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Finding Your Brand’s Voice

When it comes to standing out as a business online, it’s not enough to just write content. Writing good content is the first step, but differentiating yourself from your competitors is key. Now that we’ve talked about the basics of content marketing, it’s time to really focus on your brand’s unique voice. Does your content match your message and your brand? Making your content’s message accurately present your brand is an important way to stand out as a business.

What does it mean to develop your brand’s voice?

Your brand’s voice is your brand’s personality in writing. A unique voice will help you connect and be recognizable to your audience. Whether it’s formal or very casual, you want your brand’s voice to be consistent across all of your written material. By doing this, your customers will start recognizing your brand as soon as they start reading your words. A consistent voice gives your brand strength, and makes your message more memorable. This is important, because it helps you to build real connections with your customers through your writing. It also allows your customers to feel like they understand your company, and it helps them want to buy your product or work with you.

How to Establish Your Brand’s Voice

Just like you did with the design aspects of your brand, your brand’s written voice needs to be a reflection of your company. Take some time to think about how you want your customers to feel about your brand.

What sets your company apart?
How would you describe your products or services to a customer in person?
Does your customer base resonate with a more casual tone, or would they prefer something more formal?
Does your brand’s voice match what you’re selling?

When developing your brand voice, it’s important to keep your goals and brand personality at the forefront.  Make sure that you’re not alienating your customer base by focusing too much on being different, and losing sight of what your product or service can do for them. Knowing your customers and doing the research from the start will help you narrow this down.

Once you have an answer to these questions, these are the important points that you need to keep in mind in order to create a cohesive and effective brand voice:

1) Have and enforce a consistent writing style.

If you have a conversational style for your website copy, make sure that the same style translates to your blog posts, advertisements, email marketing, and any written material that represents your brand. This doesn’t mean that you can’t target your customer base in a different way, but it does mean that your customers should universally recognize your voice and your brand. This same style will help your brand feel consistent and trustworthy.

2) Pay attention to your sentence structure and formatting.

Do you like long flowing sentences, short sentences, or a combination of both? Do you write long academic essays one day and follow it up with short technical articles the next? The way you structure your sentences has just as much impact as your tone when you are creating your brand’s unique identity. It is important that you don’t confuse your customers by altering your style too much. Don’t fret if you’re not sure which style works for your brand and your customers right now. You can try out different styles and test them to see what works and matches your brand voice and goals.

3) Make sure that everyone who writes for your business is on the same page.

Remember that your brand voice needs to be consistent through all of your written material, including your social media, your website, your blog, and your advertisements. Different writers don’t have to sound exactly the same, but they must work on invoking a similar feeling through their writing.

4) Connect with your clients by actively using your brand voice in every situation.

How do you reply when a customer is angry, or to a customer who is extremely enthusiastic? Your written interactions need to continue to match your brand’s voice when customers contact you or refer to you in writing. This is especially important in the social media environment, where other potential leads and current customers will take note of your interactions. Have a written plan on how to address these customer interactions, and make sure that everyone in your company uses it.

5) Change what isn’t working.

If you notice that a certain aspect of your brand’s voice is not working, don’t be afraid to make a change. As your customers change and your product offerings and services evolve, so will your brand’s voice. Just as you learn and grow as business owner, your brand’s voice will continue to develop and become more complex to match your goals and audience.

Why is all of this important?

With so many conflicting voices out there, developing and consistently using your cohesive brand voice will help you continue to stand out in your industry. Don’t be scared to make changes and test new concepts during your development stage to see what really connects with your clients.

Remember that a clear and consistent voice has the power to make you a trustworthy and reliable source.

Like always, if you need help developing your content marketing plan or building your digital presence online, feel free to contact us for a quote. We’ll be happy to walk you through these steps towards helping you build a strong digital presence to meet your marketing goals.

Surviving a negative review

How to weather a negative review

The one-star review. Every business with a platform dreads getting hit with a bad rating. How could this have happened? What went wrong? How will it affect how people see my business?

  1. How could it have happened?
    Who knows.
  2. What went wrong?
    Maybe nothing.
  3. How will it affect your public image?
    That all depends… on YOU.

The Unseen Privilege of Getting a Negative Review

Average ratings on platforms like Facebook and Google tend to be carried by their own momentum. If you have enjoyed positive (4-5 stars) reviews, you may be caught off guard by an offbeat criticism. I have been asked many times if a one-star review can be deleted, and if so, how. These questions come from individuals who have been caught off guard, and who have not yet discovered the hidden opportunity that emerges from a public negative review.

The bad news is that you cannot change or remove the review. The good news is that, if handled properly, you can turn an honest critic into a raging fan. The first step is to simply show graceful humility in your public response.

The Customer Is Usually Right

Think objectively about possible scenarios. Did you or your crew have an off day? Was the reviewer’s experience atypical of what your customers have come to expect? If you don’t know, the best thing to do is to apologize for the experience. If the review did not mention it already, ask what could have made their experience better. Simply starting with the assumption that your business was in the wrong can go a long way towards a happy ending.

Read the negative review carefully

Make sure that you carefully read and understand what was written, and what you believe they were intending to say. What kinds of feelings are being communicated, and how can you address their concerns with kindness?

Respond with humility and grace

Not many people appreciate arguing with a business which exists to serve its customers. Respect your critic as though they have the power to harm your public image, because they do. On the other hand, this is an easy opportunity to give your image a boost instead.

Make it right

If the bad rating is accurate, regardless of tone, do whatever is in your power to publicly make it right. This is almost like making a public promise to take care of your customers, whether intentional or not. People respect those who keep their word and their promises, and those who admit to error in humility. Be a hero. Help restore their faith in humanity.

