Growing Your Business? Mind Your Language

2020 has been a wild year for everyone. With the health scare of COVID-19 and the almost immediate culture shock of isolated working, it’s safe to say that things will never go back to the way things were, and that’s not a bad thing. Whether your business is just kicking off or growing bit-by-bit, the correct use of language is now more important than ever.

When you think about it, language usage is hugely prominent in our day-to-day lives: idle chit-chats; meetings; writing emails; reading a book on the train. And yet, I’d bet it’s not the first thing you’d consider when figuring out your business or brand identity. There are plenty of elements to consider, but your copywriter is the key piece in putting the ‘this is our sound’ jigsaw puzzle together.

Know your audience

Before you start contacting your customers to tell them everything about the products or services they simply can’t do without, you first need to figure out who it is you’re selling to. Old. Young. Married. Single. Animal lover. Coffee enthusiast. You get where this is going.

Unlike what your mum or dad told you when you were just a kiddie, nobody is totally unique. Groups of us have shared interests, fears, pet peeves, and desires. Even if you’re looking to engage people of varying ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, they should all have something in common.

For example: you sell miniatures for painting. Brian from South London is an 18-year-old student who works in a coffee shop. He recently signed up to your email list after buying his first miniatures set from you. Dora is a 40-year-old account executive from Manchester who has been buying miniatures from you, twice a month, for over a year. Brian and Dora might not have many things in common, but they both love painting miniatures. That’s a bit of a simplified example, but the point is that both Brian and Dora are reading your communications for a reason.

Setting the right tone

Once you’ve figured out your target audience, it’s a good time to think about your brand identity. What formality do you want to use? Have you figured out your tone of voice? This is all of the delicious stuff you need to think about when it comes to your brand guidelines, because your use of language will need to be consistent across the whole board. Social media, email, digital advertisements, press releases, train station posters, sky writing, the works.

There will be a number of internal factors that might cross a few choices off the list for you – if you’re offering funeral services, it’s not a great idea to advertise with a chatty tone or use copy riddled with iffy ‘knock knock’ jokes.

Finding the right balance

That’s it! That’s the magic formula. Know your audience and know your product.

Once you’ve got those down, the fun part comes in: putting it all together. Writing short, snappy bits of copy isn’t an easy task. It’s a balancing act. Though creative communications are fun, they’re pointless if you don’t inspire your customer to react. Clicking on call to actions, heading to the website to browse, buying one of your products – this is the real goal behind you reaching out, isn’t it?

At the same time, you don’t have to stick your copy in a chunky paragraph and be done with it. Some people might enjoy it, but most don’t have the time to trawl through it. The real craft is putting your point across and keeping your customers’ attention.

Say you’re selling a new brand of pencils. Depending on who your audience is, you might call your business ‘Stationary Centre’ or ‘The Write Stuff’ or ‘2B or not 2B’, and from those we (the customers) already have a feel of what language you might use. Take the following sentence:

We offer HB pencils, mechanical pencils, graphite pencils and refills for all your writing needs. Visit our website to find out more.

It’s formally written, no nonsense, and gets the point across with no frills, and that’s fine. You could probably guess which business title above might go with it. But, if you wanted your brand to be a little less formal and more chatty, you might write:

Whether you’re filing your taxes, sketching your dog or drafting your screenplay masterpiece, our exceptional range of HB, graphite and mechanical pencils are an essential tool for all of your projects.

Though it’s longer, it’s nicer to read and gives your customer something to relate to (which gives them a reason to think about why they would need your pencils).

Look around you. You’ve got hundreds of examples of good, bad, and utterly bananas use of language, it’s just about figuring out what works for you, your customers and your products.


This article first appeared in Brand Chief Magazine.