I often need to find out basic information about companies when I’m researching copywriting jobs – when they were formed, what they do, how they differ from competitors; that sort of thing. Obviously the first place I look is usually the “About us” page. I’d estimate that that proves useful about 20% of the time. It’s usually some guff about being a synergistic B2B fulfilment facilitator that has a customer satisfaction factor 3.5% above the industry average.
If it’s a large organisation, there’s a good chance it’ll have its own Wikipedia page. So that’s usually my next stop. It’s where I’ll get the actual information I’m looking for.
Why not share the basics?
I think there are three reasons for this phenomenon.
- Companies like to think they’re big, and therefore assume everyone knows what they do.
- They think the person reading the page will be familiar with the jargon
- They can’t miss an opportunity to turn a pure information source into a marketing opportunity.
I think the third reason is probably the most relevant. Over the years I’ve read plenty of copywriting advice that says, “Don’t start your ‘About us’ page with the year you were formed.” The theory goes that you should be using the “about us” page not to say who and what you are, but to tell people how great you are. Forget about the fact that customers are clever enough to know when they’re being led by the nose to some call to action – they don’t actually want to know about the organisation; they want to know how amazing you are.
It’s easy to see how this practice took root. From a marketing perspective, it sort of makes sense – people inspired to find out more about your company are already primed with the basics, so now you can guide them into a narrower part of the funnel. Unfortunately it ignores the people who still want to find out more about your company: people just peering into the funnel.
So like me, they look for third-party sources of information. Other people’s opinions on the company. Warts and all.
Tell it like it is
Should the “About us” page be a marketing tool? Of course. Everything you publish is. But your story is part of your marketing push. Why not talk about it?
The simplest thing you can do is imagine the person reading the “About us” page knows nothing about your company. So you tell them what your business does, when it was formed, who its founders are/were and what were their inspirations. It only takes a sentence or two. Then you can move on to the awards you’ve won, contracts you’ve secured, green credentials and plans for the future.
They might even be impressed.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Something I was writing made reference to ASTM (an international safety body). Can you find what it stands for without much diving?
Photo: Kristina Flour