How to Build a Big Brand Voice

Presented live on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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Why should you add brand voice to your web copy?

‘Cos if you use GREAT copy…

And add some personality (aka brand voice)…

Then you and your brand become more likeable.

And people – including CEOs – like to do business with people and brands they like.

In this Tutorial Tuesdays, Jo’s gonna walk you through how the agency helped a client use their voice as a differentiator by:

  • Choosing a brand voice
  • Using VOC research
  • Organizing the page
  • Creating copy for the page
  • Incorporating page design

You’ll see how we went totally “maximalist” with the brand voice.

And WHY we went there.


Introduction [00:00]

Joanna Wiebe: Today we’re talking about voice, largely voice as a differentiator. So in a lot of cases, a lot of people are writing for their own product for other products where the competition is like, Whoa.

There’s so many people in this space. They’re all saying the same thing, doing the same thing. And that’s where you can cut through by saying something differently. You don’t say something different, necessarily, but say it differently. And that can be a way in.

What to Expect in This Tutorial [00:41]

Joanna Wiebe: So we’re going to talk about voice. Now, a lot, a lot of times I like to coach freelance copywriters and copywriters away from going too heavy on the voice. Sometimes it just sounds cheaper somehow. Don’t ask me. It just does.

You should ask me, and I’ll figure it out one day, but right now I don’t know why. Sometimes I think it’s when you don’t commit to the voice or when there’s mixed metaphors and stuff where it feels like, oh, this is the first draft still, I see. So that’s what we kind of want to avoid.

I’m going to walk you through today how to write copy with brand voice. There are a lot of copywriters who love this part of it, and a lot of conversion copywriters don’t really think as much about this part of it because we’re so focused on techniques to get to the yes.

But having people like you, is also a technique to get to the yes. They’re more likely to say yes to even micro-yeses, like yes I’ll stay on this page. Yes, I’ll keep reading. If they like you, if they like the way you sound or if they even just respect you.

Maybe you’re really bold and they’re like, whoa, this person super bold. Why are they going so far? This company is super bold. How do they have the courage to go there? So we’re going to walk through. I’m going to share my screen and that is the one you already saw in today’s email inviting us here today.

How to Build a Big Brand Voice [02:20]

Joanna Wiebe: You saw screenshots from this. Now this is They are a client that we’ve worked with, we help them we wrote a bunch of their website for them. They were doing a full rebrand, they’re there to help you find great developers.

But of course there are a lot of services out there that help you find great developers. Now Lemon has special access, behind the scenes kinds of insights into how to get those people really good strong networks. But one of the things that came through for them is the way that they’re able to find developers in a space where it’s very hard to find credible reliable developers.

Is kind of in keeping with cults. Now that might seem like a bit of a stretch, but the Lemon team was very into this whole cult idea. And it was just an interesting thing. And I was a little worried when we started working with them because they were doing a rebrand to Lemon.

And they were in Europe where not everybody speaks English as their first language. And we were like, hold on because a lemon is a bad thing here. Like if you buy a lemon, that’s the broken down version of the thing that you should have bought.

And so we had to like work against that. And a lot of the visuals help to do that as well, where it’s not about the Lemon.I don’t know anything about cults. I unfortunately have not had an opportunity to be and so I don’t know a lot about it.

But this “I” with a triangle. All these symbols. Anyway, they wanted to work with that so that was cool. So we started the project. I’m going to walk you through in this tutorial how we got to the place where we had this website where people continue… and this is like Alexander who runs Lemon and he sends me little emails when people send nice messages..

And so that was the one, the one of the ones that was in today’s email. All right, let me when we started with the voice direction. So this is me walking you through how we get to that place in the hopes that you will get to a place that’s right for you, when it comes to voice.

Choosing a Brand Voice [04:25]

Joanna Wiebe: Okay, so we understand and I hope you understand, or will grow to understand that voice can be a differentiator. So okay, let’s use that as a differentiator. It also of course can help you be more likeable.

We came up with a variety of voices and shared those with them. So the charismatic cult leader was the first one that was the one Lemon was already leaning toward when we did interviews with the founder, when we talked to the team.

It kept coming up as a thing. Okay. But then there are other ways, the private investigator for hire was another one, rebel with a cause. And you can see off to the side here. Hopefully you’re seeing my screen. Okay.

Private Investigator we have different things and we were showing what that would sound like, so you can work through what that would sound like of course. And that brought us through a couple different options.

The Rebel with a cause, the Yes Man, lovable geeks, with imagery to help us get a sense for how that would really sound. And that brought us to, the client agreed we’ll do the charismatic cult leader.

Use Voice of Customer Research (VOC) [05:26]

Joanna Wiebe: Okay. Along the way, not like step by step, but along the way we were doing VOC research to get there. And so this is a summary of what we came up with. So this VOC outline, when you’re writing something, start with an outline. Start by putting VOC voice of customer data into that outline.

