A language lesson from B2C

Businesses are starting to take language seriously. In the UK, organisations with a tone of voice invest £116k on average.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Historically, B2B brands have lagged behind their consumer cousins. There’s an assumption that if you’re selling a smoothie you can write with as much clarity and warmth as you like, but if you’re selling a security system to a blue chip, you’re in the world of wordy reports, deferential forms of address and words like cascading, leveraging and actioning.

That’s old hat. So if your company’s language is stuck in the last century, never fear. We’ve got three steps that will see you right.

Talk to people, not departments

You’re not talking to ‘procurement’ or ‘marketing’. You’re talking to Jenny (who’s having a really busy day), or Dave (who’s got 1017 unread emails in his inbox).

The person sitting in the blue chip security department eats lunch, plays pool and takes the train home in the evening just like the person whipping up all those smoothies.

So use the words they would use. That means no more cascading, just say sharing. No more leveraging, just say making the most of. And please, please no more actioning. (There’s a reason Microsoft Word autocorrects it to auctioning.)

Build the case

Capture your new way with words as a set of tone of voice guidelines, and get everyone on board through a training programme.

Mind-blowing numbers will start dropping in your inbox.

We worked with a bank on a letter about procurement contracts. They expected a 2% response rate. In their wildest dreams, they hoped for 5%. We rewrote the letter in their tone of voice and they ended up with 46%.

Think culture change, not just copywriting

Tone of voice isn’t one page in a set of brand guidelines. It’s a huge cultural change that some will grasp with open arms and others will fight to the very last.

You need support from on high, and to get that you need a business case.

So put three or four of those mind-blowing numbers on some slides, grab ten minutes in the CEO’s diary and wow them with frighteningly big returns for a laughably small investment. Then start preparing yourself for some big changes ahead.