Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Category: Online Marketing (Page 1 of 8)

How to write an about page – 5 steps to get it right

Did you know that your About Page is probably one of the most frequently visited pages on your site?

It’s an especially popular destination for new visitors who are in the early stages of figuring out who you are and what you do. How do you make a good first impression? How do you keep them interested and engaged? Your About Page has an important job to do. Is it living up to the task?


Confession: This post is a little bit of a rant.

I have seen a lot of About Pages and way too many of them not only fail to do their job, but are a detriment to the individual or company they represent. Instead of creating more interest, building trust, and providing a path to deeper engagement, they create confusion, questions, and apathy.

Worst of all, they are dead ends. You don’t want dead ends on your website, do you?

So … how do you know you’re doing it right? It’s not as complicated as you might think. If you can follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an About Page that works.


Step 1: Remember that it’s never about you.

But, Jamie, isn’t that why people read an About Page – to find out about me and my business?

Yes … and, no (emphasis on the “no”).


People read your About Page to find out:

  1. What you can do for them
  2. Whether you’re qualified to do it
  3. Whether they’d enjoy working with you

It’s a subtle but very important difference and it’s all about context.


Common Mistake: About Pages that read like a resume

An About Page that is nothing more than a summary of your career or skills is a wasted opportunity. If someone wants to know about your work history and capabilities, they can visit LinkedIn. Also, most resumes focus on the first person, as in, “I did this and then that and then this other thing.” They don’t answer the visitor’s most pressing question, “What’s in it for me?” In other words, you can shout about your skills and accomplishments until the cows come home, but until you can make visitors understand why it should matter to them, you’ve got nothin’.


Solution: Your story … told in the context of their needs

Yes – your About Page should provide information about who you are and what you do, BUT it needs to do this in the context of the visitor’s needs.

Remember why people read your About Page and write a page that provides them with the answers they need:

What can you do for them? Tell them what you do, but also tell them who you do it for and why you do it. What’s the story behind your business? What got you started? Why do you do what you do – what drives you? Be really specific about who you work with. Use this opportunity to let visitors know that they have come to the right place. You know who they are and you understand what they need. Instead of a generic listing of products and services, share the benefits of what you do – how do you change lives, businesses, beliefs? Tell them a story that illustrates how you’ve helped others with their same need.

Are you qualified to do it? Don’t just give them a generic, unedited list of your credentials. Cherry-pick the experiences and areas of expertise that are most relevant to your audience. Again, focus on the benefits. In most cases, people won’t care what college you went to or who backed the company during a start-up phase – they want to know what you have accomplished for others. Name drop. Include supportive third-party content from mentors, customers, and/or industry pundits.

Would they enjoy working with you? Don’t disregard this question as too fluffy. Experience proves that people buy from people they like. Though logic and reason have their place in the psychology of buying, emotional responses carry at least as much weight. Are you projecting the kind of image that will be appealing to your audience?




Step 2: Include all the important information.

I can’t tell you how often I come across About Pages that are missing key information. There are few things that will frustrate your visitors more than being unable to locate the information they need quickly and easily.


Common Mistake: Assuming visitors know who you are

This mistake is one I see on solopreneur, author, and consultant sites all the time. I notice it because I am a rabid content curator (meaning that I read other peoples’ content and then share it with my audience via Twitter, Facebook, and my blogs). I am a stickler for accurate attribution (indicating who created the content I’m sharing) and frequently click to peoples’ About Pages to get their name and/or Twitter handle.

Unfortunately, many people forget to include this basic information on their About Page!



Simple: if you are a solopreneur, author, or consultant make sure to include your name on your About Page. You can make your name the headline for the page. You can introduce yourself at the top of the page (“My name is _______.”). You can “sign” the page with your name and/or a graphic signature. Just get your name on there somewhere!

In addition to your name, it’s helpful to include links to your profiles on other sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere you’d like people to connect with you. Though people are usually pretty good about including social links on their home pages and blogs, they often overlook them on the About Page. Don’t miss this opportunity to make it easy for people to connect with you.




Step 3: Make it personal.

