What is an “About You” page?
A few years back, we added a new kind of page to our website. It’s called “About You,” and as we joke about in this episode, it’s kind of a personal ad for a prospect. Experts tend to do a great job expressing who they are and what they know, but as soon as they’re asked to describe their audience, things can get tricky. That’s what an About You page is all about: getting specific — very specific — about who you can serve best.
In this podcast, Chris, Mark, and Lauren discuss the role an “About You” page plays in helping expert firms speak directly to their best-fit prospects…
You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.
Chris Butler: Welcome to Expert Marketing Matters. I’m Chris Butler.
Lauren McGaha: I’m Lauren McGaha.
Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.
Chris Butler: I’ve gotten a question from almost all of the clients I’ve worked with in the past six to nine months, the same question, over and over again, that we thought we’d answer today. And it has to do with a particular page we have on our website called About You.
Most of the people that I’ve worked with see that, they see that page right away, and they don’t have a page like that on their site, and they usually ask, should we also have one of these pages? And the answer … I don’t really have a clear answer to that, which I thought we could discuss today.
The page came from you, Mark. You were the one who wanted to put it on the site.
Lauren McGaha: Maybe we should talk about what’s on it.
Chris Butler: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: Sure. Yeah, and I’m trying to think back to why we even did it. Why did we do it? Why did I want to do that?
Chris Butler: Well, you wrote the copy on an airplane, and I think you weren’t sure where it was going to go-
Mark O’Brien: Got it, okay.
Chris Butler: … and we all looked at it and thought-
Mark O’Brien: I’m glad you have a memory.
Chris Butler: … well yeah. My recollection was we were working on the content for our sort of What We Do section, and you had written what ended up kind of being this love letter to the client for that copy, but we thought, well, I don’t know how it came, but eventually it got moved to its own page.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. And so yeah, basically the page just describes the people we serve and the people we want to serve, but it does it, yeah, in the … a love letter to the client description is fair. It’s not like-
Chris Butler: Not in a bad way.
Mark O’Brien: … it’s not mushy, but it’s clear that we like them very much, in a genuine way-
Chris Butler: It’s a personal ad for a prospect.
Mark O’Brien: A personal ad for a prospect.
Chris Butler: Yeah, that’s kind of what it feels like.
Mark O’Brien: That’s good. Yeah, and it’s funny, I’ve gotten more comments about that page than any other page on our site. It comes up quite a bit.
Chris Butler: And what have those comments been?
Mark O’Brien: I remember the first one I got was the day or the day after the site launched, which launched during the seminar, when we were having one of our NewFangled seminars, and Yadim was in attendance, and he said something along the lines, Yadim Medore of Pure Branding, out of Northampton, Mass. He said something along the lines of it being the best positioning pages ever read on a site.
Chris Butler: Right, and he was actually the first client who ever asked me about it later on.
Mark O’Brien: Oh was he? Okay, yeah.
Chris Butler: Should we have one? What should be on it? Etc.
Mark O’Brien: Right, right, right.
Chris Butler: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: And I think what spoke to him was just like the empathy of it. He felt like I was actually speaking to him. And that’s what we tell our clients all the time, is that when you’re writing these articles or whatever it is, think of an individual client you have who you actually like quite a bit, and write it to them, write the article from that perspective.
And that’s a trick I learned from public speaking. I can’t remember where I picked it up from, but it was a trick that they suggested was before you get on stage, envision someone you just love being with, like someone you really, really have a great time with, and maybe someone you don’t see very often that you anticipate seeing, that kind of thing. Envision that person, and deliver the talk to that person. And when you have that kind of frame in your mind, you’re going to … your body language is going to be different, the word choice will be different, the tone will be different. Everything’s gonna change because you feel like you’re engaging with this person you just really enjoy quite a bit.
And so that’s where that idea first came from, but then it ended up translating to the About You page-
Chris Butler: Which is contrary to the advice that you get in second grade, which is picture everyone in the audience in their underwear.
Mark O’Brien: That never worked for me.
Chris Butler: If you had a page like that-
Lauren McGaha: It would not be the same thing.
Chris Butler: Controversial, yeah.
Mark O’Brien: I’ve tried doing that.
Chris Butler: It’s a terrible, terrible idea.
Mark O’Brien: It takes way too much concentration, like okay, well that person-
Chris Butler: What would the situation be under that garment?
Lauren McGaha: How did it go when you tried that?
