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Tell us your story: when, why and how did your business get started?
When I first started my business, I provided professional audio recording and production services to local bands and musical artists in a loft apartment in the heart of downtown London, Ontario, Canada. Studio sessions were typically held in the evening to accommodate the recording artists and could often run later than 11:00 pm. While this arrangement was okay for a bachelor, I quickly realized that this lifestyle and means of serving customers wouldn't work well once I got married. My wife and I knew that we needed to make a change and fast, especially with our first child on the way. His birth served as a catalyst for moving to a new home, changing the way we served customers and even who those customers were. Our business went from recording musicians to recording voice-overs from our own home recording studio. After a year of doing that, we saw the potential for connecting businesses with talent and made the shift to operating an online marketplace for voice talent. We found out that the business of connecting voice-over artists with ad agencies, broadcasters and others who hire them was a legacy industry that had yet to be digitized. That was the “aha!” moment.
Tell us about your business today.
Today, Voices.com is home to over 250,000 voice actors and clients from around the world and is the industry leader. Located in London, Ontario, Canada, we connect businesses with professional voice talents. Radio and television stations, advertising agencies and Fortune 500 companies rely upon the Voices.com marketplace to search for, audition and hire voice talents with the assistance of our innovative SurePay™ escrow service and our award-winning Web application.
What’s at the core of your brand?
At Voices.com, we espouse innovation, excellence and integrity as core values. Our brand is an extension of our values and corporate culture. When people think of Voices.com, they think of family, hard work and empowerment.
How do you embody your brand in your business every day?
Our brand is, in a nutshell, branded “E for Everybody.” It’s all about how our customers and users experience the brand in all of its forms, at every touch point, including search, social, mobile, media, and messaging. Our brand is represented in everything that we say, write and do.
How do you communicate your brand visually?
The visual elements of the Voices.com brand work together to communicate that we are professional, trustworthy, and innovative. The aqua blue and fresh green, flat design, is a modern look that is also dynamic with a touchable, tap-able interface. It’s all about a consistent feel, look, and functionality. Our choice in colours, typography, and format culminates in a bold, yet friendly look. Our logo, an abstract illustration of two people with a connecting stroke over their heads, symbolizes the core of what we do with a two-sided marketplace - serving interdependent two groups simultaneously.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your business and as a brand?
Before becoming Voices.com in late 2006, our company was called InteractiveVoices.com, which as you can see was a bit of a mouthful and a few too many keystrokes for our customers. Having such a long name, aside from being a chore to type, resulted in confusion with members reversing the order of our name and also pigeonholing us into one category of work. The perception was that we only provided voice for interactive applications when in fact we were a world-class operation with world-class talent who could voice for a plethora of projects on a wide range of topics recording voices for traditional radio and television commercials, audiobooks and cartoons. Making the leap from InteractiveVoices.com to Voices.com, though a no-brainer, was indeed an adventure onto itself. The most challenging aspect of the rebrand was ensuring that all of our content moved from one domain to the other seamlessly on our new server. On a communications front, we had the great joy of sharing the news that our name was shorter, spoke (pun intended) to a broader audience and elevated our brand name to the same level of excellence that we already exhibited as a company online and offline. Before, we were just a website. Now, our brand is viewed as an industry leader and innovator. We went from a 3-person operation to 50 full-time employees. At the time of the rebrand, we had 10,000 registered users and now we have more than 250,000. Granted, this didn't happen overnight, but it is evidence that a rebrand was a sound move.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young entrepreneur?
A business can certainly be perceived as being likable or not. A young entrepreneur needs to remember that a company that responds to their customers well and in a timely fashion may be considered likable whereas a company that ignores or provides impersonal responses may be perceived as uncaring or unlikable. Perceptions on this can be developed rather quickly. Someone doesn't even have to be a customer to have an opinion about whether they like a company or not. All companies have qualities that they value and see as integral to running their business. A company becomes characterized by these values and remains consistent in daily operations, both internally and externally. For some, that might mean valuing integrity, innovation, and excellence, which translates to a brand that is viewed as honest, sensitive to the needs of customers, and more likely to involve customers in decisions affecting their product or service. In general, the following characteristics may be deemed likable so far as a customer perceives a company. People like companies that are active listeners, responsive, genuine, caring, open to dialogue, quick to resolve issues or extend an olive branch, and focused on the customer experience. Being likable takes work and dedication. This also means being consistent and delivering the same brand experience throughout all facets of the company.
As well, entrepreneurs need to note that the future of marketing and branding is social media. This doesn't just mean having corporate profiles across social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but actually building communities around your brand and using social media as an extension of your content, public relations, and customer service strategy. Being where your prospects and customers are is critical as is being authentic and responsive. Marketing will need to be more relationship focused and use conversations as vehicles that facilitate engaged brand experiences online.
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