bacon at the breakfast buffet, to fellow business travelers enjoying a cocktail (or way too many cocktails) at the airport, and to potential customers on the phone, in emails and at new business meetings.

For after all is said and done, your brand and your people have to be in sync or your brand could fracture and fall apart.

That said, there is one important but often-overlooked aspect of projecting and protecting your brand. Surprisingly, perhaps, it has nothing to do with internalizing your differentiators and value proposition and everything to do with the style and language you use to, if you will, write your brand.

The rarely spoken fact is that tech innovation has never diminished the importance of the written word…it’s just changed how it’s delivered and how we interact with it.

Language and the written word remain foundational to every single thing we do. How you say the why and the what is crucial to keeping your business thriving and is tantamount to consistently delivering great value to your customers and clients.

In essence, knowing what your brand should sound like, and how it should sound through the written word, is as important as identifying and establishing your brand in the first place. Plus, it’s something that you can control unlike “Employee X” chatting someone up at the airport, hitting all the right brand notes, but in a way that is uniquely and uncontrollably them for better or for worse.

So, why does finding and staying true to your businesses’ voice matter? Well, let’s take a closer look, but before we do…

Stop! And Return to Start.

Early on in this blog an assumption was made that you have some strong sense of who you are as a business. But let’s be frank: this blogger doesn’t know you or your business, so before you keep reading, stop and ask yourself: “Do we know who we are?”

If you are hesitant at all, and you have doubts, stop reading and go back to start.

To find your business’ genuine voice you must first establish your company’s brand identity.

At some point in your organization’s lifecycle, establishing your brand needs to become a formal process. Brand development is not something that happens automatically or magically if given enough time.

It’s a formal, complex process that takes brainpower and time and very often the assistance of external advisors that can provide a level of questioning and objectivity that draws out what might be tacit knowledge to you and your team.

If budget does not allow for outside assistance, you can do a version of branding in-house by forming an internal committee to establish brand and positioning standards. But a word of warning—internal branding efforts can often be like trying to ask a group of people to explain how they breathe or the mechanics of riding a bike. It’s just something that is and that they do, not something that they can explain or teach or formalize.

Get outside help if you can. A unified voice is better than a fragmented and inconsistent one any day of the week.

Word Choice Matters

Therefore or also? You are or You’re? People or folks or colleagues? Clients or customers? Semi-colons? Exclamation points? Technical jargon?

There’s a time and an audience for all of the above, but what words and what tones most accurately convey your brand?

  • Word choice really does matter. The words you choose to write your brand, whether you like it or not, have a significant impact on how your target audience will feel about your brand and company personality. They want to connect with something, and can sniff out brands that are at odds with themselves. 

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Duh, of course words have impact on customer perception.” It sounds pretty obvious, for sure. 

  • What we’re trying to get at here is not whether you use the term “deep” or “significant” to describe staff experience. We’re trying to capture the right tone and voice for your business’ personality, market and audience.
  • You don’t want to throw around therefore’s and consequently’s and subsequently’s and 500 you are’s and every SAT word you know if you’re a residential HVAC and plumbing company. It will seem disingenuous and written by a marketer.
  • If you’re a corporate compliance law firm, writing in a conversational tone and throwing in folks and a bunch of contractions might not attract clients to your brand.

This isn’t rocket science. The true challenge is being constantly aware of how you write who you are and how your team writes the brand. The more your tone and word choices consistently reflect your brand, the greater the chance that you’ll build meaningful and genuine connections with your target market…Or folks… Or community… Or stakeholders. Or what? What word fits for you here?

Don’t Be Completely Defined by Your Audience

You always, always, always, want to write your brand with your audience in mind. In fact, it’s crucial that as you develop and formalize your brand you also segment your target audience into personas.

  • Personas are essentially character studies of each of your potential client or customer groups. Your buyer personas might be Samantha Small Business, Ivan the Investor or Dan the Dreamer, for example. Each has his or her unique demographics and buying habits, as well as a distinct set of needs and desires.

And that’s all great and important and essential to a strong marketing program.

  • However, when you write your brand you cannot lose sight of your unique brand personality. If you allow each and every persona to dominate how you write your brand, it will get diluted and lost.
  • And this is where it gets tough. You must strive to achieve a delicate balance between trying to connect with your various audience segments and personas without your writing breaking your brand identity apart into unrecognizable bits and pieces scattered across your communications and marketing materials.

Write for your personas, but don’t become your personas. Your customers are smart—they’ll sense if you’re trying too hard to please or to be everything to everyone.

If your product is strong and your brand is confident, your customers will connect with it.

Choose your words wisely, write your brand with confidence, and your business will grow.

Writing Your Brand Well is Not Enough

Okay, so you’ve found your voice. You’ve established consistency across all word choices and tone in your copywriting. You or your writers have it down pat. This is all good stuff and necessary and impactful.

Now, two things:

  • Stop writing to sell. This isn’t all about you or your business and injecting yourself into every blog or email and linking to your website every three sentences. This isn’t about gating all of your material with forms and email address requests. All of these things have their place, including writing to sell your services, but the minute a customer or client or partner smells that salesperson emerging from between the lines, you’ve lost them and writing your brand will fall flat.
  • Start writing to give. Instead, start writing to give. You stay true to your genuine voice, you deliver tidbits of your brand, you make tweaks to connect with specific personas, but you do so with the overarching intention of showing the value of your brand rather than writing or talking about it.

Rather than writing about how great your real estate services are, show them through a well written, soft-branded client case study, where your brand shines through examples of actual, successful work you’ve delivered.

Rather than writing about how happy your customers are, show them through thoughtful, pertinent testimonial copy or videos. 

Rather than requiring them to provide their shoe size, favorite color and their entire family’s social security numbers and emails, write great content that is useful to them and give it away.

You can only stop writing about yourself and selling too hard when you truly “know thyself”. Then, and only then, will you have the confidence as a business to give it away, knowing that when you stay genuine to your voice and you write your brand with purpose and balance, your target audience will trust you and stay with you for the long haul.

As the great and totally bonkers English poet William Blake wrote: “Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Take that to heart when it comes to writing your brand. Be genuine. Be authentic. Be consistent. And your brand will grow.

Blake might have been a bit crazy, but he would have been one hell of an interesting copywriter.

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