Episode 193 - Anne Holland, Which Test Won and Subscription Site Insider
Pimp your button, work that line... Tune in for some A/B Split Test Fun Facts!
Anne Holland has reinvented herself in a new publishing venture for B2B niche news.
Two of her first hot categories include Which Test Won and Subscription Site Insider. More coming soon as she builds a new empire of great insider information for making money online and offline in emerging categories.
This is an episode loaded like a baked potato at an all you can eat buffet on the way to a fat farm... Goooood stuff and extra creamy!
We talk about copy writing for contemporary applications like landing pages instead of old direct mail newsletters and Anne shares a secret tip that I just used to write 100 headlines.
She also talks about the laws that changed in trials and free offers and how to lower credit card declines and membership site churn rate.
Anne also shared her best advice about selling one company and starting another and what it was like to live in Nepal.
Anne is an amazing woman with a ton of great insight. This episode will rock your world.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Anne Holland. If you don’t already know her, she’s legendary in the industry. Anne is the founder and president of Anne Holland Ventures, which is a media company that publishes websites including Which Test Won, my new favorite website, and Subscription Site Insider, which is fabulous if you run a subscription or membership website, which of course we do. Anne is essentially a B2B niche news publisher. I think you’re really going to like some of the things we’re talking about with subscription services and landing page and website conversion optimizations. So lets welcome her to DishyMix. Hi Anne.
Anne Holland: Hi Susan. Great to be here.
Susan Bratton: It’s so great to have you here. And you and I have known each other for 150,000 years.
Anne Holland: We knew each other in offline publishing, it’s that long.
Susan Bratton: I know. Before the internet, a couple of old broads pre-internet. And you have recently made a switch. Most people would know you as being the founder of Marketing Sherpa, yet you have sold that company and you’ve started your new company, Anne Holland Ventures, where you’re publishing these niche B2B sites. The first thing I want to do is just get, you know, in case people didn’t know, “Oh my god, Anne Holland’s not with Marketing Sherpa anymore.” I’d love for you to just quickly tell the story about how you created that business, why you decided to get out of it, what your exist strategy was and then what you decided to do now and why. Just, you know, a short kind of compressed version of that because a lot of people who listen to DishyMix have their own companies and they’re thinking about their exit strategy, and so your story is really valuable to them.
Anne Holland: Cool! Well I came, just like you, from offline publishing, from print publishing and business to business. And around 1999 I went crazy in all those committee meetings everybody had about “What should we do on the internet?” And I just got fed up with, in corporate America, waiting for people to do things. So I went out and started up my own online publishing company, Marketing Sherpa, and it was incredibly exciting but it was incredibly broad. I mean we were going to be all research about everything to do with marketing, which was an amazing thing to found, but I think it was so huge and became bigger than I could cope with I think as an entrepreneur. So I sold it to a group of experienced investors who were good at handling, you know, larger companies, growing it to that next level. I think a lot of us as entrepreneurs have a certain level that we’re good at operating at. Maybe you don’t want to have more than 20 employees. Once I hit about 20 employees that was enough for me. And so I took a couple of years off, but you know, when I sold I was 45. I mean it’s just too young to retire. It’s just, you know, went around the world. I lived in Nepal for a while. I had a great time but, you know, I had to get back into it. So contacted the people I sold the company to, reassured them I wasn’t going to do anything competitive, got everyone’s okay and went out and started Holland Ventures. This time around I am doing it differently. I’m using the lessons I learned from last time around. One of them is don’t pick a topic that’s so huge that you’ve got to grow the world’s biggest media company to cover it. So we’re publishing, as you said, really niche. We’re really focused, focused, focused. Each product is extremely focused. We’ve got about five on the launch pad, two of which have already launched as you mentioned, Which Test Won, which is a, those are journalists who write about nothing but conversion rate optimization by using AB split testing and multivariate testing for web pages and email. And then the other publication that we’ve already launched is Subscription Site Insider, which is strictly for online publishers who want to improve their profitability of their pay wall, of their subscription offerings or of their paid membership offerings. So it’s a very, again, those are both real niche and that’s been very exciting.
