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Why do venture-backed startups with millions in the bank flame out? One reason: they don’t establish a strategy for organic growth, which starts with finding your brand voice.
Evolving or finding your brand voice can feel like an existential journey. It’s an examination of the most essential elements of your company and its message. What are your values? Who are you speaking to? How do you want people to feel when interacting with your product, and what do you want them to understand about your brand?
It’s a process that not only strengthens your content and brand but your business strategy as well. That’s why it’s called content strategy—and why finding your brand voice is a critical early step.
The momentum of organic growth
Entrepreneurs and startup executives sometimes hold the misconception that voice and content are a luxury during the “growth” phase instead of a necessity. They’re focused on sourcing engineering talent and direct response marketing more so than their content strategy. But that’s an extremely expensive approach that often leads from flame to failure.
Sure, you can build and bring a product to market quickly that way (if you have the funding). Soon, though, these companies find themselves in an exhausting and costly cycle of spend, spend, spend to reach customers instead of self-sustaining, hockey stick growth.
Why? Because they lack the momentum of organic growth. No word of mouth. No SEO. No engaged, loyal customer base who trust their company and keep coming back for more. No one who feels like, “Wow. This product was really built for me.”
People can sniff out an inauthentic brand from a mile away these days, and they will ignore a company if its voice doesn’t resonate.
Paving the path to profitability with content
Imagine instead if these businesses invested in a more holistic strategy — if they entered the market with a clear content strategy and well-defined voice in addition to a functioning product and a bit of direct response spend.
This builds a positive feedback loop that continually reinforces their message to the right audience. And once you start to gain word-of-mouth traction and rank for critical keywords, which often takes up to a year, you begin to see self-sustaining, significant growth without spending millions of dollars on marketing. Boom. You’re profitable.
The myth about content and brand
When people think of a brand, they generally think of an age-old success story like Coca-Cola or a designer clothing label like Louis Vuitton. It’s easy to forget that every business has a brand voice — the difference is whether it’s intentionally shaped or not.
You probably don’t need a Coca-Cola-sized budget and massive brand marketing campaigns. Your brand should start with the most basic interactions with your customers, such as:
- Your website homepage
- Your sign up forms
- Your functional emails, like purchase confirmation
- Your customer service scripts
- All the content that works as the voice of your brand, such as blog articles and newsletters
Companies can build trust at each of these critical interactions with a consistent voice that resonates with their customers. And they can scale with an effective content strategy.
The myth is that executives sometimes think that content and brand are a “bonus” if “you have the budget.” The truth is that every company has some form of brand and content, but if not cultivated strategically, it’s probably harming the business when it could be a powerful growth accelerant.
You’re building the product. You’re building the company. And if you don’t start building the brand and a foundation of content to support it, it’ll cost a lot more to try to “fix” perceptions of your company down the line.
Every business has a brand voice — the difference is whether it’s intentionally shaped or not.
The first steps
Developing voice and content can follow a similar approach to developing products. You can start lean with minimal investment then test, optimize, and scale. A few easy steps can get you started down the right path:
- Define your audience — Be specific in who exactly you’re trying to reach.
- Find your core message — What do you need these people to know about your company?
- Set clear goals — Take both a qualitative and quantitative approach to create targets for your content and brand efforts.
- List aspirational brands and publications — What brands do you want to be like? What publications do you want your company to appear in?
- Create guardrails for a consistent voice — Is your brand playful or serious? What words should be used to describe your company?
- Bring voice into the UX — Make content part of the product design and development process, so every touchpoint hits the mark.
You can also take our style guide quiz to generate answers to many of these questions. It’s a simplified — yet effective — way to find a 1.0 version of your voice and start iterating from there.
A bit of (excellent) content goes a long way
It can feel intimidating to tackle something like brand voice. And it does require some vulnerability (i.e., soul searching) and hard work (i.e., creating really great content). But it doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking — start lean and put your best brand foot forward with a couple of key elements, then commit to an achievable long-term strategy.
A little bit of patience, a defined brand voice, and a well-crafted content strategy will pay off. So if we can leave you with a few final words of advice, it’s these:
- A combined strategy of direct response and organic growth is the best recipe
- Start early and evolve (optimize) often when it comes to brand voice
- Most importantly, be real and authentic in all your messaging
You don’t need to make a huge investment or become a brand army of one. If you want to start building a foundational content strategy, start with the low-hanging fruit where you can demonstrate quick impact, and then make the case for more resources to scale.
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Images courtesy of Unsplash
Originally published at https://realbigwords.com.
Finding your brand voice: The content strategy growth hack was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.