Everyone has a story: Tell yours, ask theirs, and everything changes.

For years, I’ve been asking my clients the same questions as we begin to work together:

What do you do? What are you offering?
Why do you do it? What’s the story that brought you to this spot?
Who do you help by doing it? What’s the story you want to change for the better for that person?

So many people have been through this exercise with me that I’ve long since lost count. But the other day, someone turned the tables on me by leaning forward and asking, “What about you? What’s your story?”  (Well played, madam.)

Me

Picture a cutaway dollhouse view of an average suburban home in the United States. In the kitchen there’s a plate of food on the counter, untouched and cooling. In the living room, you see a computer case, some size 7 heels, and a navy J. Crew blazer on the floor, just shy of the sofa. In the dim hallway light, you see a woman curled up in the fetal position, eyes and fists squeezed tightly shut.

I was that woman on a crisp autumn night in 1998, suffering from acute pancreatitis. As it happens I’d  lay there for another hour, unable to uncurl my body. Eventually, I was able to crawl to the phone and ask my neighbor if she could drive me to the urgent care clinic. Please.

That moment in time was the unlikely genesis of Websites for Good.

Long hours, chronic stress, deep unhappiness with my advertising job, persistent migraines and the over-the-counter medications to deal with them . . . all had conspired to create a perfect storm of pain that night, after weeks of ignoring the warning signs. The young doctor on duty did his due diligence with a battery of tests and a barrage of questions about my health history. He put down his pen, laced his fingers together on the desk and said, “You have to find ways to dial back the stress in your life, or the next time this happens you’ll be seeing me as a diabetic. It’s your choice, really. But I hope you’re willing to do that.”

The next morning, I dropped heavily into my chair, looked around my office and saw it with new eyes. The people I served with my labor barely knew me, let alone my story. The glamorous aspirations I’d followed in order to be in that job couldn’t make up for the fact that it was shortening my life. I didn’t belong there. Life had never intended that for me, at least not for long. So I typed up a letter of resignation, and while I waited for the printer to spit it out, I started concocting a way to make a living that would heal me.

You

In the two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of people—the majority of them women—with the same story. They’ve exited the once-promising but now soul-corroding escalator of corporate life to build a business closer to their hearts. Something that allows life balance.  Something that matters. I’ve helped them to shape their businesses, taught them about online marketing tools, and created websites to get the word out about what they offer the world.  Mostly though, I’ve taught them how to tell their story, and how to gather the stories of the people they serve.

Them

What’s your story?  Being able to articulate why we do what we do is a powerful tool to build a bigger and more engaged audience. Through story—sharing yours, asking for theirs, and creating a new one together—we can begin a long-lasting conversation with people whose values are resonant with ours. They become the ones who follow you and support you . . . who listen to what you have to say, and tell their friends about you.

Because they know your story, and you help articulate theirs, the roots of your connection sink far deeper than any charts & graphs, search engine tactics, or fancy lead generation pages.

Stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead as I explore how you might use story in your online marketing. Most of us are just barely tapping its power, and I’m on a mission to change that.


By the way…

If you’d like to talk about how story might be helpful in growing your business, including some easy retrofits for existing websites, I offer a free 30-minute non-geeky, no-icky-sales-pitch-whatsoever consultation. Request yours through my contact page.

Who Are You Trying to Help? Go Beyond the “Ideal Client” (Meet Jean)

A good website is an invitation to a conversation, where you tell your story, and invite your audience to tell you theirs. Knowing who you’re conversing with has to come first. Have I introduced you to Jean?

Beware of malware scams – SiteLock, HostGator, Bluehost, and the tale of the angry web girl

Sitelock is STILL on my s*** list. Please read the UPDATE to this evolving story at the bottom of the post.

A beloved client forwarded this to me this morning.  It’s an email she received from the “security” firm SiteLock, a (former) partner company of popular website hosts HostGator.com and Bluehost.com.

Hell hath no fury like an angry webmaster who hasn’t yet had her coffee.

Notice the wording:  One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.
Fairly clear, right?  One of her sites is infected with malware…it says so right in black and white.  Bad news, but I’ve never been one to hit the panic button before it’s time.

