It’s about you: On being fiercely yourself on your website

According to the oracle that is Google Analytics, one of the most popular places on my professional website is my About page. GA tells me how many people visit that page in a given month, and how many minutes they spend there, and whether they then leave the site, or move on to somewhere else.

I recently wrote about the importance of this page, and how its job is to give people the information they need to decide, “Yesss. That’s the right person for me.”

What Analytics reminded me, and what I neglected to mention in that post, was the importance of the opposite side of the equation, as in, “Nope. That’s not the person for me.” In many ways, “No” is even more important than “Yes.” Confused?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Yes. But the flip side of the coin is this: No saves me time, energy, and other scarce resources. I don’t have minutes or passion to spare to start a conversation with people who—for a variety of reasons—are intrinsically a bad fit for me, and I for them. In other words, it doesn’t bother me that some people get to my About page, spend a couple of minutes, then leave the site.  I trust that they know what’s best for them, and that they’ll move on and find their perfect partner.

Very early in my work with Websites for Good, I took on projects that my intuition told me were going to make me deeply unhappy. In an effort to keep my newborn business afloat, I turned a blind eye to the fact that they were doing work that I didn’t respect (like a business coach whose tactics included verbal abuse), or had values that curled my toenails (like the agent for nightclub entertainers who boasted about paying them as little as possible), or, most common of all, who had no respect whatsoever for my time or the need to be compensated for my work.

I wish I could say that one day the sun rose particularly bright, leading me to march into the office and kick all such comers to the curb. But truthfully, I was a slow learner, a chronic people-pleaser, and more than a little afraid of having to say, “Ummm, I don’t want to work with you.”

Almost by accident, I stumbled over a tool that, over time, has largely eliminated the need to say that: My About page.

In that space, I am (as my lovely coach teaches all in her flock) unashamedly myself, and no one else.
I give my background.
I state how I came to this work and who I love working with, and why.
I show people beyond a shadow of a doubt what sort of person I am.
I speak exactly the way I speak in real life.
I don’t hide the fact that I have feelings and opinions. They need to know me in order to make their best decision.

Alongside each of those risky areas, there may as well be big glowing Exit signs that allow people to “opt-out” before ever contacting me.  They might think,

Jeez, she sounds like some kind of idealistic hippie.
She’s a dreamer. She’ll never make money just working with those kinds of snowflakes.
She seems like one of those granola-crunching outdoorsy types. Ick.
She seems irritatingly happy. That would drive me batty.

A person like this wouldn’t like working with me. They know it, and I know it. If I chose to be more timid about showing the world just who & what I am, such people would be forced to waste time (theirs and mine) figuring that out the long way round, after a half-dozen emails, a marathon phone consultation, or even a face-to-face meeting.

But of course there are also people who read my About page and resonate with me—with my mission/vision, my energy, the fact that I have a garden and a dog, or that I’m frugal or have a slightly quirky sense of humor.  Whatever makes a connection.  More than enough of them finish reading and then contact me, a pre-filtered population of folks with whom I “click,” and thus feel like I can do my best work and stay mentally focused and healthy.  (For a great explanation of this, see Sarah Swanton’s swell blog post ‘Why Having A Niche Is Good For Your Mental Health‘)

Are you being You on your website? Or are you being the persona you think will cast the biggest net and catch the most prospects? Do you find yourself having the throw a lot of them back in the water?  Or maybe you don’t say “no” to them, and some have turned out to really not be good for your business or your peace of mind.

I’m happy to help you craft your About page and other aspects of your website so it feels like you AND attracts the people you really want in your working life…that allow you to be your best, grow your work, and love waking up in the morning.

Drop me a line through my Contact page and let me know if I can be of help.

 

 

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What does your website’s About page say about you?

I stumbled over the most swell website “About” page the other day (don’t ask me how) and I knew I wanted to share it with you. I’ve done that below, but before that, I wanted to pour a cup of coffee and have a little chat with you about your About page.

I’ve learned from our product The 90-Minute Website that there’s one page that seems to take the longest for participants to complete, because it never quite feels right, and it gets revised and revised and revised.  You guessed it: The About page.

Most of my clients agonize over their About page, some to the extent they don’t put one up at all.  They worry over what to say.  How personal to be.  Whether it should be first-person or third-person (or second person…wouldn’t THAT be interesting…)  Should I include a photo?  Should it be a studio headshot or a relaxed, approachable view of me?  Does anybody read those things?

Because I don’t believe this much pain and suffering is required, I wanted to show you a couple of examples of About pages that work, tell you why they work, and then give you a little formula that might help you feel good about yours. Would that help?  I hope so.

