So, Rainmaker… Is that a controversial enough title for this essay?
It comes out of a real conversation I had where a business owner I was advising could quickly have steered into that territory.
He was asking if he should write his copy in a professional, even corporate tone. Or if he should try to adapt his copy to his audience’s voice.
My recommendation was neither.
And it has implications for any sales copy you write — whether for your own business, or for clients.
The story and my recommendation are below…
The other day, I got into a conversation with a business owner in a very niche market. He sells instrumental backing tracks to rap and hip-hop artists.
He has a lot of different levels of service, some of which require very little “selling” beyond giving prospects the chance to listen to the track… And some of which require much more selling.
He understood that one of the things I’m known for is writing copy that converts.
And so he was asking me questions about writing copy for his market. Specifically in reference to some larger pieces of copy he is planning to write for his higher-end products.
One of the questions that came up was what “voice” he should use with the market. Should he come across as professional, even corporate? Or should he try to adopt the voice of the market he’s speaking to?
I think this market is a particularly interesting example.
While in some markets the difference between a professional and casual voice is relatively small… At first blush, the gap between professional and casual in this market is a mile wide.
Here’s what makes this even more interesting. Judging from user-submitted YouTube videos, most folks would call his customers’ language “street.” But this business owner does not come across as stereotypically “street.” In fact, if you met him in out of context, I’d bet 100 to 1 that you’d NEVER peg him as a guy that makes rap beats.
I know I’m stepping in a mine field here by speaking to stereotypes, but I do it to make the point that this business owner is doing the exact same thing. And this is incredibly important when he considers what voice he’s going to use in writing copy.
Here’s the advice I gave regarding selecting voice.
In general, a professional, formal, or corporate voice doesn’t sell. Not nearly as well as a personal voice. Humans prefer to buy from other humans. Over 100 years of direct response testing has proven this. It’s very rare that if you were to test a casual versus formal piece of copy, that the formal piece would win.
Your default for writing copy should always be informal, casual, and personal. And, if at all possible, speak in the voice of your market.
If your market uses simple language, use simple language. If your market uses slang, use slang. If your market lets profanity fly, let profanity fly.
In general, push your writing all the way to the informal voice, then pull it back just one shade to sound slightly more professional.
And yet… The devil’s in the details.
This doesn’t work in every situation. And in this case, this recommendation would be incredibly risky.
To put it bluntly, if this guy tried to write in a “street” voice, it would be like putting on blackface. (This is where white actors painted their face black to portray really racist renditions of black characters in film and theater through the 19th and first parts of the 20th centuries.)
Could he get away with it in one or two pieces of copy? Maybe, especially if the prospect is only seeing words on the screen. But since this isn’t a natural way of talking for him, he risks being incredibly offensive trying sound like his market. Because, inevitably, he will try to sound like stereotypes of his market that are not accurate.
Ultimately, I recommended that he didn’t do it.
What he may have seen as an innocent attempt to connect with his market, could come across from another perspective (his customer’s) as being really racist and offensive.
What voice did I recommend he use instead?
Well, he should use his own personal voice. He’s obviously interested in the music, which means he can easily riff on topics of shared interest with his audience. He can and should use his own informal voice.
He doesn’t need to put on any act, he just needs to be himself.
Putting on an act to try to “talk like his customers” is walking into that mine field. Not only is it dangerous from a business and marketing perspective, it’s just wrong.
Going the alternate direction and seeking to be formal or corporate would just be ineffective, relative to what he could accomplish with his copy.
The best route — in his and all cases — is to speak with a casual, informal tone, like you’re talking to your prospect one-on-one.
If copy’s job is to sell, think like a salesperson.
The way you build rapport and establish trust with your prospect is by being real, being present, and being a little bit transparent. Like you would be with a friend. You don’t need to put on an act. You just need to communicate a message, in the clearest and most compelling way you know how. And you need to do it in a voice that comes naturally to you, because that voice will establish maximum connection between you and your prospect.
If you have trouble doing that in writing, do it with your voice. Grab a recorder and sit down with prospects, or a friend. Describe your product or service. Make your pitch. Do it a few times, until you’re able to deliver it at your best. Then take that recording and transcribe it. Use it as your first draft, and hone it into workable copy.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
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