Susan Bratton: You know, it’s funny because both of those things are like business porn to me, because they’re so directly related to my revenue. We don’t do multivariate, but we do AB split, landing page, headline, ad copy, you name it. All the time, like everyday we’re looking at those numbers. And we sell subscriptions in our business and, you know, we sell like lifetime buyouts, we do monthly, you know, up fronts, we’ve tried many different things. And it seems like you hit on two really key areas of both growth and very vital business mechanics. What other sites, I don’t know if you can tell me what other sites you’re working on or what other things you looked at or what things you wish you could do you but you though, “Oh maybe a little too big or a little off,” but what’s right in that ballpark as well like that?
Anne Holland: We definitely, my business partner and I – and by the way this time around the first thing I did was recruit a really good COO/CFO instead of being like the queen of my own company. I brought in high level partners from the start so I wouldn’t exhaust myself and be able to grow better, and I think that’s a really smart thing. Doing it as the solo founder the first time around was too exhausting. But this time around we made a list of rules around what would be worth a launch, and we said the industry that we launch in has to be growing at least 7% a year during a recession. If it wasn’t a recession we’d probably make it more aggressive than that. It has to have, you know, a certain typical sized company. We’re looking at industries that tend to have, companies where they tend to have often under a hundred employees or it’s a division of a larger company but it’s under a hundred employees, and they tend to have a serious pain point. They kind of definitely practical hands on research based information to help with their job right now. So we’re looking for an industry with a pain point and we do a lot of market research. And we call up people in industries, we take them out to lunch, we ask them about their pain and then we decide whether or not we can build an editorial product that meets that pain. So we don’t say, “Ooh, we’d like to write about this,” and then go out and try to sell it afterwards.
Susan Bratton: How do you figure out that conversion optimization as an industry or a subset of a business has 7% growth or more?
Anne Holland: It’s astonishing. You know, when we first started looking we were blown away by how many companies both on the technology side – you know, AB testing platforms and tools – and also on the agency side – consultants and agencies – have begun in the past 24 months to offer this service. There are 31 AB testing and multivariate testing tools, that have any kind of, it’s incredible. That’s a lot.
Susan Bratton: Where there is an explosion of tools and companies trying to solve a problem there is an editorial opportunity.
Anne Holland: Yeah, absolutely.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it totally makes sense. Going just back, I want to finish off on my original question to, I don’t want to move into the other, you know, the finite things that we’re going to talk about yet. I really wanted to get any other pieces of advice that you have. You said, you know, getting a good COO/CFO person to support you, not trying to do it all yourself, getting a niche, having rules for a decision based role practice for your company, those are some things. Are there other things that you did right or did wrong in hindsight that you could share with us about building and selling and starting another business?
Anne Holland: I think be really careful with your non-compete and be really respectful of your non-compete. I don’t, I’m a very ethical person and I want to make sure that not only have I abided by the terms of my contract but the people I left behind are provided for and they don’t feel like I’m going out there trying to beat them or anything. I think you need to go and find a new niche. Go and find a new thing for your self to do. Don’t just start up the next one and compete with them. I think that’s important. The other thing is really think through the technology. Chances are if you are a repeat entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, that technology online has changed radically since the last time you started a company. Even if, you know, I started my company in the year 2000 and we were constantly upgrading that site, but in the, you know, 18 months since I had left technology had changed so much that when I came back it was a whole different batch of vendors we had to evaluate and a different batch of stuff we had to evaluate. So you need a really strong tech team and you have to know what’s available out there. The great thing, as you know, is it’s all cheaper every day.
Susan Bratton: Well I noticed that for your subscription sites, Subscription Site Insider, you don’t actually use Word Press. You use some kind of a subscription site software that I doubt gives you the flexibility of something like Word Press, so there must have been a decision for you to go with that. What’s that think you use? I don’t remember the name of it.
Anne Holland: We are on a Member Gate platform for [inaudible]…
Susan Bratton: Member Gate, that’s it.
Anne Holland: Yeah. We are launching a Word Press one as well, and we’re launching a couple of other platforms. So we’re launching on several platforms, partly because editorially it’s our job to tell you which platform is best. So if we’re not testing them we don’t know. Now Word Press is great as a content management system, but there’s a lot of other pieces that you need to run a successful subscription site.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, security is probably an issue, probably a number one issue for you.
