Ok, I am back from Germany. And one of the first things I did when I got back was to speak to a brilliant, young solopreneur about her business. Her About page came up: How to write one?.
And on further reflection, I get this question a lot. Maybe once a week or so.
Here’s a good place to start – think about the questions you get that an About page should answer. They come in human language like this and are usually straightforward:
- What are you up to nowadays?
- What do you? What does your business do?
- How did you get into that business?
- What’s your background?
These questions should all be pretty well covered in your About page and/or your Now page. But how?
By understanding that an effective About page is built on a strategic framework. To be precise, your About page should have at least 3 and up to 5 key components:
- Purpose, which includes your vision, mission, and values
- Just the facts
Let’s jump right in. And by the way, these are arranged in order. If someone visits your about page, take the chance to tell them why you exist first. Then your story, and so on. They’ll find the contact info if they need to.
What is your purpose?
Simon Sinek wrote a book about this (Start With Why). Corporate marketers call this, “brand purpose”. Peter Drucker and dozens of other business thinkers address this in a different way, by encouraging us all to view our business as something more than a mechanism for making money by exploring three concepts: Vision, Mission, Principles. I absolutely encourage all of you to know your Vision (the future state you want to create), your Mission (your business’s role in creating it), and your Principles or Values (what you believe in).
If your looking for “who invented it?”, the true answer is always someone in Ancient Greece – and usually in a more thought-provoking and directly applicable way than any contemporary business pundit. Having said that, the idea of identifying business purposes really belongs to Peter Drucker.
It’s the foundation of your About page copy – but it’s not necessarily viable web copy. Go through the Vision Statement / Mission Statement / Values exercise, but distill down to stating your purpose. We exist to make this future status quo a reality.
Tell your company history
Some would say, “tell your story” but that’s a bit vague. Donald Miller wrote a book about this making the case for framing this as story branding; the book holds that the strongest way to create a brand identity express its significant parts as a narrative. Some of the things you can highlight here are “Who it’s for?” and “What It’s For?” (the central questions in Seth Godin‘s masterpiece, This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
In other words, use your story to elaborate on your positioning. Philip Morgan has written an excellent book on positioning for “technical firms”, by which he means dev shops; it’s largely applicable to knowledge worker-based B2B businesses. A great way to make the transition from an internal memo to a viable copy is to write your positioning into your story.
Provide a biography(s)
This is collapsible and expandable, like a telescope. Try writing these as LinkedIn taglines first (about 3 to 10 words), then copy and paste the taglines back into your website and expand on them, keeping continuity. The website provides you the space for some personal touches, which can also be addressed in a Now page, as I discuss below. I have no author to cite here; when in doubt, cite William Strunk Jr’s Elements of Style. Why? To curb the instinct for talking too much about ourselves.
Provide non-personal facts
For larger companies, provide information about the company, your clients, your industry, or even logistical stuff like your street address. Your horizontal specializations and skills figure in here. Most About pages are some souped-up version of this element packaged together with company history. This is quite similar to the concept of providing an “Orientation Manual” about your business, which I have written about recently. An idea inspired by David C. Baker.
Provide your “Now”
A Now page is a marvelous framework for communicating useful information about yourself in a business context. It answers the question, “What are you doing now?”, in a way that a conventional About page or LinkedIn profile often do not.
You can create a Now page on behalf of key individuals within a firm or on behalf of the aggregate “now” of the company. But it was developed with the individual in mind, by Derek Sivers himself.
The last item on the list was conceived as separate to a Now page – and it certainly can be. Whether you make it part of your Now page or separate, two things:
- Write them at the same time
- Let the Now page be update and easily updatable – by keeping it brief.
That should be more than enough to get you started. If you do create a Now page, reply to this email and link me to it – I’m curious! Here’s mine https://www.rowanprice.com/now/
Footnotes & Errata
- Of all the books cited in this post, This is Marketing is the one to read