You’ve worked up a content strategy, applied it across your marketing channels and delved into your reporting, ready to expand on what works. But what voice do you speak to customers with and how do you know if your company’s voice is striking the right tone?

Even if you long to be playful, sarcastic or hip—like the publications and blogs you follow online—pulling that off in a corporate environment, with a range of collaborator talent and marketing goals, can be very challenging. How do you know when you’re being too casual, or when you’re being too stodgy? Marketing expert and consultant Noah Fleming, who has worked on customer retention strategies for small-to-medium sized businesses, large companies and entrepreneurs, has some easy tips for finding your company’s voice and letting it shine through in your content.

Know your company’s character

“Every company has a character,” Fleming points out. “If you were to think about your company as a person, what would they be like? Would they be fun and exciting or would they be mellow?”

Just as you’d find it jarring if your favorite TV character suddenly acted in a way that didn’t make sense, your company voice and personality should be consistent. Make sure that every person taking part in content creation or social media marketing understands what the company is about and what it stands for, as well as how you want to be perceived by people. It’s fine for contributors to take a slightly different approach but the overall tone and feel should fit that same voice, so that your content is always characteristic of your brand.

Be more human

“Everyone always says that people need to be authentic, but the problem is that nobody says what that means,” Fleming explains. “I think what it means is that you enter into a real and legitimate dialogue with somebody in the way you speak to them.” That means that your writing and speech should be conversational. This allows you to communicate with people in a way they can understand, as if you were having a discussion with them face-to-face.

If you regularly interact with clients one-on-one either at events or even via phone or email, it can become a bit easier to determine how they’d react to certain types of information or language, and whether material would be too difficult or too easy for them to understand. As your business grows, making sure that people who have client-facing roles express that information to those creating content is key. This helps bridge the gap between those creating content for clients and those who regularly interact with them.

Build trust by giving it straight

It can be tempting to make things sound more sophisticated than they really are, but the key is to speak to people in a way that makes it easier for them to understand what you’re saying. This creates trust.

“I trust people when I can understand them, as opposed to someone who always seems like they’re trying to talk over me. When someone’s always trying to speak above me, it doesn’t create that feeling of trust,” Fleming points out.

This doesn’t mean that content must be dumbed down, or that you can’t address the pressing needs of your readers who want to delve beneath the surface or approach problems from a more sophisticated angle. It just means that you want to create content that can serve the needs of readers at various levels of experience and skill, so that they can all benefit from the information you are providing.

How casual is too casual?

It can be tempting to get very casual with your content, especially if you see your colleagues doing the same. However, it’s important to consider the needs of your audience first.

“It’s not a matter of casual just for the heck of it,” Fleming says. “It’s speaking in a way that resonates with your audience.”

The words you use can be entirely different depending on who you are speaking to, even if your company has different content for different demographics.

“A group of brain surgeons can speak conversationally, in simplistic ways to their audience, but they’re not going to be overly casual,” Fleming explains. “Think of it like a cocktail party. What kind of cocktail party discussion would you have with your ideal customer outside of work?” It may be casual, but not overly casual, or it may be a little more formal, depending on who is attending. The key, Fleming says, is learning how to resonate with your ideal customer.

Seek feedback

The best way to know whether your tone and voice is resonating with your clients and prospects is to see how they respond to the information. Are they asking questions about posts that you thought were self-explanatory? This can help you see whether or not you are on the right track.

Using qualitative feedback and other metrics to track audience response can be helpful. Specifically, look for social media shares and comments, blog comments and dialogue around your content to see whether or not your users are responding to your voice.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at

© 2013 – 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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