Anne Holland: Right, there’s a lot of marketing reports, marketing optimization. There’s digital security DRM, Digital Rights Management. There are all sorts of personalization things or unique things you want to do with your barrier pages. We actually have a chart in our site that shows you all the different pieces that actually plug into what you might just think is the site. I mean there’s so many different factors you have to consider and so many different technologies that will have to be added, that you may not go with Word Press. There’s a lot of considerations. We’ve done a bunch of editorial around it, so…
Susan Bratton: So lets dive right into Which Test Won. You are so good you prepared for this episode. Thank you. You have some AB split test fun facts, woo! Okay, we’re nerding out Anne. I love it though. So tell me, I think you’re going to tell us some AB fun facts for headlines, form design, image tests, buttons, so share what you have.
Anne Holland: Oh cool. I just sort of dug up some of my favorite tests of all time. If you go to Which Test One we’ve got a whole library of all these tests with the creed and then the results, and it’s really fun to go through. [Inaudible].
Susan Bratton: Well it’s also fun because you get to go to whichtestwon.com and vote on what you think the winner is and test your knowledge about how much you know about spotting a better and best landing page design as an example. And, you know, I get about 80% of them right. I don’t get them all right, but I was really, it was actually really nice for me to go and play with your site and see how I did, to know what my gut, how’s my gut test, you know. This is what I work on every day, these kinds of things. So I’ve really enjoyed it and I like to see where I didn’t get it right and what I didn’t understand. So it’s a real learning tool in the way you’ve set it up. It’s brilliant.
Anne Holland: Thank you. Well one of my favorite tests – ‘cause, like, I think every woman on the planet loves shoes – one of my favorite tests of all time was a test where an ecommerce site, they’re called Front Line Shop, they’re a pretty big German ecommerce site, they tested if they have a big image of a shoe that you’re looking at as an online shopper, should the background be black or white? I mean and you would think that’s just not going to make a difference. But they actually, the winning one – and I won’t tell you which one it is, you can go look it up – but the winning one had a 39% higher Add To Cart. So it was 39% more consumers clicked that Add To Cart button for the winning background color. It was the exact same shoe.
Susan Bratton: You’re not going to tell us? Oh, you have to tell us. You have to tell us. We’ll go to the site.
Anne Holland: All right, it was the black. The black background.
Susan Bratton: The black one. Gosh, I was really wrestling.
Anne Holland: Which, you know, nobody uses black.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Anne Holland: It was fun. There was another one that just blew me away. If you’re into lead generation online this is a test that I just, I’ve seen it for several different marketers do it and I’ve, it just kills me every time. Deciding whether your form fields and your lead generation form should be required or not. You know, and often people are like, “Well just make it required because we need it.” Well there’s was actually, it was a company called Sterling, they sell training for Adobe software, things like that, so it’s a business to business company. They had a lead generation landing page for their company. And they tested all required versus all not required form fields. They got a 31% lead generation lift, so 31% more leads from the exact same traffic by not requiring any of the fields. And – this is the crazy part – the leads that they got were more qualified.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that’s fascinating. Yeah, okay.
Anne Holland: That’s right.
Susan Bratton: They don’t want you to make them do anything. They want you to be a partner not a pusher.
Anne Holland: That’s a really great way of putting it. One of my absolute favorite stories of all time is it’s about a company called Profile Pimp, which if you are a teenage girl apparently you’ve heard of them. You can pimp out your Facebook page. And they had a multivariate test that they ran where they had a landing page and it had a very large button on it. And they said – a very large response button – “What if we make it gargantuan? What if we like take that button and like let it live next to a nuclear reactor and blow it up?” It was the biggest button I’ve ever seen in my life. And nothing else, I mean a few other things on the page changed and we do have some data on that, but really the button was the big factor. They got 135% higher click through rate with the bigger button.
Susan Bratton: I can see website pages now being like a button.
Anne Holland: Nuke your button.
Susan Bratton: Nuke your button. Pimp your button.
Anne Holland: Pimp, there you go. I think a lot of the time people just, you know, they’re worrying, they ask me, they’re like, “What color should it be? What should it say,” and I’m like, “How about just make it bigger?” It’s a pretty simple thing.
Susan Bratton: You have one more test don’t you? I love these. These are super fun.