I calmly went to HostGator’s tech support “Live Chat” to ask them about this.  I pasted the email into the box so the technical support rep could see what I’m contacting them about.  I asked: Is this legitimate? What happens next?

Over the course of the conversation, I learn from the tech dude that SiteLock is their partner company. And I learn, in fact, there’s no evidence of malware. The site MIGHT be infected, he says, but no one really knows for sure.  In order to truly find out, my client would need to purchase an expensive malware prevention package from SiteLock, so they can peek inside and see if there’s malware there.  If there is, they’ll charge another fee to get rid of it. Those fees, combined, crept into four figures.

I take a deep breath and count to ten:  So…the email is a sales pitch, designed to frighten my client into purchasing a product?  And the email makes a statement that’s patently untrue?  I point it out to him again: One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.  Why would they say such a thing if it weren’t true?

Hemming and hawing ensue.

I’ll spare you the gory details of my response, which nearly set the curtains ablaze. I want you to think I’m much more patient and kind than I happened to be this morning.

My little dog came to sit next to me and put his head on my knee. You okay? You smell mad. Maybe a walk?

Why am I bothering to tell you this?

Well…aside from being angry about a concerted effort to drum up business by sending good people into a panic about their website?  Good people who might not be terribly techie, or who may be busy…..gosh I don’t know….building their business?  So instead of helping depressed people, doing reiki healing, selling their art, finishing their book, booking new coaching clients, they have to spend their money and life energy dealing with service provider scams—from the very people they are already paying every month to keep their website running.  Infuriating.

In short:  Anyone whose website is hosted with the company HostGator.com, or with Bluehost.com, or with ANY of the hosting companies under the conglomerate parent company EIG, is likely to receive one of these emails soon, if you haven’t already.  I wanted you all to know what this particular game was, so you can watch for it.

To all my clients: Please feel free to drop me an email or a PM if you receive one of these emails. I can be of help deciphering the scare-mongering.

Edited to add: See the comments below the post for some helpful/scary comments made by others. In August 2018, Endurance Group’s CEO and CFO were fined several million dollars for fraud by the SEC related to company subscriber numbers.

Hosting is a personal decision, but for what it’s worth, I have shifted all of my sites to the hosting companies at the top of my Resources page. I’m trying to make a list of the companies that get great customer reviews, give good value, and don’t have anything to do with all of this filth. If you know of others that fit this description, hit “Contact” in the top menu and let me know so I can get them listed.

If you’d like to avoid giving your hard-earned money to scammers like these, here is a recent list of hosting companies owned by EIG, the parent company of Hostgator, Arvixe, Bluehost, and dozens of others, and here is a list of hosting companies owned by Sitelock’s new masters at ABRY Partners . I would only suggest you avoid those if you don’t want to find yourself in the same boat again.

UPDATE AND SUGGESTIONS:

This mess continues to evolve. Sitelock was acquired earlier this year by a private equity firm called ABRY Partners. That was in April, and as we’ve all seen, the blackmail tactics have continued unabated. I have no proof that Sitelock has access to private data from its former EIG sister companies, but my first instinct is to stay as far away as possible from any of them.

Here are some things you may want to try, if you are A) currently paying for website services from a company connected to the above (including sadly ConstantContact.com), and B) aren’t currently locked out of your site:

  1. Consider moving. Seriously, do you want to give your money to people like this? See the top of my Resources page for some hosting ideas. Most of them offer to move your website and email for free if they can, making it SUPER easy to escape. You can also save money by taking advantage of signup pricing.
  2. Immediately change all of your passwords with that company. Go into your account with the company (some, like hosting, may have TWO logins) and change your passwords to something very complicated and VERY different from anything you’ve used elsewhere on the web.
  3. If you use WordPress, immediately have your tech person change your database password for the website. This involves changing it in a couple of places, so it’s best to have a tech-savvy person do this.
  4. Change your password to any website admin areas (like WordPress).
  5. Change your email password as well. Again, make it different from your hosting password(s) and different from anything else you’re using on the web. It’s worth the hassle to avoid being held hostage by scammers and forced to pay them hundreds or thousands to get your site/email/store back.

Take a deep breath. We’ll all get through this together.

The world we live in: How small businesses (like yours) are going to save us all

You know what I love about you guys?

