by Don F Perkins

Finding your unique voice sounds like pretty basic advice right? But it’s harder than it seems. In content marketing, sounding human is one of the things that seems to elude many a well-meaning marketer. Just look at your email inbox. Sounding human or puking corporatespeak makes all the difference in those critical 8 seconds when people are deciding whether or not to continue reading past the first paragraph. Check it out:

In chapter 4 of Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman’s book: Content Rules, they point out that “a unique, human sounding corporate voice is critical if you want to engage, stimulate or excite your audience.” Why? Because in content marketing that’s what captures your customer’s attention. It’s the thing that will make the difference between customers realizing real value in what you’re saying vs. them just feeling like they are being “sold to” by a corporation.

Stop selling and engage your customer

Problem number one is in our mindset. There’s so much that can go wrong if we don’t start with the right goal in mind. As John Madden is quoted as saying: “90% of the game is half mental.” When we create content, or reach out to our customers, we need to stop thinking about selling them something and start thinking about engaging, stimulating or exciting them. With that goal in mind, the question becomes: so what engages, stimulates or excites your customers? Here’s some ideas on content marketing that also dovetail nicely with how we talk to customers:

People do business with people, not brands or buzzwords

Speak human in your content marketing material. Don’t just blurt out statistics and drone on with the corporate speak. Think about a conversation you have had with someone where you felt comfortable, engaged – you were enjoying yourself and perhaps even learning something new. Think about the tone, the way the conversation flowed. Where there stories shared? Was it funny, interesting, important? Did anyone use the words robust, world class, or scalable? Ann shares this quote in Content Rules from Rick Levine’s book, Cluetrain Manifesto: “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.” Good marketing content is human sounding, it’s easily understood, it’s familiar and it gets remembered.

In the book, Ann talks about “finding your unique voice” in content marketing. When creating content marketing material or talking to your customers, consider these points. Do you:

Sound just like everyone else?
Be unique! Even if it means starting with someone else’s idea and then interjecting your own. Try one of Tina Fey’s rules of improv: “Yes, and…” When someone says something to you, say “yes!” and then add your unique contribution to it, keep the flow going.

Have nothing important or interesting to say?
Then keep quiet until you do! People will click away if your content is not interesting, entertaining or important. Remember grade school? I do. I remember well meaning teachers (and very boring) lectures that about made me fall out of my chair. Don’t be that guy. Only share stuff that you know your audience will find compelling.

Know who you’re talking to?
Social media and internet search are invaluable ways to identify and understand your audience. What do they know? What do they want to know? What are they scared of? What are they happy about? Mad about? How do they decide what’s relevant, reliable or shareable? Spending time mapping your target audience’s persona is well worth the effort. Then test that theory. Ask some of them if you got it right.

Speak their language?
This is not only important for engagement, but before that even – if you don’t use the same language, your customer will not even find you in online search to begin with! Use their words and their expressions in your voice.

Speak with authenticity?
People will run from you if you are not authentic. You’ve got to be true to you and be real or you are just wasting your time. Customers can smell a snow job a mile away. Stop fretting over possibly offending someone or worrying that you’re thoughts are too rough. It’s worth the risk.

You might also like:

Finding your voice as a writer – Jeffery Goins

10 Questions to find your unique writing voice – Joe Bunting

4 Steps to finding your ideal writing voice – Joy Tanksley