To sir, or not to sir…
That’s just one of the many decisions you need to make about your brand voice. Answering these questions is no easy task, especially when you have conflicting advice. Just a few weeks ago, two articles came out from experts offering their opinion. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Grant Cardone told you that you need to mind your manners when dealing with customers so you can make more sales. He advised that you should absolutely use surnames when dealing with customers.
“Don't call me bro, don’t call me buddy and don’t call me pal, just because I accepted your friendship on Facebook or because you follow me on Twitter or Instagram…. Oh, yes, manners are not just for the other party. They are for you! And calling me sir or Mr. Cardone will amount to money in your pocket.”
Two days later, in Mashable, Erica Cerulo told you first names felt more approachable.
“Ultimately, you want people to trust you and connect with you, and that’s a tough ask if they feel like you’re wearing a mask.”
You Can’t Copy and Paste Another Business’ Brand Voice
So, which one is correct? They both are. And they’re both wrong, too.
Both of these authors have done their research and clearly defined how they communicate to their customers. And guess what? It works for them – so much so that they each decided to share their tips with the rest of us. What’s the problem? Just because it worked for their business doesn't mean it will work for yours. You can’t copy and paste a brand voice from one business and apply it to your problem. Instead, you need to figure out which option is the best bet for you.
Lucky for you, I've got a step-by-step guide to help you come up with your OWN voice. I've worked on building hundreds of brands over the past decade and I have been able to spot some trends. One of the biggest ones I've discovered is that the brands that stand the test of time all have a solid content foundation. They know their organization, their audience and their product, and it’s this preliminary content, this foundational content, that enables them to decide on the specific tactics that make their brand voice come to life.
Focus on Building a Solid Content Foundation
You can’t build a structurally sound house without pouring the foundation first. It’s the same for brands. You can’t build a brand without developing your foundational content. Foundational content is the content that aligns your organization, audience, and products into one clear brand voice. It is crucial to create this content before you do any marketing, write any copy, or take any advice about communicating with customers.
Your foundational content is made up of three main pillars: your organization, your audience, and your offer. Each pillar has its own set of steps. If you’re in the process of building your brand, don’t just implement the advice of an expert. Follow these fourteen steps and then decide for yourself what your brand voice should be.
Steps to Building Your Foundational Content
Step One: Create a Mission Statement
Your Mission Statement describes what your business does and acts as the rally cry that makes you want to do what you do every day. It is the heart of your company - the first and most important piece of content your organization should have. Just like the heart pumps blood throughout the body, your mission statement pumps content throughout your organization. It should start with an action verb, be specific, short (under 7 words), inspirational (or aspirational), something you can actually achieve, and pack a punch. More on creating a Mission Statement here.
Step Two: Create a Vision Statement
Your vision statement is a description of what the world looks like once your mission is achieved. Your vision statement should be a natural segue from your mission statement. When developing a vision statement, start by clearly defining what it is you want to build or create as the founder of your company. Your vision statement should spell out your brand’s goals at a high level for all employees and consumers to understand. It should also articulate a clear win between your brand, its customers and your employees.
Step Three: Write your Core Values
Your core values are essentially rules of engagement for your organization. They should consist of 6-10 character traits that define your brand. Each one should include a short description for clarity. Your core values should not be vague or taken lightly - they are the traits that form a consistent identity that transcends every aspect of your brand.
Step Four: Write your Personality Traits
Your brand’s personality traits are human characteristics that describe your brand’s personality, how it speaks, interacts, and most importantly relates to your customers. Your core values are what guides everyone in your organization on how to engage with the world, your personality traits are what guides your copywriters, marketers, or anyone who writes any piece of content in your organization.
Step Five: Determine the Demographics of Your Target Audience
You can’t be effective in your marketing if you don’t research your audience. The first step is to identify the demographics of your audience. Demographics are character traits you can measure (age, gender, income etc.). You will most likely have more than one target audience (or segment). In this step, define each segment demographically.
Step Six: Determine the Psychographics of Your Target Audience
Demographics tell you who your audience is, psychographics help you understand your audience. They are character traits you can’t measure (lifestyle, beliefs, etc.). Psychographics dig deeper to tell you things like what your audience’s daily habits are, what they find valuable, and what opinions they have. Discovering your psychographics is all about taking the marketing data you have and determining the what. What get’s downloaded, what is the most popular email, etc. You can also gather psychographics from your customer service team and from surveys.
Step 7: Use Archetypes
Beyond demographics and psychographics are archetypes. Archetypes are storytelling patterns that transcend time, geography, and culture. Archetypes help you discover what motivates your audience. They are based on research done by Carl Jung – who developed 12 archetypes that acted as models of people, personalities or behaviors. By using this research you can really get deep into your audience and ultimately save time. Read more about archetypes here.
Step 8: Develop Personas for your audience
Now that you’ve identified your demographics, psychographics, and archetypes, you need to put them all together and develop personas. Personas are fictional, generalized characters based on the data you’ve collected on your target audience. These personas should be in paragraph form.
Step 9: Determine Who Your Ideal Customer Is
Your ideal customer is a real life person who represents your persona. Think of the personas you created, and then think of who you know, and assign the real life person who fits each of your personas. This will help you when it comes time to write for this audience segment – because now you know them.
Step 10: Write Down the Features for All of Your Offerings
You know all of those great things that make your product/service so cool and unique? Write them all down in a bulleted list for everyone in your organization to memorize and use. Anything and everything that makes your product distinctive and useful should be on the list.
Step 11: Write Down the Benefits Each Offer Brings to Your Audience
There’s a huge difference between benefits and features. Features describe attributes and benefits that tell buyers what’s in it for them. They tell them why your product/service features matter to your ideal customer. Think about all of the benefits that your product’s features provide your ideal customer and write them all down. To do this effectively, go back to your personas and think about the benefits from their perspective.
Step 12: Write a Value Proposition for Each Offer
Now that you have all of the features and benefits of your product(s)/service(s) written down you need to develop a one sentence description of why your ideal customer should use your product or service. Your value proposition should say exactly what problem your product or service solves, list the benefits to the consumer, and place priority on your point of difference.
Step 13: Do a Competitive Analysis
How do you know what makes you different or sets you apart if you haven’t done any research on the competition? A competitive analysis will help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors in the market so that you can really hone in on the places you shine and the places where you might need to do some tweaking.
Step 14: Write an Elevator Pitch
I don’t mean a cheesy canned statement (where at the end no one knows what you do). Your pitch should be a script for starting a conversation about your product or service that gets to the point quickly but clearly articulates our products and services.
Follows these steps and you will have the perfect foundation upon which to develop your brand voice, engage with your customers, and market effectively. Then, and only then, can you take advice about brand voice.
Want to know what happens when you don’t have your foundational content in check? Read my post about the Free People ad campaign. And if you’re interested in exploring this topic in-depth, check out my online class, Find Your Brand Voice: Personality for Business Success.