Let’s say you have a product or service to sell, and you know its value proposition. Maybe you sell software for the beverage industry, and it’s a one-of-a-kind tool for improving efficiency. Maybe you sell eco-friendly office supplies, and they’re made from unique materials. Maybe you sell a new type of technology that’s faster than all of your competitors. Whatever it is, you know what you have and you know why it’s different. Step one, complete.
But once you have your positioning and your messaging, you still need copy that actually speaks to your audience. Your copywriting’s tone of voice and the words you choose matter. Even if you’re in what you’d consider a dry/professional/boring industry, you can’t assume that dry/professional/boring language will cut it. You also can’t assume you know what your audience wants to hear.
To convert customers, you need copy that resonates with your buyers right now, and getting there requires some leg work, including research and testing.
“To convert customers, you need copy that resonates with your buyers right now, and getting there requires some leg work, including research and testing.”
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Why you need to go beyond brand voice
Your company likely has a brand voice that establishes the basics of how you should sound in your marketing and sales materials. It probably includes things like your personality, level of formality, and level of technicality.
This is a good starting place for your copywriting, but you don’t want to sound the same all the time. Your audience most likely isn’t just one type of person. You’re speaking to a variety of personas who are at different stages in the buyer’s journey. These people have different demographics, as well as different needs, pain points, aspirations, etc.
In your marketing campaigns, you’ll likely be showing educational content to people who are early on in their journey toward a purchase, while you’ll show more transactional content to people who already know what they want. These levels of awareness will require different types of copy, too.
And here’s something worth reminding yourself often when you’re working on your copy: B2B buyers are people, too. Sure, you might need to sell your product/service to a company, but individuals at those companies are the ones who make purchasing decisions. Often, B2B companies make the mistake of assuming practical, data-driven copy is the best bet. But you shouldn’t overlook the fact that B2B buyers are driven by emotion. Speak to your customers like people, no matter what industry you’re in.
When you hit the right tone, you can engage readers and drive action. That’s a big deal, because copy that influences decisions ties directly to business goals.
How to match your tone to your audience
Developing buyer personas is foundational to all of your marketing efforts. These documents—which are based on market research and studying your current customers—should tell you about a specific type of customer. They’ll include demographic data like age, gender, region, education level, and profession. (In B2B, they’ll also include firmographic data about the company these people work for.) Personas should also establish what types of content these people consume, where they consume it, and what their goals and pain points are.
Personas give you a good starting place for how to talk to your audience. They can suggest, for example, that you need to use a friendly tone of voice to reach people who are apprehensive about a problem or provide a high level of technical detail to an audience that’s looking for specifics.
Before you start writing, though, you should also go to the source and see what these people really sound like. The internet makes this pretty easy. A few suggestions for where to see your audience talking:
- Explore social media discussions about solutions like yours. In B2B, groups for professionals or groups for a particular industry are a good place to look.
- Try a simple Google search. People ask plenty of questions on forums where you can gain insight into what they’re discussing.
- Head to the reviews. See what people are saying about similar products/solutions. This can help confirm people’s biggest interests or concerns.
- Conduct a survey of your current customers. You can ask what they like about your brand or products, or even ask how they would describe your offering.
Sure, not all of these people are your target audience. But if they’re talking about products like yours or problems you can help them solve, they’re probably not too far off. The key here is to pay attention not only to what they’re saying, but also how they’re saying it. Are they using highly technical language? Are they focusing on problems or raving about certain features? Do they seem enthusiastic? All of these things can inform your own writing.
Put words on paper (or screen)
Okay, so you made it this far. You’ve done your audience research. You have a good sense of what your audience cares about and sounds like. Now you actually need to write for them.
Start with what you’ve learned about the tone you should be going for. Do you want to sound energetic? Reliable? Creative? Authoritative?
Use this as a guide when determining things like:
- Sentence and paragraph length
- Use of punctuation (like questions or exclamation points)
- Types of words (e.g., descriptive vs. to the point)
- Use of first-, second-, or third-person pronouns
- Use of slang or jargon
- Inclusion of lists
- Inclusion of testimonials
And remember, the piece of copy you’re writing—whether it’s for a landing page, an email, or an e-book—is likely designed for a specific audience segment at a specific time (e.g., young engineers who aren’t very aware of your product but know they have a problem, or experienced teachers who are looking for a specific type of solution and have heard of your company). The customer’s knowledge level always matters and affects how you speak to them.
You also need to be consistent throughout a piece of copywriting. Mixing up your tone is at best confusing and at worst a turnoff. That isn’t to say you can’t push the envelope a bit and try something like using informal language with a technical audience, for example. Just be consistent about it.
Finally, don’t forget to test. You can do all the research in the world and still be surprised by what words resonate with your audience. Start with some basic A/B testing, gather results, and adjust from there.