“Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”
That’s what the author Daniel Pink told delegates at the American Booksellers' Association's annual conference back in 2012.
He was absolutely right. We’re all selling something (if it’s not products or services, it’s ideas) and social media puts us right in front of our potential customers, every single day.
Your ‘about’ page is one of the most important sales opportunities for your business or organisation (it’s certainly one of the most visited pages on my website). It tells people what you do and communicates your vision and values. But many businesses or organisations overlook the opportunity to sell themselves.
While there’s no magic formula for the perfect ‘about’ page (what works for one business or organisation may not necessarily work for another), there are some definite no-nos. Here’s a round-up of the most common mistakes:
1. It’s all about you, you you!
It’s so obvious that people miss it.
Your ‘about’ page shouldn’t be about you; it should be about how your products and/or services can help people.
Think about the last time you visited an ‘about’ page. Perhaps you needed information (as a journalist, I often look at ‘about’ pages to check if an organisation is the right source for a quote) or wanted to buy in some expertise (copywriting or design, for example).
You didn’t want a long, rambling history. You wanted a couple of paragraphs that would tell you if the organisation or individual could help solve your problems.
So don’t navel-gaze; create copy that shows visitors to your website how you can help them.
And remember the principle of ‘show don’t tell.’ If you’ve got a blog, provide links to your most popular posts. Or provide a downloadable tips pdf or a video lesson (add an opt-in box and you can collect email addresses for marketing purposes). Anything that demonstrates your expertise will make you far more credible.
2. You haven’t thought about your audience
When I ask clients what sort of people they have in mind when they’re creating web copy, they often say ‘everyone.’ But I’ve yet to come across a business without an ideal customer or a not-for-profit organisation that isn’t clear about the kind of people it wants to engage with.
If you try to create copy that appeals to ‘everyone’ you’ll end up pleasing no one. So before you start writing your ‘about’ page, ask yourself these key questions:
1. Who is your target audience (you may have several - in which case answer these questions for each type).
2. What are their biggest problems? What keeps them awake at night?
3. How can you help solve their problems/make their life easier?
Being clear about your audience will help you create the right kind of content for your audience, in the appropriate style and tone.
3. You don’t have an ‘elevator pitch’
So many ‘about’ pages leave me feeling confused. That’s because many organisations and businesses struggle to describe what they actually do. But if you want to your site visitors to stick around, you need to nail it in a sentence or two.
Take a look at the mental health charity Mind’s ‘about’ page, which makes its mission and purpose clear in just 23 words.
And although the copy could be tightened up in places, Sweatshop’s ‘about’ page is clear about the company’s mission: is help runners - of all levels of experience - find the best running shoes.
4. You’re too vanilla
You’ve heard the line about people wanting to do business with people.
Yet many ‘about’ pages I see have no personality. The tone is serious, the language formal. Some are stuffed with technical jargon. And they’re often written in the third person, which can alienate the reader.
You can’t get a feel for the people behind the business or organisation. So there's no heart in it.
In my own About Me page, I’ve been really clear about how I like to work (and how I don’t). Not only does this communicate something about me as a person, it’s also about helping potential clients to decide if I’m the right person for them to work with (and saving us both time if I’m not).
Take a look at this ‘about’ page from Howie’s.
Not only does it tell a story (and stories can be a powerful way to draw people in), it communicates something about the company’s core values (high quality, environmentally friendly). It’s also selling a lifestyle (outdoorsy, healthy, green) that potential customers can identify with. Notice too the kind of language and phrases used: ‘we believe’ + ‘last longer’ + ‘better for the environment’ + ‘no silly stuff’ + ‘common sense.’
It can be helpful to think of your ‘about’ page like the blurb on the back of a book (or if you’ve gone paperless, like me, the ‘product description’ on Amazon). That means keeping it crisp and punchy: short sentences, short paragraphs and simple words.
Did you find this article useful? If so, why not post a link to your ‘about’ page in the comments section below with your comments or questions...