How do you choose your tone of voice?

How do you choose your tone of voice

If you have spent any time at all thinking about marketing you’ll probably have heard people talking about ‘tone of voice’ and maybe you have wondered what this is.

Well wonder no more dear friends for in this post I am going to tell you what tone of voice is and how to choose yours.

What is meant by ‘Tone of Voice’?

Tone of voice is a concept that lives within the world of marketing.

It simply means how you speak to people through whatever medium you are using.

Tone of voice will be different depending upon what type of company you are, who runs it, the type of customer you are speaking to and what you are trying to convey.

A good analogy is thinking about speaking with your peers or your grandmother.

You use a totally different way of speaking.

Your phraseology is different, how polite you are changes and the words you use also differ.

You’ll use a different tone of voice if you are imparting technical knowledge as opposed to say writing in a lifestyle magazine and in fact, if you ever consider writing for people they will often tell you what tone of voice to use.

Tone of voice – some examples.

I thought I’d take 3 examples of different types of tone.

The first one is for a well established bank.

Barclays has a wealth management arm and this snippet is from one of their web pages.

“Whether you want to grow your wealth for a retirement income or a legacy to pass on to future generations, we can help you set goals and try to achieve them”


Notice that the tone is neutral, professional, not overly ebullient. There isn’t a lot of technical jargon and there are certain phrases that shy away from being overt.

So instead of saying “we aim to make you more money than other people” They say “we can help you set goals and try to achieve them

Now compare this to a website aimed at IT professionals

“Archive Shuttle leverages the latest ingestion technologies within its Advanced Ingestion Protocol (AIP) to achieve speeds that are dramatically faster with a lower failure rate over traditional EWS methods of migration to Microsoft endpoints.”


This language is very different.

They need to establish their credentials and they do this by talking the language of their target market.

I have no idea what Advanced Ingestion Protocol (AIP) is but it sounds impressive.

Of course the website isn’t aimed at me, it’s aimed squarely at people who are looking to migrate large amounts of data between locations.

Here’s my third example

We’re thrilled to be able to serve you once again and are ready and raring to help you with your online orders. Our Customer Care team are on hand, and very happy to chat you through our product range


This is from cosmetics firm Lush.

Make no mistake, they are just as keen to sell you stuff as Barclays and Quadrotech but the way they speak is as if they are your best friend.

They may be a multi-national but they are adopting a friendly, happy, positive tone that you could hear down the pub or in the gym.

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So how do you choose your tone of voice?

The million dollar question!

The first thing to consider is your company.

Is it just you? one or two of you? 500 people?

The way you speak may change dependent upon the image you want to convey.

Think about your target market

Then think about your target market, what do they expect?

If you are talking to buyers of cosmetics would you use the same approach as Quadrotech? In other words, would you go into technical detail about what ingredients are in the soaps or would you talk about how it feels/smells/looks?

Then think about how your target market talks amongst themselves.

Do they use a lot of TLAs (three-letter acronyms, see what I did there?).

Are they highly professional, mums, teenagers, middle aged men?

Check out forums, message boards, Facebook groups etc, and just watch how they interact.

Adopting the language and mannerisms is important for people to like, or feel invested in your brand.

Then have a look round at websites you like.

Are there any that stand out?

Do any particular brands shout at you “This is how you should speak”?

Finding good examples of tone of voice that you think would work well is probably the best way to choose your own.

Finally think about how you are going to communicate.

Some TOVs work better in some channels than others.

In short if you have a young audience, a cool product and you are using instagram as your primary channel then this will heavily influence your tone of voice.

Using the same tone on LinkedIn may not have the desired effect!

The best tone of voice is the right tone of voice

When I start working with people to define their marketing plan they often ask what is the best tone of voice to use.

There is no simple answer.

If we think of the three examples, none of these is ‘better’ than the others, they are all examples of successful companies speaking to their customer in the right tone of voice for them.

And this is the important point.

The right tone of voice can be as individual as a fingerprint.

You need to be comfortable with it, your staff need to be comfortable with it and more importantly, your customers need to be comfortable with it.

So there you go.

All you need to do now is to choose how you want to communicate and make sure the same tone of voice is used across all of your marketing channels!

If you would like some help with tone of voice then give me a shout. I’m a nice guy honest and having a second pair of eyes usually saves you a lot of money in wasted copy!

