Copywriting Tips – How to Create a Tone of Voice Customers Will Love

Tone of voice – elusive, essential

Read a list of copywriting tips and you’ll usually come across some or all of the following:

  • organise your material
  • focus on benefits, not features
  • keep sentences short
  • imagine you’re writing to someone that you know, not an abstract reader
  • end with a strong call to action.

To a greater or lesser extent, these copywriting tips are all measurable – you’re either doing them, or you’re not. But there’s an aspect to good copywriting that can be a little harder to measure. Yet it’s also one of the most important things you’ll want to achieve.

A compelling tone of voice.

What is tone of voice?

The personality of your copy. It’s the degree of warmth, from fairly cool and detached all the way through to I love you and I want your babies (use the latter with caution). And it’s very, very important. Why?

Because people are far more likely to listen to your message if it’s presented in a voice they find engaging and plausible.

Two contrasting examples

Here’s an imaginary example for a fireplace installation firm:

The Big Heating Company actualises your fireplace needs with an integrated, cost-effective warmth-delivery solution.

That’s not engaging. It’s the tone of voice of a robot businessman considering a hostile takeover of your wallet.

How about this?

The Big Heating Company can bring a toasty warm glow to your home at an affordable price.

That’s better. Definitely warmer. It might work for some customers; others might find it a tad too chummy. But whichever way you look at it, it’s saying something similar to the first message in a very different way. And that’s down to the tone of voice.

Your job is to find the right tone of voice to engage your customers.

A note on tone of voice and plausibility

Bear in mind, whichever tone of voice you adopt must agree with your brand. In other words, you will be working within certain parameters. A ‘down with the kids’ tone of voice for an accountancy firm with a reputation for heritage and reliability isn’t going to work – unless it follows in the wake of major rebranding. (And even then I think it’s going to struggle.)

Tone of voice – two simple copywriting tips

Tone of voice might not be as measurable as some copywriting skills, but there are things you can do to help get the result you’re looking for.

Examine the competition

Working from a blank slate is intimidating. In fact, you’re likely to draw a blank. Start by looking at how businesses you admire or like talk to their customers.

Is the language formal and businesslike, or informal, relaxed or even chatty? (And bear in mind formal and businesslike isn’t necessarily bad – sometimes it can be just what you need to cut to the chase and deliver a message.)

Do these businesses use long or short sentences, or both? Do they keep the language and concepts simple, or do they expect their customers to know certain terms.

Create a Word Bank

Collect words and turns of phrase you think reflect your business and your customers. Just list them. Delete them. Add to them. You’ll start to discover a tone of voice. From here, you can begin to add more of your own expressions. A unique voice will emerge.

In my own case, I created a word bank for a client’s print and digital magazine. The magazine was inspired by popular women’s titles, and a snippet of the word bank looked something like this.

Blub, lusting (we are lusting), feast your eyes, fabulous, killer heels, mega, fashionista, elegant, we’re mad about, we are digging, we are loving, loving, gorgeous, look the biz, elegant, glittering, ultra cool, on trend, chic, end of…

Yes, in this condensed form it does sound like an amphetamine-fuelled fashionista. And, yes, this is at the extreme end of stylized, chatty copy. But it helped. At 9.00am, while I dreamily sipped my coffee, this word bank helped me instantly get into character and write in the required tone of voice.

Use these copywriting tips and you’ll get closer to your goal of speaking to your customers in a voice they’ll listen to. And doing that will put you in a better position to start talking about all the benefits you have to offer.

Martin Philp runs Coast Copywriting, professional copywriting services for print and web. Want to chat about your project? Get in touch on 07414 865222 or send a message.