A special treat this week: Henneke Duistermaat is debuting on Big Brand System! Henneke runs Enchanting Marketing, a website devoted to helping you grow your online business with friendly, charming, enchanting content. Today, she’s covering how to communicate your brand personality by using a unique “voice.” Let’s make her feel welcome in the comment section. –Pamela
How often do you come across a large corporate website that you enjoy reading? That sounds conversational? Welcoming and human?
And how often do corporate websites sound drab? Impersonal? Boring as hell?
As a small business owner you have a great opportunity.
To be different. Human. Personal.
To create a website that leaves web visitors begging to talk to you. To work with you. Because they love your voice, and they feel attracted to your personality.
Creating a website with personality may sound difficult, but it’s surprisingly easy. You just need to understand the three steps to develop an enchanting brand voice.
Step 1: Get rid of the “corporate voice”
The content on most corporate websites is awful. Full of gobbledygook. Filler words. Without any meaning.
As a small business owner, you don’t want to sound like a corporate call center. You don’t need to have a corporate voice.
People hire you because of who you are. Because you sound like someone who cares. Someone who sounds human.
Your first step to developing an enchanting voice, is to get rid of corporate drivel:
- Don’t use passive voice. Instead of writing A mistake has been made (passive), own up to your error by writing I made a mistake (active). Only cowardly executives use passive voice.
- If you’re a one-person business, refer to yourself as I and me, not we and us. Your company doesn’t need to sound bigger than it is.
- Scrap gobbledygook like cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, and innovative. Instead, use specific words that help your clients imagine what it’s like to work with you.
- Reduce the length of your sentences, because a series of long sentences sounds formal. And undulating sentences wear your readers down.
- Replace jargon and complicated words with simple words.
You don’t need to impress clients with your command of the English language.
Simple words and short sentences are your friends. They get your message across quickly, clearly, and concisely.
Step 2: Add personality to your voice
You got rid of that robotic voice, and you’ll sound like a human being.
But how can you sound like YOU?
To infuse your writing with your personality, define your brand voice first.
Think about meeting your favorite client. How do you communicate with her? How formal do you sound? How polite? How rebellious? How enthusiastic?
Look for other online content that you feel is close to your voice. Pay attention to the three writing elements that determine your voice:
- your word choice
- the number of questions you ask
- the rhythm of your writing
When you speak, you have many tools to engage your listeners and express emotion. You can scream. You can whisper. You can use wild hand gestures.
But when you write, you only have your words. That’s why you have to pick stronger words to avoid sounding wishy-washy. Look for sensory or emotional words to express your ideas:
- Rather than bad, use rough, sleazy, or stinky.
- Rather than boring, write drab, mind-numbingly dull, or boring-as-hell.
When you use sensory and emotional words, you help your readers visualize or feel your content. And that’s when they connect with you.
Do you ever feel like websites are talking down at you?
Rather than having a conversation with you?
To make your brand voice friendlier and more engaging, introduce more questions in your writing. The best questions include the word you.
Have you noticed how I used questions in this blog post?
(That’s another one.)
Questions engage your readers. They make them feel like you’re chatting together.
The best way to check the rhythm of your writing is to read your content aloud.
You’ll find that when you use a series of long sentences, you sound more formal. And using only long sentences makes your voice monotonous.
Ultra-short sentences, however, are dynamic. They’re abrupt. They awaken readers.
Just read this section about rhythm aloud, and pay attention to how the rhythm changes when you read the two short sentences They’re abrupt and They awaken readers. Your voice changes, doesn’t it?
To make your content more formal, stay with longer sentences. To add sizzle to your writing, add more ultra-short sentences.
Play around with word choice, sentence length, and questions. Experimentation helps you find your voice.
Step 3: Sprinkle personal stories into your content
Personality isn’t just about how you write, it’s also about what you write.
When readers feel they get to know you, they start to like and trust you. And that’s when they get interested in doing business with you.
The easiest way to inject your content with personal stories, is by using metaphors. Metaphors compare two totally unrelated ideas. I’ve compared, for instance, content marketing with tour leading, and writing with cycling.
Presenting yourself only as an authority makes you one-dimensional, and a bit boring. But when you tell itty-bitty stories about yourself, your hobbies, and your life, you become a multi-dimensional human being. You become a more fascinating person in your reader’s eyes.
The truth about your brand voice
When you think about your web design and your brand, you want to think like a BIG company. You want to look like a real brand. With a color scheme that people remember. And a logo that people will recognize.
But when you think about your writing voice, think small.
Sound like YOU. Your best YOU.
When you infuse your writing voice with YOU, readers come back to hear your voice. Contacting you becomes easier. Because potential clients feel they know you already.
And most importantly?
You’ll find the clients who love working with you. And who energize you.
Your business will prosper. And you’ll have more fun.
Be human. Be personal. Be YOU.
About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and add sparkle to boring business blogs. For more writing tips, join her 16-part snackable writing course for busy people (it’s free!).