Choosing the wrong tone-of-voice in your copywriting can make customers uncomfortable, and walk away from your offer.
In this short episode you’ll learn:
- Why people trust people who have similar speech patterns.
- Why tone-of-voice depends on context.
- A quick index-card exercise for choosing the tone-of-voice for your customer.
- How to capture the perfect tone-of-voice in your copywriting before you write even one word.
I hope you enjoy this episode and that you find it easier from now on to write copy in a tone of voice that will instantly appeal to your specific audience and lead to more conversions.
- Register for the Write with Influence course
Hello and welcome to another edition of Write with Influence where I’ll be sharing my persuasive writing and messaging techniques for making more sales in your business.
Today I’m talking about tone of voice. It’s not what you say, but it’s the way that you say it, right? Well, never is this more relevant than when you’re wanting to persuade someone with your writing. So, in this episode we’re going to look at the challenge of getting the tone of voice right for your customer in your marketing.
First of all, why is tone of voice so important?
Well, it has an impact on the way we connect with people and it can also affect our ability to persuade. If we pick the wrong tone of voice, we can make someone feel uncomfortable. There was once a study carried out that was titled ‘People with similar views closely mirror each other’s speech patterns.’ A group of researchers took a group of participants and asked them to listen to audio messages that voiced a particular ideological viewpoint/ opinion. After the participants had listened to these messages, they were asked to describe what was happening on some very simple illustrations. What the researchers found was that, the people who agreed with the message that they had just heard actually adopted some of the speech patterns within that message when it came to describing the illustrations. In contrast, the people who did not agree with the message or ideology within it did not adopt those same patterns when describing the illustrations. So, adopting someone else’s speech patterns seems to suggest a level of trust and agreement and this could be helpful if you’re trying to negotiate, or if you’re trying to persuade. For example, if someone is mirroring your speech pattern, this could make you feel like you’re on the same page, but if someone else has a different speech pattern, you might start to adopt their style of speech to suggest that you are in agreement with them in order to build trust.
So, let’s think about this in terms of the tone of voice that you might choose for your copywriting. Basically, you want to choose a tone of voice that makes your customer feel comfortable but I want to make it clear that picking that tone of voice isn’t about manipulating someone, it’s about making them feel at ease so that they can make a decision, preferably a buying decision. So for example, when it comes to making a big decision, I’m pretty careful and considerate. I like to take my time and do some research. I really hate feeling like I’m being pushed into something and I don’t respond well to pushy people at all. I think this stems from spending a lot of my teenage years with friends who weren’t that nice if I’m honest – they would use a lot of tactics, including guilt manipulation to put pressure on people to act in a certain way or do certain things. Now, fortunately, my parents were very encouraging about how to deal with this sort of behaviour and taught me that it was actually OK to stand my ground, that if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter how much guilt or manipulative language might be being used, you can always walk away. The result of that is that I am probably a pushy salesperson’s nightmare. The more someone tries to apply pressure or uses strong or forceful language to get me to do something, the more likely I am to just walk away.
Now, obviously I don’t think you’re going to be using strong or forceful language to make your customer do something, but sometimes we can inadvertently use language or a tone of voice that that might make a customer feel uncomfortable. Let’s say that I am looking to buy a new mobile phone and I go into a shop and the salesperson is very excited about a particular model. Perhaps he tells me it’s amazing! It’s simply awesome! It’s buzzing! You should be totally pumped and stoked to own this! That’s probably not the right tone of voice for me because a new mobile phone is going to take a little bit of careful consideration and that tone of voice is likely to put me off. But now, let’s say that this salesperson is trying to convince me to try out a new roller coaster. I love roller coasters so I would totally respond to a tone of voice that had that level of enthusiasm and excitement. Now, it might seem really obvious that we shouldn’t mix up these two styles, but it can be really hard to choose the right tone of voice when writing your copy. Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. One is, I think that it’s very easy to associate copywriting with over the top, hyped up language, since it’s always been used in advertising and many classical advertising styles are very full on, in your face and hyped up. Some people actually think that this is what copywriting means. The other challenge is that it’s very easy to forget that copywriting is a conversation with your customer. When I am working with clients that are struggling to find the right tone of voice, often I ask them to tell me how they would talk to their customers face to face. In the past, some clients have told me that,
“Well, you know, we work with students and English isn’t their first language so we have to make sure that we always speak very clearly and simply.”
Other clients may have customers that are much more straightforward so they want me to get to the point straight away, talk to them directly and let them know within seconds what it is that is being offered – they’re not into flowery language so my style would be very direct and straightforward. What becomes apparent when I get into these conversations is that, my clients do have a really good instinct when it comes to how they would address their customer if they were sitting opposite the table from them. The difficulty is that when you’re writing your copy, your customer isn’t in front of you. When you write, it’s just you, your head and a keyboard or a pen. Your customer isn’t there, you can’t see them and they’re not actively responding to your words as they would be if they were there chatting to you face to face. So, if you’re struggling to keep in mind what the right tone of voice is for your customer, one thing that you can do is use a very simple ‘Personality Snapshot’ to help. This is a really simple task to help you stay on target with your tone of voice when writing to your customer. What you do is, you take an index card and split it into three columns:
- Who is my customer?
Write the title of the person you’re trying to reach.
- What are their personality traits?
- How would I talk to them face to face?
If your customer was the VP of finance and they’re looking to buy some software, their personality traits may be that they are very straightforward and no nonsense; they’re busy people and they need the facts straight away. So how would you talk to them face to face? Well, you wouldn’t use flowery language or over the top descriptions. You’d be direct, you would provide facts and figures and maybe talk about other companies that have had success with your product and really emphasise the results because that’s what they’re interested in.
Now, let’s say your customer is a life coaching client, they might be a little bit more creative, a little bit more sensitive etc. They might be at a crossroads in their life and not quite sure which way to turn so how would you talk to them face to face? Well, you might be thinking about needing to soothe their concerns, show that you understand where they are, have empathy for the way that they’re feeling and give them lots of reassurance – tell them not to worry and explain how your process works so that there’s no mystery or uncertainty about what it’s like to work with you.
You can use different personality characteristics to dictate your copy. For instance, if we were writing some short content for our VP of finance, it might be along the lines of, Our ERP software increases efficiency on average by 25% in all our retail customers with each client experiencing increased revenue as a direct result. Of course, I’m making that up! That’s just off the top of my head, but we’re getting straight to the core of the information. We’re getting straight to the point. We’re not asking this particular client to imagine a world where their ERP software integrates beautifully. No, we’re giving them what it is that we know their personality responds to. However, for our life coaching client, we might want a less direct, more emotionally intuitive style of writing. We may start off by explaining that, for example, not knowing which way to go when you’re facing a big decision can be scary but the good news is that you don’t have to make it alone and there is a lot of support and resources out there to help. There are going to be a lot of different styles depending on who your customer is, but ultimately, tone of voice comes down to how you would talk to your customer face to face, and the best way to identify whether you are capturing this in your copy is to read it out loud and ask, does it sound authentic? Does it sound natural? If it doesn’t, then ask yourself, how would I say it out loud? And then tweak the copy from there. You might actually find it easier to have the conversation out loud, record it and then transcribe it and work backwards to see if you can get a more natural tone of voice that suits the style of your business and matches your customer.
That’s all for this week, a very short and sweet episode!
Don’t forget, if you’ve got a copy question, if you want me to look at some copy, critique it, give you free feedback etc, please feel free to pop your details and questions in the comments below and you can get some free copywriting advice. Yes, I know! Get in quickly before everyone else finds out about this!
Until next time, keep believing.