When we think of iconic brands, many of them are in the B2C space; Coca-Cola, Nike, and L’Oreal. And yet strong branding is critical for B2B companies to communicate clearly your identity and what your approach to business is.
Importance of Brand Identity for B2B
Branding for B2B companies tells your customers a great deal about your organisation:
Who you are
What are your ethos and values?
What is your personality?
What you hope to contribute
Where you sit amongst competitors
If you clearly define your brand internally, you create a consistent identity for your company externally. Any marketing messages can then convey this identity to the world. A distinct brand identity also simplifies processes for your staff, as everyone is in alignment on how to present the company.
What Do We Mean By Brand Voice?
Sometimes conversations around ‘branding’ reduce it to visual elements like the company logo and typeface and while these are absolutely key components, branding also goes beyond this. It’s all to do with how you present your company to the world, and many ingredients are involved:
Image: what type of experience do people associate with your brand?
Positioning: where does your company sit in the market?
Differentiators: what sets you apart from similar companies?
Colour: what palette is used and is this consistent?
Personality: what is the personality of your brand?
Your brand voice is another fundamental part of branding - it’s as significant as visual elements like your logo and brand colour palette in creating your identity. With so many new ways to communicate with your customers 24/7, brand voice is arguably more important than ever.
A well-defined brand voice ensures that your messaging works twice as hard for you, with all aspects of your communications reinforcing important ideas about who you are as a company. It’s a voice that is recognisable as belonging to your organisation, and which fits with your company’s personality.
As with visual branding, consistency is key in building brand trust through your brand voice. By finding and defining your brand voice, you can ensure consistency in your communications, allowing your brand voice to become familiar to customers.
How to Find Your B2B Brand Voice
When finding your brand voice there are various questions you can ask yourself:
Do you currently have a brand voice for your business, or are you inconsistent in your approach?
If you do have a B2B brand voice, how would you define it at the moment?
Is your current brand voice accurately representing what you are about as a company?
Think about the ethos of your company and how the tone and writing style of your communications could emphasise these principles. Ask yourself:
Who is the intended audience of your communications?
How do your customers speak?
How would you best communicate with your customer personas?
B2B companies have the edge over B2C when it comes to knowing their customers. Your customer personas are likely more specific, so settling on an appropriate brand voice can often be more straightforward.
Once you’ve contemplated your current brand voice and how your customers communicate, the next step is to assign your company a personality.
Showing Personality Through Brand Voice
Think about your company as if it were a person; what personality would it have? If you are bringing something innovative to your industry, your brand voice could be young, exciting and animated. If you are a long-established company and your customers value your reliability, your brand voice could be stable and traditional.
What makes your company valuable to its customers? Whatever the answer to this question is, that characteristic can be highlighted by your brand voice. When drilling down into your company personality, consider the following questions:
What is the character of our company?
What matters to us as a company?
What three words most succinctly describe our company?
Which attributes do we currently embody and which do we aspire to have?
It’s helpful to create a bank of words that express your brand personality, as this then feeds your brand voice. Your word bank could include words like ‘formal’ or ‘relaxed’, ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘historic’, ‘quirky’ or ‘traditional’.
Once you’ve developed and agreed on a bank of descriptor words, this is a useful reference resource to maintain consistency in your communications going forward.
The Difference Between Voice and Tone
We’ve been talking a lot about ‘brand voice’, and this is closely related to ‘tone’. The difference between ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ is that your brand voice is a constant. Once you have defined it, your brand voice should be used consistently across communications so that customers are familiar with it and can trust that this will remain steady.
Tone, on the other hand, can vary across platforms and circumstances. How you handle different messages will depend on the situation, and so your tone can fluctuate as necessary. However, tone is always underpinned by your unchanging brand voice.
Tone is what allows the flexibility for you to communicate in the most appropriate way given the circumstance. One application of this is that you can tailor your tone to the platform your message is going out on. To give an example from social media, LinkedIn is typically more formal and professional than other social platforms, so your tone can reflect this; in contrast, Twitter is more conversational.
Achieving Balance with Your Brand Voice
Discovering your brand voice makes communicating with your customers a smoother experience for you, but more importantly, it gives an impression of an organisation that can be trusted to be consistent.
In the B2B space, you’re always going to want to maintain a certain level of professionalism, but no matter the industry remember that you are fundamentally communicating with people, not businesses, at the end of the day. Depending on your company and industry, this can sometimes leave wiggle room for levity and humour in your communications when appropriate.
Some things should apply to every brand voice – you need to be authentic and unique. Unique in that your voice should align with what makes your business stand out, what you bring to the table that no one else does. And of course, it’s essential to be authentic. The best way to develop your true brand voice and personality is to let what makes you different naturally shine through.