We already noted above that people tend to make buying decisions based at least as much on emotion as on logic. The bottom line is this: people are more apt to buy from you if they like you. It’s important that your About Page reflects your personality. People come to your About Page in part to get to know you better. Be yourself. Let them see the real you – not an uber-professional façade.

Use a conversational tone. Introduce some personal details. (Remember, all work and no play makes you dull and boring.) Also – if you are a one-person business – please don’t refer to yourself in the third person. You are trying to make a connection with the reader. Be human.

It’s important to note that even larger businesses can make their About Pages personal. Just because yours is a larger organization doesn’t mean you have to resort to corporate-speak and third-person descriptions of yourself. It’s okay to say “we.” It’s okay to have a sense of humor (and use it). Remember – the people you are selling to are still people, even if they are B2B buyers.


Common Mistake: Crossing the line into TMI-land

Unfortunately, sometimes an effort to be more personal and “authentic” results in a case of “TMI” (too much information). Don’t go there. Wandering too far off on random tangents dilutes your message and increases the chances that your visitor will click away.



While expressing your unique personality and sharing some details about your life outside of work is a good thing, keep it brief and keep it relevant. Go ahead and add a few quirky details, but place them at the end of your page so they don’t distract from your primary messages. Try to tie the personal pieces to your work if you can. As with your professional credentials, pick and choose which things to share based on what will be of interest to your intended audience.




Step 4: Make it visual.

As a writer, I love words. I geek out for the right turn of phrase, the perfect headline, and the engaging story. I know, however, that most people prefer images to text. People just don’t like reading that much. Also, it’s true what they say about one picture being worth a thousand words.


Common Mistake: Using only one image, or – gasp! – none at all

You don’t need to turn your About Page into a photo essay, but it is the perfect place to showcase some images that help tell your story and/or your customers’ stories. A picture-less About Page is a sorry sight to see.



Start with a great picture of you. In general, we respond to images of the human face more than any other type of image. Let people see you – give them a face to put to the name. And, don’t feel like you have to go with the standard profile picture. Have fun with it. For instance, choose a unique setting or use an action shot. Though it’s important to use an image that’s appropriately aligned with your brand, you are allowed to get creative.

Beyond your portrait, there are all kinds of images you can include to help tell your story. Think about what will resonate with your audience. If you sell handmade jewelry, you could share pictures of a work in progress. If you’re an author, you could share pictures of your writing desk or location shots of your book’s setting. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, shots of your store or you interacting with customers might work well. Accent images of your favorite hobbies or quotes can help give the page that personal touch.  There are hundreds of ways to bring a little extra life to your About Page with images – give it some thought and then get busy with those pictures.




Step 5: Show ‘em what’s next.

Each time someone visits your About Page represents a chance for you to connect with someone who is interested in you and your business. Don’t leave ‘em hanging.


Common Mistake: Leaving a dead end

If someone has made the effort to visit your site and click past your home page to your About Page, that person is clearly interested in potentially connecting with you or – at the least – exploring what else you have to offer. An About Page that just gives the facts and doesn’t invite the visitor to take any additional actions is a lost lead.



Chances are that the people who visit your site have a problem and are hoping you can help them solve it.  Make sure your About Page includes some kind of CTA (call-to-action) that gives them a clear “next step” in solving their problem. For instance, you could:

  • Recommend they read your best/most popular blog posts
  • Direct them to your hottest new products
  • Invite them to download an ebook or other piece of content
  • Suggest they sign up for your mailing list
  • Ask them to subscribe to your blog
  • Encourage them to connect with you on other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Remember that whatever CTA you choose, it should be presented in the context of the visitor’s needs. Be helpful. Provide value. Make the offer about them, not you.

You can include multiple CTAs on your About Page, but offering choices can reduce visitor follow-though. Think about which action is most valuable to you, and then focus on that one. I usually recommend going for the email capture since growing your mailing list is one of the most important things you can do to build your business. You can capture email addresses by simply asking someone to sign up for your newsletter or by offering a free download (like an ebook) in exchange for the email address.


If you can follow these five steps – focus on the audience’s needs, include all the relevant information, make it personal, create a better experience via the strategic use of images, and give your visitors a next step – you will have an About Page that pulls its weight and helps you create new connections with your first-time visitors.