When the Customer is Wrong, Grace above all

If the bad rating is dishonest, or the result of a mistake made by the customer, do your best to protect their dignity as though they were your best friend. Kindly mention the correction, not the mistake. Then, just as if the shoe were on the other foot, make it right. Elevating the customer in this way is showing love, and is a great way to turn a critic into a raging fan.

They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.
– Carl W. Buehner

Be consistent

It can be tempting to go a little overboard when trying to convert the critic into a fan. For starters, people are not generally so naive. There is no replacement for authenticity. (This is a recurring theme that you will see us referring to often.) Be authentic in your approach, and be in control of your own emotions, as both will come through in your responses.

Also, be consistent in the way criticisms are handled. If one critic is given a freebie to smooth things over, and another is simply told “sorry,” you are showing a lack of trustworthiness. Of course, these responses may be entirely justified in each one’s own context, however, this may not be apparent if “you had to be there” to understand this. It helps to be conservative with valuable consolations, and to focus more on the relationship than the issue. After all, business is personal. (This is another recurring theme that you will get used to reading here.)

An Ounce of Prevention Is Better

When you have used this strategy in your own business, you begin to get a real sense of the power that lies just beneath the surface of the scar left by a bad rating. Even so, scars hurt. Remember the old adage:

An Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
– Benjamin Franklin

If necessary, rework your operations until you can reliably count on 5 star reviews, with only the very rare occurrence of a 3-4 star rating. Your business relies on your customers, and making them happy should be your top priority.

The Short Version

If you take away only one idea, it should be this: your business is personal, and your customers are in a budding relationship with it. Love them like your business depends on it, and they will love you back.

Sailing into the sunrise

Boats, Business, and Market Growth

The rising tide lifts all boats.
Henry B. F. McFarland

Have you enjoyed the rise of a niche market as it grows into maturity? Have you also noticed that some businesses seem to enjoy enhanced buoyancy compared to others? What about in search results?

Do All Boats Rise?

If you are a legitimate player in your niche industry, it is expected that your business will experience growth when your industry’s market gains in popularity. This is the “rising tide.” A rising tide raises the market equally, however it often appears that some “boats” enjoy greater “buoyancy” than others in this period of growth.

Some Rise Less

There is something to be said for the lean startup. When it comes to managing cashflow, business is just like your personal life. It pays to keep costs down, and to be careful with investments. People who have not learned this lesson in their personal lives often find themselves drowning in debt. So, too, with businesses.

Lesson 1: If you want your boat to rise with the tide, cutting unhelpful costs is like throwing extra weight overboard, and eliminating debt is like plugging holes. A tight ship floats well.

Some Rise More

You may be the best, but how many people in your market know you? Of that number, how many know that you are the best? Have you told them? This is where brand identity and public relations play their part. Customers and clients are aware only of their perception of quality. What have you done to encourage the right perception?

Marketing has the power to transform your merely floating vessel into one that has the ability to rise higher. The message you send out to potential customers is a key part of this. If you are a restaurant, have you talked up the quality of your ingredients? Have you bragged of the flavor combinations in tantalizing detail? Has your staff provided the service that delivers on guests’ expectations of quality? If you have not, now you know what to do.

What Not To Do

What you don’t do can be just as important as what you do. Take note.

Don’t Talk About Your Competition

Think about whose business you want to be promoting. When you talk about your competitors, you take the focus off of your business. When you speak negatively of them, you portray yourself as judgmental, or lacking confidence. If someone else mentions another business to you, briefly say something kind, and tastefully divert the attention back to your own business. Portraying your competitors positively only makes you look better, and referring to your own business in the same context shows that you are confident in your venture. Both are good for cultivating a positive perception of your business.

Don’t Stray Off Course

Many businesses are founded with a specific mission. Anything worth doing for long is bound to become tedious, boring, aggravating, frustrating, any combination of these, and more at some point in the journey. In the beginning, what brought you to the path of entrepreneurship? What sparked the passion and confidence to strike out on your own; to show the world what you’re made of? Remind yourself of why you chose this path often, and grasp tightly to it as though it were your life line — in many ways, it is.

Don’t Lose Confidence

Entrepreneurship is often the surest, and rockiest path to wealth in the United States today. It also carries the risk, some might say the promise, of failure. This is where we recognize one trait that all successful entrepreneurs have in common: persistence.

Bad times are just part of the game, and the secret to success is to never lose confidence in yourself, your product (or service), or the future. Remembering why you initially had the courage and faith in your idea can be a huge help for staying the course.

Mistakes will be made, and the rate of future success is determined by how much you have determined to learn from your failures, and how much you have determined to never give up.

Marketing and Visibility “Salts the Sea”

Successfully establishing and developing your brand identity is of great importance. Can you think of any brands that everyone seems to know? Of those you thought of, which bring to mind a certain feel? When you see certain colors, fonts, ideas, or situations, do certain brands or products come to mind? These automatic triggers give those brands an undeniable advantage. Remembering our floating vessel analogy, marketing is like adding salt to the sea in which you are floating: it increases your buoyancy, making it easier to rise more.

The Power of Marketing.

Marketing is making your ideas, your products, your solutions, and your availability publicly known. To market effectively, you should have a distinct voice for your brand. Your ideas should be clear, and communicated so that they resonate with your target audience. Your visual identity, your logo, colors, and designs, should work towards inspiring others to adopt your the ideas. If the ideas are already common in your market, your brand should inspire confidence and agreement. You want your customers to take up the mantle of your mission, and to wave your banner proudly.

If you do not already have a distinct voice, work on developing one. If you need a stronger logo, get one. If you need a more cohesive message, work on clarifying your mission. If nobody knows about you or what you’re offering, speak up.