Do your best to organize what your customers and clients say in the page. Don’t just plug that in later on. Okay, so we had the VOC here. We documented the problems that caused startups to look for a solution like Lemon. We knew who that one reader was. So a founder or owner at an early stage start.

And then a whole bunch of their VOC here that could help drive us now. The tricky thing is that we have to then take this VOC and layer over it, or edit over it, the voice of this charismatic cult leader.

That’s cool, but we want to start with what people care about what these prospects are going through, not just what you feel like, because the voice happens during editing and now you can think about it the whole way through. But it’s really going to happen during the editing process.

So your first draft should still be Voice of Customer data where you organize things on the page using frameworks like problem, agitation, solution (PAS) or attention, interest, desire, action (AIDA), etc, etc.

Okay, so we have the problems, the categories of problems. That’s what’s going on over here and then the VOC itself. So documenting everything. If it’s actual VOC do put it in quotation marks so that you know this is coming from someone else and that way you can make sure you never just use it exactly, without them. We don’t want to get in trouble with copyright law.

And then any objections that they had around actually choosing this solution choosing a solution versus the solution, that was being like, Okay, lemon versus its competitors. Talking through all of those. We had a whole bunch of VOC here. Great. That’s awesome. That can help us organize the page when it comes down to it.

Organizing the Page [07:34]

Joanna Wiebe: Which was our next step. So I’m jumping ahead into our draft 2.0 so this is after we had our first draft in place. Then the team goes over it and says, like, okay, here are two options for the homepage hero, which one should we go with?

In this case it was 4 options for the homepage hero. We’re starting to use the voice, “Behold! Your holy grail of developers,” “Restore your faith in remote devs,” “Meet the almighty dev. you’ve been praying for,” and “They call themselves developers, but miracle makers would be more apt.”

We’re starting to get into bringing that voice to life. And that went on down the page. Now tricky thing about using a lot of voice is you have to still be clear. You still have to express an important point. If there’s a 24 hour guarantee, make sure that that’s clear, and not just clever.

So this is the thing that will happen as you’re going through iterating, checking, doing your seven sweeps. The number ones of the seven sweeps is of course the Clarity Sweep.. So always going back over to make sure that, above all else you’re clear.

Now some could argue that the final version of the page still lacks clarity and some spaces and that’s totally fair and you can iterate beyond that.

Creating Copy For a Page [08:45]

Joanna Wiebe: Okay, so a whole bunch of things. What I want to show you here is the back and forth that can happen in coming to a place of creating copy for a page and doing so I’m trying to show you in 20 minutes!

But this is that edited version, we’re trying to organize what’s going on on the page, the different things and you can see there’s a lot of strike throughs, lots of questions, challenges. So you should be cool with that, if your client gives you a lot of feedback.

Know that if you worked in an agency your team would give you a lot of feedback, too. So we’re all working toward that great draft that will actually make miracles happen. Okay, so we’ve gone through, we had the voice direction we chose a voice with the clients.

We had the VOC outline that brought us to a place where we could put together a first draft that we could share with our team internally and then present to the client.

Presenting to The Client [09:37]

Joanna Wiebe: So that’s the next thing that comes up, our presentation to the client. Now we’d already had other presentations. Along the way, I’m not going to walk through the entire process of putting this sort of thing together.

So along the way the client had already seen, we have reminders here and in presentation mode, it doesn’t look so clunky. But we have reminders here of, like, okay, what drives the decision to choose This is an important part of understanding why we want to go heavy on the voice..

Never forgetting that you need to remind your clients, internal or external client, of the decisions you’ve made along the way. Because people forget things, they get nervous about things, you can remind them. This is why we’re leaning heavily into the voice instead of pulling back.

Why Not “The Other Guys?” [10:15]

Joanna Wiebe: And a big one in this case was, how will prospects tell the difference between Lemon and the other guys? So, yes. Lemon was focused on early stage startups and not a lot of their competitors are. But beyond that, that one thing.

Just because topical one of their competitors is not focused on early stage startups doesn’t mean that they don’t work for early stage startups. They’re still going to show up in the search engine results page for searches on hire a Python developer, or whatever that might be.

So knowing that competition is real. Even if you have a differentiator. It’s still good to push further on something like voice, the way you present yourself to those startups, or to your audience.

Competitor Content Audit [11:02]

Joanna Wiebe: Then we did of course, and this is a reminder, so they’d already seen this, but this is good for you to know to have that competitor content audit. This is a great way into understanding if there’s an opportunity for voice.

So if you do a competitor content audit and it turns out all of the competition is going really clever like they’re aggressive with their voice. That can be a good time to pull back, do the opposite. Don’t be that and see if that helps you stand out too.

But if everybody’s being kind of a little bit boring, a little bit dull, no offense to them, this is typically the default, you go with the safest version of your copy out of the gate, in most cases.

But it’s true, everybody else was doing kind of boring stuff. So that suggests that there may be an opportunity or iIt also suggests that that’s actually the right way to do it unless people have optimized the hell out of things or the whole market is optimized with their messaging already, and you should just like keep going with that instead of trying to do something different.

