How to Find the Right Tone in Your Marketing Copy
by John Rampton
When you speak to others, your tone tells them a lot more than what you are actually saying. It may uncover your true feelings or provide a deeper meaning to what you are trying to express.
The same goes for any marketing copy you write—whether it is a blog post, article, press release, white paper, or website content. Any writing will always have a tone that goes beyond the words you are putting on the page. While you may have technical components that you need to include in your marketing copy, such as SEO or technical terms, you still want to transmit a feeling from what you are writing that evokes some type of emotional connection with your audience.
The tone is revealed through the word selection and order as well as the pace and rhythm you choose. For example, short sentences are often perceived as more honest, straightforward, and factual while those sentences with a lot of needless or wordy jargon may make a company appear as though they are somehow superior to others, (or at least think they are superior to others).
How another person looks at this tone and reads it is how they perceive your company, brand, and offering. Your tone can also set you apart from the competition. It’s a way for your audience to get to know you and begin to establish trust. This tone can also influence and persuade that audience to buy your product or service.
Most likely, you'll want to accomplish all these objectives with the tone of your marketing copy but make sure your audience realizes you are not doing this in your writing. Instead, you want them to only see you are the best company for them.
This means you need to find the right voice that resonates with your audience. Here are some tips for getting that personality into your marketing copy:
- Define the personality of your company. What traits describe your company? Are you fun or serious? Are you inquisitive or adventurous? These traits need to be part of your marketing copy tone and will humanize what you are doing so others can relate to what they are reading. For example, Dollar Shave Club is very edgy, sarcastic, and funny in its tone. Apple definitely gives off that geeky yet confident vibe.
- Determine what tone also matches your industry. A software company may want to use brief and straightforward sentences while a fashion brand or spa product could resort to longer, flowing, descriptive sentences. A teen brand or athletic company may want to express their high-energy feel so they would use fragmented sentences or bullet points. I personally run a credit card payments company, so I have match language that people are searching for online. Hosting companies, educational institutions, and insurance providers may use warm and traditional words as well as parallel statements.
- Read what you write aloud. Does your content sound like how you speak or how the brand would sound if it were a person? Hearing what you are writing provides a more effective way to understand the tone that is coming across better—in a more comprehensive way than just reading to yourself which may not uncover common errors, or may not actually say what you are thinking it says.
- Learn how punctuation drives your tone. Spend time on the mechanics of grammar to determine how it is used to break up and change the meaning of your words. To develop that rhythm and pace to your words for a specific tone, you can use commas for pauses while periods become that point to stop and reflect for the reader. A more fluid tone can use dashes or longer sentences to generate excitement, enthusiasm, or affectation.
- Ask others what they "get" or what they understand when they read what you have written. Having others read it to themselves and out loud can provide a greater understanding of how your writing will being perceived so you can tweak it to more closely reflect what you are trying to invoke in the audience. Those reading your content piece may even have suggestions on what would make it feel different for them.
- Stay away from a tone that is too formal. It will come off sounding robotic and make the reader uncomfortable or disinterested. No one wants to read something that is devoid of feeling and personality.
- Think about your vocabulary. No matter what tone you are trying to set, it will be right if you stick to a vocabulary that your audience understands. Using words that are too technical, archaic to your demographic, or are inserted to try to prove that you are smart just won’t work. You don’t want your tone to make your audience uncomfortable or as though they are not worthy to use your product or service because of how you describe it.
- Be consistent, but mix it up. Always be consistent in the type of tone you deliver so your audience doesn’t become confused about who you are as a brand. However, what you should mix up is your sentence length. This adds depth and personality to your tone, offering a range of emotions and interest for the audience.
Developing the right tone in your marketing copy doesn't just happen overnight. There will be many drafts and revisions. Your tone will even undergo an evolution as your brand changes and your audience seeks different things. However, as these changes happen and you practice getting your tone right, the actions listed here serve as best practices for creating the tone that matches your brand.
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the payments company Due.
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