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Winning Examples of Content Marketing Voice and Tone: Inc 500

By Stephanie HawkinsApr 23, 2013

growth with content marketingLast month, Heidi Cohen pointed out the Inc. 500 “get” content marketing in ways the Fortune 500 fail to grasp. For example, in 2012, 44 percent of the Inc. 500 had a blog vs. 28 percent of the Fortune 500.

Since content marketing is a huge topic, I thought I’d zero in on one aspect of the bigger picture: something I’ve already had a lot to say about lately—voice and tone.  Since the Inc. 500 represent the country’s fastest growing companies, this distinction seems well worth noting. If you want to grow, you might want to take a look at the Inc. 500 members’ approach to content marketing and the role it plays in their overall success.

Sugar Sync: It’s All About You

Sugar Sync is a file sync, online backup and file sharing service. It is currently No. 99 on the Inc. 500 list and frequently gets compared to behemoths like Dropbox and Google Drive.

Sugar Sync’s voice is all about the reader. It only takes a second of poking around on its website to realize its content speaks your language. A great example of this is the features page, which interprets the benefits of its offerings in easy-to-understand, accessible prose. Instead of tech-heavy jargon, Sugar Sync says its services “work the way you do.” The company wants you to know it's “got your back” and will prevent you from being “caught in an airport or taxi without the ability to send that important file to your boss.”SugarSync Screenshot

This approach—directly addressing the reader and making relatable promises—shows Sugar Sync approaches content marketing with a relatable voice and friendly tone. Doesn’t that sound like the sort of company you’d trust to protect your important personal files?

Gemvara: Sparkly Words Sell More Jewelry

Gemvara is a custom jewelry company that sits at No. 48 on the Inc. 500. The marketing challenge for Gemvara is convincing customers to “create” jewelry rather than purchase a ready-made piece at a much lower cost.gemvara

Take these earrings from Gemvara, for example. Their starting price is $250. Now, compare them to this similar pair from Amazon, which look identical but only cost $59.99. What would make you choose the first choice over the second? It’d have to be something really convincing, right?

Gemvara’s voice and tone do a great job of stirring your desire for an experience. The language is lush and descriptive: “gleaming metals” and “lively green gemstones.” Its slogan—“Pure Color. Pure You.”—has a certain poetry to it: a deliberate tonal choice designed to evoke feelings of romance and elegance in the reader.

Gemvara doesn’t just sell jewelry—it sells a custom experience. And its masterful use of voice and tone has made it possible to dominate a crowded market without having to compete on price.

Tips For Using Voice and Tone to Drive Growth

How can you harness this powerful editorial strategy in your own marketing copy? We've come up with a few exercises to help you get started:

  1. Know your purpose. Think beyond the basics of “sell more stuff” or “get more clients.” Focus on what effect you want your content to have on your audience. How should they feel after visiting your site?
  2. Know your audience. Just like a novelist might create sketches of his characters, you can develop personas for your readers. Rather than just thinking of them as “someone who would order diamond earrings,” dig deeper. Think about the why of what brought them to your company. Who are they besides just a consumer?
  3. Know your company’s persona. Imagine you ran into a personified version of your company on the street. Who would you be speaking to? Write down these qualities, and see if they accurately describe your existing content.
  4. Try on a few different hats. Developing the right voice and tone shouldn’t be easy. In fact, it should involve some trial and error. You might consider challenging yourself to try out several different versions of the same piece of content, written in several different voices. Write one draft with a formal voice and professional tone. Try another with a friendly voice and a humorous tone. The possibilities are endless. To start, find a company whose content style you admire and emulate specific aspects you especially like.
  5. Get feedback. Ask a few people to read your content and find out how it makes them feel. If you succeeded at Step 3, their answers should match yours. If not, go back to the drawing board.

This might seem like a lot of work, but when you look at examples like Sugar Sync and Gemvara, it should be clear why it’s totally worth it. And the good news is there are a lot of ways to do voice and tone right. Studying success stories can be a great way to get some insight into how it’s done, so take a look at the Inc. 500 companies in your vertical to get some ideas for your own voice and tone. 


stephanie kaperaStephanie Kapera is a special projects coordinator for Kuno Creative and the co-founder of Up All Night Creative, a Raleigh-based content marketing agency that helps B2B and B2C companies develop magazine-quality web content. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter!


photo credit: jurvetsonEnterprise Inbound Marketing eBook

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The Author

Stephanie Hawkins

Stephanie is a Strategist at Kuno Creative and writes about content marketing, buyer persona development and inbound marketing strategy for Brand & Capture. She lives and works in Raleigh, NC. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter!
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