How about you? What have you noticed when you visit other peoples’ About Pages? What challenges have you faced when trying to create your own About Page? Do you have any pet peeves related to About Pages?

Love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments! As always, thanks for being here. 


Image Credit: Marc Falardeau

Should my small business blog? 10 alternatives to traditional blogging

“Should I blog?” is a question I hear all the time. Actually, it usually comes out as, “Do I have to blog?”

I feel like a mom who has just asked her kids to clean their room. 😉


My answer: Of course you don’t have to blog.

So then you ask, “I know I don’t have to, but should I?”

Ugh. The dreaded “should.” The “should” is why so many people detest marketing, especially creative people, especially small business owners and solopreneurs who haven’t got a half a minute to spare. The thought of adding one more “should” to their To Do list makes these people cringe, wilt, and get all rebellion-y.


There’s no need for all that.

The question isn’t whether you have to blog, or even whether you should blog; it’s do you want to blog?

If your answer is, “No, I don’t want to blog.” Then … you shouldn’t blog.

Here’s why: If you blog only because you feel a heavy sense of obligation that leaves you dead inside your blog will not be worth reading. It will be rushed and soulless and disjointed. Readers will sense your lack of enthusiasm and joy. They will not stick around.

“But,” you say, “I need content to establish my brand, tell my story, showcase my expertise, attract my customers, and build my community.”

Yes, yes you do.

But that doesn’t mean you need to blog … at least not in the traditional sense.

When I say “blog,” you say … what?

Do you automatically think of a traditional blog – text-based content published on a regular schedule … daily even? Do you suddenly find your mind’s eye swimming in “how-to” and “top 10” posts?  Do you immediately feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and – worst of all – bored?


I get that.

I’m a writer. I love words. I love writing. I love traditional blogs. On average, I probably scan two to three hundred blog headlines a day, and read about thirty to forty posts. But I know I’m weird. I’m the odd man out. Most people do not enjoy writing and the thought of having to churn out multiple blog posts each week (or even each month) makes them cry.

Don’t worry. I meant it when I said that you need content to attract, connect with, and build your audience; BUT that content does NOT have to be in the form of a traditional blog. There are plenty of other content formats out there.

If you fall into the I-don’t-wanna-blog category, here are ten alternatives to traditional blogging that might be a better fit for you. That’s the real key to your success, by the way, finding a medium that works for you. Don’t try to cram yourself into a box that’s not your style. You’ll just hate what you’re doing and find every excuse to not do it. You’ll set yourself up for failure. Instead, find a type of content that feels easy to you – even fun. Play with it. Experiment. Maybe even make up a format of your own. There are no rules. The myth of best practices is just that – a myth. You’re better off finding your own groove and going with it.

So, give these options a gander and let your imagination take flight:



The truth is that word geeks like me are few and far between. The only thing most people seem to hate more than writing is reading, which is why visual and auditory content are gaining traction in content marketing circles. If writing is not your thing, that’s ok. You can use one of these non-written formats:



I’ve been hearing for a year or so now that podcasting is the up-and-coming next “it” thing. I believe the rumors. Happily, this is still a wide-open field. Even though marketers are talking about it pretty regularly, the news about how valuable podcasts can be hasn’t quite made it out to the mainstream. This is good news for you because it means you might have a shot at being the first in your business category with a viable podcast. Being out there first gives you a nice advantage.

(For more information about podcasting, check out my friend Jon Buscall’s excellent and seriously comprehensive ebook, How to Podcast for Business.)



Video is another area where there are still a lot of opportunities. Most people assume that video needs to be technically superior and “slick,” so they shy away from it. The truth is, you can do a lot with simple video shot right from your iPhone or computer. The important thing is getting your message right, delivering helpful content, and giving your audience an intimate, “face-to-face” way to connect with you.

Some brands are doing cool things with social video on sites like Vine and Instagram. You’d be amazed at how much great content you can fit into a few, measly seconds.


Visual Media:

Visual media platforms are exploding these days. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to visual media vs. blogging, they just might be right.

Instagram and Pinterest are two of the hottest visual platforms out there today. Think about what you can “say” with a picture. How can you convey your brand’s value (and values) through images? What stories can you tell with photos, illustrations, or cartoons?

