I read a Tweet last week from a B2B brand I'm following. There was a link to some web content, nothing out of the ordinary - only something jarred. The tone was very friendly but to the extent that the voice didn't quite ring true; it felt as if the message was coming from a different business, one with a different personality to the one I was acquainted with. It just wasn't right. Someone Tweeting on behalf of a brand or Tweeting as the voice of the brand? These are two very different things.
The advent of social marketing in B2B has made business brands sit up, take notice and slowly loosen their metaphorical ties. It's to be applauded that the B2B world is understanding the importance of gaining trust and building relationships in this way, but due care and attention is needed to avoid mixed or confusing messages going out. The social channels are, of course, about conversations and as such require a different approach to the traditional churn of trade press releases and data sheets.
And striking the right balance in those conversations can be tricky to do. Often B2B brands just retreat into dry, dull corporate-speak. It's as if, fearful of embarrassing themselves like an awkward uncle being cajoled to dance at a wedding, they decide it's simply easier to be consistently bland. That seems to be one sure-fire way of not engaging your customers and fading away into a sea of competition.
The best way to ensure consistency and to speak with a distinct voice is to create a simple document that sets out some clear guidelines. It'll help establish consistency throughout an organisation and across all communications. Style guides aren't just for using the logo and fonts, they should help businesses set out a clear vision of what they stand for. Mailchimp's Voice and Tone guide is an excellent example and offers some sage advice from the outset:
'Though our voice doesn’t change, our tone adapts to our users’ feelings.'
So clearly these are not a rigid set of rules to be followed but more a guide. In other words, if the brand was a person what kind of person would they be?
Brands that build strong and meaningful relationships with their customers are those that have a distinct personality and are entirely consistent in how they talk with their customers and prospects.