Get to Know Our Salesforce Voice and Tone

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain why voice and tone are important.
  • Point out the differences between voice and tone.
  • Describe Salesforce’s core values and voice.

Why Should I Give a Fig About Voice and Tone?

If you communicate with others (and who doesn’t, right?), you know that the language you use matters. You’ve got to talk in a way that resonates with people. The right voice makes people feel at home—​because you’re speaking their language. Voice also communicates what a brand is all about.

two people chatting

At Salesforce, we have a distinct voice and tone that shows our personality and makes customers feel at ease.

This module walks you through the basics of writing in our Salesforce voice and tone, in order to reach our audience better. (Additionally, we make our complete brand style guide, including sections on voice and tone available to the public.) We hope these prove useful for both everyday writing tasks and loftier ambitions, including:
  • Creating custom help resources for other Salesforce users
  • Penning the best refrigerator note to ward off lunch thieves
  • Authoring narrative content (articles, blog posts) for your company’s customers and employees

What’s the Difference Between Voice and Tone?

How does a company have a voice? What does it sound like?

Voice is basically a combination of two things:

voice definition
  • What you want to convey about your brand
  • How users should feel about their experience with your brand

Our voice is who we are. It is the core of our personality, and it should stay consistent across all our content. Tone expresses the mood or feeling of the voice, which can change based on the situation. In other words: It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it.

When you’re speaking to someone, you adjust your tone depending on the person and environment. Think about how your tone might change when talking to:
  • A stranger asking for directions
  • Your best friend asking about your weekend plans
  • A private detective asking about your whereabouts

Similarly, some types of content are well-suited to a lighthearted tone—​like Trailhead. Others should be more direct, such as error messages.

What’s Our Voice at Salesforce?

It’s pretty hard to characterize the voice of an entire company. But through the language in our products, user help, and training content, we create a consistent experience for our customer, partners, and employees. At Salesforce, our values—​Trust, Customer Success, Innovation, and Equality—​define our brand and differentiate us from every other company. They are foundational to everything we do.

When writing for Salesforce, always be:

Honest: Trust is our #1 value, and that means we are always truthful in our writing. We don’t use scare tactics, exaggeration, or misdirection. We don’t need to. We say what we mean, and we never damage our credibility.

Clear: We make technology that’s easy to use and easy to understand. Our writing is too. Avoid unnecessary jargon, overwriting, and other filler that can bog down a clear point.

Fun: We have a lot of fun at Salesforce, and it shows in all that we do. Our events are like giant family reunions, with Metallica and Foo Fighters as the bands. We are passionate about what we do—​and our writing reflects that energy.

Inspiring: We help people live their best lives—​from our employees to our communities of MVPs and Trailblazers. Our writing harnesses that genuine emotion, without ever becoming schmaltzy.

Quick copy self-check:
  • Is your copy clear, focused, and positive? Have you verified any facts and claims?
  • Would someone you love (a friend, spouse, or parent) who does not work at Salesforce understand what you wrote?
  • When you read what you wrote, does it make you smile?
  • When you read your copy, are you excited to learn more—​and do more?

A Closer Look

If you’ve been using Salesforce or Trailhead, then you’ve already seen a lot of text in, and about, Salesforce. But what makes our language different from other enterprise software documentation?

astro and codey reading, cloudy eating paper

Maybe it’s easier to show than tell:

Can we talk?

First and foremost, we try to be conversational and approachable. So instead of writing something obvious and dry, like this:

pop up menu with text: Access your navigation menu here.

...we try to sound like a knowledgeable friend who’s pointing at the screen, talking directly to you:

pop up menu with text: Here's your stuff! See accounts, files, apps, and more.

We write this way both in our apps and in our other communications, such as release notes and help documentation. For instance, this help topic guides users to familiar features in the new Lightning Experience user interface:

Help topic with title: Find Your Way Around Lightning Experience; and text: Feeling a little discombobulated by all the Lightning Experience newness? Perfectly understandable. Diving into a redesigned app can be disorienting—especially when you’re able to work in the original interface with your eyes closed. To hone your Lightning Experience chops, let’s look at where some of the most common Salesforce features landed in the new interface.

Using casual and empathetic language, the introduction acknowledges the challenges that arise when using a new user interface: “Diving into a redesigned app can be disorienting.” The language then reassures admins that we’re here to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Don’t just stand there, do something.

Another characteristic of Salesforce writing is that we introduce concepts with a call to action (CTA) or a real-life example. We strive to start headlines with active verbs instead of nouns, to emphasize what you can do with our product features.

Let’s look at part of this walkthrough targeted at sales reps who are evaluating Salesforce:

walkthrough step with text: Know your customers. View a complete profile for the people and companies you do business with--all in one place. No more outdated spreadsheets and messy notes.
walkthrough step with text: Focus on the right things. Use reports and dashboards to identify deals that are likely to close, then make them a priority. Improve your win rates, and hit your quota.
walkthrough step with text: Customize everything. You want to do business your way. Use simple point-and-click tools to customize Salesforce so it works the way you do.

These headlines could consist of mere descriptions of the features we’re pointing to. But we believe that focusing on the purpose of each feature—and what you can do with it—is more engaging that just a blah-blah description. Do you agree? Read on!

Why Do We Write This Way?

We write with a spring in our step because...
  • People learn best when you communicate with them like they’re human beings.
  • We believe content can be educational and fun.
  • Hands-on is the best way to learn.

Let’s face it: Things like setup instructions and release notes probably aren’t at the top of your reading list. But since you have to read them, we aim to make them something you want to read. (Or at least give you a chuckle here and there.) There’s no rule dictating that CRM content has to be bone-dry like the manual to your microwave.

But don’t just take our word for it. There are numbers and charts that show this is effective for other users as well.

Put Yourself in Your Readers’ Shoes

So you like what you see? Want to write with empathy for your customers? Well, it’s more art than science—​but here are the first questions we ask ourselves whenever we start writing at Salesforce.

To determine the appropriate tone, ask yourself who are your readers and what are their situations? Are they…
  • At Fortune 500 companies or startups? (Often this could be both!)
  • Beginners or experts? (And at Salesforce: admins or end users?)
  • Technical or nontechnical?
  • Just exploring, or trying to complete a task?
  • At a desk, on a plane, or at a customer’s house?
  • Excited to dive in, or terrified of screwing something up?

The list could go on and on. The important thing is to take yourself out of your shoes and think like the people you’re writing for. What is their point of view—​with their various backgrounds, expertise (or lack thereof), and daily challenges?

In other words, don’t write for yourself; write for them.

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