Find Your Voice

The Success Margin

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

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I read a lot. Books, newspapers, magazines. But good, really powerful writing is a rare treat for me. And I’m sure for you as well.

After reading a recent timely but boring and life-less newspaper article, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks!

The “voice” in which copy is written is crucially important. Yet, I’ve never seen anyone discuss it.And that includes me!

But, isn’t this true? As I gain new insights I share them. And isn’t this part of the reason you’re a subscriber?

I believe a big part of my success is due to creating a “voice” that is unique to me. It differentiates me. And I’ve found an interesting and persuasive voice for numerous clients and mentees.

But I never actually thought about actually teaching anyone else how to do it. Today, dear reader, that is about to change.

To be a powerful and effective communicator,whether in print, on the platform, on TV or radio,you need to communicate in your own special voice.

You have a bigger challenge than it first appears.You have to sound like you. Communicate just like you. Be the authentic you. And no one else. But like all great accomplishments, it’s easier said than done.

Let me be crystal clear. I’m not talking about faking it. Or making up some sort of phony voice.

I am talking about finding that voice already within you. And simply letting it out.

I submit most people, instead of releasing it, resist and fight against showing the world that emotional inner voice. Rather, they try to be”sophisticated,” whatever that means.

I believe a big reason for stilted writing which is all too common is how the subject is taught in
school. You can please your English teacher and get top grades. All you need to is display an unemotional yet grammatically correct style.

The resultant writing is dull, lifeless, left-brain copy no one (except your teacher) wants to read.And even more important to the marketer, no one will be influenced in any way to buy anything.

I’ve also discovered that nearly everyone has more than one “voice” buried within them. Some have a
surprisingly large number of authentic voices. These can be called upon, depending on the purpose.

If and when you find your strongest, real, authentic voice, your copy will vastly improve. And I assure you, so will your sales results!

How would I further define your “voice”?

Nothing less than the sum total of your words, expressions, personality and mannerisms that make you–you.

Look around you carefully at all forms of writing including sales copy. Wouldn’t you agree that most
writers’ work is sadly colorless and devoid of an individual, unique voice?

Proper grammar (which can get you an A grade in English) is not what makes copy interesting. Readable. Persuasive. Compelling.

My job is to help you become a better writer of sales copy. My goal is to help you get an A not in
English. But in marketing!

I’ve used several voices during my career. In my first business, Peterson’s House of Fudge, my first voice was as a gourmet chef. A confectionery andice cream maker with several patented recipes to my name. At first I began speaking and writing theway the chefs did who worked in my father’s family restaurant/icecream parlor business.

Later I started writing books. The first was “How to Form Your Own Corporation Without a Lawyer
for Under $50.” I then got better and more comfortable at letting out my second buried voice.

I released a voice that communicated how I felt.Pro free market. Pro limited government. Anti-lawyer. Anti-bureaucrat. Aspiring consumer hero.Contrarian (I concluded that most people were dead wrong about nearly everything. The truth was the opposite of what I was taught in school and what most people believed to be true).

All the copy written to sell my book, my first two direct response businesses, and 56 books published
for other authors, utilized this new voice.

The first business widely using my contrarian tone was Enterprise Publishing Company. The second was The Company Corporation. This business, also started in my basement, became the largest incorporating company in the world.

This new contrarian voice from the depths of mysoul has indeed been very, very successful.

One of my major tasks is to actually create a unique and valuable voice (in the authentic voice of the
client) for those with whom I consult and write copy.

How do I find this new voice?

By intently listening to them. And understanding what really makes them tick. And what keeps them awake at night. I see this research as part of my marketing challenge.

** Here are a few client examples **

— William Fischer, author of the book “How toFight Cancer and Win.” His inner voice–a caring,outspoken researcher intent on seeking and publishing the truth about alternative cancer treatments as opposed to conventional approaches.

— The “Hugging Butcher.” His voice–a lovable Minnesota butcher who the women customers in particular love. Because of this tendency, I got himto guarantee every customer a free hug. This simple strategy turned his business, just two weeks away from bankruptcy, into a roaring success. He is now a retired former butcher.

Let’s look at a few more of the wonderful and successful voices used by other well-known entrepreneurs.

— Gary Halbert, my late friend and world-class copywriter. His “voice” exemplified a profane,crazy, lovable, irreverent person almost irresistible to his particular audience. He had this unique ability to communicate as though he were in a locker room or bar having a few beers with his best buddies. His words alone were able to transport you right to that setting.

It’s important, of course, to realize every voice is not for every audience. Many niche audiences would undoubtedly be turned off by Gary, while his fans loved him.

That’s why every entrepreneur has to seek and find their own niche. And the voice you use helps you do it very effectively. In fact, you usually can’t do it at all without it.

— Bill Gore. This is another friend of mine who is no longer with us. But his voice is. He actually
invented the revolutionary material now called Gore-Tex. But DuPont, the parent company where
he worked, wasn’t interested in it. They couldn’t see any future! So in his basement he started the now iconic company, Gore-Tex in Wilmington, Delaware, where I used to live. His “voice” always used in his communications and advertising was a caring, brilliant, informal, uncle-like figure. Today,even after employing thousands with factories around the world, the company has never given a single employee a title, even to this day.

— Haband Pants. A mail order marketer. The brilliant voice of this company used in their copy is in the personal style of a father and his son. They gossip. They complain about each other. They bitch. They tell corny jokes. They even get away with commenting about life all the while they extol the virtues of their clothing.

Even the very largest corporations often assure their advertising consistently reflects one individual’s voice.

Most of the time the “voice” is the founder’s.

Years ago I had occasion to meet Sam Walton,founder of Wal-Mart, in Washington, D.C. He was the richest man in the U.S. at the time.

Mr. Walton was fascinating. He was a humble,plainspoken man. He drove a 25-year-old pickup truck and lived in a house he purchased 30 years before for $24,000. He wore a $10 red and white checked wool shirt. His advertising and also employee communications were just like him. Plain, simple, and direct. This style continues today.

— Another good example of a strong, unique “voice” responsible for a huge part of its incredible success is the case of Perdue Chicken.

This 750 million dollar Delaware company was founded by Frank Perdue. In his inimitable voice,Frank produced radio and TV commercials advertising his chicken. The U.S.P. he developed and is still being used today is: “It takes a tough man to grow a tender chicken.”

I recommend you find and develop a unique “voice” in which to write copy and express yourself. A good place to first start is to practice writing some headlines and copy with that voice within you that is undoubtedly yearning to be released. Work on expressing yourself freely. Emotionally. With abandon.

Try writing copy as though you were answering this question. “If I had the guts to write about the virtues of my product and my company without worrying what anyone, especially my peers, relatives and even my English teacher thought, what would I say?”

Once you answer this question, I’d wager a lot of money that your performance, response and success level will vastly improve once you find and release that magical inner voice within you and which is unique in all the world.

I’d love to hear from you about your new “voice”and what it has meant to you.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas