CMS! Episode 6: Choosing Your Tone of Voice in Content Marketing

It’s not what you say but the way that you say it right?

Never is this more true than in content marketing.

The tone of voice you choose in your blog posts, sales pages, or promotional reports can damage results if it doesn’t suit the style of your reader. Watch this week’s episode of Content Marketing… Stripped! to find out more.

How do you talk to customers face-to-face?

It’s easy to forget when you’re writing, that content marketing is a conversation with your customer. When working with clients who are struggling to find the right tone of voice I ask them to describe how they would talk to that customer face to face.

Well, they’re young students, and their English isn’t great so I have to make sure I speak clearly and simply.

Our engineer customers are pretty straight-forward. They want you to get to the point and talk to them clearly and directly. They like to know within seconds that the software can do what they need it to do.

My coaching clients are often quite unsure, even nervous so I have to be gentle, soothing and give them lots of reassurances that trying out coaching with me will be fun.

Straight away we can see how we might use individual writing styles with these different customer groups.

But why is it so hard to achieve this in writing?

Why business marketing struggles with tone-of-voice

What makes writing so difficult is:

  1. Your customer isn’t in front of you
  2. Your writing skills were developed at school and work

When you write your content marketing materials it’s just you, your head and a keyboard or pen. Your customer isn’t with you actively responding to your words as they would be if they were sitting opposite you having a chat.

What’s more, most of us learned our writing in school or at work and so we’re used to being rewarded for content that looks like an essay or a formal report.

As a result many business owners find it difficult to shake their previous ‘corporate voice’ developed from writing internal memos. But as we’ve already mentioned, your marketing is not a memo, it’s a conversation.

And unless you can mimic the style of conversation you would have in person with your customer, your blogs and content marketing pieces will miss the mark.

Using a personality ‘snap-shot’ to help

I’ve already talked about how having a quick version of your customer profile to hand can help you write marketing content that addresses the needs of your reader. It’s also useful to do this to stay on target with your tone-of-voice.

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Take an index card and split it into the following 4 columns:

  • Who is my customer?
  • Personality traits? 
  • What are they looking for?
  • How would I talk to them face-to-face? 

For example:

Tone of Voice Cheat Sheet
Who is my customer? Personality traits? What they're looking for? How would I talk to them face-to-face?
VP of Finance straight-forward / no-nonsense Facts / benefits and proof this product will solve their problem Be direct / provide facts and figures/ explain who else uses the product / emphasise the results
Life-coaching client creative / sensitive reassurance / comfort / guidance soothe concerns / show I understand their emotions / tell them not to worry / gently explain how it works

Having this snapshot reminder shows you what to focus on when writing your content so in the above examples we might write:

Our ERP software increases efficiency on average by  25% in all our retail customers with each client experiencing increase revenue as a direct effect… 

We’re getting straight to the point. We’re not asking this particular client to “imagine a world where your ERP software integrates beautifully…” it just wouldn’t work for this style of client.

However, for our life-coaching client we would want a less-direct, more emotionally in tune style of writing:

Not knowing which way to go when you’re facing a big decision can be scary, but you don’t have to make it alone… 

Here we’re not jumping into the facts and figures, but spending a little more time on reassuring our customer as our snapshot suggests we should do.

What about your customer? Are you using the tone of voice they need to hear or do you need to tweak your content to match their personality? Let me know in the comments below!

About Amy Harrison

I am a copywriter, content-trainer, speaker and filmmaker teaching businesses how to avoid drab business content and write copy customers love to read. You can also find me hanging out and sharing content over on Google+.

Comments

  1. This is awesome. Funny, and I love the “anti-tone” clips. They help define “tone” well by being the opposite of what we expect.

    And that reminds me: when you are thinking of your idea customer, it’s good to think of your “much-less-than-ideal-annoying” customer profile, too. Don’t write that that one.

    • harrisonamy says:

      Thanks David – so glad you liked it. And you’re totally right, it’s a great idea to know exactly who you DON’T want to attract. Think most of us learn this by experience! :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] this piece, Amy Harrison makes a brilliant point: For most of us, our only exposure to writing “training” […]

  2. […] a valid concern. If you don’t get your marketing tone-of-voice right for your audience and your product, your sales copy is going to fall […]

  3. […] Stripped! We’ve looked at creating a customer profile, choosing topics for starter content, choosing the right tone of voice and setting content marketing […]

  4. […] it’s important to choose the right tone of voice for your customer, so tweak and change these phrases to suit your readers. The more you write and practice, the more […]

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