You’re the helpers.

What’s that, you say?

Remember what Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) told us about his mom’s advice?

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

We live in a world where people find themselves sick, sad, stressed, and angry – and often they don’t even know why. Gee, let me think: Shrill media, addictive technologies, partisan politics, weather disasters courtesy of a changing climate, toxins in our air/water/food, escalating violence and divisiveness, religious extremism…I wonder why we’re sick?

It is a tough row to hoe some days.

Yet this morning, when I looked across the list of people I’ll work with in the coming week, I saw this (you know who you are – and thank you):

  • A coach who helps people navigate, survive, and thrive through the stress of life’s transitions
  • A counselor who helps people find the key to a healthy, vibrant, empowered life
  • An investment fund focused on economic justice, helping those most injured or abandoned by our current system to find dignity and stability
  • An accountant and tax specialist who works with small, family-owned businesses to translate the benefits, risks, and rules of our largely indecipherable tax system
  • A nonprofit whose mission statement is, “No one should have to face cancer alone.”
  • A magnificent, loving healer who helps smooth out the stresses of the world that have settled in our bodies and our energy
  • You, perhaps. Helping in your own way, through imparting wisdom, beauty, comfort, clarity, and support.

Whenever someone approaches me who hopes to work with us, I set up a consultation by video or phone to ask a gentle series of questions. To the untrained ear, it may sound like I’m asking about the nut and bolts of their business, about clients, about services. But from the thousand-foot view, a pattern emerges:

I want to know if they are a helper.

I want to know whether their motivation for doing what they do is something larger than “get rich quick.”

I want to know if their hearts are in the right place.

Do you know what I’ve found, in 99% of the cases? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. It’s surprising, because it’s absolutely not what we read on the news or see on television. Even a cursory glance at characters littering our TV channels over the course of an evening would have us think that homo sapiens are essentially self-centered, materialistic, unfaithful, conniving buffoons (there’s a reason the “spiritual epiphany” story is so popular in modern films and books). Ground into our minds is the anti-mantra, we’re in this alone, and we’d better look out for number one, because no one else is going to save us.

And yet here’s me: Mid-fifties, survivor of violence, no stranger to addictions or to dire financial straits, having not lived a charmed life—and yet crowding all around me is so much good. So many people who are trying to make something better in the world.

That’s why I love you guys.

You are living proof that the media has people all wrong. You make your living by doing good. Bad things happen, but they are dwarfed by the sheer goodness of millions of daily—and largely unnoticed—individual actions. You’re part of a community of helpers, proof positive of the basic goodness in humanity. You create good news. You are the good news.

Thanks.  Keep it comin’.  And if you need a cheerleader, a coach, or a sherpa to help you reach more people, help more people, you know where to find me. Drop me a note and let me know how I can help.

 

 

 

Ditching the pitch, part deux

About a year ago, I published the blog post below.  It was a post I was afraid to write, but to my delight it generated a tremendous number of emails from people saying, essential, “I know, RIGHT?  Oh my gosh, is that the only way I can get my message across??” It stimulated lots of delicious conversations about how to create marketing materials with integrity and with kindness.

I was reminded of it the other day when this happened:

I was online, shopping for a window blind to replace the one that had just given up the ghost. At a particular site I sifted through a few options, was pondering a purchase, and suddenly a popup window completely obscured my view of the page.  It said, almost verbatim, “Join the xxxx mailing list and be the first to learn about our daily deals and special offers!”  So far so good, right?  Not being interested at the moment (hello, I’m shopping) I searched in vain for the little “X” to close the popup.  I learned that the only way to close the subscribe window was with a teensy, barely visible textual link that said, “No thanks, I hate saving money.”

Deep breath.  Count to ten.

Who would actually pay money for the privilege of being talked down to, belittled? Apparently someone is, because they’re still in business. Needless to say, they’ve lost my dollars. (And yes, I wrote to them and told them why.)

If you missed this the first time around, I’d love to know what you think.  Take care.

 


“Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZThe Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door.”
http://www.jacmcneil.com/2016/08/30/an-open-letter-to-anyone-running-virtual-summits/

Okay. Picture this:

You’ve just received two emails, each promoting an upcoming workshop. Both sound super-useful. You believe that either one might truly help you ratchet your business or organization up to a better place. You’re thrilled you have the time to attend, but there’s a catch: you can only afford one of them.

