Once initial contact has been made, my job is to start crafting questions that delve a bit more into who you are, what you do, or what you make, and more importantly perhaps, why.
No one is closer to your story, your service or product than you, but like anyone else with a busy life, you might not always have the time or leisure to devote time to the deeper questions that underlie the contribution you’re making to the world.
Stage 2 of our process is designed to put that right.
If it’s a pen-portrait you’re looking for, I’ll take what you told me in the initial interview about your past achievements and future aims, and endeavour to write questions that tease out the meaning of both, asking not only what you’ve done, or want to do, but why. This might touch on key events in your past, even back into your childhood — those turning points that changed your life, those early influences that shaped the person you’ve become. All of that is essential in telling a compelling story.
We’ll look at where you are right now, at the moment of writing, and map out a vision of where you’d like to be. Almost like a coaching session, but without the advice part. My aim isn’t to shape what you become, but to chart your progress in a way that both personalises and universalises your story, so that other people can relate to it, engage with it, and draw inspiration from it. Of course, that may well involve highlighting challenges and failures too — to the extent you’re prepared to divulge them — as all these elements add colour and authenticity to your story.
The more effectively we tell your story, the more your future or present employers, clients, stakeholders, friends and family will come to appreciate you — and who knows what opportunities or positive consequences that will give rise to?
However, if it’s a service or a product, such as dog training, translation or organic chocolate, and you’re asking me to write an About page, we’ll begin with a simple formula: to what problem is your service or product the solution?
About pages on any website must be geared towards the client, not towards yourself or your company. Before launching into why you’ve always been passionate about our four-legged friends, languages or melt-in-the-mouth delicacies, we need to address whatever problem the client has related to what you offer — an expansion, if you like, on the Home page of your site.
If you want to share details of your own history, a handy solution is to have a further page detailing your story, with a link at the end of the About section, which encourages people to look further if they really want to know more about you as a person or a company, just like I have on my site.
So my first question encourages you to think about the headache your offer cures. We can call this the “3 a.m. question” — what is the worry that keeps your clients awake in the small hours? And how does your service or product resolve that?
And then we need to go beyond the first answer you come up with each time. Sure, dog training solves an untrained dog problem, but what underlies that? For example, if your client’s dog is untrained, their cushions will be torn to shreds, their carpet sprayed with unwelcome piddle, their neighbours wary, their own sense of control undermined, and above all a whole bunch of insurance claims agents will be ready to pounce the moment their little Fido snaps at someone’s ankles.
Now we’re getting much nearer to the nub of the problem.
Your clients may not articulate all this consciously, but it’s our job to anticipate, to highlight, and to subtly suggest answers to their dilemmas in ways that keep them engaged, increasingly convinced that you’re the solution.
However, that initial question, framing the issue in terms of problems and solutions, is just one way to approach marketing your offer.
There’s another, equally effective strategy we can involve. One that involves the seven deadly sins of yore.
But to learn more about that, you’ll have to tune in next week.