It’s clear when a B2B business has spent time defining their value proposition and USPs – no complaints there. But all too often, when it comes to activating these messages in external communications, there’s something about the way it is written that just feels…off. And, as they say, if your aim is out by a millimetre, you’ll miss the target by a mile.

It’s not what I am being told that misses the mark; it’s how I’m being told. It’s as if the words and phrases don’t speak to me – they speak at me. There’s a disconnect between what I read and how I feel, which, without me realising, gets compounded in my subconscious.

Every time this happens, rather than strengthening my connection to the brand (as their expensive marketing campaign intended), it only serves to distance me from it, one little piece at a time.

It’s about making a connection

In B2B, how much does this really matter? Well, as it turns out, a lot. A Gartner study on B2B brand positioning has shown that while only 10-15% of consumers have an emotional connection with B2C brands, 40-70% of buyers do so with B2B brands. It therefore matters very much how much a company’s marketing activities resonate with audiences emotively, not purely (as many B2B marketers believe) according to more rational drivers (price, tech specs, etc.).

It’s well known that building trust is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy. People must believe in the promises a brand makes if they are to invest in their goods and services. In many ways, this is even more important in B2B where buying decisions have further-reaching consequences; for example, considering factors like aftermarket support, or, from a more personal perspective, what the right or wrong choice may mean for the buyer’s future career prospects.

This is where trust can make a vital difference. In many B2B sectors where there is little to choose between regarding product or service benefits, how emotionally engaged the buyer is in the brand can shift the balance. It’s that crucial ‘gut feeling’ of who to go with when it’s time to make a final purchase decision.

Getting the right tone of voice was essential for CBC to create the right emotional connection with audiences for AAK’s ‘Making moments’ campaign.

Read our blog ‘The emotional role in B2B branding

Words are all powerful

Ok – so how can words, and how they are used, play such an important role?

Words give meaning and context to everything we see, think, and feel. We use them to make sense of our own reality and to understand other people’s. Words are more influential than we realise. They can literally change your mind in an instant, convincing you to believe something new that you would have argued against before. Just think of the last book that made you see the world in an entirely new light as soon as you put it down.

Think also how these very words you are reading are changing your perception right now. With them, I am planting a seed of thought in your mind that might take hold. Your view of the world now might be a little different to how it was before, which may affect your mindset – and thereby influence the decisions you make in the future.

You can see where I’m going with this; it’s how marketing works.

MAN Energy Solutions | A series of attention-grabbing visuals and headlines were developed to engage different target groups | CBC

CBC used a playful yet serious B2B tone of voice to help MAN Energy Solutions win the attention of marine decision-makers, positioning them as the right partner to help navigate new regulatory changes.

Tone of voice can change everything

Not only therefore do you need the right words, but you need to use them in the right way. This is where B2B tone of voice comes in.

Have you noticed the tone of voice I’m using for this blog? It’s deliberately conversational, but authoritative. I’m doing this to create a certain effect in your mind. If I’d written it in ‘marketing speak’, promising Amazing Solutions That Give FREE Bonus Peace Of Mind If You ACT NOW! you may not think me nearly so credible and I doubt you’d have read this far.

It’s the same for your brand. It’s not just the words, but the B2B tone of voice you use that shapes your brand’s personality. It can position your business as reliable, innovative, future-focused, steeped in history, or any other attribute you feel conveys your value offering and resonates best with your audience.

People respond to this in the same way as they would to a person. For example, if someone speaks well, you subconsciously credit them with intelligence, authority, and education. If they speak poorly, it can have the opposite effect. This also helps to connect with certain types of people too, such as a CEO verses a technical manager. They don’t use the same words and phrasing in their everyday lives, so you need to speak in a way that means something to them individually.
Get it right, and this will make them far more receptive to what you say. Get it wrong, and they will feel like you don’t understand them or that you were addressing someone else. Either way, you’ve lost their attention.

CBC helped Danfoss build a thought leadership position in the district heating sector, with a B2B tone of voice crafted specifically to resonate with a C-level audience.

Get it right and reap the rewards

And that’s the main point I want to make. Branding is about gaining the attention and trust of your audiences.
The right B2B tone of voice has a huge impact on this. Done well, and you can build a brand that is distinct, relevant, memorable, and credible. Done badly, and these key attributes get eroded instead.
Have a look at a few of the world’s most successful companies with this in mind and you’ll see how carefully and deliberately they use tone of voice in their own branding and marketing. They take it very seriously for good reason – and so should you.

 

As the enabler behind their customers’ own innovation, tone of voice played a central role for Huntsman Advanced Materials to inspire audiences for CBC’s ‘Made Possible’ campaign.

The author of this blog post, Tom Braithwaite, is Lead Copywriter at CBC. Since 1998, he has been helping global B2B brands to position themselves for success and connect with the audiences they want to reach.