Covid-19 – what can we learn from the last downturn?

how to survive in a time of crisis

Business in the UK suffers a recession around every ten years so what can we learn as we emerge from the Covid crisis?

Well the good news is that for businesses this time is difficult but it also a time of opportunity so here are my thoughts based on living through two previous reversals.

Tip #1 Stay flexible

This is the number 1 tip because for me it’s the most important one.

Staying flexible means making sure that you have as many options open as possible.

Being ready to change tack quickly gives you a big advantage over bigger or less nimble companies.

Now is not the time to be wedded to the old ways of doing things or dig our heels in over the way we would really like to work.

New wins in a time of change

Tip #2 Talk to people

It’s amazing that when they are facing difficulties often people try to hide it.

Amazing, but understandable.

But this is really important. If you are having problems with cashflow and you can’t meet you rent or bills then speak to your landlord and suppliers and let them know.

I know it feels uncomfortable but work with me on this.

I used to work in credit control and the one thing we always loved is when a debtor came to us early and said “look I’m not going to be able to pay”.


Well for a start it meant that they were being honest and realistic right from the start and it meant that if we got them to agree to a payment plan then they’d probably stick to it.

What we didn’t like is when people avoided us for a couple of weeks and then when we did get hold of them they made up some ridiculous story about the dog having eaten the cheque they were going to send us!

Speaking to people early, telling the truth and coming up with a workable and realistic plan works 95% of the time.

Remember, in a time of crisis there will be a lot of people in the same boat as you so your landlords and suppliers have heard this before.

Tip# 3 Understand the difference between cash and profit.

This is really important. Very good companies make sure they have plenty of free cash in a time of crisis because at least they will be able to pay the bills.

Make sure you understand the difference between what your bank account is saying and what is shown on your P&L because they are VERY different.

Tip #4 Look for bargains

This goes for supplies, advertising and even buying up distressed companies.

In a time of crisis people start to have fire-sales and this is a time you can use that excess cash that you built up to really make inroads in your cost base.

People will begin to rein in their marketing spend which will make advertisers panic and drop their rates. You can get some excellent deals at when things are bad.

Speak with your suppliers, it may well be that they have stock that they bought for normal times that is just taking up space on their shelves and they may also want to realise some cash.

And if your competitors go to the wall then see if you can’t buy them from the receiver or even some of their stock at an auction. You could also pick up their best staff!

It’s all about keeping your ear to the ground and capitalising on any opportunities.

And remember that if you don’t ask then you don’t get.

Tip #5 – don’t do what everyone else does.

Take marketing.

Everyone will start to wind in spend on advertising as they see it as discretionary spend but that is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

Marketing is as valuable as your rent because it’s the thing that keeps the lights on.

Also remember that your competitors are also going to be reducing their marketing spend.

So if you maintain your activity you’ll stand out from the pack.

You’ll also probably get a great deal for your money (see tip 4)

Tip #6 – set a budget and stick to it.

Sit down with your accountant and organise at the very least a 12 month budget. Then get them to transfer this into a rolling forecast that gets updated every month.

This will allow you to know exactly where you are and the moment that you deviate from the course you initially set out.

And don’t neglect your bookkeeping – by having accurate accounts you can tell exactly where your money is going.

Tip # 7 – reduce your expenses.

Take a look at everything.

What can be done without?

What can be reduced?

What can be deferred?

By reducing not only the cost but also the cash outlay of your expenses you can make your business stronger for the future.

Tip #8 – Let your staff in on the secret

One of the things that many people think is that tye canhide bad news from the staff.

In fact it is very difficult to do this and even if they don’t know the details, people get an inkling that something is wrong and then it’s easy for their imagination to run riot.

Let people know what’s going on and ask for their help.

You’ll be surprised with what they come up with and I can guarantee that they won’t leave.

Tip#9 – Talk to people

In a similar vein as number 8, don’t take everything on your own shoulders.

Find someone to share your thoughts with because trying to tough out difficult times is hard on your mental health.

Being able to speak to someone, especially if they are also a business owner is a very good way of relieving some of this pressure.

In summary then, don’t worry.

Things might be uncertain and at times they may look bad.

but actually it’s often our imagination that is playing tricks on us and by using sound business principles you’ll most likely to be absolutely fine.

In fact, you’ll find that your business comes out of the covid-19 issue leaner and more able to develop your business in a sustainable way.