Find Your Voice
I write a lot (Link). I enjoy it and for me it is a release. A writer’s group that I am part of once asked me why I write. My response was this: if I don’t write all of this stuff out of my head then it will bounce from synapse to synapse and eventually drive me mad. As I age this is more true.
When I was younger I struggled with writing. Nothing felt right. I couldn’t seem to express myself, at least not how I wanted. My writing lacked authenticity. Then, one day, I wrote a short story called "Gravity" and everything changed. Immediately after that I wrote an essay and it, too, clicked, everything fell into place.
I had, it turns out, found my "voice". Your voice – when writing or creating art – is your unique style, your perspective and take on the world. It takes time to develop and refine for most of us. It certainly did for me. When you’ve found it everything sounds authentic, real. Your thoughts begin to organize themselves differently. But when you write something that isn't true to your voice it sticks out like a sore thumb or a discarded candy wrapper in the middle of a pristine lawn. It isn’t you.
Companies have voices, too. The best companies understand this and it pervades everything they do. Their voices come from two places I have discussed (Here and Here) before: Why are they in business, and How will will they transform your life.
Most of these companies develop their voice and tone over time. It comes from telling their story – their why and transformative powers – over and over from their unique perspective. It comes from telling that story across multiple venues and media – printed brochures, advertisements, their website and their online ads. These companies develop a style and tone that grows naturally out of who they are. When they speak to us they sound authentic. We trust their message, even when we know they are selling us something.
Consider MailChimp, the email marketing platform based in Atlanta, Georgia. MailChimp has a unique voice in the marketplace. It comes from their eclectic company culture and sense of purpose. They are funny and light-hearted, even though their software and applications are as powerful and serious as any on the market. Freddie, their mascot, offers tips as you use the site. Complete a form or report and Freddie gives you kudos. Get a nice result on open rates for your latest email campaign and Freddie congratulates you.
MailChimp didn’t try to be like everyone else in the email marketing business. They realized early on that their uniqueness was what separated them from the competition. It’s what mattered and it gave them authenticity. It allowed a self-funded start-up (2007) to grow into a sector force that is seen by many today as the leader in their industry. They used their uniqueness to connect to a large group of followers (count me in!).
Other companies and brands have a well developed voice and tone that we recognize. Apple, Mazda, Southwest Airlines, and State Farm, to name but a few. They consistently tell their story in the same voice and tone.
Too often small businesses want to be and act like large corporations. They try to emulate them. But large corporations play a game small businesses can never compete at. Economies of scale preclude them from competing on price and sales and, often, selection. Instead of using them as the model to be like, they should consider the ways they can be different, better. They should consider how to best connect with their own customers and what those customers value the most, then use that to recruit like-minded individuals into their group.
Your company can – and needs to – find its own voice, tone and style. Telling your story over and over in a consistent manner – focusing on your uniqueness, and remaining true to the things you and your customers value – will refine your voice and make it resonate within your community.
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