Pick the right tone of voice

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Anyone who has had a disagreement with their partner will know the danger of getting your tone wrong. The same is true in marketing; get your tone of voice wrong and you risk failing to connect with potential customers or turning them off your product or brand completely.

But how do you pick the right voice? One of the first things to consider is the demographic you are marketing to.

How old are your target customers? Are they male or female? Is your business operating primarily in the business to business or business to consumer space?

Think about the way your ideal customers like to be spoken to, including what will grab and hold their attention, as well as what they are likely to find credible.

Be aware of differences in tone

Take the example of business selling the latest skate clothing to teenagers and school-leavers.

The conversational and edgy tone that might be most effective to market to their audience is likely to be vastly different to the language used by an established technology company selling enterprise-level accounting software to corporates.

Your brand – and the way you want people to perceive your products and service – is another key consideration.

If you operate at the luxury end of the market, your language should reflect that. You might emphasise the quality of your product or service, the story behind how it was created, and the superlative experience people will have when using it.

This differs from the way you might market a product or service that is competing purely on price. Think of Pak ‘n’ Save and its stickman ads; words like “cheap” need not be avoided if you are competing at the lower end of the market.

Understanding your target customers, your brand, and your position within your market will help guide the language you use, as well as the tone and messaging that will be most effective.

Keep in mind that in all cases, plain English should still be used. There’s no need to pack your content full of acronyms, cliches or buzzwords, even in the most corporate of markets.

It’s also important to ensure you’re up with the play with the language used by your target demographic. People will quickly notice if your language is out of touch.

I recall the sales manager of a company I worked for years ago who asked me to develop advert copy to promote a series of youth programmes that were being run in Auckland.

He was determined to sprinkle terms like “sick”, “skux” and “the bomb” throughout his ad messaging, forgetting the lingo used by young people changes quickly and had moved on since his own children were in school.

I’m sad to say my objections to including the terms were ignored, the ads were run, and they became the butt of a fair few jokes amongst their target audience.

Change your language if necessary

Changing the language you use to promote your product or service can require a chameleon-like ability to adapt the way you speak or write. However, it can pay real dividends when it comes to sales and the number of people engaging with your company.

Many digital advertising platforms – including Google Ads and Facebook – allow you to run A/B testing of different wording to accompany paid ads you are running. This process allows you to present two variations of an ad to different members of your target audience while gauging which of the variations attracts the most clicks and drives the most online sales.

Using A/B testing to gauge the effectiveness of ads with subtly different language is just one way businesses can home in on the tone that resonates best with their audience.

Getting your tone right is a constant learning process, and one that needs regular revision.

What’s important is that you remain in tune with your target customers, continue to speak their language, and respond as your market position and brand continue to evolve.

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James Heffield
James Heffield
Director of Bay of Plenty marketing and public relations consultancy Last Word. To find out more visit www.lastwordmedia.co.nz or email james@lastwordmedia.co.nz.

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