It’s all in the tone

Whatever copy you write, tone matters if you want to get results.

With the advent of the Internet came emoticons. And emoticons have saved the day on many occasions, when what could have resulted in a faux pas was rendered inoffensive with a single smiley face.

Yet emoticons are seen as trivial. This, despite recent research showing that the human brain processes a :) in the same way it does a real smile.

It’s pretty much a given that emoticons are inappropriate for most business communication, which is a shame but there it is.

In its place, we have to resort to using the correct tone. And it’s the tone you take that can make a difference between success and failure in any marketing campaign.

Choosing the right tone for a sales email, for example, is crucial, but even the experts have a hard time getting it right. Should you be quirky and spark the imagination of your readers, while running the risk of alienating them? Or should you be serious and ‘business-like’ at the risk of sounding dull?

The makeup of your audience is key to answering these questions, but so is the type of information you give them.

MECLABS – an organization that conducts marketing experiments – recently ran a test to gauge the response to an email sent to users who had abandoned a free-trial sign up for management software.

In one email, a ‘direct response’ tone was used that focused purely on the benefits of starting straight away. In the second email, a more ‘customer service’ oriented tone was used that placed emphasis on relieving anxiety about seeing through the offer.

Researchers found that the second email generated almost 350% more enquiries than the first.

In copywriting, we are used to focusing more on benefits than features. Yet offering reassurance to consumers that there is nothing to fear can also have an impact, as it did in this case.

The big question is how do you get it right? Looking at the experiment, you could argue that both versions were successful at generating enquiries, so neither had actually failed.

The best policy, if you have the luxury of time and budget, is to do the experiment yourself. Copywriters sometimes offer different versions of a sales email with tweaks to the tone of the copy as well as content. This gives clients the chance to see if one version works better than another, without losing out too much.

Tone is difficult to get right. Human perception is not an exact science, after all. But it should be an important consideration when writing sales copy and ideally shouldn’t be second-guessed.

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