What was the last business you visited? Was it online or in person? If it was in person then you can probably remember much about the brand, their voice, and even who they sell to.
Brick and mortar businesses spend much of time and money ensuring that their customers know who they are selling to. You can immediately tell the difference between a Walmart and a Saks Fifth Avenue the second you step foot in the door.
Why? They've branded everything about their businesses, from the look and feel down to how the assistants and cashiers dress code, and sometimes even how they greet you.
But, if you last visited an online business, especially a small one, you probably remember much less about the brand. That's because many businesses have trouble translating those same brand concepts from their physical location to their online presence.
Despite that, it's becoming increasingly important to communicate your brand online and to keep it consistent across all your channels. Modern shoppers are more concerned with your business brand than anything else about you, and it is important that you communicate to and connect with your primary demographic.
In person, we can easily tell where someone is from, how educated they are, and sometimes even what they do based on how they talk, their accent, and the words they use. Your website, blog, and social media channels communicate similar information about you and your brand, and it is important that you decide what you are saying because even if you aren't consciously crafting a brand voice, your customers are reading one.
Bringing your brand to the web is a big step, but it is an important one if you want to connect with your consumers online. In this article, we'll cover how you can identify your brand voice and how to integrate it across all your channels.
Crafting Your Brand Voice
Your brand voice is something like your brand's personality. This is important because it will affect your interactions with everyone you talk to. A formal brand would never say "Hey, what's up" or make a joke in response to a customer query, but an informal brand would, and could even use it to strengthen their relationship with the consumer. But which you choose isn't entirely up to you, it's up to your customers and what they expect and respond to.
Most small businesses only have a tentative idea of who their ideal customer is, let alone how they should be talking to them. This was fine in the pre-digital age, where it was difficult to research and find information, and expensive to use questionnaires to learn more about the people who did buy from you. Today, all of that has changed, and you can easily learn a great deal about your target audience and demographic online using free and simple tools. In some cases, you can possibly learn enough about your demographic to act without interviewing your consumers yourself.
The first step to defining your brand voice is to identify who you are talking to. For most businesses, this means that you must take a good look at who you are selling to, what they want, why they are buying your product, and what is important to them. You've probably already done a significant amount of customer research on your own for your brand and your marketing, and if you have buyer personas, now is the time to use them.
If you don't, you can take the time to collect data on your customers and use that data to create buyer personas. These will help you to identify different portions of your buyer demographic, check desires and wants, and decide on your brand's personality.
Ask questions like:
- What did you buy from us?
- Why did you buy it?
- Did it solve your problem?
- What was your biggest concern before making this purchase?
- What did you love about your purchase?
- Is there anything you didn't love about your purchase?
- How was your experience with our brand?
- Was your purchase for personal or professional use?
- What is your age?
- How big is your household?
- What is your job?
- How much do you earn per year?
You can use these questions as a template to design your own survey and then send it out for free via Google Surveys (free tool) or Survey Monkey (also a free tool). Just remember, keep it short, most of your customer's will be unwilling to fill out a survey without some incentive (such as a small discount), but you still don't want to take up too much of their time even with the incentive.
Why would you ask these questions? These 12 simple questions can help you to define the motivation behind the customer's purchase, what they were worried about, their age, their lifestyle, their experience with you, and their problems. This in turn, allows you to create a picture of them, their lifestyle, and their goals. And, when you know who your audience is, you know how to talk to them.
When you know that your audience is primarily 20-something millennials looking for personal solutions, you know that you should probably be fun, casual, and interesting. If your audience is primarily business executives looking for solutions for their company, you should usually be a bit more professional.
When you know your audience, you can take the time to research them, find out what they want, find out what is important to them, and learn how they talk.
Importantly, your entire audience won't be the same. Most businesses have multiple buyer demographics, and not everyone inside of a demographic will fit neatly into that picture. Creating multiple buyer personas, or 'fake' people with the common characteristics of each of your primary buyers can help you to make better decisions when deciding on a brand voice and when working with your customers one-on-one.
Most of the time, your brand voice should reflect that of your primary audience. While this will prove true in most cases, being genuine to your core products or services supercede this rule. Trying too hard to get a voice that isn't yours simply will not work.
Consider writing up a character sheet for your own brand.
- Describe your brand in a few sentences.
- If your brand were a person, what would they wear?
- What are some words you use to define your brand? (Fun, innovating, creative, trustworthy, etc.)
- How should your consumer feel when they read your website?
- What does your brand do outside of selling things?
- Is your brand involved with philanthropy?
- What is your brand's community or business affiliation?
- How does your brand offer value?
With all this information in mind, you should have a clear picture of what your brand cares about, how your brand should talk and how your audience wants to be talked to.
But, if you're not sure where to start, don't forget about competitor research. Check out your closest competitors, big business competitors, and anyone in your niche to find out how they talk and how consumers respond. Facebook is a great place to review comments and visitor posts to see how the brand responds to both positive and negative input. Of course, you don't want to copy, but you can get a good idea of what is working and what isn't.
Building Consistency Across All Your Channels
Maintaining consistency across all your channels is crucial to presenting the same brand image to everyone, no matter where they are. This means creating a style guide, deciding what works, and ensuring that everything is reviewed before it goes live.
Your style guide should include:
- Who We Are
- At least five personality traits for your brand.
- What We Want to Say
- Define Your Brand Message.
- How We Want to Say It
- Define your tone. Use at least five keywords like "Direct, honest, informative, funny, professional, etc.) Take the time to expand on each of those keywords to outline what you expect.
- At least two positive examples of what your brand writing looks like.
- At least two negative examples of what your brand writing looks like.
- Create a rationale using your brand personality and buyer personas. Why should you use this voice?
- Create rules for content, to ensure that everything is reviewed and updated to the same style and voice, whether it is on your blog or on snapchat.
- Define who is writing your content and who will review it before it goes live.
Once you have defined your voice, created rules to put it into place, and started using it, your biggest concern is ensuring that you continue to use it everywhere your brand is present. It's important to retain consistency across all channels because your customers can see you on any channel. Pretend you're walking by a store window and it looks nice inside and you want to go in. Then you go by another window and the view from there tells an entirely different story. Changing your voice across channels is just as confusing for digital consumers, even if it's just a switch from Facebook to Instagram.
Your brand voice is important because it defines how you connect with your consumers, what you say to them, and how you say it. This in turn affects how they perceive your business, how much they trust your business, and even whether they decide to make a purchase.
The content on your website and your social media is important, and it is crucial that you take the time to ensure that it fits into your brand. Hopefully you can use the tools and the ideas in this article to define your audience, develop a deeper understanding of your brand, and begin to ideate your brand voice. If you're not sure where to start, or want to ensure professional results, a digital marketing team can help you to research and define your brand and voice.