The tagline for Lindentree is ‘Find your voice. Tell your story.’ And while most businesses we work with feel pretty confident about the ‘story’ part, the question we get asked most often is: What do you mean, ‘voice’?
The thing is, you may have an incredible story – most companies do. However, if you don’t position that story in business writing that resonates with your ideal client (your ideal customer profile, or ICP), it won’t matter. They won’t hear you. That’s where voice comes in.
Voice, tone and narrator
Look up the term ‘business voice’ in a SEO keyword analytics tool, and the top ranking phrase in the US is ‘google voice for business’. In fact, that source keyword doesn’t receive more than 140 monthly searches. And I’m pretty sure that out of those, only a fraction are looking for the meaning of the term in the sense of voice in business writing.
When you’re working with creative writing, on the other hand, you’ll come across the word ‘narrator’ in your very first 101 class. In fact, anyone who’s read a book will probably be familiar with what a narrator is. In fiction, this is the person – or rather, the voice – who tells the story. It can be a first-person narrator, a second-person narrator, or an omniscient narrator. And it’s a make it or break it kind of deal; without a credible narrator, your story will collapse.
In other words, this tool is a fundamental pillar of traditional, fictional storytelling. In order to connect with your ideal consumer in a meaningful way, you need to make it a pillar of your company’s business writing, too. Think of voice as the narrator for your business – or its textual tone.
Who’s listening to your business voice?
Now, a narrator is only as good as the listener. This is where business writing and creative writing move onto two very different trajectories. The audience for a novel is the job of an agent or publisher to suss out – the author generally chooses her story, writes it, and hopes that someone will read it. Funnily enough, a lot of businesses use the exact same approach.
How often have you experienced ‘the shot in the dark’ approach to your company’s business writing? Someone comes up with an idea, and because enough people think it’s a good idea, you go with it. You haven’t really thought through whether your ideal client is going to respond to this piece of text or not. And you probably haven’t spent a huge amount of time crafting the narrator that’s going to tell it, either.
Ideally, you want business writing that’s consistent, relevant and meaningful to your ICP – every time. This goes for both static content (like an ‘About us’ page) and dynamic content (like a business blog). In other words, you should figure out your voice before you even start writing, and make sure it’s a tone your audience will appreciate. There are hundreds of ways a business can sound. Just think of how many different people you know, and how they’d all share an experience slightly differently.
How do you find your voice?
So you need a good voice in business writing – and it needs to correspond to who you’d like to listen. The final key component, though, is that it also needs to correlate with your business values, mission and ideals. How do you interlink all these different components into a single credible voice for your company?
Start with your story. What are the roots of the business? How did you get from where you were to where you are today? What were the challenges you faced? What are you most proud of? As your story unfolds, you’ll likely begin to see a voice take form. Once that happens you need to make sure it’s a narrator your audience will listen to.
In order to do this, map out an ICP for your company. Get to know them – thoroughly. The key to writing meaningful content is to know your reader down to their habits, fears and aspirations. The main thing to bear in mind, though, is this: How does your ideal client fit into your story? Can they hear themselves, through your narrator, taking part in the next steps of your business’ journey?
Once you succeed in building a voice that resonates, your business writing reaches new heights – and your content immediately becomes more relevant and sincere in the eyes of your customers.