We don’t know. That’s why we have hypotheses. We don’t have answers, we have questions. The research question in this case is will a strong brand voice increase conversions? Go, okay, so a whole bunch of different things that we had to think about in getting to a place where we then came up with our home page copy.

Expect Resistance [12:25]

Joanna Wiebe: This is the first version that we presented to our client, where the homepage, the copy itself, to be fair, Lemon is super awesome and they wanted crazy cool stuff when the time came to implement the copy, there was still a little bit of resistance.

So we had to push hard to actually make some of the things that we wanted here, make it onto the page. So just know even the greatest clients will be like Huh. I’m gonna try that headline myself and you’re like pump the brakes. No, you’re not. You’re not.

I’m glad you got that out of your system. Now let’s go back to the right headline. So this is where we ended up with. I’ll read some of the key stuff. So, “Behold! the almighty devs you’ve been praying for,” this would be a difficult headline for most home pages, for most solutions because if we go back to this one, you can see that most of the H1s on these pages are keyword phrases, “project based freelance work.”

They’re “hire expert freelancers,” this is like keyword, search engine optimized, not this. This is not optimized for search engines, but our goal is when people get here, will they at least feel something and be less likely to bounce, which is a good thing.

Google rewards that so that’s good. That’s a good signal for Google that it is a good page to be on. So we want to hook them and that can help with search engine rankings as well. We wanted to go a little more religious than cult, when it came down to it.

Well, because a lot of the cults that we know are religious, so you’re like okay well they hook you with all of that religious stuff and then they keep you with, I don’t even know. But whatever, so we wanted to put more of that in and the client wanted to take more of that out, which is fair.

Clear Calls To Action (CTAs) [14:25]

Joanna Wiebe: Okay. So as we move down the page, we can see that the calls to action are clear, “match me with a dev” is not trying to do anything, like the key points where you’re going to convert people,

do your best not to make those too clever or too voicey because it’s an actual action people have to take.

And then things like the “zero risk replacement guarantee,” we can do something voicey with it.

But we want to make sure that they absolutely know there’s zero risk replacement guarantee they can click, they can learn more.

So “find your startup’s saving grace in 24 hours or less,” The only thing we’re really doing there is “saving grace.” We’re taking a noun that’s boring and replacing it with a noun that’s not. Really not going that far. “Find” is the right verb here, “your startup” is still the right noun. We’re doing the right thing for clarity.

How Design Enhances Brand Voice [15:15]

Joanna Wiebe: We’re just trying to layer in voice where possible. Now when you actually see the final version of the page, of course. Imagine if the design was really stripped back, if the background was white. The font was montserrat. This was just a picture of a person smiling on her laptop or whatever that might be. And we had just normal icons and this was formatted in a typical way.

The voice wouldn’t seem as strong. Right. And so you do have to depend on the designer buying into the vision and bringing that voice to life and in this case in a rather heavy way. MailChimp was known for years as, we want MailChimp voice.

But when you strip away the design of MailChimp’s homepage landing pages when you took that chimp off the page when you made like the fun blue and the cool mascot go away. It was actually pretty clear, straightforward non voicey copy. So design has a lot to do with this. So get those designers on your side.

Okay, and then some more things “because a great resume doth not always beget a great developer.” We’re still saying resume versus developers, things like that. “The Holy Grail about software engineers.” Again, it’s going to come off as a little heavy handed but you’re still saying real things, and the only parts that you’re subbing in are not core messages.

So the core stuff that people have to understand, make sure you keep that clear. Add the decorative language around that. Okay, that led us to a whole bunch of edits. So we see that “praying” turned into “searching” and so on and so forth.

So we have all of this on the page. Now that was like the edited version which finally, at the end of it all, leads us to this final page and then other pages that we wrote that also had the same thing. So you can see there’s still some different edits, but the things that stand out 24 hour guarantee, 24 hours or less.

There are some parts that could definitely be clearer, typically icons will help support a message and make it really clear. In this case, I’m not sure the icons are helping anything but the brand, they’re not really helping the user in this case. And maybe that’s working. Maybe that would be a place to start optimizing

The buttons could be optimized to look more like buttons. There’s more we can do here to kind of pull back on the voice, but the reality of this is that this particular service-based company, they provide a service that’s in a very competitive space.

They’re attracting clients. They’re getting clients who then say, man, I love your copy. Like, what were you guys even doing, what were you on when you wrote that copy? Which is kind of a fun thing to hear as a business owner, to stand out as a little bit different.

Obviously kind of crazy right here, a little bit, like what’s going on here? But it can be a really fun experiment for you, to participate in anything that brings voice to life.

Alright, thanks everybody for staying on a little later. This replay will be available in a little while and we will see you on our next Tutorial Tuesdays where we’ll do another behind the scenes of what’s going on with Copyhackers, particularly as we get into launching Copy School in the spring. Alright. Have a good one, everybody. Thanks, Ange. Thanks, bye.

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