Getting Personal: Making the Most of Your ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ Pages
So what makes you you?
No, you haven’t found yourself as a reluctant guest on Dr. Phil, but business-wise, it’s a legitimate question. To phrase it differently, how has your personality shaped your retail operation? From the type of employees you’re hiring, to the layout of the store, the color choices on the wall, it all comes from you (or perhaps a small team you’ve put together.) No doubt there’s some history to your operation, a history you’re proud of, and one you share in some way with the customers who enter your store.
Also — being you — you don’t hesitate to get personally involved if there’s a question that needs to be answered, advice that needs to be dispensed to some young musician, or a problem that needs to be solved.
While the nuts and bolts of the retail operation are driven by your experience, skill, and intuition, it’s also your personality that makes your store your store. It is your biggest asset. No, this isn’t rocket science … yet why do so few music dealers take advantage of this when it comes to their Web page? Why do so many retailers downplay if not unintentionally hide their greatest strength from their online presence?
The typical independent store owner can feel the big guys have a huge online advantage, but research is showing the opposite is true: buyers still want to make a personal connection, especially with something as emotional as a musical instrument. And exploiting the personality of your store is especially important if you don’t sell online, but just have an “information-only/business card” site. As often quoted in this column, today 70% of customers wanting to buy locally look online first as opposed to looking in the Yellow Pages or at ads in local papers. And this number will continue to increase.
Let’s say someone googles “drumset” and your hometown. Among the choices the prospective buyer has on their screen might be a Best Buy, a Guitar Center, and your store. In addition to selection and price, the one advantage you always have over the others is you — your expertise and your personality.
On the Web site, there’s two ways to exploit this: the “About Us” page and the “Contact Us” page.
As I prowl around on sites, I’m always surprised when a retailer doesn’t have an “About Us” section at all. Or if they do, it offers just a couple of sentences of the generic “founded in 1982, we care about our customers” variety. People looking to buy, looking for someone to trust, frequently click through to this page. It’s the absolute best way to make a personal connection — even if it’s decidedly one-sided.
Best are those Web sites where you truly get a sense of the owner, key employees, and by extension, the store as a whole. Sites that brag about their spouse or kids being involved in the business, or even have a picture of the family dog noting the he’s the “greeter” are appealing. Can they be over-indulgent? Sure, sometimes. But mostly it’s smart marketing.
Here are some things to consider when doing yours:
- First Person. Even if you don’t actually write it, have it written in your voice, using first person. What sounds better: “Smith Music was founded in 1936 …?” Or “My grandfather founded Smith Music in 1936 …” Also, your old high school English teacher Ms. Magillicuddy will not be grading this copy, so when navigating the grey area between the King’s English/grammatically correct speak or an exact transcription of how you actually talk, err on the side of the latter.
- Length. As long as it needs to be, within reason. A retail operation that has a history going back to the early 20th Century deserves as much as five or six paragraphs. One that you founded or bought in the last few decades might only need two or three paragraphs.The advice on this is to write what you want, and let someone you trust (and can take constructive criticism from) edit it for you. If it’s entertaining, and interesting, you can allow yourself some length on this. The great thing about Web sites is that we’re all trained to skim them anyway.
Many experts will add that a good marker in length is keeping it “above the fold,” so that a user will see all the readable content without having to scroll down. I say while that’s good advice, on something like the “About Us” section it’s not a deal-breaker to have to scroll.
- Pictures. A picture of the owner with his family, particularly if they are involved in the business, is just good marketing. Think you have a face made for radio? It’s okay — so do most of your customers. This ain’t a beauty contest.Any historical shots are great to add, too.
- Sense of Humor. Don’t try too hard, but don’t take yourself too seriously, either. Humor is a great way to connect with the online customer. Something self-depreciating, something that makes fun of your own musical ability (or lack thereof) is especially appealing and goes a long way in breaking down the barrier for the uninitiated to music stores and might be intimidated by the idea of going into one.
- Emphasize Community. If you sponsor a music program or festival, if you support a local charity or arts organizing, if every year you donate “x” amount of instruments to the inner city music programs, mention that. (Consider asking your customers to support this, too — or at least offer a link to that site from yours.)Even if I’m not living in your community, it’s good to know you’re active in making yours a better place. And if I am living in your community, it’s going to make it more appealing to do business with you.
There is nothing more important than providing those who visit your site with contact information. Yet so many amateur Web designers or do-it-yourselfers get so distracted with the bells and whistles of it all they inadvertently make the phone number and e-mail address obscure, hard-to-find, or something you have to scroll down for or, worse, go to another page entirely! Phone number and e-mail address should be clean and clear and on every page.
- No Forms. Forms are generally a huge turnoff and when I click-through to e-mail some store and I have to fill out a form, I exit without completing. Research shows I’m hardly alone. No matter how simple you try to make it, you’re losing prospects if you have a form. If you want more information for your mailing list, make that an entirely different page with a “Join our e-mail list for specials and announcements!” headline.Occasionally there is a good reason to choose a form. In these cases, make it a simple one that just requires name and e-mail address, and make sure you tell them that you’re not going to save their data or spam them with e-mail —unless they check the box saying it’s okay.
- One-Click E-mailing. Online shoppers want to click on the E-mail Us local and be ready to write the e-mail. That is the most effective, easiest way to get queries. (Note: it’s always a bit baffling to be on www.Smithsmusic.com, click on the e-mail address, and see that the actual e-mail address is Smithsmusic@sbcglobal.net, or yahoo, or some general domain. It doesn’t make as good impression as a Smith@Smithsmusic.com.)
- Real Names. Use real names. The big guys … Guitar Center, Best Buy … you think I can e-mail the owner? This is a huge advantage for you and a great opportunity to connect to your Web visitors. If I’m on Jack’s Guitar Shack, and I hit e-mail me, and the address comes up Jack@JacksGuitarShack.com, I’m duly impressed.Does this have to be your main e-mail address? Absolutely not. In fact, it doesn’t even have to go to you … have someone else screen them if you need to. But the opportunity for someone to ask a question of the person in charge is the next best thing to someone actually being in your store and able to talk with you one-on-one. Also, this approach says a lot more about who you are than the generic firstname.lastname@example.org or Sales@jacksguitarshack.com type e-mail address.
- Contact Us Page. If your operation is a little bigger, consider a full Contact Us page. (Note: this is in addition to not instead of that E-mail Us that should still be on the top of every page.) If you’re a full-line store, it’s great to have a page that lists your departments, puts a name, two or three sentence bio, a head shot, and the e-mail address for the person in charge. So a “John James has been playing drums since he was nine, and managing our drum department since 1998″ to somebody who has a question about buying his kid a drumset for Christmas makes is more likely to end in a sale then being shy about who you and the people who work for you are.
Customers want it all. Not only price, service, and selection, but a positive, personal shopping experience. And no matter what your competition has, big or small, they aren’t you.