Why does ‘About Us’ have to be so dull?


Let’s be honest, the ‘About Us’ part of the agency presentation, pitch or website is rarely one to get a client’s heart racing. Frankly, it’s usually the point at which the client tends to glaze over or is struck by how similar it is to three other agencies they’ve just seen.

That may seem a little harsh but there is some evidence to back this up. At Up to the Light we are continually interviewing clients on behalf of design agencies and our ‘What Clients Think 2017’ report based on 455 client interviews shows that many agencies are failing to communicate their difference.

So what are clients looking for and how can you make ‘About Us’ work harder?

Firstly, clearly communicate your core competency. From our client interviews, we know that most clients want to quickly understand what the agency is best at. I’ve never heard a client say, ‘What I really like about the agency is their totally holistic approach and the way in which they connect every brand touchpoint…’ Instead, they tend to say, ‘This agency is very strategic’, ‘This agency is strong at e-commerce’ or ‘That agency is great at conceptual thinking and design’. Clients tend to talk about and categorise agencies in terms of core competency, so don’t shroud that or make the client work too hard to find out. Define what you are best at, then communicate that quickly and simply.

What you are best at doesn’t have to be limited to a particular discipline. After all, many agencies are multi-disciplinary. It’s about nailing where and how you really shine. This could be more about the way you think or how you approach a problem.

Secondly, tell them your story not just the facts. What did you think was important when you set up? What is still important? Then it becomes an explanation of your agency’s DNA and values, not just a history lesson. In effect, you are answering a more fundamental question – why are you in business? This tends to really get under the skin of who you are and what is important to you. If you think of your own agency as a brand, this is the emotional part. It’s an important way in which you will stand out and be remembered.

Thirdly, position yourselves correctly for the clients you want to win. Most agencies want to win larger, meatier projects from bigger brands with bigger budgets but are not always conveying the messages that reassure and impress this audience. These clients don’t just want to see great creative work and get a feeling that you are dynamic, enthusiastic and good to work with. Those things are all important but, first and foremost, they are seeking answers to big strategic questions – How can the brand attract younger consumers without alienating the core audience? How can we make the brand’s heritage work harder? How can we break into a new market sector?

Whatever it is, they want to know if you are an agency capable of helping them answer their big strategic question. Any doubt about this will be a reason to rule you out. Remember that early in the buying process clients are looking for reasons to reject you, just as much as they are looking for reasons to select you.

How you introduce and talk about the agency right at the start is vital in helping to position you as a consultant, not just an agency that takes a brief. For example, it is very difficult to persuade a client to spend money on strategy further down the line if you haven’t conveyed the right messages early on. Once perceptions are set, they are hard to shift.

Fourthly, don’t be so predictable. There are more imaginative ways to convey information without defaulting to industry standard methods. Design agencies, of all people, should know this. However, most effort is generally put in to making the work look great, whereas ‘About Us’ tends to resort to more expected communication devices. A classic example is the client logos slide which features in 9 out of 10 agency presentations. It shows the range of clients that the agency works with. Unfortunately, 25 other agencies work with Vodafone, BP, Unilever or Barclays. In clients’ eyes, the slide has become wallpaper. How do you make the names of your clients mean something again and have greater impact? Similarly, are you just bullet pointing facts about the agency or also explaining how those facts are an advantage?

As an industry, we prefer to talk about our clients’ challenges rather than ourselves. This is understandable but we surely need to apply the same level of brand thinking to our own agency as we do to our clients’ brands.