Mark O’Brien: Well, I tried it when I was in fourth grade, and I had to do an oral report on Whitey Ford, and I was absolutely petrified. I think maybe my dad told me to do that or something. Someone told me to do that and it didn’t carry value in my view-
Chris Butler: He should have been like, don’t even bother with the people who you don’t understand their anatomy yet, just stick with your own team, Mark. It’s terrible advice.
But I think envisioning how that would change my mindset if I was about to step up on to a stage to speak to a bunch of people in an audience, I think what it would get me to do would be probably to think about how I say everything that I say, but maybe in a different way. I’d think about their situation, what they think is important.
Often, and this is a typical thing for anyone who claims expertise in anything, is there’s a way you see a problem and a solution, and it has to be by its very nature different than the way that the person who needs it most is going to see that problem and solution. Because you’ve already solved it, you have the solution. You’re not in the problem anymore. And so there has to be a divide between those things.
So let’s talk a little bit about what’s on that page. Is there anything on that page right now that you wouldn’t want to change?
Mark O’Brien: That I would not want to change?
Chris Butler: Yeah, ’cause there’s background to this. We are in the midst of rethinking some things on our own site, and the way things look, the way they’re said, etc., what’s being said. So I imagine a good amount of that might change, but I wonder what wouldn’t.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, I think a great deal of it would change, and actually, what I would like to do is not look at it, and just rewrite it from scratch right now, knowing the intention, knowing where my heart was with it, like keep that. Because the people we’re serving and their needs, that’s not really very different than it was when we wrote that, which was three years ago, three and a half years ago, right?
What we’re doing for those people is different, but the problems we’re solving are the same.
Chris Butler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lauren McGaha: I think the fundamental purpose of the page is to make it really easy as well for these people to answer the question, who do you serve? Am I right for you? And when we go to develop marketing copy, it’s really easy to get into this mindset of framing the language in a way that it doesn’t sound natural and it doesn’t sound true. And to approach it this way makes you sound more human, I think, and answers that question for the person visiting the site in a really quick, easy way.
Chris Butler: Right. It’s also provocative. I mean, if you think about a prospect who’s come to your website, potentially for the first time, perhaps they’re on an article of some kind that you’ve written, and before they decide to go somewhere else, maybe they’re looking at what’s in the related content, maybe they’re looking at a call to action they might engage with, maybe they’re looking at your logo and thinking about going home to figure out where they are.
If they scan that main navigation and they see a page called About You, it’s kind of a big flag, right?
Lauren McGaha: Sure.
Mark O’Brien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Butler: Who wouldn’t choose that? And then so the question becomes, like if you imagine that scenario, not only who you envision your prospect to be, but that moment, what do they need to see on that page? What would be impactful to them in that moment?
Mark O’Brien: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and this gets down to positioning, right, and how comfortable are you going on the record with an About You. So, back to your original question that you get asked, should people have this? Should this be on every website? And what do you think, Lauren?
Lauren McGaha: I think that it’s a good idea because it forces the positioning question. I think it forces you down a path to really consider who it is that you’re best suited to serve, and to articulate that in a manner that’s going to be true to your organization, and also understandable by the people who come to visit the site.
You won’t be able to develop a page like that in a way that is kind of generic and in a way that wouldn’t resonate with the right kinds of people. If you did, it wouldn’t stand on its own.
Chris Butler: So then the other side of that coin would be that if you were speaking with someone who wasn’t prepared to be that position, who wanted to potentially pilot a outbound program or under really core positioning, but not necessarily frame it publicly, you might say, ah, you’re probably not ready for that page yet.
Lauren McGaha: It’s too soon. Yeah. I think it requires the bravery of positioning.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, if you’re not positioned and haven’t gone through all the steps, you’re not emotionally or intellectually capable of writing such a page. You just couldn’t do it. You’d be way too scared to really put a point on it like that.
Chris Butler: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: To think of the clients that, not clients, but the firms that we’ve spoken with over the years, some other peers we’ve spoken with over the years, and seeing how reticent so many of them are to really draw a line in the sand and say, okay, we do this, we do not do that. The idea of writing an “About You” page that was right there in the main navigation, not some blog post that can get buried over time, you know, I think that would just petrify so many firms.
Chris Butler: Well also, if you envision positioning as that mad lib that we’ve referenced in the past, you do blank for blank, right, it’s the what and the who, you can be extremely tightly positioned or let’s forget that word and just say focused, specialized, even if you don’t vertically position and identify who.
It just means that that horizontal positioning, the what, has to be extremely specific and of need across a variety of different industries or contexts. But in that case, I would love to see someone write a really good About You page if they are not also vertically positioned.
