My Interview with the enormously intelligent, yet practical, internet marketing superstar, Ana Hoffman.
There are lot’s of smart people out there. There are lot’s of funny people out there. There are lot’s of very attractive people out there. There are lot’s of people out there who like the color pink.
But rarely do you come across anyone who has ALL of those qualities.
I introduce you to Ana Hoffman.
I stumbled on Ana Hoffman as a result of a guy mentioning in a Google+ post, that it was glad to have Ana back.
I had to see for myself why it was so good to have Ana back.
So I went to her website, Traffic Generation Cafe.
Well folks, if you go Ana’s website and you are not struck by a bolt of lightening like I was, then you are probably not going to enjoy this post.
If however, within a short amount of time, it is obvious to you why he was so happy to have Ana back, then read on.
I checked her website out. I read a few of her blog articles. I even downloaded her guide and signed up for her alerts.
I paid close attention to the enormous amount of engagement she has on both her blog and social media sites, and concluded, as any person with an average level of intelligence would, that Ana Hoffman knows what she is doing.
I like to dig deep though. I don’t fall in love at first “site”. I am not into worshipping idols at all. No. There is something remarkably different about Ana.
Ana is very grounded. She also has a very interesting story that everyone who tries and fails can learn from and relate to.
She doesn’t preach. She educates. She is not a snob. She is an activist. She wants to help people succeed. How does she do it? By sifting through volumes of information to present to us the most useful tidbits of insight that truly, directly, can impact our own lives and our business.
She, like the other good ones, is a giver. She gives a tremendous amount of herself and it shows in all of her work.
If you want to get more out of your online marketing efforts, she is a great source of useful and practical advice.
So naturally, I wanted to interview her.
With some time, a slight sense of humor, and a lot of publicly humiliating stalking, she finally responded to my questions.
Interview with Ana Hoffman
On your website, you indicate that you moved from Russia to the US, to “climb the corporate” ladder. What type of work did you do at the time?
I was fresh out of college when I was offered to work for import/export company that did a lot of business in Russia. They needed a Russian-speaking liaison in their U.S. office in Boulder, CO and I fit the bill.
I worked as a transportation manager for them for a year, overseeing international and domestic container shipments, as well as fetched coffee on command. I suppose I liked working with coffee a lot more than containers; Traffic Generation Café definitely reflects that affinity for restless mind and shaky hands that caffeine brings.
What do you miss about Russia the most?
The sense of belonging. I always feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole everywhere else, but home.
What happened in the course of pursuing that “dream” that derailed you or at least caused you to reconsider your aspiration to climb the ladder?
Whenever I worked for someone else, I always saw better ways to do something than they did, which wasn’t always welcomed. Of course, there’s a strong possibility I was actually wrong, but one thing I knew for sure: I wasn’t born to be an employee.
My next career move was in the right direction: I got married. Turned out I was very good at letting my wonderful husband of now 17 years to be the head, while I didn’t mind to be the neck in our marriage.
So, I’ve often thought of being a model myself…LOL…just kidding. What did you like about modeling?
My ego was stroked just the right way.
How did you get into modeling? Did you think of it on your own, or did someone tell you to try it?
Apparently, beautiful Russian Goddesses are in short supply around here, so opportunities to model fell onto my lap. Later on, I took a more professional route, got an agent, and stuck with it for a couple of years or so.
Did your experience modeling give you any skills that you would later apply to become an online sensation?
Yes, it gave me all the professional photos I needed to jump start my blogging career while my content wasn’t ready to speak for itself. Oh wait, is it still going on?
How did you feel about yourself and life in general during the period you and your husband were without employment? What type of angst did you experience and how did you fight through it?
Just as I was having fun, you hit me with something like this. Maybe, I should quit while I am ahead…
They say that God doesn’t give us anything beyond what we can bear. Watching my husband losing his sense of value as a provider for the family was painful. Our daughter was barely 2 months old when it happened, which put even more pressure on us.
How did we handle it? We prayed. A lot. We cried. And we waited.
While you were “trying to make it to no avail” what were you trying to make it doing?
