“Brand voice” is one of those terms that gets tossed around all the time in business, but it’s not always clear what that means. How do you give a brand a voice? Well, it all comes down to your marketing copy – plus your social media and overall customer support. That can seem like a lot to take on.
Components of Voice
In writing, your voice is made up of two things: tone and style. These might sound abstract or superficial, but for burgeoning businesses, they’re the linguistic building blocks of your rhetoric as a brand. If you want to persuade a would-be subscriber to sign up for your subscription box, you need to pay close attention to the diction and syntax you use.
Here’s a brief breakdown:
- Tone helps you create an emotional pull in the reader. What kind of mood do you want to evoke in your audience? Using a lot of negative wording, for example, could turn off an audience, while using more cheerful language can help create a sense of optimism around your product.
- Style helps you create readable copy and appeal to your audience. In other words, it’s the actual words (diction) and sentence structure (syntax) you use. Do you use a lot of colloquialisms or slang, or do you focus on clinical/formal language? Are your sentences short and to the point, or are they long with many dependent clauses?
Here are a few ways your brand voice might be failing you – and some solutions to make it stronger.
1. Your Style Doesn’t Match Your Audience
Style and tone work hand in hand. You can’t create the tone you want without using the diction and syntax best suited for that tone, and you can’t connect with your audience by using the wrong tone or style.
Keep in mind: Tone and style are also imperative for any correspondence you have with customers. Check out our guide here.
Let’s say that you run a luxury lifestyle subscription for men, with a typical box including products like samples of high-quality Scotch, custom-monogrammed card wallets, or designer socks. Given that, your target customer might an upper-middle-class man in his mid-30s who cares about sophistication, style, and living his best life.
If your marketing copy uses a lot of exclamation points (whether that’s after each sentence or multiple in a row, like !!!) or, alternatively, describes your box in highly clinical wording, your voice won’t match that reader. For a target audience like that, you’re more likely to net subscribers if you sound laid back and approachable.
Ask yourself: What do my customers care about? How do they talk?
The first question will help you learn what tone to create. The second will tell you the style you need to create that tone.
2. Your Voice is Not Consistent
We mentioned earlier that your brand voice isn’t just your store’s marketing copy for the Marketplace, but what you write in your promotional materials, on social media, and in customer support also contribute to your brand voice.
Writing for vendors: While consistency is key, different audiences require slightly different strategies. Learn how to write a one-sheet media kit for vendors with our tips.
In short, brand voice is your main way of creating a personality behind your business for customers. You want them to feel comfortable with your brand, like a friend – someone they know they can trust, with the sense of expectations that trust entails. So if you don’t use the same kind of style or tone across platforms, you’re not showing that you can be trusted! Instead, your voice is all over the place, and customers don’t know what to expect from your business.
3. There’s No Point
Sorry if that sounds harsh. But there’s no substance to your style and tone if it doesn’t serve a clear purpose, and when that’s the case, would-be subscribers can sense it.
Whether you’re writing the detailed description for your Marketplace listing, a company tweet, or your media kit for potential vendors, you need to know what the point is. Not why your brand is great, but why you’re reaching out to this particular audience. Why are you writing this?
In fact, let’s talk for a minute about Rule #1. Remember how your style and tone need to match your audience? That’s because your goal is to connect with that audience. And that goal fulfills your larger purpose of persuading them to subscribe to your box.
4. It’s Not Obvious What Matters
People want to support what they believe in. So demonstrating some strong values – like transparency, kindness, or integrity – will resonate with your current and prospective subscribers. Without some interest in connecting with them in this way, you might come off as overly “salesy.” Or like you’re copying your competitors. And as any mall salesperson or telemarketer can assure you, either approach can alienate potential customers really fast.
It might sound obvious, but you don’t want to risk coming off as “fake.” This applies especially to your customer service; make sure the tone and style of your support responses generally match the tone/style of your marketing copy. (Keep this in mind when replying to reviews!)
Pro tip: A customer who feels heard is a happy customer. Be “real” with your subscribers by replying to their reviews on your Marketplace listing, especially the negative reviews.
In short, what matters to your business will matter to your ideal customer. Show them why they should care.
5. It’s Hard to Read
We don’t mean to sound pedantic or pretentious, but there’s a reason why kids spend so much time practicing spelling and grammar in school. Not only do grammatically correct sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling help build a strong sense of professionalism for your Marketplace listing, but it makes your marketing copy much easier to read!
You don’t need to have a PhD in English or win a Pulitzer Prize to draft clear, catchy, durable prose for your brand. Downloading an app like Grammarly, which scans your emails, web content, and other kinds of writing for mechanical issues as you type, can make a big difference. Other free resources that break down grammar rules with ease are the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), the Daily Grammar blog, and Grammar Girl, a blog and podcast hosted by a journalism professor at UNR.
That Being Said…
Ultimately, the most important tip we can give you to build a strong brand voice is that it sounds like you. (See Tip #4: people can tell when you’re not being yourself with them.)
What will send your marketing copy over the top, however, is following the guidelines we’ve laid out above. If you want to grow your business into an approachable, powerful brand with a chance to scale, work on developing your voice to be clear, readable, and appropriate for your audience.
What are you waiting for? You’ve got this! Now go forth and get those customers.