One of the workshop promoters ends her email with,

“You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to invest in yourself and your amazing business! We won’t offer this again until 2022! We’ll see you there on March 7th!”

The other promoter says,

“We’d love to help you craft a business that supports you and your clients. Does this workshop sound like something you’ve been looking for? If so, we hope you’ll sign up for our next session on March 7th.”

Which do you respond to – which makes you feel like hitting the signup button? Which feels better in your gut?

This isn’t a trick question, and there’s no correct answer. But how my differing clients have responded has provided some food for thought for me this week.

The integrity thing.

I’m into integrity. It’s been one of my favorite words since I was an impressionable kid, and heard it on TV. (Yes, I was that geeky kid who had her own dictionary at 6.)

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
    synonyms: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, e.g. “no one doubted her integrity”
  1. the state of being whole and undivided;
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity, e.g. “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
  1. the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
    synonyms: soundness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness, e.g. “the structural integrity of the aircraft”

Honest. Whole and undivided. Sturdy and strong.

Was that a groovy word to fall in love with, or what?

Fast forward to 1997, when I started daydreaming about a business of my own. I wasn’t sure about the details yet, but I knew I wanted to make something that was breathtakingly honorable, that let me be in tight solidarity with clients, and that was sturdy and stable enough to support me financially.

So here’s what that idealism evolved into: I get to know other businesspeople. I’m honest, whole-hearted, and strong with them and for them. I’m a careful observer of what they need in order to be happy, or happier. I have products and services that might help many of them. I try to articulate those clearly, and then provide paths for the right people to work with me. It’s good, meaningful work that makes me feel good about myself.

Yet increasingly, all around me, I see marketers taking a different tack. And not just taking it themselves, but recommending it to thousands of people as the golden ticket to success.

Is this the only way to succeed?

In a recent newsletter from author John Parkin, he pondered statements like the marketingspeak I began this post with. “We’ll see you there,” “Thank you for your patience,” and “Thanks in advance for signing up” are everyday examples. He saw this use of language as manipulation, and wondered why people couldn’t simply speak more honestly and directly.

I nodded all the way through that newsletter. True, there are folks making a bajillion dollars on products and services with this sort of manipulation. You’ll know them from the 72-point headers shouting at you about what you can’t afford to miss out on. They kindly offer reminders that there won’t be another chance to (insert action), and won’t you be sorry? They sneak in subtle or not-so-subtle rebukes of those who won’t “invest in themselves.”

We all know this type. They’re everywhere. Because it works.

It works because there are human beings out there who see nothing wrong with being spoken to in this way. We are so inured to media manipulation that it may not even register as such. It’s just business, right?

But for me, and for most people in my circles, it’s not.

Ten times out of ten, I prefer consuming goods and services from people who see me as an individual, a unique person worthy of respect, capable of making my own decisions. And pushy salespeople—no matter how famous they are, how many books sold, how many followers, how many “Likes”—are, for me, the face of disrespect.

How many of us have been badgered to sign up for a marketer’s mailing list, only to have them flood our email box with aggressive, loud, bouncy sales pitches daily . . . even several times daily. It’s as though you’re trapped in email hell with a Chatty Cathy saleperson who loves the sound of her own voice, or are stuck standing next to a carnival barker. Let me tell you about this amazing thing!  Can you believe some people would pass this by?  You know you need it/want it/deserve it!  

In the most insidious cases marketers even use their mailing list manager’s tools to track your opens, responses and clicks, so they can—automatically—get up in your grill with nag emails: “We noticed you haven’t signed up for X yet and we’re curious why not…”

For me, it doesn’t get much more obnoxious than that.

Even a marketer’s repeated use of quasi-friendly statements like “Can’t wait to see you there!” (um, no, you might not), “Don’t wait—sign up now!” (can I finish my lunch first?), and “Thanks in advance for joining us!” (seriously?) can push me away from a perfectly good offering.

Why? Because I know these folks don’t see me. They see a prospect, with a pulse and a wallet. They see their almighty List growing by one. They see their PayPal account saying cha-ching as many times as possible in a day, starting with me. They’re on the third jab and they’re looking to land the right hook.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. But it also doesn’t get my money. It’s business, yes. It’s just one of the faces of business that I don’t feel obliged to support.

