My colleague needed a name for a new section of our website that contained in-depth articles, research reports, market analyses, and other similar information.

He asked me to recommend a name for the section because, as a content strategist, he believed that I decide which words go on what pages.

I told him that I was the wrong person to ask. This was something that could best be answered by those who visited our website, not those who put it together. Sure, I could have come up with some names that I thought were appropriate and then thrown those in front of our website users to see which ones stick. But I would have been missing the point. Why not let the user organically offer names that work for them?

Industries of all kinds employ Voice of the Customer — a process where listening to a customer’s requirements and feedback shapes your final deliverables. The department I work in constantly reaches out to customers, both existing and prospective, to see what is and isn’t working for them on our site. By getting to know what our customers want and like, we can build a better website experience.

Before joining Salesforce I used to write for websites, magazines, newspapers, and videos. The golden rule for any writer, before typing one word, is to know your audience. In other words, ask yourself these questions to find the Voice of the Customer

• Who are they?

• Why are they coming to you?

• What do they want to learn? (Or conversely, What do you need to tell them?)

These journalistic tenets will take you a long way in creating clear and concise copy and getting closer to a voice of customer tone. Once you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you begin to think differently about writing content.

How to find the Voice of the Customer

Oftentimes we think that if content works for us, it will work for our customers. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on customer feedback before writing each headline and paragraph on your website. However, there are ways to gauge what your customers want to hear:

• Talk to them. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how few companies do communicate with their customers. Focus groups are a great way to pick up on customer sentiment, even if the focus group deals with unrelated subject matter. Any chance you have to speak with a customer is an opportunity to learn about how you can fine-tune your content strategy.

• Find the top terms people are searching for that lead them to your website. It could be your product name, or it could be an industry term. Know what they’re looking for and then present that information on your website.

• See where visitors go after they leave your website. If they are going straight to the order page for your product/service, then the page is doing its job. If they’re bouncing out, you need to rethink the way you’ve organized your content.

• Poke around the websites of your competition. You can learn a lot about your own website this way. Pay special attention to the language they use. Would uncommon or industry-specific terms make sense to everyone inside your company, but alienate new customers?

Speak the language of your customer

Who doesn’t want their content to sing? We all strive for compelling copy, yet I visit countless websites that are bogged down with marketing jargon and clunky writing. By keeping your language natural, concise, and relevant, chances are you’re going to make a stronger connection with your customer. And be as brief as possible, please. There’s a time and place for in-depth copy, just not on your top-level web pages. Your customers will thank you.

Moreover, don’t be afraid to experiment with finding your voice, but also don’t be afraid to let go of content you thought was perfect but falls flat when tested with customers and/or colleagues. Always think of your customer and whether or not what you’re writing will resonate with them. Remember, you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing to sell or service customers.

Want to learn more about how you can connect to the voice of your customers to boost engagement? Download the free Salesforce e-book.