First, a small company.

From http://mariecatribs.com/about/

I’m so toughened against marketing that there isn’t much that catches my fancy for more than a few seconds at a time these days (sad, huh?)  Restaurant websites are not something that usually keep my attention.  But I literally read through this entire page, flipped through every one of the 20-odd photos in the slideshow, smiled all the way through, and wished I lived in Grand Rapids.

Why does it work?

  1. We get to see Marie (of Marie Catrib’s restaurant) doing her thing and obviously just delighted to be doing it
  2. The page title pulls you right in – it’s a universal truth that intrigues you from the first glance. What does that have to do with a restaurant?  Inquiring minds need to know.
  3. It shows that she has been lovingly crafting the whole experience of her restaurant in her head since she was little. That’s the kind of place you want to eat.
  4. It explains why she does this work, why it matters to her.
  5. It gives you a crystal-clear idea of the owner’s values, warmth, creativity, and caring.

In short, it humanizes the restaurant, and makes it the kind of place—and person—you want to support.

Now, a big company

https://mailchimp.com/about/

What sets this one apart from the standard, boring corporate About page?

  • Another grabby and fun photo, like Marie’s montage. This one plays off their current humorous ad campaign that centers on the fact that people (apparently) regularly mispronounce the MailChimp name or get it wrong
  • What the company does, and where it came from
  • Their leadership team and their people, displayed in a fun, informal and engaging way
  • Their corporate culture and their work in the community, described in an unstuffy, approachable way  (“MailChimp serves the people and organizations in Atlanta that help make our city better, weirder, and more human.”)

I have a lot of choices when it comes to email marketing services, and most of them are to me (as my friend & mentor Judith Morgan would put it)  “Much of a muchness,” offering very similar services.

I want to work with the one that’s creative, human, approachable, and fun — AND good at what they do. This About page seals the deal for me.

Having trouble with yours?

Here are a handful of tips for making your About page a super-useful page in your site:

  1. Have one.  And call it “About”.  That’s what most peoples’ eyes are looking for when they want to learn more about you.  
  2. Tell people your name, and what you do.  Don’t worry about redundancy. Always remember that, through the mystical world of Google search, they may land here FIRST when they visit your site.  Reiterate, in a very short blurb, who you are and what great thing(s) you offer.
  3. Tell your story, but don’t make it a novella.  Keep it focused, keep it tight.  This might not be a comfortable topic, but it has to be said:  If your About page is a thousand-word tome that rambles through your life journey and work history and trials and tribulations, the intuitive takeaway to potential clients is that a working relationship with you will be similarly unfocused and one-sided.  Instead….
  4. …Start with them.  And end with them.  Wait, you thought the About page was about you?  Well, that’s partly true.  But what you’re really doing out there is connecting with the human being who clicked “About” in your site’s menu. Tell them why you’re good at the thing they came to the site to learn about.  Tell them how your unique history prepared you to help them. Tell them—show them—how passionate about your work you are.  This kind of energy establishes a bond between you and your audience. They know you, like you, trust you
  5. Show yourself.  Yes, the dreaded photo.  Sorry.  But seriously:  If I am online checking you out, with the intent of recommending you to someone important to me, or taking the next step into a business relationship with you, I need to get a sense of you first. I need to see you, hear you, and decide whether I like you.  The best choice for a photo isn’t always a formal headshot. Showing yourself doing the work you love, or in the environment where you do it, can make a stronger connection than just donning the spiffiest suit in your closet.
  6. Don’t use jargon.  Oh, don’t get me wrong. You can use the language of your industry, but steer clear of trying to prove how much you know on your About page by packing it full of niche terminology. By limiting yourself to business-speak and obvious self-promotion, you end up sounding just like everyone else. The idea is to set yourself apart, not prove you’re just as good as the other players in the room.
  7. Write it in your own voice.  Read it out loud to yourself or to a colleague/friend.  Rank it on the stuffy meter, wherever it falls from super-formal to ouch-maybe-too-much-information.  Lean it a smidge more toward the latter than the former.
  8. Answer the question:  Who are you, how can you help me, and what passions/tools/background prepare you to do so?  No more.  No less.

Still have questions?   As always, feel free to drop me a line. Your About page is the second-most important page in the site, after your home page—it’s worth the effort to really make it great.

 

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How does a web site happen?

I’m a Big Picture person, so it’s helpful to me to have a bird’s eye view of anything new in my life before I dive into it.

