How to choose your tone of voice

Knowing your audience is key when it comes to effective marketing. As a local entrepreneur, you know who your target group, audience and customers are.But did you know that it’s equally important for your audience to get to know you too? Maybe not you, personally, but your brand and what it stands for. Absolutely!

Getting your tone of voice right helps you to stand out from your competitors, especially in a crowded local market. By being consistent and expressing your personality you can build a trusted relationship with your customer. Now usually (and a little confusingly, if you ask us), tone of voice refers to written words. This might be web content, emails, social media, packaging or ad copy, depending on how you communicate with your customers. Once you figure out what the right tone is, what really expresses your store, then don’t forget to tap into great social media features like videos! Short stories on social media can easily display who’s behind the store, what the store stands for, why your store is exactly what your audience is looking for!

Big brands like Wendy’s, Innocent, Nike and ASOS all use their tone of voice to help them stand out in the crowd – especially on social media where it’s all about personality. Even some less millennial-friendly brands, like Marks & Spencer, have a specific and strong tone of voice that resonates throughout their written content.

But, how do you find your tone of voice? And how do you keep it consistent, but evolve at the same time? Here’s our top tips to help you find your brand’s tone of voice, so that you can use it consistently and confidently in your written copy to support your sales:

1. Think about your company values and culture

As an entrepreneur, why do you do what you do? Why was the company set up? What’s its purpose and ultimate aim? What’s it like to work there? If you could summarize it in 5 words or less, what would you say? Knowing your brand’s WHY really is the start of it all. Knowing your brand’s WHY allows you to determine how your brand should “sound” and what its “personality” is like.

And, don’t do this alone! Speak to the other people who work at your company to get their thoughts, take a look at existing content and learn about who the brand is before you try to work out its tone of voice. Think about how the brand wants to make customers feel, what words describe the brand and how you would like customers to react to your message.

2. Think about your audience

We talk about audience so much because they’re so important! Take a look at how your audience speak to one another. How do they expect to interact with you as a brand? It might be pointless using the latest social media hype if your audience is mostly over 65, or in being really formal if you’re a fun brand with a young audience. Do you want to come across as professional and business-like or casual and friendly?

If you really want to get to know your audience, think about getting a focus group together (that reflects your target demographic and the voice of your audience). Who are your regulars? Could you involve non-regulars and even non-customers too? This could help you to make sure that your words feel more natural and genuine to your customers and overall audience.

3. How are you going to say it?

Do you need to use a lot of really specific technical terms? Or is everyday language actually going to resonate better with your reader or listener? It’s important not to alienate your audience, but equally important not to over-simplify and run the risk of patronizing them.

Are you going to be super-salesy in your content? And now that we’re at it, don’t forget about the power of language too – who are you trying to communicate to and do you need to translate content for your audience? In this multiform multicultural world, we don’t all communicate nor receive messages in the same way. Be sensitive to diversity.

4. Healthy competition

There’s nothing wrong with checking out how your competitors speak to their audience. And what are the bigger chains doing? Knowledge of how others are doing it can really help you to work out what customers expect of a brand.This could also help you spot a gap in the market that will allow you to differentiate, to stand out. It might even help you to work out some things that you definitely don’t want to do with your content! Very valuable lessons also…

5. What’s in it for the customer?

Think about your unique selling points and what you have to offer. These should be at the forefront of your content and should underpin your store’s tone of voice. What are you offering them and why should they listen? Don’t get so focused on tone of voice that you forget the purpose of your content – to increase sales and promote your store. But what do customers get, or what can they count on, when they come to your store?

6. Take feedback on board

Feedback and criticism aren’t one and the same. It’s important to listen to what your customers give back once your voice is out there. And people will definitely let you know, especially online! Tone of voice is something that develops and evolves over time, and the only way that this will happen is through listening to feedback. Sometimes you might try something that doesn’t work, and that’s ok. Try again, but whatever you do, stay connected to your audience. Statistics are great feedback too, they’ll show you what posts are hitting home, and which are definitely not resonating with your audience. Social listening matters in the online world, be open to your audience.

Last but not least, a great idea would be to develop some guidelines, examples and a house style guide to help keep that voice consistent throughout your content. For example, your logo in every picture, the same filter over every picture, consistent use of language, same use of colors, et cetera. It’s really useful when someone else needs to create content for your store too, when there’s a guide available. This way you can share this responsibility!

Proofreading is also extremely important – you can develop tone of voice as much as you like, but when your content is littered with mistakes it will undermine your hard work! Authenticity and genuine passion are both a really important part of communicating with your audience, and it’s important that your tone of voice reflects this.

Another thing worth mentioning: It takes a little more thought if you’re working across different markets as you need to take cultural attitudes into consideration as well as company culture. An audience in Japan expects something different then an audience in the US or in Germany, so bear this in mind when you’re creating your brand persona and tone of voice.

As an entrepreneur, you can make life easier for yourself by distributing your content with an easy to use app like Embrosa. The app Embrosa (Apple Store and Google Play) provides you with beautiful and strong professional visuals (pictures and videos) by so many of your optical suppliers and brands. The app also provides text ready to post, and inspiration on what to post and when, plus general content that you can download or share directly to your social media platforms. And the latest and greatest, you can now plan your social media posts too, so when you’re not there, but you’re the tone of voice expert, you can plan ahead and make sure all the content will be in place. Embrosa will post for you!

Remember, your audience is looking to connect! They won’t connect to your paper mission statements, they will however connect to your tone of voice if it shows your brand’s values and culture. As a local entrepreneur, knowing your audience is probably one of your biggest strengths. Once you decide on your tone of voice, just go – be bold, be out there – express yourself within your community and let the audience get to know you too!