There are a million and one brands out there that are selling the same products.
If your business has more clones than an episode of Orphan Black, what is going to set you apart? Your brand voice.
You have enough opportunity to deliver a strong brand voice across multiple channels. For example in web copy, ads, email subject lines, and of course, social media posts.
To differentiate your B2B brand from others on such platforms, you need to have an authentic and distinctive brand voice.
People expect it nowadays.
For instance, the qualities people crave most from brands on social media are honesty (86%) and friendliness (83%):
Consumers want brands to possess human traits. They insist your brand possesses a personality.
Brand voice is how you re-establish the connection with your audience that is often lacking in advertising and marketing.
Admittedly, this can be much more difficult for B2B companies than B2C companies.
I mean, how exciting can you make something like LED strip lights for offices…
Well, I’m about to show you that you can establish an interesting brand voice, even in the B2B sphere.
Here’s how you can do it in just six simple steps:
1. Establish Your Target Audience
People want to know how your brand can help their business.
Not that your product has a long list of capabilities that they may not need or understand.
You’re not making one of those skincare commercials where it sounds as though the product has totally made-up ingredients...
“Our cream contains floopety-goop essence to fight wrinkles”.
In fact, 88% of B2B buyers say that they want content creators to focus less on product specifics and more on its inherent value.
Thus, it pays to recognize your demographics and their particular pain points.
Your brand voice should be one that your audience can relate to, after all.
Australian financial management company MYOB has an interesting approach.
They split their content into two segments, one for small businesses and one for more established professionals:
You can establish buyer personas and gain a deeper understanding of your audience by asking questions, such as the following:
- What are their roles and responsibilities?
- What are their main pain points?
- Which stage of your sales funnel do they belong to?
- Where do they go to find information about your industry?
Thus, you will be able to create a bond between your brand and your target audience by showing that you understand them and their problems.
You know what types of content work best for different stages of your sales funnel, which may look something like this:
It’s all about creating a brand voice that your audience can relate to.
And targeting them in the places they frequent, e.g. social media or your blog etc.
You should also reconsider how your target audience perceives your brand, and what they like most.
Then you can emphasize those aspects of your brand’s personality, to draw them in further and encourage customer loyalty.
2. Monitor Your Audience
Once you know everything there is to know about your audience…
You need to, well, stalk them.
This is how you gain further insight into what they talk about.
As well as the language and terminology they use so that you can emulate it.
One way you can do this is via social listening i.e. monitoring social media conversations related to your keywords or industry.
Dominique Jackson at Sprout Social says, “Analyzing the context and larger trends around those conversations through social listening can give you valuable insight to better speak to and serve your target audience.”
Let’s say, for example, you sell cloud computing software to businesses.
I conducted a quick Twitter search for “cloud computing” and it read a conversation thread among a group of industry experts:
and to the original point, #AWS is the 2-ton gorilla in the room , Synergy Groups latest #Iaas market share report - 'Amazon maintained its dominance and remains bigger than its next four competitors combined. ' https://t.co/NPlyHLbgO6 #cloudwars #cloudcomputing pic.twitter.com/uDBv4E6wEd— Ed Featherston (@efeatherston) October 31, 2018
Not only, do you gain insight into the topic of conversation…
You also get to see what kind of language they are using, e.g. calling AWS “the 2-ton gorilla in the room”.
Quora, in particular, can help you create content that mirrors your audience’s voice.
I typed “cloud computing” into Quora and pulled up the following questions:
You could use these exact questions as headlines, to resonate with your audience.
Social listening and browsing forums can also help you gauge the overall knowledge level of your audience.
With the “cloud computing” example, the audience is clearly well-informed and accustomed to technical terms.
This won’t be the case for every B2B business. For instance, if they don’t use jargon, you shouldn’t either.
All in all, by resembling the voice of your audience they will relate to your brand in a big way.
3. Communicate Your Vision
Okay, you don’t need to be Mother Teresa…
But, your brand must have a vision outside of making moolah.
This could seriously help you establish your brand voice.
Lindsay Kolowich at HubSpot says, “Often, the reason we stay loyal to brands is because of their values. The best brands strive to combine physical, emotional, and logical elements into one exceptional customer (and employee) experience.”
You can form an emotional connection with your audience by expressing your values through your brand voice.
For example, tool manufacturers Freund state, “Our objective is to allow craftsmen to save time and money, by using our high-quality, ergonomic tools.”
This objective is reflected in the language they use for their web copy:
They express their desire to save craftsmen time and money, by showing that they know, “the design of roofs and facades requires high demands”.
They go on to convey their passion for quality and ergonomics by using words such as “quality” (obv.), “specialized” and “tailor-made”.