Starting an online business without knowing anything about starting an online business is a recipe for disaster and I was no gourmet cook back then. Two failed MLM businesses later, I finally started to learn the marketing ropes.
What do you think contributed most to your lack of success? What were you really bad at?
I didn’t have the knowledge or personality to stand out. Now I have plenty enough of both – for better or worse, as some would say.
What types of changes did you make to actually start seeing better results?
I dropped my business and started reading everything I could about marketing.
Once I got my first original marketing idea based on what I’d learned, I knew I was ready to try again and Traffic Generation Café was born.
How do you think you could improve today?
Learning is still just as important as teaching; I need to find more time to continue learning from others. (anyone’s got an app to double the day hours?)
What do you do to make the improvements?
Add them to my to-do list. Maybe one day I’ll get to them.
Soaking up all the Google+ wisdom does help. Iron sharpens iron, right?
What are your goals for your business? To out cute the rest of us, to dominate the world of online marketing consultants or to just be more awesome than you were yesterday?
Is this a multiple choice question? Is there an “All of the above” option?
My main goal is to not make any money from my business. I work very hard on that. As a matter of fact, I think I might be allergic to money unless my husband makes it.
Other than that, working away from being the Jane of All Trades to the Master of One (traffic generation) is what my days are all about. It’s good to be the Master whatever the pay, right?
Your writing style is awesome. Have you always been a good writer? If not, how did you find your voice? If so, where did you learn to express your voice so effectively?
I always hated writing. Hated it. Almost flunked out of college because of it. What business did I have starting a blog if I hated to write so much, you ask? I still ask myself that question everyday.
When I first started blogging, my personality was non-existent. Null and void. It’s like I felt compelled to write the most boring posts I could come up with.
Then something happened. I’ll use one of my posts to describe it:
It’s the middle of the night and I hear “click, click, click, click…”
I say “What’s going on?”
He says “The light is not working.”
I say “It’s because the light bulb is burnt out.”
“…click, click, click, click…”
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein
Wondering why your blog is as silent as a graveyard at midnight?
You write, and write, and write some more, you comment on other blogs, you network, you promote, promote, promote….
Maybe it’s time to stop flipping the switch and replace the burnt out bulb?
Excerpt from Conduct Unbecoming a Dull Writer
I realized that taking the same approach to blogging as to writing an academic paper wasn’t working and it was time to replace the burnt out bulb.
I started writing my blog posts as I’d want to read them – no fluff, actionable, bullet-point to-the-point type of writing with an occasional joke here and there. Turned out that was exactly what my readers wanted.
I suppose being ourselves is not a bad thing at all, assuming we actually know who we are.
Are you as bubbly in person as your marketing copy makes you seem?
If “bubbly” and “mean” are the same, then yes.
It takes one to know one, right? Even now, as I am responding to your questions, I am writing it for you alone because I know you’ll get a kick out of my answers.
But your readers? Will they be just as amused and want to get more of the good stuff at Traffic Generation Café or will they decide they had enough of my sarcasm and snobbism after the first two sentences? That’s the risk all personalities have to take – not everyone will like us, and that’s OK.
Do you think anyone can be successful with online engagement in social media, or does it take a certain personality type? If so, what does someone who has a crappy personality do to get better results?
Defeat crappy personality with exceptional knowledge. Not everyone is cut out to be the class clown, but if you decide to speak up on social media or anywhere else, you’d better have something good to say.
Now, combine crappy personality and not-so-bright content and any social media efforts will be a doozy; might as well quit now or forever hear me say “I told you so”.
Why is it so important to establish a niche?
To stand out and have a chance to prove that YOU are the best expert on the subject.
Within a niche, why is it so important to create personas?
To stand out and have a chance to prove that YOU are the most fun AND best expert on the subject.
Why is it important, in your mind, to Blog, particularly for those who are not affiliate marketers but instead sell a service delivered offline?
I think you gave the best answer in your G+ post:
So, like any homeowner who wants to rid their home of filthy rodents, I went to Lowes to buy some devices to trap my little scary friend. There I was, standing in front of a shelf at Lowes. Many options to choose from. One stood out as something that might save me the terror down the road. It was a device I could place in various places in my home that sends out a sound that mice apparently don’t find tasteful. So what did I do right away? I pulled out my iPhone and searched for REVIEWS!!!
