What are the most important words in your business?

Sharon Tanton

Which words matter most for your business? Is it your strapline? Your ‘About’ copy? The words you use to describe what you do? Or does it go deeper than that. Here’s our view on what to prioritise.

Vision words

Which words matter most for your business?

Is it your strapline? The words on your business card? The opening paragraph on the homepage of your website?

It’s true, these are all important words. Everything we say can have an effect, and these ‘first impression’ words can be powerful enough to get people to switch on or off in an instant. A lot of marketing money and time is spent crafting them to get them just right.

What about the words that slip out of the tight marketing cordons and have to live and breathe in everyday life. The hardworking words you need to share what you do more widely? The way you write your newsletter? The way you compose your job ads? Your Twitter updates?

Your organisation’s written tone of voice stretches beyond straplines and key brand collateral into the way you write about your team, the way you connect with your clients and suppliers, and the way you all show up on social media. A brand agency can work with you to create a tone of voice guide that will help your organisation communicate seamlessly across digital platforms.

Is it the words you say out loud that matter most?

Your answer to the question ‘and what do you do?’ The dreaded elevator pitch? The way you talk about your business in conversation? The words you choose to welcome new people into your organisation and the way you talk, face-to-face, to your clients?

More very important words, but even more slippery and much harder to manage.

These words don’t form a neat five word strapline, or a fifty word positioning statement that can be polished and delivered from a distance. They can’t be edited for extra zing and sparkle. You can’t proofread them or sense check them and you won’t find the answer in your brand guidelines.

You’re in the room, and the words that need to come out of your mouth are conversational. Talk in beautiful marketing soundbites and you risk sounding robotic.

So how do you get these words to come right? Being able to speak naturally and easily about your organisation comes from confidence and self belief.

As a business owner, you can work on your own mindset and develop the self confidence to become your business’s greatest advocate. But how do you get everyone else in the organisation speaking confidently and naturally about what you do?

That’s when the next layer of words comes in, and these are the words we’d argue are the most important words in your business.

Vision words. They’re the heart of the matter.

The most important words of all are the words that live in your vision.

They’re the words in the stories you tell about why you do what you do.

They’re the words that describe your purpose, not in a lofty elevated way, but in a way that captures the imagination that people can talk about the difference you make in the world.

Vision words need to be clear, simple, and emotionally engaging. Not because everyone needs to use identical ones, but because people need to feel connected with them enough to put the essence of them into their own words. To be able to weave them seamlessly into their own stories and conversations. To own them.

Examples of vision in action from a business large and small

Over the years we’ve worked with hundreds of businesses, and it’s striking the difference it makes when you get these foundation vision words right.

For example, we’ve recently met dozens of people at the Met Office through a couple of training courses that we’ve run. Met Office people talk easily about the purpose of the organisation. Not all using the same words, of course, but all sharing a confident spirit and common sense of purpose.

The benefit of everyone being able to articulate the vision of your business is huge. Being clear about what you believe – why the organisation exists as well as what you do – is so powerful. It can draw the right people towards you, and rally them around your flag. And this clear vision helps drive decision making, making it easier to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to opportunities.

It doesn’t just matter in large organisations. On a smaller scale, we’re working with a brilliant architects’ practice who had been finding it hard to differentiate in a really crowded market. Helping them articulate their purpose came through our a process of talking and listening to both clients and staff.

Ultimately it was uncovering their vision that unlocked the words needed to position them in the marketplace. And it inspired the words they’re now using to talk much more naturally about what they do – on the website, through content, and in conversation.

Articulating and sharing a bigger purpose can change the way people behave. Your vision underpins the values that you share as an organisation. If you’re here to create communities through design, say, then it follows that you’re going to think and act collaboratively, you’re going be inclusive and empathetic.

These words live under the surface of an organisation. They’re the foundation that everything else is built on.

Uncover your foundation words and strengthen your organisation

Uncovering these foundation words is key to giving everyone in the business confidence and direction.

Finding yours starts with a journey of discovery. Recognising that the quest for these foundation words needs to come first – before visual brand work or marketing strategy is the first step.

“The quest for these foundation words comes first – before visual brand work or marketing strategy.”

A vision might originate in the mind of the business owner or leader, but unless it can be embraced and articulated by the rest of the organisation, and experienced by its customers whenever they come into contact with it, it has no power.

Articulating a vision that an organisation can share has to happen collaboratively. A vision can’t be imposed top down. It has to be a vision that everyone can live and breathe, which means that the organisation needs to share its creation. It needs to matter to everyone, not just to the leadership team.

“Articulating a vision that an organisation can share has to happen collaboratively.”

Nor can it be dreamed up entirely in house. An understanding of where you fit in your customers world will keep the vision purposeful. If you’re in the business of serving people, you need to shape a vision that matters to them as well as you.

These are the foundation words that matter most, so prioritise them. Start your journey here. 

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