Absolutely blown away. Those were the words I’d used to describe my (Will) feelings after I got an email from David Hoffman, man behind the travel portal Davidsbeenhere, asking me if I wanted to come check out his site and possibly interview him. The man is a machine.
Book publisher, product marketer, travel writer, there’s nothing that his “travel brand” hasn’t got stuck into. And now we have the chance to sit down with him and get the lowdown on just how he’s gone about building a travel empire and developing a brand which goes beyond simply blogging itself.
Buckle up. This one is essential reading for anyone looking to make waves in the business. Here’s David…
1. Hi David! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and why you wanted to get involved in the world of travel publishing?
Davidsbeenhere.com is an online resource for people seeking portable and practical advice in the form of guides, blog posts, pictures and video. I began the company in 2007 and have traveled to over 600 cities throughout 45 countries. I am an avid traveler who loves exploring countries in depth and creating fun and interactive ways of sharing travel experiences, facts and advice.
After traveling for years and using several guide books, I learned a great deal from experts in the field. After a while I thought, I’m traveling and have tons of suggestions for people… I could do this too! I think that I bring something new and different to the industry. The best thing about DBH Guides is that others can follow the same path I took when I went there. Recently we began adding sample itineraries to new guides so that planning trips would be easier for our readers.
2. Who were/are your major influences when decided to create your travel brand?
Rick Steves. He has dominated every travel niche of Europe and he did it through several mediums. Now he has over 4,000 products under his brand. Davidsbeenhere focuses more internationally, but the concept of both of our companies is similar.
3. Your site is a treasure trove of info. How would you describe your writing style? How is what you offer in advice different to everyone elses?
The blog is less journal-style than most other online travel blogs. Instead, my posts are niche-oriented (ie Crafts Markets in Malawi, Touring Ancient Cyprus, Galician Wine and Food..) I want my blog to supplement the information found in the guides, but also inspire others to travel somewhere they never expected to go. I like to focus on history, gastronomy and culture.
4. How would you describe your travel brand? What are your big income sources? What does most of your focus go on?
My brand represents smart travel and meaningful experiences. My income mainly comes from the sale of products and Kindle guides. A typical day in the office involves researching new markets, connecting with others via social media, writing blog posts and editing pictures and video. The truth is that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish my to-do list.
5. What is the best way to shape a travel brand? How have you managed to gain so much traction with your site, your products and your services?
My brand was shaped by my background in business and an insatiable appetite to discover new places. But others may have a passion for photography, food, swimming pools or beer (really, anything goes.) A travel brand can only be as successful as the validity and entertainment value of its content. My suggestion to anyone who wants to build a travel brand: Focus on what you’re passionate about and be consistent in producing content (whether it be blog posts, photo essays, picture albums, videos or social media,)
I think that my success is mainly due to being open to suggestions from others- in and out of the travel field. When I started my company I had no idea that I would be merchandising and publishing at this point. I spoke with other business owners who were publishing Kindle books and branding products like kitchenware and bedding. They gave me advice on how to begin developing my products and how to market them effectively. Now I work closely with Doma Ventures, a Miami-based Internet marketing firm. They specialize in Amazon.com marketing and provide an invaluable service.
6. How do you interact with your audience and customers? What tools and approaches work best?
Social medias like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are a must for any business these days. I try to be consistent with my posts, updates and interactions. I also interact through video, through my blog and most recently through Instagram.
7. What are your thoughts on networking with other bloggers to build your brand? Does going to conferences help or are there other useful ways you’ve found to get your name out there?
Networking with other bloggers is always fun because each has his or her own style and personality. I learn a lot from them and their travels, and I hope they can learn something from me. Conferences are great! I have not visited any travel conferences to date but I will be attending WTM “World Travel Market” in London this November. I have already started contacting several tourism boards that I am interested in working with. Conferences are a great platform for getting your name out there because that is where you get to meet and speak with some of the big players of your industry. It is the perfect place to ask questions. If you can spread some of your content on other bloggers’ sites (ie guest posts) that only spreads your name further out there.
8. What is the best thing about being a travel brand rather than a blogger? What do you get from people sharing in your enterprises?
I have never been the world’s best writer, so I knew early on that I could not blog full-time. I have always appreciated technology, so I was drawn to producing videos. Now I have over 1,300 on the internet. The best part of having a travel brand is that eventually I would like to produce travel shows/blogs/products for others in the industry- incorporating their expertise into my brand so that viewers can get a complete picture of the world and how to travel it in several ways.
9. Tell us about the most favorite aspect of your brand, your writing or anything else you’ve done.
My favorite aspect of my career has always been meeting new people and trying new foods. It’s cliché but it is addictive! I dream big for Davidsbeenhere and I hope that I can make most of those materialize in the near feature.
10. And lastly, what would be your top 3 tips to an individual trying to build a travel empire?
1. Reach out to and stay connected with others in your field. The online travel industry is huge, but it helps to have a few close friends to bounce ideas off of and share funny/frustrating/inspirational stories with. It’s also a lot of fun seeing where and what everyone is doing at a given time. In the last year I have met incredible bloggers like Ryan from Pause the Moment, Brock from Backpack with Brock, Kelley Ferro from TripFilms, Nellie and Alberto from Wild Junket and David from Go Backpacking. Don’t let shyness get in the way of making contact. For every person that will blow you off, there are 3 who won’t.
2. Capitalize on your idea. Most of us need to make a living somehow and would love nothing more than to have our travel businesses pay all the bills. The reality is that many people get caught up in traveling, but don’t have a clear idea of how to monetize their experiences. Having a specific plan of action beforehand is key. I struggled with this early on in my company because I wasn’t focusing on specific strategies.
3. Research what others in your field are doing. Subscribe to their blogs, try out their products and see what they are all about. Scoping out the competition is healthy, but obsessing over it isn’t..
Now how’s that for killer information? Make sure you check out David’s empire here and get to know him on Twitter too.
If you have a blog you’d like to share or some advice to offer, contact us for an interview.