Infographics are another popular type of visual content. Though they do typically contain some text, they rely most heavily on graphs, charts, and illustrations to get their message across.



Maybe you’re better with actual interaction. Maybe you like to be at center stage. Maybe you’re a teacher. Maybe you really love Facebook and Twitter and Google +. If that’s the case, these options might work well for you:


Social Media:

Social media gives us a quick and easy way to share ideas, opinions, and content with just a few keystrokes. This is a place where curation works really well since people often come to social media looking for solutions to problems.

In addition to promoting content you’ve published elsewhere, you can create content that is specifically for a particular channel. Images with text, for instance, typically do very well on Facebook. You can engage in live (or, almost live) conversations with your customers via Twitter chats or Facebook polls. You can create “comment content” by leaving comments on other people’s blogs and social content.

Just remember to share and add value. Don’t just broadcast your own stuff. Promote other people’s content. Leave helpful comments. Have actual conversations with people.


Webinars & Webcasts:

If you like interacting with people, but the bite-sized chats on mainstream social sites aren’t doing it for you, you might want to set up for an extended conversation with your audience. Webinars and webcasts are great for this.

Perhaps there’s something you can teach your audience – something they would find very beneficial. Running a webinar or webcast is a great way to provide the training your audience needs.  You can run webinars live and then keep them archived for future reference. Webcasts are intended to be a bit more “live” and often run at regularly scheduled times like a TV show.


Communities & Forums:

Sometimes, the best “content” you can create is the space for the conversation. By giving your audience a place to have the conversation, you are providing value, establishing yourself as a leader and connector, and creating opportunities to gain great insight about how to improve your business … simply by listening.

I’ve seen people run communities on WordPress’ “BuddyPress,” via Facebook groups, or in private forums. You can also just participate in forums (such as those on LinkedIn and Quora) by asking and answering questions.



Finally, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Traditional blogging may not be your thing, but there are other, more creative ways to blog that might be a good fit:



Maybe you’re not into writing, but you love reading. If that’s you, content curation (the practice of aggregating, organizing, and adding value to a collection of related content) might be an easy way for you to create some valuable marketing content.

Some of the biggest websites are curation sites: Huffington Post, Brain Pickings, All-top, and so forth. You can create your own, specially curated content on topics relevant to your business and of interest to your audience.

Guest Blogging:

So, maybe you’re not interested in taking on the responsibility of your own blog, but you have some really fascinating insights to share that are just a little too long for Twitter. Guest blogging is a great way to share your ideas and expertise via a blog post without actually having to have a blog. As a bonus, guest blogging lets you “borrow” someone else’s audience, which can help you grow your own following. It also gives you the opportunity to create relationships with bloggers you admire.

Creative Formats & Content:

Sometimes, the problem is not the blog, per se; it’s your preconceived notions of what you “should” (there’s that word again) publish on a blog. Maybe you’re not a long-form blogger. Maybe a Tumblr format is more your style. Maybe you just want to publish “quickie” posts that contain a single idea. Seth Godin is a master at short-form blogs. I also really enjoy Bernadette’s bite-sized branding blogs on The Story of Telling.

You could opt to use visual content from your Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube channels. You could write haikus. You could do one-word/one-picture stories. There are no rules except be interesting and be relevant. That’s all.


A newsletter can make a great blog alternative. Though bloggers are typically expected to publish new content at least once a week, a newsletter can be bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly. A newsletter has the additional advantage of being content that gets pushed right to your audience via email. You don’t need to worry about whether they’re following you, will catch your wall post on Facebook, or happen to be on Twitter at the exact moment you promote your blog post. A newsletter will find them in the place they probably visit most often: their inbox.


A caveat and a word to the wise …

One important thing to keep in mind, regardless of which types of content you produce, is that you need to have a “home base.” You need to have a piece of the Internet that you “own.”

You may have heard people talk about paid, earned, and owned media. In a nutshell, here’s what they’re referring to:

  • Paid Media: traditional advertising like print, television, radio, and direct mail as well as digital advertising like search and display
  • Earned: Word-of-mouth, social mentions, press coverage, reviews
  • Owned: Your real estate – in the digital world this is your website and, if you have one, your blog.

