Developing the Right Tone for your Email Marketing Campaign / by Colleen Ferguson

Tone is important for any kind of business communication, and is essential in email marketing. You may have excellent copy, but no one will care about your content if your tone is boring. Even worse, they will ignore you or report your content if the tone is considered patronizing or rude.   To have an effective email marketing campaign, you must develop a distinct and appropriate tone of voice. 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

How to Find Your Tone

The proper tone of voice can breathe life into your emails, as well as express your brand’s unique personality.  This kind of appropriately distinct tone can encourage desirable emotional responses in your audience, and according to psychologist Dr. Mary Lamia, these kinds of emotional responses drive the decisions that we humans make.  Before you figure out what your tone will be, and how you will cultivate it, you must first pin down who your intended audience is and what you want them to do. To do this, consider the following questions:

  • What are your company's key values?
  • How do you define your company's brand?
  • What is your target demographic?

For example, a company that prides itself on innovation, sees itself as forward-thinking, and whose target demographic is young will use a different tone than the company that sells medical supplies to general practitioners. A helpful exercise to determine how formal or informal you should be, is to consider how you would tell a client about your business over the phone. Use this as a style and tone guideline for your email content. 

 Different Types of Tone

There are several tones to choose from when crafting your emails, and I have included four examples here.  These groupings can help you understand a few different types of tones, guide you in the right direction to find your tone, or help you perfect a tone that has already been established.   

  • Energetic: Use an active and energetic tone when you want your writing to make readers feel lively, upbeat, or adventurous.  Energetic tones may be appropriate for companies who offer provocative vacations, fast cars, fun gym memberships, or any product or service that wants to convey passion and excitement.  Achieve this kind of tone through the use of action-oriented bullets and fragmented sentences.  Short, power-packed phrases and words are the key—you don’t want to bore your reader with overly long sentences or bland vocabulary. 
  •  High-End Elegance: An elegant tone is typically intended for the affluent audience who does not like to be rushed—think of spas, salons, boutiques, jewelry. Write in a way that is heavy on adjectives and focused on appearance and “feeling.”  Don’t use action-oriented adverbs and phrases, as these can convey a feeling of being rushed. Write with longer, flowing sentences that highlight the exclusivity or status of your product.  Make your target audience feel admired, reassured, and important.
  • Trendy/Bold: Trendy could be the tone for any innovative company whose target demographic is young adults.  Overall, the trendy tone is unique, weird, wild, and witty.  An effective bold tone is loud but not obnoxious and fun but not totally irreverent.  It works well with social media sites, hip clothing brands, popular technology, or anything that can be considered "cool."  A trendy tone is often funny and will forever make your brand memorable.
  • Dependable: Imagine a first-time investor, a person shopping around for insurance, or a teacher looking into educational programs. They don't necessarily want you to make them feel hip and wild; they would rather your communication instill a feeling of professionalism, guidance, and dependability.  The tone should be relaxed but not informal, instructional but jargon-free. You’ll want to structure your email content in a way that highlights organization and precision while also inserting a sense of trust and reliability.  Use convincing facts and statistics, and avoid rambling.   

Keep Your Tone Consistent 

Once you determine what kind of tone fits with your business, you must make sure that it stays consistent across all levels of your communication.  This kind of consistency prevents conflict between how you present your company and how your company actually is.  A consistent tone and persona will strengthen your relationship with your customers by reinforcing familiarity and trust.  

To ensure consistency, create a writing guide as a reference (or as a training tool) for your content writers.  With a writing guide, you make your expectations clear on all aspects of your content and how it should be created. Your writers can then creatively work within your set guidelines.  Additionally, you can develop an editorial process where all your company's copy is examined before publishing in order to ensure the tone of voice is unfailing across the board.    

Final Thoughts

The most important thing about your tone is that it feels authentic and not forced.  If you’re not normally a humorous person, then your email marketing campaign is not the time to start! An affected tone will come across as unnatural and fake. Begin the process by considering who within your company can most naturally portray the tone required for your values and customers. Once the writer is in place and the tone has been established, it can be used freely and consistently.

Have you found the tone of your company's content yet?