Anne Holland: You mentioned you love headline and copy tests and I love copy tests too, partly ‘cause they’re so easy. You know, you don’t have to like redesign the page or get the web department involved often. You can just write the copy yourself and, you know, change a headline. So simple and such a huge difference in conversion rate. Those copy tests just prove words really matter. One of my favorite ones was recently there’s a website called Free People. It’s Australian and New Zealand ecommerce site. And they try to headline, it was Shop Summer Sale as opposed to Stock Up On Sale.
Susan Bratton: I saw that one.
Anne Holland: Mm hmm, mm hmm. I guessed it wrong. I got that one completely wrong. 49% of consumers bought something when they saw the headline Shop Summer Sale. 49% more consumers bought something for Shop Summer Sale. Stock Up On Sale just not the winner. And that would be the one I voted for, but obviously I’m not in the demographic.
Susan Bratton: Well it makes sense because if it’s a summer sale you’re going to get a deal. If it’s a stock up sale it’s more like a thing you have to do. It’s like taking care of business rather than it being an impulsive pleasure.
Anne Holland: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: So it really makes sense to me, especially for that website. I saw that one.
Anne Holland: Mm hmm. Yeah.
Susan Bratton: So copywriting, you know, you talked about, “Well you can just go rewrite headlines yourself,” which is a really nice thing. But where do you go to learn the skill, the craft of copywriting for headlines, for landing pages? Who do you recommend that you think is really good? Because one of the things that I notice about the kind of classic copywriting people, you know, the people that came out of direct marketing that are heralded as these, you know, these big famous copywriters, three things I noticed. One, I feel like their style is from a different era. Two, I think that there content is overwrought, overwritten, too cute, too clever, too whatever, like copy for copies sake. And number three, I feel like they’re just out of touch with the reality of what it takes to communicate to people on the internet in 2011. And so where do you go? Who do you follow? Or how if you want to learn to be an excellent copywriter, what are the resources?
Anne Holland: You know, actually, I… I agree with you first of all. I think we’ve both had that same gut feeling. But I have discovered two things. I’ve done a lot of case study and research into this and I have discovered that kind of what we have considered the old fashioned style of head writing, copywriting tends actually still to work in certain demographics. And so what really matters about copy is not who your copywriter is so much as who the demographic is. The demographics that still really tend to respond well to that old fashioned, often fairly lengthy copy tend to be people who are buying personal finance products in particular – older men looking at like personal, you know, stock investing tip newsletters.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s a considered purchase, they want a lot of copy.
Anne Holland: And they often want that style of copy. It may be an older demographic as well. So it does appeal to them very much. So if I was going to sell like Susan Bratton’s, you know, Hot Investing Tips newsletter for $800 a year I’d probably go out and hire that copywriter to do it. Also the How To Get Rich On The Internet folks tend to use that style, and it does tend to work for them. It is a very specific demographic though. And what I’ve found is a lot of people who entered internet marketing from that demographic, they kind of found out about online marketing through sort of the Get Rich On The Internet type lessons and stuff, they tend to think that’s the kind of copy you have to do to sell things on the internet. Well no; that’s the kind of copy you have to do if you’re selling stock investing tips or get rich quick tips. It’s not the right copy for practically anything else. So it really is by demographic. One of the ways you can see what works well for copying your demographic is social media. I mean this is where social media rocks, because you’re going in and in particular looking at the comments on popular blogs. I’m not looking necessarily at the blog itself so much as what the conversation is from my prospects on that blog – what are the words they’re using, what are the pain points they’re expressing, and maybe which blog posts or articles. Get them going. You know, they’re going nuts discussing it as opposed to which, they’re like, “Whatever,” there’s one or two posed comments. That gives me my most powerful keywords and it gives me my most powerful pain points. It tells me, “Ooh, what’s going to really get them going in this marketplace.” So go in, look at the marketplace. You know, in the old days you had to do a focus group. You know, that’s still a great idea and, you could even do online focus groups now using video chat and stuff. But first of all your first step is, you know, go out there and look in the social media for what the target demographic really is discussing really is the words they’re really using.
