In business, the companies that shout the most, get noticed. They always seem to have something to say about their own products, sharing testimonials or simply interacting with their customer base. Most of the time, this converts nicely into sales.
The key to getting a message across while not alienating or annoying the audience, comes down to an engaging tone of voice. Company voice now goes beyond the traditional customer-facing aspects such as reception or face to face in shops, showrooms or at exhibitions. It applies to all platforms where a business is active, be that on the website, social media or in person. Company voice should be used to promote values, ideas and help a business or product stand out.
The wording on a website says a lot about the company it represents – it should be concise and informative, and explain exactly what a customer will get from the company.
Take lasagne sheets for instance. Tesco describes its product as “Dried lasagne pasta made from Durum wheat semolina” – simple, to the point, and the end user knows exactly what they are getting. However, the way in which Waitrose describes its version of the humble lasagne sheet, elevates the product and captivates the imagination of the buyer: “Our pasta is made in the village of Fara San Martino, in the Abruzzo region of Italy, from 100% Italian Durum wheat and water from the local mountain spring.” Both ways are describing the pasta are correct and can be instantly associated with the two organisations. Tesco is accurate, with a no nonsense description, while Waitrose is more detailed, including sophisticated messaging. The key is consistency of message. A consistent voice helps build trust and leaves a lasting impression on clients.
Nowadays, brand voice is most noticeable and, in many cases, damaging across online platforms. The way in which a business presents itself on social media via Facebook and Twitter is vital. Inactivity on official pages and lengthy response times set off alarm bells for customers. As do politically minded posts – social media makes the sharing of information incredibly easy, so keep personal opinions for your personal account.
Some companies opt to be loud and proud – shouting that their products or services are the best (Cillit Bang anyone?). If this is backed up with a good amount of testimonials, it gets the company noticed; it piques the interest of potential customers. From here, brand voice comes into its own – it is often the make or break of a transaction. If the voice doesn’t engage or jars with the customer, they’re only three clicks away from another supplier. However, if the voice is friendly and understanding, there is a far better chance a sale will be made.
House style has to come into the mix somewhere – such as how you greet or sign off messages – but content is far more persuasive if it has a human touch. No one wants a robotic, automated message – they want to feel that their question or problems has been taken on board and treated with individual attention. Humanising responses is important, be that using their name or repeating information they have sent to you – if they tell you their horse ‘Bert’ has an issue, include Bert’s name in the response.
For some, this may all sound like hard work. It takes time to personalise responses to each individual, but it is worth it! Just as a friendly face is important inside a store, a friendly, personal and human voice is important online.
Remind yourself, all is not lost if one exchange goes south. You can change your voice or rectify situations with honesty. Not notice a Facebook message? Explain this to the customer and maybe offer something in the way of a discount – do not just hope the problem goes away. The sender will take offence and will certainly not recommend the company to friends.
Going back to lasagne sheets – it is worth bearing in mind that the price differential between the two is quite large. While they are basically the same product, the reworked wording gives customers a reason to spend more, and many will do just that. Going that little bit further with developing your own voice may result in increased sales.