Not sure if developing a strong and unique brand voice for your business is worth it? Summer Priest from OH NINE is pretty bloody sure it is.
Learn how she went about creating her brand voice, leaned into personality over professionalism and continues to attract droves of aligned clients as a result.
For those that have never heard of you and your boomin’ biz, tell us a little about yourself and the gem that is OH NINE?
Hey! I’m Sum, Founder of OH NINE – a Xero bookkeeping service based in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. I founded OH NINE in 2019 while I was on maternity leave (after having dreamed of starting my own bookkeeping business forever).
Three years later and there’s five of us working on this thing now — wild! With 35+ years of combined experience the OH NINE team helps small to medium-sized business owners feel connected, clear and confident AF about their books.
When you first established your business, had you heard of the term ‘brand voice’? Did you know what it meant?
Ha! Absolutely not. My first foray into the brand and marketing side of small business involved trying to DIY a website on Squarespace (spoiler alert: that was an absolute disaster) and jumping onto a website called 48 Hours Logo where — you guessed it — you can get a business logo designed in 48 hours.
So, you could say, I wasn’t exactly an expert in the beginning (and hey, I’m still not), but I’ve learnt so much in such a short span of time.
When did you first start thinkin’ about how you wanted your business to sound or come across to your audience?
Honestly? I was probably 18 months into my business.
I remember attending an online small business summit, with speakers like Tara Ladd from Your One and Only, Cherie Clonan from The Digital Picnic and Anita Seik from Wordfetti.
As I was taking it all in I had a lightbulb moment and realised OH NINE needed to define its voice. These businesses all had personalities, palpable personalities, that you could really sense in their copy. It definitely gave me something to aim for.
How did you determine what the ‘right’ brand voice was for OH NINE?
It was tricky! I have a corporate background so I kinda just assumed businesses should always sound professional — old school, I know.
Danielle from Read City completely opened my eyes. In a quick interview she got to know my personality and started to show me how personality and business didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
When I read the first draft of the website copy she had written for me I literally cried with happiness. She jumped inside my head and pulled everything out I was holding back and Boom. Our brand voice was born and it didn’t have to be ‘professional’ like I had originally thought. We were all in, with both feet.
And that’s some advice I’d offer to any business owner trying to clarify their brand voice. Don’t be afraid to back yourself. Yes, it can feel uncomfortable but bringing personality into your business is so worth it.
How has having a distinct brand voice helped your business?
I’m a big believer in the power of branding and the idea that everything you do in your business should have purpose — and that absolutely includes the words you use.
Getting clarity on what those words should be and what tone they should convey has helped me feel confident as a business owner. I’m not afraid to be myself and that has absolutely improved our client experience.
We continue to attract clients that are aligned to our style of working and their experience with us is very cohesive — from their first peek at our website to meeting the team and beyond. They know what they’re going to get with OH NINE because our brand tone of voice does some of the heavy lifting for us.
Does anyone ever comment on your brand voice? Have you come across any big fans or naysayers because of the tone of voice you use?
I’m proud of the fact that our brand voice is as strong as it is — I’d even say it’s a bit polarising. And I think it’s for that reason that we haven’t had any negative feedback on our brand voice — because we’re repelling the types of clients it doesn’t appeal to.
This can feel a bit uncomfortable at first — the idea of repelling certain clients — but it has enabled us to build a client base of dream clients that are super aligned with who we want to work with.
Has your brand voice changed over time?
I wouldn’t say it has changed but it has definitely grown as our team and business as whole has developed and gained confidence.
As we’ve gotten clearer on our ideal clients, our services and how we can provide value, that clarity has helped us to continue to hone our brand voice.
Who are some other businesses you think are killing it with their brand voice?
(Side note: We couldn’t agree more!)