Susan Bratton: Okay, I have to tell you that you’re right, according to Susan Bratton. But what I just did, I just wrote this weekend, I wrote a hundred headlines and subheads for an ad campaign for one of our programs, which is called The Seduction Trilogy, that helps men understand how women want to be connected with and talk to – especially guys that are already in relationship, so that they can do the right things that will make a difference and draw her toward him. And I went onto some different forums and, like Ask Men had a blog post on it, and I read, you know, the 400 comments, and I was able to generate so many great headlines to test just reading the comments from people about living in sexless marriages essentially. And my favorite headlines that I really hope do well are the ones about the wife likes her dog better than she likes you, Wife Treats Dog Better Than You, like those were a series of my headlines, and I found this great image of this really hot beautiful blonde in profile holding up this hideously ugly dog and giving it a kiss, and I hope they do really well. But that’s exactly what I did. Like you go to learn copywriting because it’s, essentially what they call it in information products is an Ask Survey. You ask your customers to comment on something, and then you take the words they use to describe their problem and you put it in your copy. It’s the same thing as going to a forum or a social media site or whatever I’m looking at the comments. So…
Anne Holland: Great.
Susan Bratton: I’m with you on that. That is great. But there still are some rules around copywriting, I think some standard rules that use psychology, you know, neuro whatever. So where would you go if you went beyond that? Is there anyone who’s teaching these skills in a more contemporary way that you like?
Anne Holland: You know, I don’t know. I’m sorry.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, that’s fine. It’s fine. Yeah.
Anne Holland: That’s not one I cover.
Susan Bratton: Well so I think there’s a market opportunity there, right, ‘cause I think there’s a disconnect in the marketplace between the old school copywriters and the new era of web design and optimization, conversion optimization.
Anne Holland: Mm hmm. That makes sense.
Susan Bratton: Maybe that’s your next website.
Anne Holland: I was wondering if we could quickly talk, I have a couple of concerns that I’d like to bring up…
Susan Bratton: Tell me.
Anne Holland: for anyone who is doing a pay walled site or a…
Susan Bratton: Yes. Oh right, I really want to talk about your subscription site. So it’s Subscription Site Insider. It’s a fantastic site. So there were some things that I wanted to talk about, but you go first.
Anne Holland: There are two major concerns that I have right now because we do a weekly case study of a new site every week or a subscription or pay walled site and we look into their whole business. And of course we’re constantly talking to subscription site and membership site owners and publishers on the phone. And we’ve discovered kind of there’s a huge lack of knowledge out there right now about two things that are absolutely going to be affecting your business, and they’re actually not marketing things. These are business operational things, but if you don’t know about this stuff it’s going to bite you and it really worries me. First of all, credit card decline rates. You have to be, if you’re on any type of auto renewal or if you’re doing like a free trial and “We’ll charge your card later” kind of classic offer – and that’s the basis of a lot of this industry are those two things, auto renew or the other or both – you have to be aware that credit card decline rates have gone rocketing up in the past two years due to a wide variety of factors, fraud, card changes, debit card use – heavy, heavy debit card use – all sort of, you know, account level changes, peoples ceilings have come down, whole bunch of different reasons why now 30%, as much as 30% of average credit card, you know, when you’re pinging credit cards if your members, are going to be declined. And it’s huge. It used to be something like 5%. I mean it’s just gargantuan now. It’s a big huge problem for the entire industry ‘cause it’s affecting your profits. You can’t just let your account just sort of sit there and try to figure it out; you have to get actively involved. There are specific proven tactics that you can take to work on improving your decline rate. There’s a lot of good tools to help, and we do have a whole section on the site about that, but it’s super important. You should be measuring it, you should be looking at it, you should be working to improve that because frankly if I would look at any membership or pay walled site, that’s the number one place I’d look to improve my profits. I would just go in and look at my credit card processing operations and do a little work there.
Susan Bratton: What kind of work can you do? ‘Cause I always feel like it’s, you know, if a persons card is no good or, you know, that kind of thing, what do you do? You just resubmit it and hope it goes through the second time, but…
Anne Holland: Uh huh.
Susan Bratton: you’re saying there are things you can do?
