When I’m speaking to clients or chatting in the Beyond the Kitchen Table Facebook group, people often tell me they find it hard to write for their business – particularly their website copy. There are lots of reasons for this, some real, some perceived: lack of time, lack of inspiration, a fear that they ‘can’t’ write (that English teacher at school has a lot to answer for) and then a fear that they don’t know how to write. I want to banish those doubts. You absolutely can write! You just need to know your voice and the right tone to use. And that’s not that complicated at all – you just need to be yourself.
Think about the “brands” you return to time and time again for services or a product (or just to see what is happening on their social media). Why do you return to them? The answer to this might be need or want but another answer is definitely that you connect with that brand. The way they communicate with you, their web copy, resonates and makes you want to go back. This is what you need to do – you need to write in such a way that you connect with your target audience.
How do you make that connection?
To connect with your ideal customer, you need to think about your voice (and no, I don’t mean the one in your head that tells you you can’t do this). Your voice, in this case, is the voice of your brand and you need to consider three things:
- your target audience
- how you want to be perceived
- how you’ll connect with your customer
1. Your Target Audience
Your target audience dictates your tone of voice. We all speak differently to different groups of people. We talk to our children differently to the way we might talk to the Queen or Aunty Gladys (who has no idea what an emoji is let alone a meme). Differently to our partners. Differently to our best friends over a glass of wine than we do to peers in our industry. Most people have a wide range of styles that they use to speak to different people depending on how they want to be perceived (or animals! I’ve heard of people having a ‘dog’ voice – something I’m just developing since Barney joined the team!).
If your target audience is teenagers you will use a different tone to that if your target audience is barristers, for example. That is an extreme example but there are more subtle differences – women aged 20-30 will require a slightly different tone to women aged 30-40, say.
It’s not just demographics but background and knowledge. I might speak techie language to other people in the website world but wouldn’t dream of doing so with my target audience because it would alienate them.
Knowing who your target audience is is the first step to defining your “voice”. You have to choose one group (it doesn’t mean you can’t serve others). How would you speak to someone from that group if you met them in the street or over drinks?
2. How do you want to be perceived?
One of the best things about running your own business is you can choose how you want to be perceived.
When I started out I came from a corporate background and had a very corporate style. I wanted to come across as professional, knowledgeable, a safe pair of hands and, to be honest, bigger than I was. Very much a corporate identity.
But I realised that this didn’t connect with the people I wanted to work with. I was looking to connect with entrepreneurs and small businesses. When I met them and chatted to them I came across differently – warmer, more friendly and personable for a start – and could convert them into customers. My website (and to a certain extent my social media) didn’t reflect that same person. And didn’t convert.
A really helpful exercise is to write down the adjectives that describe how you would like your business to come across. Which adjectives would you like others to use to describe you/your brand? Formal? Adventurous? Friendly? No nonsense? Humorous? Fun? Professional? Quirky? Inspiring?
Then make sure all your marketing (including social media, images and website copy) reflects that.
3. How will you connect with your ideal customer?
Strong connections are often made through authentic language. Being yourself and sounding genuine will strike a chord with your ideal customer and make them feel at ease. They will trust you and your business and hopefully, they will want to become customers and return to you time and time again!
Often people are afraid of being themselves because they think they’re not being formal enough, or they don’t come across well but as I’ve shown, you can be, and are, different versions of yourself all the time, depending on who you’re speaking to. Don’t try to copy someone else – they’re not you.
Empathy is key
Does finding your voice still sound complicated? Well, here’s a really easy way that you can work it out – empathise.
Putting yourself in your ideal customers’ shoes (not sure about your ideal customer? Read this blog.) is an easy way to work out how they might want you to communicate with them. What matters to them? What kind of person are they? What is their profession? Do they want extra ‘fluff’ or to get to the point quickly? How would you speak to them in person?
So, you’ve considered your target audience, how you want your brand to come across and, most importantly, accepted that it’s ok to be yourself. Now it’s time to hit the laptop and start writing.
Quite simply, write as though you’re speaking to your ideal customer. You’ve done all the prep and you know which version of yourself you need to be so let it flow. Imagine you’ve met your ideal client in the street and write as you’d speak (just miss out the fillers like ‘err’ and ‘ummm’ that we all use!). If you struggle to write as you would speak try dictating using an app like Otter which transcribes what you say (it is pretty good but not perfect so don’t forget to go back and edit the result!)
And then, of course, there are some general rules of great web copy which apply across the board.
- Use ‘I’ not ‘we’ (unless relevant).
- Don’t use jargon unless your ideal customer would understand it. You’re trying to connect with them not impress them with your techie speak.
- Make it personal/sound like you’re talking right to them. This works wonders in person and it’s no different online.
- Be human – it needs to sound like you.
- Use simple language – if it’s too complicated, it’s a complete turn-off and potential customers will give up.
- Make it a good read – a compelling read is great for keeping your customer on your web page but it’s also great for SEO.
Finding your brand’s voice is you being yourself whilst thinking about your audience. It doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that.
So, don’t be scared of trying to write your web copy or that blog that’s been whizzing round your brain for a while. People like your brand and want to hear from you, and they don’t want you sounding like someone else.
(And if you’re still stuck, why not try my course: “How to Write High Converting Website Copy”?)
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