I’d also like to add a fourth type of media – a twist on “owned” which is “leased.” I use “leased” to describe any content you produce yourself, but which you publish via a third party (like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) Though you own the content, you don’t own that platform. Facebook could (and often does) change its policies, potentially leaving you high and dry.

The important thing to remember is that you need to have a home base that you control. Having a bunch of Twitter followers or Facebook fans is nice, but it shouldn’t replace your efforts to establish a direct connection with your audience. Use social sites to promote your content, but always invite people back to your place to get to know you better and learn other ways to stay in touch.


SO, that’s my two cents on whether or not you have to blog (or even should blog). It really all depends on three things:

  1. Do you want to blog?
  2. Is a blog the right fit for your skills and resources?
  3. Is a blog the best way to meet your customers’ needs?

At least now you know you can breathe a sigh of relief, take a step back, and consider all the alternatives. And – who knows? – maybe you’ll come back around and join me and the other word geeks in the blogosphere. Or, maybe, you’ll figure out your own best groove and carve out your own corner of the content marketing world.



What’s your take on the importance of blogging? Do you think it’s an all or nothing proposition? Do you blog now? Do you think you “should?” 


Image Credit: Scott Maxworthy

Are you accidentally turning your customers off?

Customers are like lovers, and as such they have certain needs that must be met, or the deal is off.

This should not surprise you. After all, you’ve heard again and again that purchasing decisions are driven more by emotions than logic. Customers engage in the same justify-to-satisfy tactics that we have all – ahem – used to satiate our appetites. Yes, whether we like to admit it or not, whether the object of our desire is a gorgeous pair of Louboutin dress pumps, a high-end life coach, a sexy piece of premium writing software, or an inappropriate paramour, we find ways to make our decision look good on paper.

Likewise, if we feel emotionally slighted by a brand, we have few qualms about giving it the silent treatment, talking trash behind its back, or breaking up with it (sometimes in a very public forum … just for impact and drama).

Hell hath no fury like a customer offended.

So, what are the basic needs that must be met to ensure a never-ending brand love affair?

Let me tell you.


imagine_heart2Appropriate Attention

I recently took a quick trip up to Acadia National Park with my daughter and my beau. Between glorious hikes, we perused the many shops in downtown Bar Harbor. I was struck by how differently we were greeted and treated depending on where we were.

Too Little

In one shop, we were completely ignored. The girl behind the counter was absorbed in a book and didn’t even look up until we were walking out the door. I’m not sure if she had just noticed us, or was checking to make sure we hadn’t stolen anything.

Now, I’m never one to fault a person for having her nose buried in a book; but there is a time and a place for everything. Without the girl ever saying a word or even making eye contact, I had a very strong sense of being nothing but a bother – an interruption.

Too Much

In another store, an overly boisterous and ebullient clerk fairly shouted a hello to us from her station behind the register. Though I am sure her approach was well intentioned, it came across as just a bit too much. It felt contrived and affected, like she was playing a part.

As much as the bookworm had offended with her complete lack of attention, this girl offended by making me feel like I was about to be played. I also wondered if maybe she had a caffeine problem.

Just Right

Finally, we found a store where the staff were not only properly attentive, but actually seemed genuinely interested in us as human beings. One of the saleswomen spent an inordinate amount of time with my daughter – helping her try on apparel that she knew we weren’t going to buy, talking to her about the art of shopping in second-hand stores and accessorizing with flair. She actually went so far as to recommend two consignment shops that were only a few doors away.  Because of how we were treated, I ended up buying a $36 skirt for my daughter and several beautiful cards featuring the work of one of my favorite artists (which I only discovered in the back room because I was browsing while my daughter bantered away about hemlines and scarf techniques with the sales woman/stylist).


What does appropriate attention look like online?