Anne Holland: Yeah. No, if you just do that you could actually end up looking like a bad guy merchant to some of the account processors. They don’t like people who just continually resubmit bad account numbers. They want to see you using appropriate measures t get these cards fixed. There’s actually services that you can sign up for that will fix all the card numbers on your file, you know, give them new expired dates if someone’s changed card Id’s, you know, maybe they switch from Visa Gold to Visa Platinum or something. They’ll fix all those numbers for you, and it’s a rate per fix. It’s wonderful. There’s also specific steps that you can take around expire dates. I mean very, very specifically, here’s how you work with your merchant account to change expire dates, to experiment with expire dates, to get the expired cards to still go through. There are also processes that you can go through with our email auto responders, even with telemarketing to these people. There’s a lot of different things that you can do. Most major subscriptions sites, I mean whether it’s, you know, the Wall Street Journal, American Express Publishing, you know, all the big subscription sites, they have, most of those people have a monthly credit card processing meeting and the people in that meeting generally are the general manager, the publisher, the accounting department and the retention or renewal marketer. So you need someone from the marketing end, someone from the operations end and they’re all sitting in there working on this, watching this, fixing it.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it is the stream of money. You have to have your boat right in that stream. It totally makes sense.
Anne Holland: It’s the cash. Now the second thing I wanted to point out is that there are now a lot of laws, in particular…
Susan Bratton: Yes, for free trials and free offers and, yeah…
Anne Holland: Yes.
Susan Bratton: there’s a lot… The FTC…
Anne Holland: And auto renewal offers.
Susan Bratton: is involved, right?
Anne Holland: Mm hmm. The FTC is involved. The federal government, the President actually signed a new law into being on December 21st that affects every subscription site offering auto renew or free trial that converts into a paid offer in America. In addition there are California laws that just came into place in December, just this last December that affect everybody. In addition to that there are now banking laws that affect you because if you are selling to consumers, lets say you’re selling a subscription to consumers, roughly 40% of the consumers buying a subscription from you are paying with a debit card not a credit card, and you probably don’t know that. So there’s all these laws around how you can charge, what you need to say on your marketing if someone could possibly ever use a debit card on your site. The local state governments though are very eager to go after transgressors because it’s money.
Susan Bratton: Right, it’s local revenue.
Anne Holland: They catch you and they’ve got… Yeah, lets just say you send out, you know, one consumer and California complains. They can contact their local District Attorney and say, “Oh, you know, look at this stuff. This wasn’t clear. I signed up for this and I didn’t know I was going to get charged every month,” even if it was on there, “Oh, it was too fine print,” whatever. The D.A. can go after you. If you then settle with the D.A., which of course you will – your company lawyers are going to be like, “Settle, settle, settle. Don’t go to court. You know, just give them some money and make it go away.” When you settle you know where that money goes? It goes straight to the D.A.’s office. He can go buy a new desk if he wants one. And you don’t have to be a California corporation for him to go after you. As long as you have one person in California who saw your marketing, they can go after you.
Susan Bratton: Wow!
Anne Holland: And they are going after smaller companies and smaller membership sites and publishers ‘cause it’s quicker and easier than having to duke it out with the big boys.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, they just pick them off. Very interesting. Well…
Anne Holland: So you need to be aware. And we have a lot of training information on the site about, once again, the two sites that you’ve come up with so far, Which Test Won and Subscription Site Insider are brilliant. And I can’t wait to see what else is on the backburner that you’re bringing, that you’re launching. ‘Cause I know you’re launching a few more, right?
Anne Holland: Mm hmm. Oh yeah.
Susan Bratton: Awesome. So a couple more things before we have to close out. You mentioned earlier that you lived in Nepal after you sold Marketing Sherpa and before you started your new publishing business. How long were you there, where were you and give me the three things that surprised the hell out of you.
Anne Holland: Well I have to tell you one of the reasons I sold Marketing Sherpa was that I fell in love and I got married…
Susan Bratton: That’s nice. Congratulations.
Anne Holland: and I couldn’t keep working. Thank you. I couldn’t be working 100 hours a week and, you know, keep the company, give the company what it needed and also my marriage what it needed. So, you know, obviously, again, I brought in partners this time around, so I’m working hard but I’m not working like a crazy person anymore. Crazy but true, I happened to marry a man who is a trekker. So her treks around mountains. So here I was with a company named Marketing Sherpa, and his heartfelt desire was to go and live in Nepal with the Sherpas. Just coincidence. So we ended up going to Nepal and living there for about four months and have been back since. And I was living in Picara. I was, we called it base camp. It wasn’t [inaudible] base camp; it was, Picara’s a lovely town. It’s kind of a tourist town but it’s by a lake and you’ve got these snowcapped mountain in the distance and it’s just incredible. Bananas growing on the trees, the whole bit. Cows, you know, hole cows wandering up and down the streets, fantastic outdoor cafes. And I just had a great time kind of decompressing from my old life living there, and my husband would be out trekking and then every once in a while he’d come popping back for a little while, and it was just an incredible, an incredible experience. I’ve got to say shopping wise, it was fantastic. Obviously you want to buy a pashmina. It’s the pashmina capital of the world.
