We just got back from a terrific, two-week family vacation in beautiful Colorado. We covered a lot of ground, making a big loop from Denver to Durango to Ouray to Golden to Boulder and back again to Denver.
Along the way, two things stood out to me:
Thing #1. The state of Colorado does not care whether you live or die.
Want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Go right ahead.
Feel like swimming in a raging river? Hop on in.
Have the urge to drive along a two-lane mountain pass where the only thing separating you from a 1,000-foot drop is a thin white line? We wouldn’t dream of offending you by installing a guard rail.
Thing #2. These are some extraordinarily friendly people.
Not just cheerful, either. They are uniformly inquisitive.
Total strangers kept asking me how my day was going. The guy at the next gas station pump inquired as to my plans for the weekend. The supermarket cashier took a long look at my groceries and asked if I was “fixing to have a party.”
I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed both the attention and the attitude. By the end of the first week, I, too, had begun pestering complete strangers as to their upcoming social itineraries.
Here in New England, however, that’s not at all how it works. I don’t mean to say that we are standoffish and unfriendly, but we are standoffish and unfriendly.
Polite, sure. But anything said to a stranger beyond a mumbled, “How’s it going?” is sure to raise some Yankee eyebrows. We don’t know what you are up to this weekend, and we don’t care.
So, who’s right? Neither. But the difference is noticeable, and if you interact in the wrong way with the wrong population, you will immediately tag yourself as an outsider.
When it comes to creating content for your solo or small professional service business, how you speak/write matters, too.
Just as talking to a Colorado resident with a New England tone feels off, if you don’t pay attention to how you come across, you are at risk of losing your audience, regardless of how valuable your content may be.
With that in mind, here are two voice-related things worth paying attention to:
#1. Who are you talking to?
The more you know about who is on the receiving end, the easier it is to stay on target.
That’s why whenever I am hired to write something or give a presentation, my first question is always, “Where’s my check?”
But my second question is, “Who is this for?”
Knowing about the audience allows you to appropriately shape your communication:
Which terms/concepts/acronyms require explanation?
How experienced are they as professionals?
How formal/informal is the gathering?
Even knowing the approximate age of the audience helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t (e.g., will the 70s cultural references fall flat?).
#2. Who are you?
For reasons that I’ve never quite understood, when it comes to “business writing” in general and “marketing writing” in particular, otherwise perfectly capable adult humans forget how to be themselves.
Some people become excessively formal: “Herewith, enclosed please find the attached document…”
Others, well into middle age, sound like they just snuck into a campus frat party and are hoping to go unnoticed: “Bro, my new product will turn you into a rock star and help you crush it!”
The best voice is your voice. The one you use every day. That’s how you talk to your best clients, isn’t it? Well, talk that way in your marketing and you’ll attract more people like them – those who appreciate your authentic style.
For starters, try reading whatever you’ve written out loud. If it sounds like something you would actually say, you’re on the right track.
Here’s the bottom line.
Voice and tone isn’t everything, but it’s definitely something.
And while “fitting in” in this way won’t guarantee that you close the sale or win the audience, not fitting in will almost certainly help you do neither.
Rock on dudes and dudettes!!!
- Where did you go on your last vacation?
- Have you ever raised a Yankee eyebrow? Explain.
- Describe your “natural voice” in three words, exactly.
Share your answers below…