Even online, where you don’t have the benefit of face-to-face interactions, there are ways to show too little, too much, and just the right amount of attention.  The way your content is written will convey the “voice” of your brand. It can be too you-centric (full of navel gazing), too loud and promotional (like a used care salesman), or it can be welcoming and inviting (like the engaging saleswoman in the clothing shop). Done right, your web copy will visitors the sense of being in the right place. It will encourage them to explore your content and possibly even reach out to you directly via social media or your contact form.



imagine_heart4Real Listening

Listening is so important to any relationship, and the brand/consumer relationship is no different. Many brands fail to listen well, which is silly since a) today’s technology makes it easy, and b) listening to your customers is one of the best ways to gain valuable insights into what they want and how you can better serve them (and grow your business at the same time).

There are three steps to listening:

Step 1: Pay Attention

The first thing you need to do is just open your ears. Your customers want to tell you things about their experience with your brand, you just need to be aware of the conversations and tune in. Engage. Participate.

Step 2: Listen Actively

When you are conversing directly with a customer, don’t be distracted by thoughts about how you’re going to respond. Listen with focus. Take your ego’s need to defend/explain/expound out of the equation. Repeat back to the customer what you heard so that she knows you’re really hearing her. Most of the time, that’s all people want – to be acknowledged.

Step 3: Take Action

Finally, the proof that you’ve really listened isn’t part of the conversation. It’s in your actions following the conversations. Like a lover, you have to show that you heard what your partner said by showing that you understand. Lip service is for losers. You need to step up and do what needs to be done. Make changes if that’s what the customer wants. Whatever it takes.


What does real listening look like online?

There are so many ways to listen and engage online. The topic really deserves its own post, but for starters let’s look at a few things that are not real listening:

  • A Twitter stream full of automated promotional tweets, a complete lack of @replies, and unanswered DMs. Not listening.
  • A collection of ignored Facebook or blog post comments. Not listening.
  • Unheeded outcries via ranking of rating sites. Not listening.

… you get the picture.



Two-Way Trust

Trust is one of the great cornerstones of any relationship worth its salt. Without trust, you’ve got nothing.

Though most brands know enough to get their customers to trust them, they forget the importance of also trusting their customers – trusting them to be smart, trusting them to be loyal, trusting them to be ethical. Too often, brands see customers as the enemy – a hoard of faceless entities who might take advantage of the brand or try to “get away” with something.

I saw this a lot when I worked in retail. I was only one year into college and had taken a job at a venerable, family-owned jeweler in Boston’s Jewelry District. Time and time again, I witnessed salespeople cross-examining customers over a return or refusing an exchange over technical details. Security guards and male staffers would hover menacingly around certain customers who were deemed a potential risk and practically chase them out of the store.


self_serve On the other end of the spectrum, there is a tiny, artist-owned shop in the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester. Two summers ago, I was there with my beau and found a fun, turquoise-bead necklace. When I went to purchase the item, I was dismayed to find that the shopkeeper only accepted cash or check. I had neither. Instead of losing the sale, the woman invited me to take the necklace home and just mail her a check.

Seriously? Who does that?

That woman does. And she earned my continued patronage with that simple act of trust.

I was back there recently and found the shop open, but empty. Apparently, the woman had recently purchased the ice cream parlor next door and was busy dishing up sundaes. While she was away, she left the shop on “honor system self-serve.” There was literally a box where clients could leave cash for whatever items they wanted to buy … and make their own change as well.


What does two-way trust look like online?

Trust online can be a tricky thing. You don’t want to expose yourself to undue risk, but you also don’t want to wind up letting fear of being “taken” rule your every move. Start by avoiding anything that makes your prospects or customers jump through hoops. Don’t require everything but their shoe size when they register for something. Maybe don’t require them to register at all. Don’t be fanatically overprotective of your content or other intellectual property. Caution and due diligence are one thing, putting up electric fencing and alligator-filled moats is quite another.



Appropriate attention, real listening, and two-way trust. These are the things you need in any relationship, including the one you create with your customers. Don’t turn them off by missing the mark in any of these critical areas. If you do, you’ll be sorry. A customer’s loyalty is hard won and easily lost. What took months to build can shatter in an instant if you misstep by paying the wrong kind of attention, failing to listen well, or putting out distrustful vibes.

But, if you can get it right, you’ll be in for a beautiful romance.



What do you think? Which are the most important elements of a strong brand/customer relationship? What did I miss?


Imagine_GalleryImage Credits: All images from the wonderful Imagine Gallery on Rocky Neck in Gloucester.

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