Cover your ears for a second.
My wife can sing. I can’t.
There, I admitted it.
But, we do have one thing in common — we both think we can. Only one of us is right (ahem).
In the world of business, we all put out a tune. A vibe. A voice. Customers flock to companies that give them a good experience, not just “okay” goods and services. It’s called a “corporate brand.”
Your job is to help your clients find their voices — their rhythms and their “keys.” Are they sending out a track so bland, flat, and “elevator worthy” that it is either ignored or irritating? Many do.
This is where you come in. You’re their Voice Coach.
What is a Voice Coach?
A Voice Coach is just that … a coach.
Your job is not to dictate who and what they are, or even how they need to precisely sound to their customers. Your job is to ask the right questions and pose the right methods to draw out their talent.
Then you become their lyricist or songwriter and do the work of “mastering” (the act of finalizing a mix and compressing it) their content. To take the best part of them and put it in written form. To identify their stage and be their microphone.
“But Brandon, how might I achieve such a feat?”
Glad you asked.
Here are seven questions that help your writing clients develop voices that grow audiences and gain more fans.
They’re tips to help them sing it and not just sell it.
La, la, la, here we go …
1. Who are they?
The first step is always the hardest, but one you shouldn’t skip.
You’d be surprised how many “deer in the headlights” faces you get when you ask a client who they are.
In Fascinate, Sally Hogshead describes the seven most effective brand profiles. Every business has both an internal and external personality, and therefore, a reputation.
Ask your clients:
- If I were to visit your headquarters, what would I find? How would I feel?
- How do the employees view their jobs?
- What do customers say about your services or products?
Encourage them to speak openly, rather than imitate another company or present an inauthentic message.
2. What is their hook?
The only thing as bad as someone who can’t sing is someone who is singing crappola.
In the same way, all the technology and marketing in the world won’t help a company with no driving message.
It’s called a unique selling proposition (USP). I like to think of it as a “unique selling promise.“
- What is the one benefit they can promise their customers? What promise makes them stand out from all the rest?
- Can they make one?
- Can they keep it?
This main benefit/promise will lead their marketing efforts. It is embedded in the chorus of their content and gets people humming and tapping their feet.
This “hook” is their main message to their customers. It is the one you will be consistently writing about. Once you help them succinctly and clearly communicate this promise, it will be your job to amplify it.
3. What is their verse?
People don’t store input; they story it.
They are hammered every day with loads and loads of information. If all your clients do is put out more deals and offers, they’ll have a difficult time standing out.
Need to kill time? Go to any apartment complex and check out the trash can next to the mailboxes. It is overflowing with wasted marketing dollars. We call it “junk mail.”
In Key Person of Influence, Kevin Harrington describes the new world of business this way:
“You won’t be known for the place that you work; you will be known for the people you’re connected to, the ideas you are immersed in and what you care deeply about. Once these things are more widely known, you will have a constant stream of opportunities coming your way from places you’ve never been.”
How a business interacts with their customers and enhances their lives becomes their story. It is the verse of their song.
You will have the amazing opportunity to tell your client’s story where their customers are the heros and they are the guide. Where they are Obi-Wan and their customer is Luke Skywalker. Where they are Linguini and their customer is Remy.
In addition to the components of their content marketing strategy, About Pages are great places to do just that — and show your clients that they shouldn’t only talk about themselves.
Because guess what? No one cares.
People care about their own stories. Prospects ask how a company can help them succeed or thrive in life.
4. Who is their target audience?
This one is tough.
I’ve found that if you ask clients who their target audience is, most of the time their responses are “Everyone” or “Anyone.”
That’s far from ideal.
Al Ries puts it this way in The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding:
“The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope.”
That means their voices will be much more effective and powerful if they laser in on one particular user/buyer when they write content. They don’t want to give a speech to the masses. They want to have a conversation with one person.
For example, if their product appeals to a 20-year-old male college student, they might attract his 65-year-old grandmother who is looking for the perfect gift for her grandson.
It may seem counterintuitive but it works. If you speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one. Instead of turning the volume up, you will be turning it down.
5. What are people already saying?
An effective voice reflects the public’s view of your client.
Brands are birthed and thrive in the glowing fire of publicity. Marketing and advertising are just throwing gasoline on it.
Research what their customers are raving about on social media or Google Reviews. Once you have identified those highlights, you can join the choir.
6. How will it look?
“Sight is the most important human sense for evaluating brands and making purchase decisions.” – Jeremy Miller, Sticky Branding
Many businesses have trouble getting heard because the venue they are singing in is just plain unsightly and/or inconvenient.
I’ve personally noticed that my food can actually taste different when dining in a restaurant with no interest in decor or cleanliness.
In order for your client’s voice and message to be accepted with delight, they must be in accordance with aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly elements.
Having a website that is designed well and functions properly on rock-solid hosting is crucial. They need a clean and professional digital headquarters to do all the things mentioned in the earlier tips.
If you don’t also provide web development and design, you can direct your clients to those service providers.
7. What brings them joy?
I’ve noticed that the best ideas a company has are always the most fun and playful. The really good stuff that doesn’t feel like “work.”
As your clients discuss their businesses with you (I always require a phone consult), listen for that tone. Not the “oughts” and the “have-tos.”
Listen for the things they are excited about.
As you write for them, you need to have fun as well. At the end of every project, there should be lots of smiling faces.
- They had their joys written about.
- You had joy writing about them.
- Their customers had joy when reading and responding to them.
*Applause goes here.*
That is the kind of voice everyone wants to hear, and it will always call for an encore.