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How words get people to trust you — and why it’s so darned important to be consistent

Katherine Wildman

Haydn Grey Ltd

PRO

What is customer trust worth to you? Whether people come to you for a one-off project or they come and stay with you for the long-term, what’s the value of the trust they have in you to do a good job? And how can you earn and keep your customer’s trust with something as simple as words?

Consider this

How long have you been in business? A year? A decade – or perhaps even more? As your business has grown and changed, even in the space of a year, so your profile will have expanded and – dare I say it? – matured.

How you described yourself in those early days when you were finding your feet will differ greatly from how you talk about yourself and what you do today.

It makes sense. The longer you’re in business, the more your confidence grows. (This is the fourth version of my website, and it’s my boldest yet. Terrifyingly so, at first.)

Are you keeping up with yourself?

And this question of how you describe yourself is true for big businesses as well as small ones. Look at some of the high street brands you know and trust – they evolve, just like start-up companies do. The header image from Retail Week’s discussion on the John Lewis brand is a visual case in point.

Have you outgrown the old version of you?

I’m working with a client who’s been the director of her own company since the early 2000s. And things in her industry have changed and evolved in that time. The scope and scale of her projects have increased, client testimonials ratify her reputation as an expert in her field, and her membership of professional organisations in the UK and the US has grown.

Add to this growth the fact that she’s extraordinarily detail-orientated. And so, as part of a recent project to redevelop her website, she asked me to review her online presence across all the organisations of which she’s a member.

What was that you said?

And it was that exercise that prompted this post. Because when we looked across the board, it was like reading about four different people, and four different businesses.

There were two professional memberships in the UK, one in the US – and a LinkedIn page. None of which sounded either like her or like each other.

The wonderful wonder of words

Now, a strange thing happens to copywriters when we work with you for a while.

It starts with the exploratory stages, the tone of voice development and all our weird and wonderful questions, it continues with every conversation, over the phone, face to face – or even by text. And it ends with us being able, in a strange sort of way, to speak your language.

It isn’t jargon – heaven forbid. But it’s your word choices, your syntax, the rhythms and the nuances of your working language that become a part of our vocabulary, a bit like osmosis in biology lessons at school.

There is a place for industry language

So, I know that when I write for this particular client I don’t say “choose,” I say “specify.”

I don’t use the word “disabled,” instead I say, “inclusive.”

And what I don’t know about the rules for writing Roman numerals and listed buildings isn’t worth knowing.

So I know how to describe what she does, how she does it and – most importantly – why she does it.

I say most importantly because her work has a direct impact on high-value projects, and it can support some of the most vulnerable people in society. Add to this responsibility the fact that multiple stakeholders are invested in the results she achieves.

The power of specific words

So, this isn’t a place for exclamation, in punctuation marks or otherwise. It isn’t a place where clients want to see flippancy, or irreverence or even humour.

Instead, this is a place for clarity and quiet consideration. For an indication of experience and confidence, and – and she’ll hate me for this – intelligence.

The language I use when I write for her is clear, direct – and confident. There’s no unnecessary punctuation, there are no flippancies, no swearing and nothing that could be considered offensive.

Rather, it’s highly technical, but at the same time it’s warm and it’s human. So even if you’d never come across her skillset before, and didn’t know what some of the industry-specific words she uses refer to, you’d still understand what she does and how and why she does it.

And, more importantly, if you were one of her clients, those specific words, the words like “specify” and “inclusive,” would resonate with you – and I’m guessing you would probably recognise a Grade II* listed building as something of special importance that you’d like to talk to her about.

Consistency is key

And so, specific words and industry language can resonate with your ideal customers, creating an emotional connection and a feeling of reassurance.

And using these same words, these same phrases and these same nuances across both your on and offline presence is the secret to earning valuable customer trust.

The trick is, to update yourself every year.

Because – chances are – you’re bigger and better than you know.

What do you think?

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