Developing a Voice for Your Brand

Building an authentic brand message allows your team to tell your customers the same story.

Everyone would like to say they have a strong brand, but let’s face it, a logo and color palette seldom convert prospects into customers. If you want a brand that truly impacts your bottom line, you need a strong focus on brand strategy. This means a strong brand message and a clear brand voice.

Let’s start with some definitions:

Brand Message: What you want your audience to hear.

It’s the takeaway after any introduction. Brand messaging can come in the form of a commercial, a speech at a conference, a visit to your website, and more. Do you want your audience to believe that your company is focused on social impact like TOMS Shoes, or are you focused on an affordable experience with great customer service like Southwest Airlines?

Brand Voice: What your message sounds like and how it makes your audience feel.

You might think of “brand voice” as the traits of your brand’s personality. Brand voice encompasses language and tone. This includes factors like whether you use humor, industry terms, or active voice. When we talk about brand voice, we are often speaking about the brand message as well, because they go hand-in-hand. You can’t do one well without the other.

Determining your brand voice is a vital part of purposeful growth. Building an authentic brand message and tone allows your team to get on the same page, speak the same language, and tell your customers the same story. It emboldens your marketing team, empowers your sales team, and assures your executive team that their brand is in good hands.

Here are four action items to develop your brand voice.

Step 1: Talk to the people who represent your brand

This is simultaneously the most important and the most overlooked aspect of building an authentic brand voice. Too often, marketers hide in their virtual offices for a few weeks only to emerge upon a white horse with a glorious brand document that they mostly made up. That’s great for an art project, but if you need something that people can actually use, you should try talking to the people who will use it.

If the purpose of a brand is to help you sell more products, talk to your sales staff about your brand. If you need to communicate your product’s superiority, make sure you talk to your product team. You get the idea.

Here is your ultimate brand interview checklist:

  • Your top 2-3 salespeople
  • 2-3 average salespeople
  • Your 2-3 worst salespeople
  • Your product development manager(s)
  • Your product development team
  • Your executive team in a board meeting
  • Your executive team one-on-one (you’d be surprised at the difference in answers!)

Ask these individuals about your company, product, and clients. How do they view them? How do their clients view them? What’s most important to them? Once you’ve conducted your interviews, it’s time to look at some context.

Step 2: Connect with people who will buy your product

Developing a brand based on the opinion of the people who represent that brand is important, but odds are, your leaders and employees are going to be biased. People inside of a company are experts on that very company, but it’s easy to find yourself in a place where you can’t see the forest for the trees. That’s why surveying the opinions of customers outside of your business is important.

The first step? Ask questions!

Depending on your goals, the focus of your questions might shift, but here are a few things you might look for:

  • What are the common reasons customers choose your brand over other options?
  • What are common complaints or concerns?
  • How does a customer describe your product category? How do they describe you?
  • What are common customer traits such as professional industry, job title, or interests?

Pay special attention to common language. Brands often get caught in the jargon trap, rather than understanding how their customers talk about their product or service. The goal is to speak in the language of the customer, so taking note of how they describe their challenge and your solution to it might better prepare you to create brand messaging that the customer can connect with.

Step 3: Look at where your brand will be speaking

Next, you’ll want to make a list of the places that your brand will be communicating. This includes both internal and external communication.

Look at all of the following questions and make sure you have good answers to each:

  • How do we communicate to our team internally? What platforms do we use?
  • How do we communicate to our prospects and clients?
  • How important is our website? Is it one of our primary tools for educating our clients? If the answer is no, why not?
  • What social networks do we use? How do we use them to communicate with our employees, prospects, and customers?

Once you’ve answered these questions, we’re ready to build!

Step 4: Create an effective outline

Start by building a great outline of your brand’s voice. You want to make sure that you know when, where, and how your brand’s voice will be used at all times. Ideally, it will look something like this:

  • Your key purpose - this should answer why you exist and what purpose you serve.
  • Your brand positioning - where you belong in the marketplace, and in the mind of the consumer.
  • Your brand voice - a high-level overview of what your brand sounds like. It should include:
    • Tone - What kind of language your brand uses overall. You can use things like personality traits or celebrity voices to define your sound.
    • What words we use - How you describe your products, services, and company culture.
    • What words we don’t use - What language to avoid. This is often words or terminology that don’t fit your target positioning.
    • How we communicate - Where your brand’s voice lives. This can be anywhere that your company communicates internally or externally.

Step 5: Develop an authentic brand voice and share it with your company

Finally, fill in the outline with your brand’s unique voice. Make sure that it is authentic to the results of your interviews. You should always remember that brand marketing can be aspirational, but it must be supported by reality so that it resonates with customers and their experiences. In the long run you will experience more success as a result.

Be sure to write a brand manifesto. A manifesto is simply a master document that describes your brand, its core message, and why people should care about it. It serves as the guide to your brand voice and sets the boundaries of your brand’s messaging. As always, be consistent, but allow your team to explore within the boundaries of your manifesto. Be sure to evaluate your brand message occasionally, especially as your business experiences growth or as cultural changes call for updates.

To dive into your brand voice with help from our team, schedule a Brand Discovery Workshop.

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