Many business people underestimate the importance of the voicemail messages they leave with clients. A professional-sounding message can help build your brand.

Mary Jane Copps, owner of the Phone Lady in Halifax, suggests the following example: if you are known as an advisor who is always pleasant and straightforward with clients and always has the facts ready, leaving a client or prospect a confused, unclear-sounding message could undermine your brand.

Copps offers six tips to help you build your brand by when you speak after the beep:

1. Be prepared
Do a little prep work before making the call.

If you’re unprepared or distracted, Copps says, you might start to ramble. To ensure you’ll get to the point, write yourself a brief note listing the essential information you want to convey in the call.

2. Speak clearly
Be sure to pronounce your name clearly to increase the chances of getting a call back.

If the person you called is unsure of how to pronounce your name, Copps says, he or she will avoid returning your call.

3. Leave your number — twice
Speak slowly when leaving your phone number, Copps says.

Say your number twice in the message. The first time, say the number at the speed at which you would write it down. Practice saying the number aloud and writing it on a piece of paper to get it right.

Say the number again toward the end of the message so the client or prospect can check it.

4. Avoid telephone tag
Make sure you specify in the message when you can be reached.

If you leave a message and then leave the office for the day without mentioning that in the message, Copps says, you’re asking to start phone tag. Instead, when leaving a message, tell the recipient that you are about to leave the office but will be available to take his or her call tomorrow morning.

5. Keep it short
An effective voicemail message should get right to the point.

Keep the phone call under the 30-second mark, says Copps, and it will save the recipient and yourself time.

6. Make it interesting
Particularly if you are calling a prospect, make the recipient a little curious when he or she hears your message.

For example, if you leave a message that gives too much detail about what you want to talk about, she says, the prospect might never call you back because they made a decision beforehand.

Keep the message open enough that the person has to call you back to find out more, she says. For example, tell him or her that you have a question to ask or an opportunity to discuss.