Writing Effective About Us Statements and Why It's Important

This past weekend I attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting. While listening to Warren Buffet and his partner Charlie Munger talk about the business of Berkshire Hathaway and answer shareholder questions for over 5 hours (and 24,000 attendees at the Omaha Qwest Center would have gladly stuck around for another 5 hours - it is that enjoyable) it occurred to me that this "meeting" was probably the best business or human resource conference I have ever attended.

Warren Buffet is known to many as the second wealthiest American and the greatest investor ever, but what is often overlooked, in this Blogger's opinion, is that Mr. Buffet is also one of the greatest CEO's of all time. Whether you run an entire business or manage a department within a business, Mr. Buffet can teach you most everything you need to know about effective management and leadership.

To me, however, Mr. Buffet's most refreshing and impressive skill is his ability to simplify what so many others complicate. This got me thinking about marketing and how so many marketers overcomplicate things. Nowhere is this more evident than a company's About Us statement - the one paragraph description of your business that resides at the end of a press release. Rarely do I read a company's About Us statement and actually understand what the company does.

The About Us statement is important because it quickly describes to a potential customer, business partner or investor what you do, why it's important, and why you should be chosen to do it - your elevator pitch.

Writing an About Us statement forces a marketer to mentally organize how their company and products should be positioned relative to the competition. The process itself is a critical first step in developing your company's messaging and will serve as the foundation for all your marketing copy and in some ways, help define your strategy.

The key questions (in no particular order) that your 3-5 sentence About Us statement should answer include:

(1) Who are you?
(2) What do you sell?
(3) What will it do for me?
(4) How is it different from similar products?
(5) Why should I buy it from you?

I found a great About Us statement the other day from a company called Silanis (see below) and not only does it address four of the five questions listed above (it left out "How is it different from similar products?") but it does so in plain English and without jargon. To test for whether or not your About Us contains jargon, ask yourself if you would talk to someone at a party using the same language in the About Us. While people have a tendency to write in jargon they don't usually speak in jargon.

About Silanis
Founded in 1992, Silanis Technology Inc. is the largest and most experienced provider of electronic signature solutions. More than 1,100 government and commercial organizations, representing two million users, depend on Silanis’ solutions to accelerate operations, improve service, and reduce costs. The company’s solutions not only eliminate the inefficiencies of paper, they provide reliable and auditable business records needed to demonstrate compliance with applicable laws, standards, regulations and policies.

Within your About Us statement, your company's positioning statement will arise which should be reinforced at every customer contact point - in your collateral, on your web site, in a sales presentation, etc. You know you have succeeded when your company is immediately associated with the product category and trait/feature you wish to be associated with.

For example, when I say "automobile" and "safety", you probably think Volvo. When I say "payroll processing" and "small business", many of you will think Paychex. One of the most common mistakes marketers make in the human resources space is with messaging and positioning. They overcomplicate things with jargon and/or have a flavor of the day mentality with a new campaign theme every couple of months. Over time, this confuses buyers and costs you a bundle. So go ahead and take a critical look at your About Us statement and then make sure the key messaging is consistently applied throughout your marketing and PR initiatives.

By the way, for a fun read on a related topic, creating elevator pitches, see a great article titled Wise Words written by Sean Wise.