Whether you're a writer, a content marketer, or just a word geek like me, if you're reading this blog post we probably have something in common: We pay close attention to the words that we use.
Now don't get me wrong... That attention to detail is great, but as much as individual words matter, you have to take a step back and assess how your readers perceive those words as a whole.
Collectively, your words establish your company's tone of voice, which is an extremely important marketing tool because it helps establish the character of your business. Tone of voice isn't about what you say but the way you say it and the impression it makes on your readers.
Moreover, there are some big benefits to getting your company's tone of voice right, including the following.
1. It makes you human
People like to deal with people. So, they like a brand to have a personality they can recognize and bond with.
Sometimes, people assume that B2B buyers work in a completely rational way... but businesspeople are still people. They might have more priorities and stakeholders to think about, but given a choice, they'll go with the firm that they feel good about.
In B2B, the trend is toward more authenticity, honesty, realness, and openness—things that were traditionally seen as B2C values. Buyers of all types are looking for the emotional truth behind an offer or brand, not just rational benefits.
2. It helps you cut through
As content marketing becomes more popular, firms are generating more and more writing—but much of it doesn't have a clear voice.
A distinctive tone gives you the best chance of connecting with people. Ideally, you want your tone to be immediately recognizable, even if you take the logo off your website or your social media feed—and not sound virtually the same as your competitors.
"Tone of voice is a force multiplier,” says Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners. "Present your content in a flat voice and you might make your budget back. Use a breakthrough voice that draws people in and you're maximizing your ROI."
3. It replaces face-to-face communication
Business buyers don't contact suppliers directly until up to 90% of the way through the purchase process, according to Forrester Research. With fewer opportunities to talk face to face, your written words have to work harder than ever.
Prospects know you rather well from your website and marketing material before they ever pick up the phone. Your tone helps to build trust with them from the start, laying the foundation for a strong working relationship. We've evolved to be highly attuned to subtle signals such as body language, gesture, voice, and so on. In writing, all those signals are carried by tone of voice, so that's the only way to show your identity, your character, and your intention.
4. It builds authority
Think of the killer TED talks or conference presentations you've seen. Did the speakers stand perfectly still, reciting dull but convincing facts in a relentless monotone voice? Or were they lively, funny, and memorable, filling the stage with their passion?
Tone of voice can be a huge carrier of authority and belief. Personality shows you have confidence in what you're saying, and that it therefore has real value.
5. It gives you focus
Working on tone of voice can be an excellent discipline for thinking about your company's identity. You have to boil everything down to something clear and simple that anyone can understand, and that helps to cut through clutter and confusion.
Your tone can even help you set strategic direction. Markets are getting more crowded and competitive, so companies have to decide who they're for. Instead of being all things to all people, they're embracing niche appeal so they can hone in on the most relevant audience. That's not just a marketing trend; it's about product and services, too.
6. It makes you different
In B2B, tone of voice is a story that's just beginning. Most companies haven't woken up to the idea at all. A few have taken great strides. But almost none have successfully transformed the way they use language—and that opens up a huge opportunity.
"Very few B2B brands have been doing this for long enough that we can say they've definitely nailed it for their whole brand," says Neil Taylor, managing partner at The Writer. "But what that means is that the first people who do nail it, in any sector, will clean up."
If you want to learn more about tone of voice, and specifically how you can help your company establish its tone of voice, check out Watch Your Tone! Why Your Company's Tone of Voice Matters and How to Get it Right. With insights from some of the industry's best tone of voice experts (some of whom I've quoted above), a great foreword from Ann Handley, as well as step-by-step instructions for creating your company's tone of voice, it's a great reference tool.
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