Defining Your Company's Tone

It’s not what you say that matters, but how you say it. That is called tone of voice.

Every communication between your company and a customer, whether written or spoken, is creating a lasting impression that will define how a customer interacts with you in the future.

A brand’s tone of voice is a marketing term used to describe how a brand speaks in written and spoken words. Tone refers to the way an author communicates their feelings about a specific subject in their writing. It’s all about the words you choose and the order in which you use them. Your tone can also be displayed in how you speak to customers and clients. A perfect example is that famous fast food restaurant who always responds with a sweet, “my pleasure.” This brand’s written tone matches their spoken tone in their marketing efforts. It extends all the way down to their employees who are face-to-face with customers each day—except Sundays.

Why does this matter?

Have you ever read a text message and mistaken what the sender said as something negative, when, in fact, they were not meant to come across rude at all? That’s where tone comes in. With your brand having such a massive presence online, it’s essential to define your brand’s tone.

Your tone represents not just you, your company, it represents the values of your company. It defines your company’s personality and sets you apart from competitors. Tone builds connections and creates trust between you and your customers. It provides familiarity and closeness to your customers and clients. Your tone of voice could be the deciding factor when a family chooses which estate sale company to hire.

By the end of this article, you will have clearly defined your brand’s tone of voice and consistently communicate that through everything you write and speak to customers and clients.

Who is your audience?

Any message your company provides should be targeted towards a specific audience. Consider your audience (customers and clients) before defining your tone of voice. Research their age (generation), education, career, interests/hobbies, and gender. This may require a dive into analytics on your social pages, website, Google Ads, Google Analytics, etc. The audience demographics may be different for customers and clients, so it might be best to separate customers and clients into their own audiences. That’s what we do here at EstateSales.NET.

Who are you as a company?

To help define your tone, consider asking yourself why you exist. What made you become an estate sale company? Ask yourself about your company values, what sets you apart from competitors, and how you would currently define your brand personality. Are you light-hearted, caring, and sincere? Those are just a few ideas to help identify the personality of your company. It sounds trivial, but grab a piece of paper and write a few sentences down answering those questions.

What are you communicating now?

Take a moment to analyze your current communication. The easiest way to do this is to look at the content you’ve shared on your social media. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask yourself if the way you’ve communicated fits with your brand values.

Define your tone of voice

Finally, we can use all the information gathered above to determine the best tone of voice for your company. I found a helpful exercise from the Nielson Norman Group that starts with the 4 dimensions of tone to define what kind of tone is best for your company. Choose one of each adjective per line and write down the one you’ve selected.

Funny vs. Serious
Formal vs. Casual
Respectful vs. Irreverent
Enthusiastic vs. Matter-of-fact

Refine your tone by creating a do and don’t list of words your tone should and shouldn’t match.

For example, if you chose serious, you might say you do want to be serious when speaking with clients, and you don’t want to be funny.

Nielsen Norman Group then suggests selecting target tone words such as:

Serious but not stern

Casual but not uncaring

It’s time to select some adjectives that will define your tone of voice. This is an exercise we performed as a marketing team and a company. We had an idea about our tone. Putting it on paper gave the company a clear definition of how to communicate with our customers in every department. It’s also beneficial for new employees to see how we interact so that they can emulate that.

Below you’ll find a list of adjectives created by the Norman Nielsen Group to refine your tone of voice. Begin by selecting 10, if you can, then cut your list down to 3 to 5 words.

Authoritative
Caring
Cheerful
Coarse
Conservative
Conversational
Casual
Dry
Edgy
Enthusiastic
Formal
Frank
Friendly

Fun
Funny
Humorous
Informative
Irreverent
Matter-of-fact
Nostalgic
Passionate
Playful
Professional
Provocative
Quirky
Respectful

Romantic
Sarcastic
Serious
Smart
Snarky
Sympathetic
Trendy
Trustworthy
Unapologetic
Upbeat
Witty

Implement your tone of voice

Write these words down. Save them to your computer. Share them with your employees and implement them everywhere. This tone of voice should be found in each piece of content you create. This includes your website, social media bios, signs at your sales, sale ads, newsletters, emails, advertisements, how you speak with your customers and clients, etc.

Defining your company’s tone of voice will establish clear expectations and guidelines for every communication your company creates online or has in-person. Consistent communication will create a better understanding of your company’s values and trust between you and your customers.

By Erica Hendrix

Marketing Gal at EstateSales.NET