As a freshly established or fairly new startup, finding your brand voice after launching can be a challenge. But it’s a defining factor that will set you apart from competitors and help you build a following.
Entrepreneurs and marketing teams are up to their ears in difficult tasks, with plenty of tough decisions sprinkled throughout. Branding is just one more thing piled onto that to-do list, especially during the early phases of a business. However, it’s not something you can afford to let slip through the cracks when things get busy. Even after decades of being established, your branding may need tweaking and close monitoring.
Professional marketers frequently talk about how the importance of finding your brand voice. Not only must you find it, but also develop, nurture, and tweak it as times goes on. The exact steps of this process tend to feel like a gray area for new entrepreneurs. Does your voice feel authentic or forced? On point or slightly off? The following concepts will help you achieve some clarity and identify potential problems while finding your brand voice.
Examining and Defining Your Voice
One thing that makes it hard for new businesses to fully own their voice is that “voice” is quite a fragmented term. It encompasses several unique aspects of a business, and teams typically fail to discuss each aspect beforehand. Beneath the umbrella of voice, you must decide on your brand’s attitude, diction, tone, and even underlying “base notes.”
As Doug Kessler discussed at Content Marketing World, small businesses are wise to pick 3 base notes. These will serve as a guide for the overall brand personality. As an example, he selects Innocent Juice, a company that has expertly projected a voice of simplicity, friendliness, and silliness from early on in it’s humble startup journey.
Delving a bit deeper than that, small businesses can map out the various contexts in which to use their base notes. Just as you wouldn’t talk to your boss and your best friend with precisely the same tone, a business shouldn’t talk to its unique demographics in the same way. Hashing out these differences and creating a plan of attack is what makes your brand voice strong and clear.
Posing the Right Questions
A business won’t develop a solid brand if it never questions itself. The more founders and staff collaborate to articulate and bring the voice to life, the easier it will be to project it outward.
The Muse suggests asking specific questions to tease out exactly what your brand voice will sound like. For example, “We want people to feel ___ when they discover us.” Or, “We strongly prefer to avoid a voice that is too ___.”
They also recommend building an “archetype,” or a basic sketch of a target audience member. If your target audience varies, come up with more than one archetype . This is just like creating a fictional character. You should know their general interests, pet peeves, and goals. You will then be able to conceptualize your audience and decide how to best interact with them.
Once the tough work is done, the only thing left to do is maintain your brand voice. That means keeping the voice consistent and providing customers with what they expect in the longterm. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you must rigidly adhere to content that is dry and repetitive. But you must maintain your brand identity with some level of consistency.
You might say, “Sure..but how?”
For one, don’t try to please everyone – because unfortunately this means pleasing no one (voice is too vague). Apple is a well-known brand that is disliked by many, but also adored by many. Strangely enough, this dichotomy only serves to strengthen and better define the Apple brand. So rather than people-pleasing, observe your audience, pay close attention to their needs, likes, and dislikes. Cater to your niche and forget everything else.
Lastly, remember that part of sustainability is adapting to the changing tides of your industry and target audience. Just because your brand voice should remain consistent doesn’t mean that customer needs, common practices, and mainstream expectations will stay the same. Over time, you’ll learn how to adapt your voice to new platforms (e.g. books, social media, video, etc) and reach a wider audience with your authentic voice.