Food for thought

  • When you’re out there seeking supporters, buyers, clients, and customers for your business, do you use scarcity or manipulation to “seal the deal?”
  • Do you believe in a vigorously persuasive approach, using language to herd audience members into your solution rather than a competitor’s?
  • Are you tempted to point out the repercussions if they don’t choose to purchase?
  • Is the local online marketing guru trying to convince you that the hard sell is the ONLY way to “not leave money on the table”?

Here’s my two cents: I would offer that marketing yourself with complete integrity—and without manipulation—is a standout skillset that’s beneficial across the board, from attracting the kinds of clients you love working with, to seeing a healthy bottom line.

Your potential clients are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, sometimes stressed-out individuals. The carnival barkers are everywhere, so in this noisy world it can be integrity that stands out as courageous, comforting, and convincing.

In an upcoming post, I’ll give some examples of marketers that operate 100% from a place of compassion, interest, and honesty, and who are wildly successful doing it.

Thanks for listening, and remember to be “honest, whole-hearted, and sturdy.”

 

 

We love to help our clients and friends “do well by doing good.”  For more ideas and support (always without the icky sales pitch, pinky swear) leave us a comment below, drop us an email, or join our newsletter list here: http://bit.ly/2vHEELy

Permission to take time to create

This week a Facebook friend shared something that surprised and delighted me.

But not at first.

You see, it was a link to a podcast about creativity, and the episode title was “The Silent Episode.”

Huh?  Is that some kind of joke?  So at first I was skeptical.  I scanned the comments for snarky comments, but there were none. Was it like the emperor’s new clothes—everybody knows that podcasts aren’t silent, but no one wanted to say anything?

As it turns out, it was no joke, and it made my day.

On that day I was happily preparing for a day full of creativity.  I’d set my alarm and gotten up (and caffeinated) early. I lined up sharpened pencils, a couple of pens that actually had ink in them, a big journal, a little journal, a charged laptop, and lots of time and space.

Crickets.

I just didn’t have any ideas. Not a single one.  Picture a closeup of a sharpened #2 tap-tap-tapping on a blank sheet of paper. Tap-tap-tap.  Drawing a frowny face. Scratching it out. Tap-tap-tap.  Oh, I should go check the mailbox.  Or do the dishes.  Or….

Enter the Ideamedic, my hero(ine) du jour, with this podcast.  It may sound strange, but it turns out there’s a world of difference between a self-help guru proclaiming you should “Give yourself permission to be creative whenever and wherever and as much as you like!”  and a simple podcast that say, simply and quietly, “Hey, here’s ten minutes. Play.”

Enjoy:

With my thanks to the fabulous Tara Roskell, the Ideamedic!

 

 

For our nonprofit friends…and THEIR friends

Search engine specialist Charlotte Davies shared this with her audience on Facebook (of which I’m a happy member), and I’m passing it along to all of you because there are quite a few nonprofit organizations in our tribe, as well as a lot of folks who support nonprofits.

Google Ad Grants is a program that provides free Google AdWords advertising—up to $10,000 USD per month—on Google search result pages, to eligible nonprofit organizations. The program is designed to help organizations extend their public service messages to a global audience to make a greater impact on the world…in the form of more visibility, more volunteers, more donations.

Visit their page at https://www.google.com/grants/ for more details and to learn if your organization—or an organization close to your heart—is eligible.

Are you working on a book, or wanting to publish? BookBub’s got your back.

A friend is working on publishing a book this year, and we’ve been chatting about how to promote it on the web.

She shared the link below with me, which takes you to the ebook “The Ultimate Collection of Book Marketing Examples” at BookBub’s website.  For those of you who might be working on a book, branching out into writing/publishing, or just like looking at pretty things, you might find it a nifty reference. You do have to subscribe to their blog to get it (free) but their posts are chock full of book marketing tips, which might be worth assessing to see if they’re valuable to you.

If you see things that pique your interest, and you’d like to know how to incorporate them into your own web presence or social media, let me know.

Just click the graphic to be taken there:

 

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.

 

 

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.