Susan Bratton: And what was it like to live there for four months? You must’ve, first of all you must’ve missed your man when he was on his treks, but…
Anne Holland: Yes.
Susan Bratton: what was it that surprised you the most about the experience?
Anne Holland: I think, you know, there you are and you’re working on a dial-up computer in a little internet café surrounded by tourists, and you just suddenly kind of realize that the world isn’t the job. The world isn’t your office. Just the expansion of my world, you know. I had been so busy speaking at trade, you know, I was either at a tradeshow convention center or I was, you know, working on my computer in an office or having meetings, and to suddenly be in this world where there’s an elephant wandering by, you know, as I write, you know, on my computer, I mean it was just insane. It was just, it was a really good thing to do, and I think if you do sell your company and take some time off to break so completely with where you live and the people you’re with and even the weather, you know. We were there, again, with bananas growing around us, and I’m from New England. It was blizzarding back home. It really is worth it. It grows you and it gives you such a profound break.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the information product space, which is kind of my world now, who go off and live some place and do a work live. A lot of people go to South America I’ve noticed.
Anne Holland: Yes.
Susan Bratton: We have done that as well. We’ve lived in Holland and taken our daughter. We do it in the summer. And then last summer we went to Kenya. We went to Nairobi. It didn’t work out for us. The internet connectivity was not robust enough for us consistently. There were just a lot of infrastructure pain points for us that didn’t allow us to work in Nairobi at the level that we thought we could. So we came, we actually came home early, which was fine. I mean we had a great experience. Live and learn, you know. Now you know what to do.
Anne Holland: Mm hmm.
Susan Bratton: But…
Anne Holland: Yeah, I know, the internet connectivity, you’ll say “Do you have internet?” and people will point to the phone, and it took me a long time to figure out they meant dial-up…
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Anne Holland: ‘Cause this was so completely like, “Are you kidding?”
Susan Bratton: Now you’re on your way someplace else. Where are you going?
Anne Holland: We live in Serbia part of the year. My husband is Serbian, and so we’re going, we’re on our way to Belgrade where we have an apartment. So, and I’ve got a full home office and the whole bit over there.
Susan Bratton: That’s great. And you enjoy going back and forth between Rhode Island and Serbia?
Anne Holland: Love it.
Susan Bratton: Mm hmm, yeah. That seems really nice. What is it about Serbia that you enjoy the most? When you get there what is that you’re looking forward to having, doing, seeing or being in Serbia?
Anne Holland: You know, Serbia, in particular Belgrade, but a lot of cities in Serbia such as Sombor, which is a town that we spend a lot of time on, they’re kind of the New Orleans of Europe. The very artistic, very creative, lots of amazing music, fun food, lots of dancing and drinking late into the night even on weeknights. Although I’m not a crazy party animal, but if I was it would be perfect for me. A relaxed fun atmosphere, a lot of people with a huge amount of education but they’re just kind of relaxing and sitting in the café and enjoying themselves. There is this sense of vivacity and life and artistic spirit that is just so much fun.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Anne Holland: And, you know, they’re not so much career driven. Now part of that is economically isn’t worth it over there for a lot of folks. But they take it and they make a life and they make a, you know, a really fun life.
Susan Bratton: Thank you for reminding us about that. A lot of times we’re so busy we forget to have a life, you know?
Anne Holland: Mm hmm.
Susan Bratton: You know all about that.
Anne Holland: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: You have spoken at over 100 industry conferences. For people who are listening and they wonder not how to get those gigs, because it’s pretty apparent, but how to work it worthwhile. Knowing what you know now, what is it that you would recommend that people do if they decide that they want to do public speaking, how, ‘cause it can be a real time waster, you know? It can really be counterproductive. Even though it feeds your ego it hurts your business in a lot of cases. How would you recommend going forward that someone take advantage of an opportunity to speak?
