Too often, the “voice” in copy goes astray. It drifts from being a “human” voice, to a “copywriters” voice.
So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”
I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1-3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:
1 = ‘Sup my brother/sister?
2 = Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
3 = Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.
Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” was crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural—to the point of being distracting or off-putting.
So my advice is this:
- Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual, or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos, or behavioral data.
- Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.) should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product, or its category.
- Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
- Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
- Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.
Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate, and probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.