When starting a new business, one of the most important things to consider is how you want your customers to get in touch with you. With so many communication channels to choose from, it can be difficult to devise, manage and maintain the way in which you want your brand to be perceived, especially when resources are limited.
While setting up communication channels isn’t overly difficult, one thing that is often overlooked is the language and tone of voice used once things are up and running, especially when factoring in the method a customer is using to get in touch.
First impressions count
From the way you greet a client, to the way you sign off an email, it’s important to deliver a clear, consistent way in which your company communicates. Factoring this into brand guidelines as part of a wider business strategy is a great place to start.
The language and tone of voice can help you craft content and communications from the ground up. Even if you believe your customer base to be savvy when it comes to understanding the product or service you offer, you shouldn’t risk excluding potential customers who may not be as familiar with industry jargon and acronyms. The use of buzzwords or abstract concepts that do nothing to explain what you offer should be avoided for the same reason.
Don’t make it hard for customers to understand what you do. When developing brand guidelines, it can be easy to get carried away with being creative to the point where your message becomes muddled.
Think of it this way – if a potential customer visited your website for the first time, how many seconds would it take for them to be able to describe what you do? Even if your business is in an industry where aesthetics are important, don’t put style over substance.
Speaking their language
Once you’ve nailed down a tone of voice you feel represents your brand, it’s time to think about how to apply it in day-to-day communications with customers. When writing an email, how are you addressing your client?
Consider your sign-off, as well. Is “Thanks” too familiar, or is “Regards” too impersonal? There are a few email salutations that are widely accepted as being suitable for use in a professional capacity, and some that definitely aren’t.
How you converse changes when it comes to channels that are already seen as less formal ways of communication. Somebody who reaches out via live chat or social media, for example, is probably not expecting a long, drawn-out response. But this doesn’t mean you should assume that you can get away with using text speech or a series of emojis to reply to their query, either.
It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it
If you actively encourage customers to contact you via phone, consider using scripts to keep your startup’s brand messaging consistent. Being overly formal on the phone can come across as cold and impersonal, whereas being overly friendly can come across as being insincere (or even sarcastic), so be careful not to lean too far in either direction.
And what about when you’re not there? How your company represents itself extends to outside business hours, so make sure that it’s clearly communicated how long it will take to respond, or provide another way for them to contact you outside of business hours. This can be done thorough voicemails, out of office responses, and social media autoresponders.
When tone of voice needs to be more flexible
Beyond the channels that you offer a customer to connect with your business, think about who it is you are speaking to, and the reason that they are contacting you. Guidelines are great, but there is a risk of excluding entire demographics by not being flexible with the way in which you communicate. If ever in doubt, stick to the middle ground to prevent alienating any potential customers that fall within your target demographic.
How your startup speaks to its customers should be an integral part of your business strategy. But more than anything else, your brand needs to use a tone of voice that resonates with your customers in various forms of communication.
Using language that strikes the perfect balance between professional and approachable isn’t easy. It’s unlikely that you’ll please everyone 100 percent of the time, but by following a clearly defined communication strategy, there is less risk of getting it wrong by not being consistent in your messaging.