Sitting down to write this article, the melody of John Mayer’s song, “Say What You Need To Say” floats through my head, and I catch myself singing aloud quietly. Except upon a quick Google of the lyrics, I realize that I’ve been replacing the word ‘need’ in the title lyric with the word ‘mean.’
Say what you mean to say. And so it is.
As a coach with an online presence, your voice is everywhere. And voice is energy. What kind of energy are you aligning yourself with? How is that energy affecting your relationship with your potential clients?
On vocab and voice
The language you use online tells your potential clients everything you believe about them and for them. Every word you commit to pixels carries a certain energy. It’s time to get clear on what energy you’re attaching yourself to, what energy you’re using to attract clients to you.
Too many coaches write their web copy in unintentional (we hope) emulation mode. They don’t realize that by embodying the spirit, the personality, the gestalt of someone else’s way of expressing herself, they’re setting the wrong energy in motion for their business and their brand.
Or they reach for overused metaphors or tired cliches. These habits, too, set the wrong energy in motion.
What’s the ‘wrong energy’ for a brand conversation? It’s the type of energy that you’re not equipped — by nature or by choice — to deal with well. For me, that would be a balls-to-the-wall, highly audacious, fiercely-fixated-on-the-goal type of client. For you, that might be a soft, retiring type who has trouble expressing herself and isn’t clear on what she wants in life.
Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
What words are worth
As a life coach, you have powerful questions that can help unlock your clients’ beliefs, fears, and desires. You’re trained to listen closely for the language your client uses, and you’re curious about the relationship between what she tells herself and what she does.
When writing your own website, the language you use to describe your services, to characterize your ideal client, and even the words that make up your tagline tell your site visitors a LOT about what you believe and how you work.
Let’s compare two different sentences to get a sense of this in action:
I’ll be your cheerleader, your plugged-in accountability partner, your enthusiastic advocate along the road to wholeness.
My role in our relationship? To notice what you’re not saying, to tend to what is faltering, and to befriend the highest part of you, the part you’ve kept locked away from moonlight and grace and birdsong.
Notice the difference in the energy between these two sentences?
Sentence 1 feels electric (“plugged-in”), activated (“cheerleader”), and full of forward momentum (“enthusiastic advocate”). If you didn’t know this coach personally, you’d read this line and expect her to be an extrovert with lots of pep. You might guess that working with her would be an invigorating, pump you up! experience.
But if you’re actually a quieter, gentler sort of coach and you’ve got this line on your website, the clients you attract are going to be mighty surprised at the softness of your breathy whisper over Skype.
Sentence 2, on the other hand, has a moody, restful, intuitive energy about it. Look at the verbs this writer has chosen: “notice,” “tend,” and “befriend.” There’s a caretaking, nurturing, careful quality to this language that would strongly appeal to a certain type of client, and just as strongly repel others. And the bit about moonlight, grace, and birdsong? Straight up poetry. Not for everybody, but just right for some Right People.
Locate your energy on the spectrum
Of course, “high octane” and “poetic nurturer” are two poles on the language energy spectrum, and there’s a huge range of possibilities in between. Your business brand deserves a voice unto itself, a voice that’s a natural extension of you as a coach and a person. That voice isn’t going to sound like anyone else’s — and that’s a good thing.
How to make sure your web copy is aligned with the energy you want to feed — and hey, while you’re at it, your tweets, Facebook posts, and e-newsletters, too?
Here are 3 simple steps:
1) REVIEW YOUR VOCAB :: Review your main web pages, your last 3 blog posts, and your recent social media updates. Scan for language. Watch for verbs (action words, like ‘stoke,’ ‘marvel,’ and ‘wrangling’), adjectives (words that describe other words, like ‘gracious,’ ‘keen,’ and ‘wild’ ) and adverbs (words that describe action words and tend to end in -ly, like ‘lovingly,’ ‘sparingly,’ and ‘radically’). Make a list of words you’ve used that feel right on and words that feel ‘off.’ Bringing an editorial ear to your own writing is the first step to realigning its energy.
2) REWRITE FOR ALIGNMENT :: If you find a troublesome word, line, or passage on your site or in your Twitter bio, experiment with rewriting it, swapping out ‘off’ words for ‘on’ words. For instance, if you’re a plainspoken, tell-it-like-it-is coach but your copy is wrapped in six layers of metaphor at every turn, something’s gotta give. Rewriting to capture the essence of what you really believe, using intentionally chosen verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, will make a world of difference.
3) SCAN FOR LINGUISTIC SYMMETRY & ASYMMETRY :: Notice as you read other coach’s (and non-coaches’) websites and social media streams what language strikes you as like your own and unlike your own. Chances are, people using language that’s ‘on’ for your business may have a brand with similar energy to yours, thus attracting a similar type of Right Person. Do with that observation what you will. (And no, definitely don’t copy it!) Use it for comparative inspiration. Or commit to look away entirely, if comparison leads you to feeling stymied or self-conscious.
Own your voice, own your energy, and own the pathway your Right People take to get to you. It’s all right there in your word choice.
Abby Kerr is Creative Director of The Voice Bureau, a boutique brand voice development and copywriting agency serving solo-owned and small businesses. She is creator of The Voice Values paradigm for branding. Subscribe to her e-letter, Insider Stuff, for your complimentary brand voice self-assessment. Then tweet her to share your Top 3 Voice Values.
Abby lives in the PNW and is a home cook, a dog mom, and a fiction writer.