As a proud independent business owner,
I’m supposed to treat the words “Corporate Job” like a dirty slur.
But the company I worked for was, objectively, pretty cool.
While I won’t mention the company’s name out of professional courtesy, if you live anywhere on the Central Coast, you probably know exactly which one I’m talking about.
We got free massages. Futuristic egg chairs. An on-site café that would let me order food from my desk. Even a slide. But better than all the Google-esque office perks? Was our clientele.
We primarily worked with small businesses in health, wellness, and beauty industries. These were fantastic people. Passionate people — people who got into their industry because they loved helping others be well, feel good, and look better.
And our marketing team was not about to let all that rich source material go to waste.
We pumped out articles, ads, blog posts, commercials, and presentations in a voice that was infused with optimism, possibility, enthusiasm, and all around yogi-flavored, wellness-scented GOOD VIBES. Our brand voice was the written equivalent of endorphins, and I kind of loved it.
Only, I wasn’t on the marketing team.
I worked in what we all affectionately referred to as “the trenches,” on our Technical Support team.
As it turns out, good vibes can only take you so far.
While my much cooler, lululemon-panted marketing colleagues sprawled on the quad with their laptops and color coordinated Hydroflasks, I donned a Plantronics headset and fielded product questions from the grumpier, more confused version of the happy yogi on all our promotional material.
I was really good at that job.
In fact, I was so good that I quickly graduated from talking to stressed business owners on the phone, to talking with stressed business owners via email, livechat, and even our company’s official social media channels. And if I was good at answering phones, I was really REALLY good at answering emails.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the secret to a smooth client interaction was to make my writing sound as close as I could to the sunshiny, glass-half-zen voice I read in our newsletter (with a heavy dash of “helpful, knowledgeable nerd.”)
Pretty soon, my livechats were running like clockwork. My emails were QM-ing it out of the park. And the number of tense situations I defused on our Facebook wall?
I’ll admit. It’s a weird flex. But I stand by it.
As much pride as I felt in being voted “most likely to de-escalate via Tweet”
there was a problem: there was only one of me.
Every time I’d open up a client’s account,
I’d come across emails that ranged from robotic to downright snippy.
Now, I’ll pause to clarify that I mean no disrespect to my former colleagues. They were all warm and wonderful people who had a real desire to make other peoples’ lives easier. (With the exception of that one guy who accused me of trying to hack his passwords when I asked who his favorite band was.)
But, for the most part, they weren’t writers.
More importantly, none of us had received training on how to write in our company’s voice. Most of us were scraping by without even the chilly comfort of a template to light our path.
From a client perspective, every interaction with Support was a wild game of chance. And over time, that inconsistent experience resulted in clients who became pushier and less understanding with every email. I stayed in the trenches for almost 10 years, watching it happen in real time.
In the end, they stopped caring about us - and I don’t blame them.
As a company, we stopped communicating like we cared about them the minute they passed through the carefully constructed golden gates of marketing and sales.
We didn’t mean to, but we did.
Here are three lessons I learned about brand experience
from working in Tech Support.
01. Language creates culture.
It’s very on brand for me to tell you that words are powerful. But it’s also a well-known linguistic fact that the way we talk about something directly impacts how we feel about it.
Your brand’s culture will be reflected in the way it speaks.
And if you’re running a company where that voice has to be replicated by dozens (or even hundreds) of other people, you shouldn’t leave that up to chance. Your verbal identity should be crafted just as carefully as your visual identity.
.02 Your conversion copy is a promise that your nurture copy must fulfil.
Conversion copy is the cool kid of the messaging world. After all, it’s where all the money comes from.
If you’ve spent any time trying to learn how to write words that sell, you know that effective conversion copy tells a potential customer about the transformation they can expect once they start working with your business.
By outlining their transformation, conversion copy is making your clients a promise. But once your client bites, your post-conversion copy has to deliver on that promise.
No experience can be truly transformational unless the messaging you present AFTER the sale is just as intentional as the messaging that convinced them to make the purchase in the first place. That means:
- Customer support templates
- Onboarding materials
- Packaging inserts
- Education pieces
All do their best work when they stay branded. After all, why would you talk to potential customers with more care than you do your actual customers?
Post-conversion copy is an art, and one that almost every brand would benefit from investing in. Turns out, I can help with yours. (Check out Vol. 4 in the Service Library)
.03 A brand personality is only as strong as its execution.
I don’t doubt that my company had a dynamite marketing team. I could pick out our brand voice on a moving bus, three blocks away (and did, one time.) But their knowledge stayed in the hands of a privileged few. And because the rest of us didn’t know what our brand was supposed to sound like, we made it up.
Your brand personality will only be as strong as its execution.
So instead of leaving it in your head, put it in writing.
Then, put that writing in the hands of everyone who will be communicating on behalf of your brand.
And to do that, you might want to enlist the help of a brand messaging strategist. (Take a look at Vol. 1 in the Service Library)
I don’t know what’s going on at the company I left.
One thing’s for sure — I definitely miss those egg chairs.