In my working life, I’m often approached by people wanting to have something done on the web, and who are like me, wanting to see the thousand-foot view first, then nibble on the details. I’d say fully 50% are people who have either a) never done a project like theirs before, and so have NO idea what to expect, or b) have done it before and had a bad experience, or at least one that left them feeling bad.   So most are apprehensive because they don’t know how the process will go. What can I expect? How long will it take? What are my responsibilities in all of this? How arduous will it be? How much does it cost? What if I make a mistake and at the end I get a huge bill for something?

I nod and smile at their emails. I get it.

Things have changed from when I first started doing web work about 18 years ago. Then, I was in charge of information technology for an organization that wanted to build its first web site. There were very few people who knew very much about the medium then, and since we worked for advertising agencies, we hired one of them to design a web site for us. They asked very few questions, and didn’t return phone calls, but reportedly held a lot of “team meetings” and brainstorming sessions we weren’t invited to. They came back with a site that made my eyes hurt: garish colors, cartoon icons, a menu that didn’t match what we wanted to put out there, and so much more. It would have made our sleek, professional association look like a children’s toy manufacturer.

And then came the invoice for $5000.00.

I still have bad dreams about that experience. And like all good nightmares, it drives me to run my business in such a way that I never, ever do that to anyone else.

I can’t speak for all digital marketing companies; I only know how WE do things. But I wanted to share what I feel is the process that should be followed by everyone who does what I do:

THE MIND MELD

Marketing yourself on the web is like a complicated machine. There are lots of decisions to be made about what goes where, what its purpose is, and how it needs to work once built. No one outside your brain can know what your goals & dreams are, who your audience is, what will motivate the people you want to reach, and where you want to go with your life & business. So this first phase involves questions . . . sometimes lots of questions . . . in order to clarify what you’re creating, and synch up your brains so you both have the same vision. Beware the professional who does not ask enough questions.

THE BLUEPRINT

In this step, you take all of the answers above and co-create a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be. At the bare minimum, this articulates all of your goals and expectations, as well as a detailed vision of the people you’re trying to reach (and what you offer when you reach them) the site’s structure, interactive features, desired timeline, and cost range. This may take some back-and-forth to get right. Take that time. When it IS right, you enter into a contract to bring it all to life.

THE VISION

The web designer takes everything she (now) knows, along with agreements about things like color and structure, and sits down at the drawing table to create some possible designs – the beautiful container into which you want to pour your words and pictures. See this as the beautiful, functional space into which you’ll welcome your audience to talk with them. Typically, the designer produces two or more different ways of putting all of the pieces together into something the works well, and emails the drawings to you to review. You choose, or adjust and then choose, approving the final one you like best.

THE PROTOTYPE

So now the final flat drawing can be brought to life, as it’s programmed into an actual interactive space on the web. It starts with just a framework, with yawning empty spaces where your unique materials will go. You again have a chance to look this over, and make sure it’s what you signed up for. Then comes . . .

THE BRICKS, MORTAR, PAINT AND PAPER

With guidance, you provide source materials like your logo, the navigational structure (“menu”) you want, specific photos and imagery you want to use, text, etc. You may already have things written, or you may need to write them. You may have photos you want to use, or you may need to be pointed to places where you can pick out what you like. No matter the exact path, with these building blocks in hand, the designer can create complete pages, menus, useful mechanisms, signups/contact forms/calls to action . . . everything your site or social media presence needs in order to come to life, and to open for business.

THE EMPOWERING ORIENTATION

Step back and look at your shiny new web space, lovely but still closed to the public. A good designer will give you a tour of it, and identify what’s needed in terms of the proper care and feeding of your site. Any specific training you or your staff will need to move forward happens now. Web sites are never “done,” but are constantly evolving as your work evolves. Your web designer should make sure you know how to make that happen.

THE LAUNCH

When everything is polished and you’re ready to throw open the doors to the public, the designer will do the behind-the-scenes work to get your domain name yourwebsitehere.com to “point” to the beautiful new creation, get your email working and delivered, submit you to the search engines, etc.

. . .

This may seem like a lot, and of course it is. But — at the risk of sounding like a bit of a cheerleader — it can be a priceless exercise, as you immerse yourself in your vision, your “tribe,” and your unique work for a few days or weeks, gaining a tremendous amount of clarity in the process.

So that’s our favorite bird’s eye view. We welcome questions about any aspect of the process that might worry you, or anything that feels the least bit murky or stressful. We love what we do, and love to use our skillset to help people doing good things. Give us a shout at 720-350-7193, skype mterrian, or drop us an email and say hello.

 

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