5 Tips for Writing a Smart Brand Voice for Small Businesses

The word voice appears several times in different fonts with different personalities.

“Is your small business ready to generate more proactive models and foster a matrix for groundbreaking initiatives? Our revolutionary methodologies leverage robust solutions to maximize profitability.”

Whew! Did you understand any of that? Yeah, we didn’t either. Which is exactly why we avoid writing like that. But for some reason, this style of writing, or “voice,” is common in small business messaging. Buzzwords and corporate jargon like “synergistic” and “paradigm” pop up in messaging like pimples on picture day. And it’s not just hard to understand—it’s hard to like.

The most useful thing your brand messaging can have is a unique, authentic voice that is 100 percent relatable to your audience.

What does your small business sound like?

Even if you’re not a writer, there’s plenty about your voice that you already know—if you know a little bit about yourself. We’ve got five tips to help you along.

  1. Figure out what you’re about. People are shaped by what they believe in, and businesses are no different. Do you promote luxury? Value? Innovation? Hospitality? Use that as a theme to center your language around.
  2. Write like you talk. People don’t carry thesauruses with them everywhere they go. They call each other “we” and “you,” despite what your tenth grade English teacher says. They use contractions. The more you write like a conversation rather than a master’s thesis, the more people can relate to you. 
  3. Hook ‘em on a feeling. Every message from your business should give your customer a particular feeling. Should they feel confident? Should they feel unique, or cared for, or that they got a hell of a bargain? Whatever you decide, just stick to it.
  4. Play it safe with slang. It depends on your audience, and how formal your brand is. If you’re a stock broker, avoid it. (Unless you’re a cool one.) But if you’re a biker bar or a lifestyle outfitter for hip tweens, you can spit the hot lingo your homies are down with. Just be sure you know what those words actually mean.
  5. Know you’re stuff. Grammar and spelling have to be airtight. (Case in point: You probably balked at the incorrect “your” at the beginning of this paragraph. Joke’s on you.) While yes, you are aiming to be human and yes, humans make mistakes, people will never miss an opportunity to roast companies that can’t get their “theres” straight.
  6. BONUS TIP: Get your way of writing in writing. The big guys use style guides that instruct their writers on what their brand’s voice sounds like. While you don’t have to go into super heavy detail, it might be good to have a list of terms that describe your services and your personality. We prop MailChimp’s style guide up as a beautiful example that is both useful and is itself a good example of its voice.

Brands that talk the talk

As an agency, we are big on voice, and we spent a lot of time working our own (check some of that out). So much time and effort went into making it casual and friendly, you would never know how many tears were shed and blood was spilled getting it just right. Once you’re done there, here are some bigger brands whose voices we adore:

Saddleback Leather Co.: Jamie is a real fan-boy of theirs and saves every email he gets from these guys because their voice is so strong.

Welly: Its fun, go-with-the-flow attitude is perfect for daring souls both big and small, in Caleb’s mind.

Anthropologie: A strong voice doesn’t have to be clever or fancy. Heather loves the breezy, casual approach of this brand.