When Mr. Bones the Butcher chopped steaks for his customers he didn’t need to work on his brand:
- He knew many of his customers by name, so they felt welcome walking into his shop.
- They enjoyed his friendly chatter and the stories he told as they waited in line.
- They also knew he would give them good advice, cutting the perfect joint for their needs and telling them how best to cook it.
If you have a bricks-and-mortar shop then your personality, or ‘brand voice’ will be clear. From your staff to your décor, from your stock to your background music, customers will know as soon as they walk through the door whether to turn around and walk straight back out, or find out more.
But what if you have no physical shop?
Google ‘brand voice’ and you’ll come up with hundreds of articles telling you how to identify your brand, giving it a character you then use to guide everything your business does. It’s easy to get caught up in the difficulty of defining exactly who you are and what you stand for, and end up more muddled than ever.
So let’s just cut it back to basics.
Character is quickly communicated
Every time we meet someone on the street, talk to them on the phone or see them in a photo, we jump to conclusions about their character. Charming or sleazy, intelligent, arty or geeky… whatever. It colours whether we want to meet, talk or see them again.
Many times we may be wrong in our assumptions. How often have you bumped into that same awkward bossy-boots in another situation and found out that actually he’s a great and fair negotiator? But mostly we go with our gut feeling.
And gut feeling is an online killer.
Our online attention span is now less than 8 seconds (some claim just 3, though see this interesting article debunking the research). Either way, there’s not much time for a new visitor on your website to jump to conclusions about your business character. If they don’t feel an instant liking, or at least an interest, they will jump right off (becoming a Bounce statistic on your analytics).
No second chance.
Here’s the worst part. They’re unlikely ever to bump into you digitally again, as they will always remember their original gut feeling and steer clear. You can’t easily cross the virtual road to chat as they pass by, they just won’t come near. So you need that first meeting to sing your style loud and clear.
How to nail that first impression
a) Individual business personality
If you’re a solopreneur selling your own skills this is easy. You want your brand to match your own character so that you can be authentic and trustworthy online. That’s why I have my own picture on my website and tell you plenty about myself: I want clients who feel they can talk to me as if I were the shopkeeper in my physical shop. By reading blogs and my website they get to see my personality and core values, and if these appeal to them (or ‘resonate’ as it is more trendily known) the chances are they will stay around to find out more.
b) Multi-person business personality
But any business that is not a one-man-band (or is trying to pretend it is not) needs to take a closer look at its character. Its website, emails, printed materials, images, styling and tone of voice need to present a coherent and easily-understood personality. So long as the business presents itself consistently, visitors will quickly understand its brand.
We’re back to the 8 seconds (or less).
You need to make those seconds really count. There’s more here on finding your brand voice, but consistency is the key. If every part of your communication with your potential customer reflects your brand they have all the information they need to make a snap decision.
Gut instinct will still make them jump or stay. But now you don’t mind which.
You won’t appeal to everyone, so the sooner those who don’t like you bounce away the better. Less time wasted all round. But those who felt attracted by your personality to stay around longer are already warmer and just a little bit engaged.
Your Brand Voice has already proved its value.
Let me help you grab that gut instinct, or even shorten your website copy to read better in 8 seconds. We can make it count!
[If you want an idea of length, this is approx. 750 words]