Research has shown that presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by 23%. It’s more than just a logo and color palette. A lot of that has to do with brand voice, the way your brand communicates with your audience. It’s your personality and your presence — how buyers put a face to a name (since companies don’t have human faces of their own).
Unfortunately, B2B brand voices are notoriously clunky and loaded with jargon. We’ve all heard of an organization that’s “using synergy to optimize processes with cloud-based solutions.” The tech might be great, but the messaging doesn’t resonate with the average human being – and B2B buyers are human beings. We must communicate with them as such, but this can be a challenge when you’re dealing with heavily regulated communications and highly technical products.
Overall, brand voice is a delicate balance between professionalism and personability. Do you sound human enough to build a relationship but authoritative enough to build trust? The following five tips can help.
Focus on personality
B2B brands — particularly those dealing with highly technical products — often fall into the trap of sounding cold, sterile, and unwelcoming. You can help humanize your organization by defining your brand’s personality. Don’t know where to start? Have a look at the Jungian archetypes.
Jungian archetypes, a theory first proposed by Carl Jung, are 12 character archetypes that are universally recognizable. We see them in books, folklore, TV, films, and according to Jung, in our own unconscious. Because these archetypes are so inherent, they feel familiar. In other words: they’ll help your brand feel like a friend or partner to buyers rather than a stranger. They’ll also help you make decisions about content. From a brand perspective, the archetypes are:
- The Caregiver: cares for others or helps others care for others
- The Ruler: prioritizes or helps others maintain or gain power, authority and control
- The Artist: fosters creativity and innovation
- The Innocent: promotes freedom, happiness and optimism
- The Sage: promotes knowledge, truth and wisdom
- The Explorer: helps clients retain independence or find themselves
- The Outlaw: disruptive, revolutionary, and rebellious
- The Magician: transforms others or helps others transform others
- The Hero: helps clients consistently achieve their goals
- The Lover: creates relationships and evokes emotions
- The Jester: evokes the inner-child with a care-free attitude
- The Everyman: relatable, likeable, family-oriented, and meets basic needs without extravagance.
These archetypes are used in brand voices every day. For example, Apple branded themselves as the Outlaw, a tech disruptor changing the world by breaking tech’s status quo. Meanwhile, Verizon branded themselves as the Ruler with campaigns like their “There’s only one best network” campaign. You can use more than one archetype, but each one does communicate in a different way.
Keep it specific
Many B2B brands don’t dive deep enough when outlining their brand voice. They use broad terms like “our tone should be friendly and informative.” That could mean four different things to four different writers. Instead, it’s important to ask deeper questions that help define your whole brand persona. For example, you may want to ask yourself:
- What would my brand look like if it was a human?
- What are our core values?
- How do I want people to feel when they read our content?
- Who would we hang out with at a dinner party?
Part of keeping it specific is outlining the differences between tone and voice. Think of voice as the words you say and tone as the way you say them. Tone will change from situation-to-situation. For example, you’ll probably speak differently in a white paper or industry report than you would a casual tweet. Similarly, a public apology would have a drastically different tone than sales copy, but your voice should be ever-present. You should always come at it with the same values, goals, and personality.
Limit the jargon
Industry jargon and high-level vocabulary can show expertise, but sometimes, it comes at an expense. It’s often the difference between telling a B2B buyer that you’re an expert versus proving to a B2B buyer that you’re an expert. It’s far more important to focus on storytelling. It’s far more valuable to explain your successes in a way that’s easily understood than writing a few sentences loaded with business-speak.
At the end of the day, jargon is all about balance. Most B2B businesses can’t fully avoid it. For example, a SaaS company may want to discuss ACL (average customer life, not the ligament in your knee) but there are other ways to describe a customer churn (like the word “cancelling”). Don’t be afraid to mix it up. It may help your message resonate.
Take a tip from B2C
Research has shown that a whopping 80% of B2B buyers expect a B2C customer experience — and that starts with voice. Since B2C brands sell to average consumers rather than businesses, their voices tend to be friendly, simple and approachable. They’re knowledgeable, but they’re also accessible. At the same time, this type of voice goes a long way towards building the relationships that outlive notoriously long B2B buying cycles. In other words: it’s time to take a page from B2C brands and ditch the stuffy B2B voices of yore.
Mailchimp is a great example. The email marketing platform’s primary draw is their technology. They offer loads of automation tools like A/B testing and time optimization, which could lend itself to very heavy technical copy. Instead, they’ve approached their brand’s voice as an “experienced and compassionate business partner,” a real human with humor and colloquial language.
Write a style guide
A brand voice is only as effective as it is consistent. For this reason, it’s important to create a style guide that can be shared with writers across all departments. This could be as simple as a Google document, but it should spell out:
- A mission statement: who your brand is and what you hope to achieve
- Your company values: values inform how your brand approaches individual situations
- A short description of your voice: list out a couple characteristics that will help writers understand your brand’s personality. For example: human and informative or caring but professional.
- A style guide: This will dictate grammar, spelling choice, capitalization and punctuation.
- Examples of word choice: How do you apply your voice in the real world? What words don’t you use?
- Examples of content: This helps writers see your voice in action.
Overall, examples are crucial in a style guide. You want to show writers what works and what doesn’t, especially when dealing with sensitive topics.
For many B2B businesses, brand voice can feel like an afterthought. There are a lot of moving parts: high stakes contracts, long buying cycles, lead generation and nurturing. The intense pressure to prove expertise can often lend itself to sterile, technical copy that is indistinguishable from competitors. It’s important to remember that your voice is your brand’s personality, and that’s what customers connect with. A little thought will go a long way.