Writing ain’t easy. Not only do you have to ensure that you use grammatically proper contractions throughout (ahem), but you also need to make sure that when you’re blogging for business you’re actually blogging for the right business with the right voice.
Many times a client might not necessarily know what they want out of a blogger or a content marketing scheme. This isn’t the client’s fault, of course–you’re the writer, after all. However, getting the conversation started about the voice of a business can be very challenging. When you’re working with a client and the client doesn’t seem to know what they want, how do you begin the process of figuring it out?
With a voice document, of course. A voice document is a great way to get the client to start thinking about their ideal client; this helps you, the writer, target that client better and with the right voice in your writing. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate voice document, or 37 questions to ask before you put pen to page or fingers to keys.
First, you’ll need to figure out the client’s voice before even attempting to target their clients. Start here:
1. Is your business established or a startup?
2. Would you prefer a “hip and friendly” tone, or a “polished and professional” tone?
3. Would you prefer 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person tense for your pieces?
4. Describe the personified version of your brand.
5. What are three adjectives you would like to have somebody use to describe your company?
6. What are three adjectives you would hate to have somebody use to describe your company?
7. Do you have any specific corporate/company lingo we should use? For example, are customers referred to as “clients,” “patrons,” “consumers,” “customers,” or does it not matter?
8. Are there any specific terms to your industry that should be used?
9. Are there any geographically-specific terms? For example, the “pop” vs. “soda” vs. “Coke” debate? Should things be “hella cool” or “wicked” when they’re awesome?
10. What makes you different from your closest competitor?
11. If your company was embodied by a flower, what sort of flower would it be and why?
12. Imagine that you could dress your company in any sort of outfit. What would it be wearing and why?
13. Take your company out on a date. Where does it want to go, and what do you want to do together?
14. Describe your company in an “elevator pitch”: you only have 30 seconds (or two sentences) to describe what it is your company sells and whom they sell it to.
15. What colors are in your company’s logo? Why did you choose those colors?
As you’ll have noticed, a lot of these questions have to do with the personification of the brand. Basically, with these questions you give your clients a way to think about their company in a manner that they might not have before. After all, as a blogger, you’re trying to create a “voice” for a company. Companies don’t actually have “voices” since they aren’t actually sentient beings. People have voices. Having the client give their company personal traits is a great way to distill a voice.
Now, once you’ve got the client thinking about their own company, it’s important also to figure out the people that they are targeting. To lay down some in-house lingo, companies are either considered “B2B,” or “business to business,” or “B2C,” or “business to consumer.” An example of a B2B company is a supplier of widgets: any company that deals mostly with selling their products to other companies rather than directly to a consumer. A B2C company is any company that deals directly with a consumer: restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops; pretty much any company that you’d walk past on a street would be considered B2C.
When writing for each of these companies, there are slight differences to consider. Try these separate lists for best results when targeting these two different demographics of companies:
16. Is your audience mainly established or startup?
17. Are you selling to the young and hip or the professionals?
18. What is the average age of your audience’s management?
19. What is your audience’s estimated gross annual revenue?
20. What is your audience’s estimated number of employees?
21. What is your target industry?
22. Rate the estimated online activity (social media activity, blog consumption, etc) of your audience.
23. Rate the estimated online activity of your audience’s employees.
24. What are popular trade associations for your audience?
25. What are popular trade magazines or websites for your audience?
26. Why would they choose you over your closest competitor?
Some of these questions are similar to the ones used to figure out the client’s voice, but many of these are designed to help your B2B client imagine the inside of the business that you’re trying to reach with your content marketing. When you can look behind the logo of a business and get to the people inside, you can apply your client’s voice effectively to the ones who are manning the business that is being targeted. And making these connections is vital to making conversions happen.
Last but not least, let’s ask some questions about our B2C clients too:
27. What are the three biggest priorities for your ideal client? (Remember to get your client to think outside of the box. Are your client’s customers more concerned about family, friends, or business? Are they religious?)
28. Is your ideal client young and hip or very professional?
29. What is the estimated yearly income of your ideal client?
30. What sort of car does your ideal client drive?
31. Is your ideal client male, female, or does it not matter?
32. Is your ideal client married, single, or does it not matter?
33. How many hours a week does your ideal client spend online?
34. Does your client have a cell phone, or are they more likely to rely on a landline more?
35. Are you targeting a specific neighborhood/community? If so, explain the community and its values.
36. If you took your ideal client out to dinner, where would you take them and why?
37. Why would your ideal client choose you over your closest competitor?
As you can see, again, some of these questions are similar to what you would ask a B2B client. But there is a slight difference: while the B2B questions seek to look inside the company, the B2C list is more about creating the “ideal client” as a person. What sort of food do they like? How old are they? What do they wear? How much money do they have? How connected to the internet are they? Knowing all of these things about the client’s ideal customer will help you—the writer—target them more effectively with the voice of your client’s company.
When working as a content writer, it’s all about getting inside the heads of businesses and individuals alike. To get there, you usually have to do a little bit of detective work; but you’ll see the results when your writing brings your clients conversions, and when your clients come back raving for more of your content marketing!
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