Voice is one of the most difficult things to develop in business copy. It’s the unique, personal feel that gives writing personality. Many copywriting pros recognize that most business writing has no voice at all.
There is a preconception of what business communication should sound like. Most think it’s the dry, removed voice of a wizened CFO, filled with jargon while lacking color or expression…
Brands need to get:
- Bigger: put your product or service into a bigger context that goes beyond just features and benefits.
- Braver: develop a story with a point of view, humor, tension, or unexpected surprises.
- Bolder: create a voice that gives your brand a unique feel as recognizable as a logo or tagline.
If you masked all images, logos, designs, and colors from your content, would you recognize yourself? Do you sound like you, or do you sound like any other competitor?
Your voice expresses the value you offer, what makes you special, and what your company culture is like.
Most businesses undervalue this quality, which gives companies that develop a strong voice a competitive advantage, especially with online audiences that consume a lot of content.
A good example is Freaker USA and its creative voice. Through their quirky style, they put their simple product into a larger voice that connects with the buying audience’s lifestyle. In essence, they give people reasons to care about “freakers” rather than just a regular drink koozie. You get it all in the opening on their homepage:
Established in 2011 and located in Wilmington, North Carolina, Freaker USA quickly grew to be the global leader of preventing moist handshakes and sweaty beverages with high quality American-made products. They aren’t just selling you their fit-everything product, they’re giving you an invitation to their party – a starter kit for a new lifestyle. The Freaker isn’t a strike-at-the-wind attempt to get rich, it’s the background music to a never-ending journey. Infusing life, style and functionality into a drink insulator.
They even put voice into their contact page:
Freaker develops lifestyle branding. This means they are not really marketing a product – a product they admit is something nobody really has to have. Instead, they associate the voice of the company with a lifestyle people connect with.
Tone of voice as how your copy “sounds in the reader’s head”. There are many ways to say the same thing, but a strong voice does it in a memorable way. Consider:
“Please pass me the mustard.”
“Give me the mustard, sucker!”
“Pass the yellow, vinegar-based condiment.”
“Pardon me, but would you have any Grey Poupon?”
To create your company voice ask:
- Who are we?
- Why do we do what we do?
- What are we like to deal with?
- What three adjectives best describe us?
This is about who you are and how you need to communicate, not just about being wacky or off-the-wall. A professional, accessible, concise voice laced with a bit of fun may be more your style.
Yet for sure, one of the best ways to develop your voice is to use some humor in unexpected places. You may feel boring, your product may be boring, and your customers may be boring, which makes it that much more advantageous to break the cycle and get people smiling.
Take yourself out of the cubical and into the comedy club, even if it’s just in touches. A bland, corporate voice on your business website is a bigger detriment than you may realize because it simply doesn’t connect or resonate with today’s online shoppers.
Say you’re shopping for a leather backpack. Which product description captures your interest?
This one from Nordstrom:
Hand-burnished, bench-crafted antique pull-up leather that softens with age and wear shapes a rugged, road-ready backpack styled in a vintage, compact style with brass-hued hardware for a touch of old-world charm.
Or this one from Saddleback Leather:
The Simple Front Pocket Backpack is the opposite of phoned-in. We made house calls for this thing. In researching the Mountainback line, we went to Scotland and toured the mill where the canvas is made. We flew to New Zealand to learn from a third generation sailmaker to understand how to stitch and work with such thick materials. The backpack straps went through countless revisions until the shape was just right for everybody from Johnny Sixpack to Jimmy Lovehandles. We’ve dedicated years of research and development to understanding how to breathe new life into materials as old as history itself.
Like Freakers, Saddleback uses their brand voice to make a lifestyle connection, and in this case, also does a great job of describing their commitment to quality. The connection carries over into all their content marketing, from social media to videos.
Voice doesn’t just come through in text. Consider the story in the image Specialized associates with their bike:
The authenticity of this image gives it voice – something a standard stock photo can’t do. The setting and riders clearly have a tale to tell.
With content marketing, your voice comes through everything. On social media, it’s as important to have images tell your story as words.
Consumers research and follow brands they feel a connection with on social media, so having a voice to drive that content is vital.
People buy the story, then justify the money they spent later by using the features and taking advantage of the benefits. Today, the voice of your content marketing is becoming as important to selling as the benefits of your products.