I’m surrounded by the voices of B2B and B2C brands we work with daily; enough to believe there's no such thing as a B2B tone of voice. I’ve built some of our client brands' tone from scratch, some I’ve helped refine and some, but a few took a bit of time to settle in. And it’s this latter one that I find most relates to writing for B2B brands.

Firstly, I have to say that I don’t believe there’s a difference between how a TOV is created and executed for B2B brands and B2C brands. A brand is made up of people and it wouldn’t exist without them. Therefore a brand voice is essentially a human talking to other humans. And the tone of voice is simply the brand’s front person, providing a united and consistent point of view. Great examples of this in action are brands like Slack and Mailchimp. While their comms are predominantly presented in a “B2B” context, how they communicate with you feels human.

Slack read the room message b2b tone of voice

In reality, at the beginning of developing a tone in the context of B2B communications, you’re faced with talking about more factual information like service details, product benefits or technical data. Therefore speaking in a human voice can take a bit of time to settle into.

That’s why for me everything about building a tone of voice is about context.

Just like before you speak in a room full of people you “read the room.” Building a B2B tone of voice can be a bit like that. The tone you speak in needs to fit the context of the market and audience you’re communicating with.

This doesn’t mean boxing yourself into a place where your tone needs to be safe and described by buzzwords like professional, knowledgeable or innovative. These can only take you down a path of creating a voice that blends in.

These are my 3 go-to principles for for any tone of voice work

There’s obviously more to it, but get these right in any context and it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about or who you’re talking to.

1. Voice your voice

Be confident in what you have to say and how you say it. Use all the words in your arsenal to introduce who you are as a brand and what it’s like to communicate with you. Some people will like you, some won’t. At the end of the day you don’t like everyone you talk to, do you?

mailchimp campaign b2b tone of voice

2. Be consistent

There’s no point in crafting a tone and then dipping in and out of it. The only way to embed your tone is to be consistent with it.

Shopify outdoor b2b tone of voiceShopify outdoor b2b tone of voice

3. Fully commit

Every nook and cranny of your brand can and should sound like you. From long-copy brochures to your 404 error page. Fully commit to shaping your tone so that wherever your audience sees, reads or hears it they know it’s you.

Hiscox b2b brand ad

To finish off...

Here are a couple of my favourite points of view on tone from people and ads.

Vikki Ross said in an interview about what makes advertising and copywriting memorable:

”If the idea resonates with the audience, they’ll recognize themselves in it and they’ll remember the message within. So know your audience and talk directly to them and about them.”

This wouldn’t be a blog about B2B without an ad that I think exemplifies everything a B2B ad can be. This ad by advertising agency DDB is a lesson in tone and context.

 

 


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Phil Monks - Deputy Creative Director at The Behaviours Agency

By Phil Monks

Deputy Creative Director