So I’m envisioning a best case scenario for horizontal positioning, who also writes a great About You page, because at this moment, I only have doubts in my head that the About You page … In my mind right now, I feel like a really good About You page emerges out of a both horizontal and vertical position.
Lauren McGaha: I think it can be done with a really strong horizontal position. When the horizontal positioning makes sense because that’s a true market gap, and the need for that kind of specialist does truly extend across a variety of industries, it makes sense. It’s not a horizontal positioning that was chosen out of fear, it was a horizontal positioning that was chosen out of necessity. Then I think it works. And you tell the truth and you’re able to accomplish that page in a way that does feel empathetic to the reader.
But if you are selecting horizontal positioning because you’re afraid to position vertically, the About You page is gonna come across pretty presumptive, I think, and like-
Chris Butler: Or too general.
Lauren McGaha: Yeah.
Chris Butler: Either one.
Lauren McGaha: Yeah. It could go in either direction.
Chris Butler: Right, ’cause if you are vertically positioned and you can actually envision not only the role of the decision maker envisioning, but their context, potentially even anticipating how you would actually pitch your value proposition to them, what actually matters to them, and knowing specifically not only what it is but how it’s said, how they see it, because you know that context, I feel like there’s a lot more affordances for specificity if you can be … if you are vertically positioned.
If you’re horizontally positioned, you know, we work with a client that for instance is not vertically positioned and they do conversion rate optimization. So that alone, you could probably go to a number of contexts and say, okay, this is what we do, and that person say, yeah, we need that.
Now, if someone was ever skeptical, that assumes they’re not. If they’re skeptical, how you make the case for that is probably going to be a little bit different depending on the context, in which case I would imagine that the … if you’re not able to make that case specifically, the About You page would start to [inaudible 00:11:57]
Lauren McGaha: And that’s what I mean it has to be a really strong, specific, horizontal positioning. I’m thinking of a different client that we’ve worked with for a number of years who focuses on employee benefits communications, and the types of organizations that they work with span all kinds of different industries, but the unique problem that they all have in common is clearly communicating on a regular basis the complexity of their massive benefits programs.
Chris Butler: Yeah, that’s such a great example. Do they have an About You page, that we know of-
Lauren McGaha: No.
Mark O’Brien: No, few firms do. But yeah, I think that’s the deal. If it’s horizontal positioning only, it can only be about the prospect’s need, and if it’s vertical positioning, then it could be about the prospect’s demographic reality.
Chris Butler: Yeah, generally, in theory, yeah. So, let’s think about that. I don’t know how well you can remember, when you sat down and you were writing your love letter to the prospect, what … where do you start?
Imagine someone’s asked us a question, do I need this page? And so we’ve gone through the question of yes of no. Then they want to know, okay, so how do I start? What’s appropriate, what’s not?
Mark O’Brien: Well, I think the reason why we would generally, and I guess is the answer to the original question, would generally suggest that a client does this, a firm does post an About You page, like we think yes that’s a good idea … the focus on that, the impetus behind that is the same as the rest of the site. You want to create this system that distills down the best prospects for you. And you want them, when they should be forced with a decision when they get to your site, am I in this box or am I not in this box? And the site’s job is to define the box as clearly and quickly as it possibly can so that everyone who’s not in the box can leave. That’s not gonna serve them or us for them to hang around the site too long.
And so with “About You,” just starting with the mindset I know our prospects are in when they’re exactly ready to work with us, basically. Like what mental state they’re in, what they’re concerned about, what they’re confused about, what they’re excited about. What’s going on right then when they’re right at the edge where we’re really the best fit for them. And the site is … part of the job of the site and the content strategy and everything else is to educate people as to when they should self-select and get in touch with the firm, right?
Chris Butler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mark O’Brien: And so the About You page is sort of the intersection of all those things.
Lauren McGaha: If I can just add to that, I think that there’s also a certain amount of curiosity about the prospect that you need to adopt and you need to have that mindset when you go to develop a page like this. Just like any other marketing copy, or really even any thought leadership copy that goes on this site, to begin first by thinking of genuinely what is this person’s situation, rather than how can I communicate what I would hope would be compelling, or how can I convince them to buy into my way of thinking here.
But instead, just drop all that and think, what’s the reality? Be curious about that. What’s going on? Think about asking questions as if you just cared about this person and their business. And Mark, I think you do a really nice job of that in these initial conversations that you have with prospects. It’s not always about let’s get to the heart of selling NewFangled right this moment, it’s like, well let’s take a step back. Let me just know you. Let me know you as a person, a human. Let me understand your business, ’cause I’m genuinely curious about that. And I think we get a lot more authentic emotional responses from those conversations, which can inform a page like this on the site.
