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Write in the same voice as you speak

By Guest Blogger Colin Martin

It’s important to write in the same voice as you speak in. Not necessarily in slang, but in the relaxed, personal tone of conversation. Often, web content reads like a scientific equipment brochure or a Harvard dissertation. Leave the big words and the information overload to the corporate boardrooms, and don’t your reader have to consult to decipher what your writing about.

Talking to your clients in a different way than how you write for your website is disingenuous. If you’re trying to attract new clients via the web, then write in the language they’re used to you addressing them in. Just as when you meet new friends for the first time, being your charming and easy going self is a number one priority for web copy. This applies to any part of web copy: emails, video  and podcasting scripts, even sales letters.

Many years ago, when I first started surfing the web, websites were an anonymous lot of hype-overload with few, if any, ways to contact the site owners. It was as if owners and companies were ‘hiding’ behind the veil of the Internet. Before the popularity of social media came along, there was a wall of ‘us and them’ between the site itself and the visitors. The web in its infancy lacked the personalization of a real experience – such as a physical retail operation would have. If a restaurant handled customers the  same way websites did in the early days, there would be no waitresses, no cashiers, no fellow patrons and no one to be held accountable.

There would be nothing except cold, dark vending machines with pictures of great food, but in reality dispensing God-knows-what with no way to complain or get your money back if it was crap. You slide your credit card through the machine, and then take your chances and hope for the best. No 800 number to call, no manager to complain to, no real proof that anyone had ever eaten there before. Somehow, that’s not appealing to me. As websites evolved, the user experience not only improved, but companies that used more visitor-friendly tactics made more money. So others joined in as well.

Most websites, at least ones that people trust, have a number of visitor-friendly elements in place:

  • full contact information including phone numbers
  • email contact forms
  • a place to leave comments
  • testimonials (social proof)
  • meet the staff videos and/or bios
  • credibility builders – BBB, professional affiliations, VeriSign, etc…

The one factor still lacking, and a secret you can use to get ahead of your competition, is the sound of the personal voice. Web copy can still be stifling to the reader or confusing, contradictory or even downright untrustworthy. Writing in your voice creates a personal bond with the reader. They lower their defenses and open up their emotions. Build a friendship with your visitor right from the start.  Write as if you were greeting someone coming into your physical store: a warm welcome, a sense of companionship, help them
get around and quickly find what they need.

What are some of the common mistakes, easily overlooked, when writing for your website or email that seems to stifle your reader?

===> Using stock pictures that I’ve seen on dozens of other websites. I know this isn’t a ‘writing’ issue, but it separates you from your visitor for no good reason. YOU should be the one greeting them just as you would at a store or office, or at least have a real staff member do it, preferably with an online video or audio greeting.

===> Using “we” when it’s just a one person operation. I see this all of the time and it drives me crazy. A business person trying to sell themselves as a life or business coach, real estate agent or anyone that is obviously a one person operation should greet and write in the personal of “I”. Tabs that say “contact us”, “we’re here to help you” and “our mission” are creating a wall of separation. Unless your are really a multiple person company, avoid this “we” factor. Sometimes it looks as if site owners are trying to ‘fake’ being a larger entity than they really are, just to look more important. This is disingenuous.

===> Writing way too much content than you would normally speak in. If you are the kind of person that knows when to shut up because of the ‘kill-me-now’ looks on your friends’ faces, don’t go overboard on your writing either. One way to lose your visitor is to talk their eyes off with your copy. This applies to every aspect of content – keep it brief and get to the point as soon as possible: videos, email, webpage content, blog posts, webinars, etc… Writing too much copy is the opposite of finding your voice. Your visitor can tell you’re not writing for them, but just trying to cram a bunch of info down their throats before they leave, which they’ll do in a hurry if you try it.

Colin MartinColin Martin is the Marketing Manager for Tom Antion and Associates. He works with authors, speakers, coaches and entrepreneurs to effectively bring their content marketing to life through storytelling and engagement. He is the author of the novel Secondhand God available on Amazon and Nook.

Make more fans and close more sales by touching the hearts of your website visitors. Join Colin & Susan on April 12, 2012 for the complimentary Ultimate Persuasion webinar and discover the simple steps of emotional engagement and visitorcuration. Online content is more than communication; it’s an experience.