Anne Holland: That’s a really good question. I was actually someone who never really enjoyed the travel or the speaking, although I was good at it, which was, you know, thank goodness ‘cause it fed the business. So I was really careful about which speeches I took. It comes down to, as a business owner though, it comes down to revenue. How are you going to monetize that speech? And I’m always looking at several factors. First of all, am I getting paid for it? These days to get me to come to your conference you’re paying me and you’re paying me a nice solid sum, and even then I may not say yes. It has to be a good fit for our products. It has to be a good fit for our message and all of that. So am I getting paid? Period. Second of all, if I’m doing it because I want to get the word out about a particular product or about a brand that we’re marketing, for us it’s information products, for a lot of people it’s their consulting business, I’m looking at how is the speech itself set up so that I’m going to get the maximum number of kind of brand impacts? If I’m going to be a member of a panel, forget it. It is not worth your time. I mean it’s fun. If you’re at the show anyway, sure, hop on a panel. But if you’re going to the show specifically to give that speech and you’re not really good at schmoozing the daylights out of people in the hallways and you’re sort of hoping the speech is going to make the difference, a panel’s not going to give you the kind of headliner impact. If you’re a sole speaker, that’s great, in which case you’re seeing how many channels are going on at the same time, “Am I the only speaker at this particular hour or do they have ten other speeches going on at the same time? How many people are going to be in my room approximately?” I mean they can never tell you. “Who is my speech competing against?” I definitely learned that when I was trying to grow my personal brand back in 2001, 2002 I would rather be the headliner or the only speaker at a small niche regional event than to be one of a bazillion speakers at the big national event. So if I showed up in like Milwaukee and was the big speaker for the Milwaukee, you know, Internet Advertising Association, but I was the only speaker that day or I was their keynote at their annual little conference there in Milwaukee, it did a heck of a lot more for my business and my company, people remembered it. You know, there was an impact on a very personal level with those people than if I was one of a hundred million people at, you know, a larger show such as, you know, an E-Tel Summit. So I look for what really will be the impact. I look for the niche show. I look for the potential revenue. And then I also, finally I made myself a goal of reaching out and talking to people in person. So it’s not just about getting behind the lectern, it’s about… Frankly, I got to tell you, I made a lot of good business contacts standing in line for the women’s room. You’ve got to work that line. And am I going to go when I go to the lunch – you know, they always had some kind of luncheon or something – I have to force myself… I’m kind of a shy person, but, you know, I’m not allowed to go and sit next to the person I know. EVER. You have to go and sit down at the table where you know no one. It’s the only way you’re going to get out of your shell and meet the people and make the contacts that grow your company. So you’re not allowed to stand in the hallway talking to your friend, even if you see your friend. You say, “Hi,” smile, move on. You’re only allowed to talk to strangers. You’re only allowed to party with the strangers. You’re only allowed to have lunch with the strangers. When you sit down and you’re going to hear somebody else’s speech pick a position, not on the isle so you can make a quick getaway, but in the middle of the row where there’s several people around you and then you introduce yourself to those strangers. You’re there to work the show. And I see so many people making the mistake of they’re being out of their comfort zone, they’re out of their office and they go to the show and they hang out with their best friend, and you know, they just blew that opportunity.
Susan Bratton: This has been an advice laden information rich interview Anne Holland. I have really, really…. I was just thinking to myself, “What the hell took me so long?” I’ve been doing DishyMix since whatever, 2005, 2006. I don’t know, hundreds of episodes over years every week, and I have never had you on my show. And I am kicking myself. You have been excellent. Will you come back on sometime soon, maybe when you come back from Serbia?
Anne Holland: Absolutely. It’s a pleasure to be asked.
Susan Bratton: Good. I’m glad. It was terrific. Thank you for all of the insights and the wisdom that you have imparted. It really gave all of my listeners I think so much to work with. And I hope they’ll come and check out your sites, and I, really I’m going to be thinking about you in those cafes in Belgrade, and I’m going to be raising a toast to you and your fabulous life that you so richly deserve.
Anne Holland: Thank you.
Susan Bratton: All right, you got to meet Anne Holland. Anne, you can go find her at whichtestwon.com and Subscription Site Insider. I am your host, Susan Bratton, and I hope you enjoyed this. I sure did. Thank you so much for listening to my show. I really appreciate you connecting with me. Have a great day and I hope we’ll connect again next week. Take care.