When figuring out how to communicate your vision through your brand voice, you must also consider how you want to present your brand to the world…
How do you want customers to perceive your brand? What impression do you want to give?
Then you can come up with descriptors as to what your tone is, and equally as important, what it isn’t.
MailChimp’s Content Style Guide offers a great example of this in action:
Here they show exactly how their brand values relate to tone, e.g. they aim to be “helpful” but the tone mustn’t be “overbearing”.
Why not give this exercise a go yourself?
4. Analyze Your Competitors
You’ve probably carried out competitor analysis to find industry benchmarks before.
But have you ever thought to check out how your competitors are using their brand voice?
Your main goals should be to make sure you have the edge…
And that your voice is unique.
There is industry best practices you should adhere to, of course.
These come from existing research and studies.
So, if you know that 71% of consumers find brands who get political on social media annoying…
It’s unlikely you will put your two cents in.
That’s just an example.
The idea is to look at your competitors and industry best practices and use the information you find to create frameworks for what you should do.
Peter Boyle at Crazy Egg talks about this,
The artists and marketers that make it huge are those who operate on the fringes of those frameworks. They follow the tried and true methods, but they pull in a huge amount of their own external influences and personality.
They don’t copy everything from those more established. They might implement the same methodology, but they do it with their own individual flair.”
Crazy Egg uses this philosophy on their own website.
Like other SaaS companies, they have a product demo.
But they show their individual style and brand voice:
Cultural references can be controversial, but it works in this case.
Essentially, you can use common practices when it comes to your brand voice.
But don’t forget to be an individual.
5. Have Some Fun With It
B2B topics can be as dry as attempting the cracker challenge.
But, it’s a common misconception that you need to have a stuffy and serious voice in B2B.
Considering the fact that, 91% of B2Bs use content marketing…
There would be a whole lot of dry, boring content out there if everybody kept a serious tone all of the time.
Your voice needs to be compelling.
Social media seems to be the easiest place to show off your witty and interesting brand voice.
Shopify uses humor on Twitter while staying on-topic:
Where do all the abandoned carts go?— Shopify (@Shopify) October 22, 2018
Is there an island full of abandoned carts looking for a home? 🛒 🏝
But, a fun brand voice isn’t only reserved for Twitter.
You can keep it casual on any medium.
In the following example, recruitment software company HireVue manage to make an unsubscribe email painfully cool:
The copy is excellent: “the last thing we want to do is come across as clingy.”
Like, HireVue, try to inject some personality into every piece of marketing material you produce.
But, I know not everyone is blessed with a quirky personality or GSOH.
We’d all have our own talk shows à la Ellen, if we were.
So, here are some top tips to help you establish a more casual and/or fun tone:
- Avoid being robotic by imagining that you’re talking to an actual, real-life person.
- Try an insider joke that your audience can relate too, as in the Shopify example.
- Find the right balance—being intelligent and fun are not mutually exclusive.
The most important thing to remember is to consider your audience at all times…
And what they will find interesting, funny and/or the right level of casual.
6. Be Prepared
Create a clear guideline for all staff and freelancers to use.
That way your brand voice will retain an air of consistency throughout all media.
According to Neil Patel, “Branding consistency is key to developing a following that remembers your brand and associates great content with it.”
Online wholesaler, Bulk Bookstore, has a clear and consistent brand voice.
It’s easy to see that their style is enthusiastic and educational.
Take a look at their blog posts:
Similarly, their Facebook page is packed with fun facts and quotes delivered in the same passionate tone.
Multi-channel marketing means it’s more important than ever to have a consistent brand voice.
So, how do you go about creating your brand voice guideline?
Start by collecting a number of samples you feel represent your brand voice.
These should come from a wide range of sources: web pages, social media posts, landing pages, blogs etc.
Use these samples to illustrate your guideline.
You may also wish to create a chart filled with concrete advice and examples.
Here’s an excellent one:
You could build this chart in a number of creative ways.
For instance, you could create a flow diagram branching out from your “Voice Characteristics”.
However, your guideline may not apply in all cases.
A large part of B2B content will come from individuals.
This means thought leadership pieces, interviews with in-house experts, customer testimony and so on.
In these instances, the individual’s voice should be accentuated.
This is because they come from a real-life person and not your brand.
Thought leadership pieces etc. aside, be sure to share your brand voice guidelines with anyone who produces content.
And practical advice with concrete examples is the best way to guarantee that they will follow through.
Your unique B2B brand voice is what will propel you ahead of the tonnes of other brands using the same buzzwords to sell the same products.
So, make like a unicorn and be different. Now, it’s up to you to take the first step. How well do you know your target audience?
It might be time to update those buyer personas.