Chris Butler: It occurs to me, among our audience right now, people listening, there are probably, if I were to say, “Okay, everyone listening who has a marketing title, raise your hand, and everyone listening who has a sales title, raise your hand,” I bet we have more marketing hands that go up. We probably have some sales, we probably have some people who raised their hand both times. And that’s kind of an ideal fit because they’re probably in a good position to write this page. They’ve got experience on both sides.
But, what would you say to that? Who should write this page? Maybe not be the final editor, but who should get the meat down on this page?
Mark O’Brien: I think it is going back to my previous response, the page being about the state the prospect is in when they are the best fit for you, right, for the firm. The person who understands that state best should be the person who writes it. And they probably are involved in marketing or sales because that’s how they come to understand that state.
It’s not necessarily the owner. It doesn’t have to be a certain title of any kind, it’s just the person who really gets the mindset of the ideal prospect at the ideal time, I think.
Lauren McGaha: I would agree with that, and I would say that I think that person is typically also the person tasked with influencing the positioning of their organization, because in order to influence or control the positioning of your organization, you have to really understand your market and the prospect and their needs. I think those roles and responsibilities are usually wrapped up into the same title.
Mark O’Brien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Butler: So depending on the size of the organization, would you be comfortable saying that perhaps this person needs to be responsible for closing business, or have a commensurate amount of experience doing that?
Mark O’Brien: Maybe, but I don’t think it’s a requirement. I really think-
Chris Butler: It depends on the organization.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, yeah. It’s probably likely that nine out of 10 times that would be that person’s role, but what really matters is it’s just the knowledge of the client. And sometimes that’s not somebody in biz dev, sometimes some specialist firms, they hire people from the industry they serve-
Chris Butler: Yes, that’s true.
Mark O’Brien: … and that person can be fulfilling any number of roles inside the organization. But that person really gets the mindset of the prospect in that situation. And so I think whoever has the deepest understanding of the prospect, again, at the right time, it’s all about timing, because we all go through different stages, and someone could be an ideal prospect demographically, but not until point X. It’s what they’re thinking about, what they’re feeling at that moment that really matters the most I think.
Chris Butler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lauren McGaha: I think it has to be the person having the new biz conversations. I really do. And as somebody here at NewFangled who’s involved in some sales conversations and is quite involved in the operations side of this business, I can say that the points in my tenure here where I would have felt best equipped to write an About You page would be when I had the highest involvement in sales conversations, versus times where I’m taking a step back from sales conversations and focusing more on the operations side.
Chris Butler: It also kind of makes sense to the story that this page was originally drafted by you having … I can’t remember if you were on the way or on the way back-
Lauren McGaha: From coach?
Chris Butler: … no, I don’t think … I think it was actually a sales meeting or a closing meeting, something like that. But I lean towards … I agree with Lauren because the number of times where we’ve been talking after one of you has had a conversation with a prospect and the feedback has been, ah, people are starting to say this-
Lauren McGaha: Right.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, totally.
Chris Butler: … or people are starting to ask this. And that’s new. It’s a surprise. It’s not like completely off the radar, but it’s just a new spin on things. It gives us more insight into their psyche. If you’re not on those phone calls, you don’t know.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, I agree. And this is probably a good topic for another podcast. We can get into it a little bit now, but I just love that. I love that part of one, my job, because I get to be on those initial calls, right? And I love that part of NewFangled too. I said it this morning during our traction meeting. I consider those calls, those initial calls I have with the prospect, so, they get in touch, based on what they look like, through the email, looking at the firm, like okay, it’s worth having a call with them at least just to see what the deal is, and in that call, I learn so much. I call those calls my laboratory.
And we can be thinking about, well, let’s offer this new service or let’s start talking about this this other way, and I get to just try it out. I’m a high quick start, I’m a nine quick start in Kolbe, and so I’m very much into just trying things out. But to get that real response, and to understand, oh yeah, okay, if I say it this way … and I also want to learn by speaking. I understand something as it’s coming out of my mouth. Just seeing that and being able to instantly react to it and understanding it … And there are trends, you know. You’d think, well you talk to somebody in Denver and somebody in Austin and somebody in San Jose and somebody in Manhattan, you know, these people don’t know each other, they have nothing to do with each other. They serve at different firms, different size firms, serve in different markets, but no, there is a zeitgeist. There’s a pattern. There’s something in the air always.