No offline business is really offline any longer. Before anyone buys, they’ll research, and you better be there when they do. Blogging is the best mechanism to do that.
When you write, who are you writing to? Is it a person or do you write to a “group”?
The only one I know well enough to write good content for is myself. I edit myself without mercy. If I don’t like it, I don’t publish it.
Pretending we know what others might/might not like is like tossing a coin – I don’t like the chances. The best we can do is to write the best we can and then hope our best is good enough.
Can you offer some advice about the notion that you can only blog if you have original thoughts?
I don’t think you need to have original thoughts as much as an original way to present them to your readers.
Take my Weekly Marketing Skinnies. There’s nothing original about the content; they are just bits of marketing news I come across throughout the week. However, as far as I know, I am the only one who sorts out the ones that actually make a difference to us, busy business owners, puts them together in a post once a week, and delivers them to your inbox every Saturday just in time for your morning coffee.
Plenty of other blogs write about web traffic generation. However, my readers come to Traffic Generation Café because they can actually understand and use my blog post takeaway in their businesses today – something that can’t be said for a lot of blogs out there.
What is more important, having a unique voice, or providing useful content?
You can have the most original thoughts, yet no one would never know about them because boring = useless in our minds; it’s a reality.
It takes a unique voice to promote content. It takes useful content to back up the promotion. If you are looking for a quick sale, then the former will do. If you want to build a long-term business, having both is priceless.
Otimo’s clients are predominantly professional service providers including dentists, accountants, lawyers and a few consultants. Can you provide three reasons why a knowledge professional MUST be marketing on the internet?
Now I see why you asked me to do this interview: you wanted me to convince your clients they need you! I see your tricks…
1. Online is the new offline.
2. If your potential clients are there, why aren’t you?
3. And if you are not there, your competitors will be more than happy to take care of that business for you.
Why might Google + be better for a professional than Facebook?
It really depends on your goals; one size doesn’t fit all.
I’d say G+ is a must for ANY business. Google+ IS Google and, in many ways, might be the cornerstone of your search engine rankings – not to be ignored.
Facebook might be useful for referral traffic IF your target audience is there. However, your best bet to be seen and heard there would be to open up your wallet and market through FB ads.
You use video to some degree. Is there an advantage to using video from a website traffic perspective?
Different people prefer to consume content differently: some prefer to read, some prefer to listen. By providing video/audio formats in addition to your posts, you ensure that more and more people will actually consume your content and convert into customers.
Of course, YouTube can be a traffic source of its own.
Do you use video for traffic, or for engagement once people arrive on your page?
Both, depending on how much effort I want to put into making a video and how much time I want to put into promoting it to actually drive traffic.
How do you feel about paying top dollar for SEO, but not a penny for conversion optimization?
Dumb. I’d spend my money on traffic conversion before spending a penny of it on traffic – whatever the source. Unless of course the actual results, like conversions, sales, growing bank account, etc. don’t actually matter.
Is there SEO without good content?
Not in the long run. Sure you might be able to rank a site with poor/mediocre content, but only if you are willing to continuously build such sites as Google continues to take them down.
One authority site with outstanding content will beat ten mediocre ones at the end of the day.
Thank you Ana Hoffman for taking the time to share your story, thoughts and ideas with us!
Well there you have it. Takeaways for me, and I hope for you:
- Develop a Niche – You will stand out better. Once you become known for your expertise in a certain area, you can start to explore expanding into other areas of expertise.
- You don’t need original ideas to be a great blogger. You need an original way of expressing and presenting ideas.
- When you blog, write like you talk – Conversational is better in a blog than formal writing.
- If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you need to develop one. Over the long term, content is going to be more valuable to your online marketing efforts than SEO tactics.
- Even the greats have tried and failed, which is how they became so great. Don’t stop fighting even when you think you can’t go on.
- No matter what, constantly learn. Read as much as you can. Follow the experts. But never stop improving.
More Resources from Ana:
Follow Ana – I do, and I get a ton out of it.