You see, okay, this person’s feeling this way about this one thing, and then your next three conversations, sure enough, all those people, all of a sudden are feeling this way about that thing, and they do not know each other. They were not speaking. They were not reading the same articles. It’s just in the air. And we get to really be riding that wave because of our constant exposure to prospects. And that’s positioning too, if we’re doing millions of things for millions of people, there’d be no patterns to see there. But just by the fact that we’re speaking to similar kinds of people all the time, we get to learn so much.
I was speaking with … Sorry, am I going on too long with this?
Chris Butler: No.
Mark O’Brien: I was actually speaking with somebody recently who has a sales consulting firm, and he’s not involved in sales for his own firm. And I said, I couldn’t imagine not being involved in sales for NewFangled, for a couple reasons. One, I just love it. I really, I just derive so much personal value and pleasure and reward from that. But two, I would feel like I had no idea what was going on in my company. I would feel completely blind of all the indicators that we have, and we are a traction organization, and we have all of our data points and sales force. We are so highly measured, but that’s the vision piece that I use that really gives me insights to what’s actually happening, like where NewFangled’s going.
If I was taken out of that, I would feel crippled.
Chris Butler: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense.
So, for someone listening who may or may not be in that role, but let’s just say that they understand the benefit of having that feedback, if someone said to me, “Well what should be my next draw, how do I draft this thing? I don’t know what to put there.” I would probably say to them, “Listen, instead of making your next step drafting this page … I mean, if you feel like you can do it, go for it. But if you really feel at a loss for what you’re gonna put there, spend the next two weeks writing down notes after each interaction you have with either an existing client or a prospect, and note how they frame the problems they have. Note the things that they say. And just jot it down, and then at the end of the two weeks, go through, de-dupe that list, and figure out what are the core things.”
We’ve done these exercises for ourselves in other contexts, where it basically says, build this practice that keeps you from drawing connections too early, then go back in at the end and see what the connections are. And I would imagine that if you did that for a couple of weeks, if you have enough activity, that you’d probably come out with some things that you could have predicted, some things that maybe you couldn’t, and at least you’d have some raw material.
But I want to ask one last question before we wrap up. So in our recommendations on the design side, most of them come down to this notion that we sort of embed in our prospect experience design idea of having a primary action on every single page. The question being, what do you want someone who has now looked at this page to do next?
So, if someone comes to the About You page, what do we want them to do next?
Mark O’Brien: From my perspective, that’s as close to a closing page as we get. That’s an action oriented page. We talk all the time about having calls to action for prospects in the researcher stage, in the evaluator stage, but this is the purchase stage page for sure.
Now, if they’re ready to take action, right? If they’re not, they’re not. So they could just use that page to figure out if they’re in the box of not, should they be here. But we wouldn’t want a newsletter signup or a webinar registration or anything like that on that page. Just, that’s a pure contact.
Chris Butler: Yeah. I was thinking that my recommendation would be that along with the primary reaction, I recommend a secondary, especially for pages that I assume are within the positioning role of the website, to establish to the prospect what it is this organization does, as opposed to the insight section where you are either aggregating that material or writing articles about your expertise. You’re taking your expertise and applying it in the abstract. You’re sharing a little bit of that expertise so someone understands that you have it.
In this case, I would assume that for a prospect that was new to the site, the primary action I’d want from them on that page was to say, “Okay, that sounds like me, now tell me what. Let me better understand the structure.” And so I’d want them to go over to what we do, and then go through that process.
Secondary action, if they’re ready, if they’ve read enough, yeah, get in touch. Let’s set up a meeting.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, I agree with that. I agree with that.
Chris Butler: Okay.
Mark O’Brien: I also like your positioning exercise. Well, I was thinking of it as a positioning exercise, but the exercise of figuring out what to write about on the About You page. But it is a positioning exercise. If you do that for two weeks, you’re gonna have a much better handle on who you’re actually serving.
Chris Butler: Absolutely.
Mark O’Brien: And that’s another thing we see too. All of these different exercises, every bit of content you write for blogs, etc., thought leadership content, and all these positioning pages, they bring you closer to the reality of who you are and who you should be serving. You learn through the action of doing such a thing.
Chris Butler: Completely.
Mark O’Brien: So, whether or not you’re willing to publish an About You page, and to wrap it up here, I would say you should definitely write an About You page.
Chris Butler: Totally agree.
Lauren McGaha: That’s good advice.
Chris Butler: Good idea.
Lauren McGaha: Yeah.
Chris Butler: Well, we will talk to y’all next time. In the meantime, you can find more of this stuff at NewFangled.com, and you can share this podcast. Please do. There’s gonna be some changes coming down the pike that we’ll talk about in the next episode, and at that point, we really want you guys to spread the word. So we’ll see you next time.