Brand Loyalty

The Danger of Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is dead.

Now I’m sure that when you think about brand loyalty, you generally think it’s a good thing. The purpose of this post isn’t to dissuade you of that belief or to tell you that brand loyalty is bad, but to shed some light on the flip side of that coin.

While as a brand, we would want our customers/audience to become & stay loyal to our brand, but being a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily serve us well. To broaden the scope of this discussion, let me expand on what I mean by giving a more broad definition of brand loyalty using several examples..

Are You Loyal to Any of These?DS Brand Loyalty Image

  • Car Manufacturers
  • Clothing Brands
  • Tech Brands
  • Music or Book Genre
  • Sports Teams
  • Political Parties
  • Religious Organizations
  • Your State/Country
  • Family (even extended family)

Chances are that you’ve said yes to one or more of those examples; but before I cover the potential downsides of brand loyalty, let’s go over some of the benefits.

Benefits of the Consumer

As a consumer, there are a few benefits you get by being loyal to a particular brand. First, it can be quite helpful if you have trouble making decisions.

Think of your favorite (car, tech, or clothing) company coming out with their newest edition, and how your natural inclination might be that “it’s time for an upgrade”. You don’t have to research all of the alternatives, you know that your favorite company provides quality products that are in your price range and that suit your taste.

Another big benefit can be the “community” aspect of brand loyalty. Think of the connections you have with other people that pertain to the organizations (sports, political, religious, family, and local community) you’re involved with. You have these common interests that bring you together.

Well so far, everything looks good. Brand loyalty is good for both the brand and consumer, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are obvious benefits with this loyalty, provided that they keep putting out a quality product at a good price, but that’s not the entire picture.

The Danger of Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty IconThere are a few dangers of blindly following something, be it a brand, organization, etc.

One big danger is that it can cause you to stop using critical thinking. Many bad decisions can be made when you don’t focus on the possible outcomes or consequences before taking action.

Something else to consider is that times change. Companies change. You change. Those brands that are on top today will likely fall by the wayside tomorrow and beyond.

Also, many times this brand loyalty has been handed down to us. The ‘social’ brands (like politics, religion, nationalism, and family) tend to be heavily influenced by our upbringing and surroundings.

Think of it this way: if you met some of your extended family or your current co-workers for the first time at a community picnic or other social gathering, would you give them the time of day based solely on their attitude, personality, mannerisms, etc.?

If the answer is “no”, then why would you elevate their status based on factors that you’ve had little or no control over (being born and/or hiring your co-workers).

That example above may seem a bit cold, but I’m trying to make a point. Doing activities you don’t like or spending time with people you can’t stand aren’t good ways to have an enjoyable life.

(And obviously friends, family, and co-workers fall into different social categories.)

You are an Individual

stand outI believe it’s vital that critical thinking is employed in every area of life.

Avoid the ‘herd mentality’ and do a personal audit. Make adjustments to the areas of your life that need it and choose what’s best for your personal situation – each and every time.

Avoid guilt! It’s OK to root for a sports team that actually wins, rather than rooting for the team that’s based in the same geographical location as you.

If your favorite car company starts cutting corners with their quality or puts out a design you don’t like, make the switch to another brand.

Now let’s bring it back to something a little closer to home for me..

Back to the blog

Personally, I follow several different blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels. As much as I enjoy consuming new content from these brands, they are only a few bad posts/episodes/videos away from my finding replacements.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]There are too many great brands out there to keep following those that stop providing value on a consistent basis.[/tweetthis]

Knowing that your audience can walk away at any time will keep you on your toes. Consistent growth and improvement is how you stay in the game.

I hope this post has helped you find a different way of looking at things. Keep providing value to others, and make sure that others keep providing value to you.

Cheers,

Patrick

DS Freedom Unfree World Featured Image

How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World – Book Review

DS Freedom Unfree World Featured Image

This month, I thought I’d talk about a book that I initially read several years ago, and have recently revisited once again. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read, and was written by a personal ‘hero’ of mine, Harry Browne.

Free Yourself

Unfree WorldIt is titled How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, and the subtitle accurately describes the contents: “A Handbook for Personal Liberty”.

Although Harry was involved in politics, this book isn’t political in nature; it touches more on the philosophy of liberty and specific actions you can take in your own life to increase your personal liberty.

The book starts by explaining a few (of the many) ways that you aren’t free. He talks about the ‘traps’ we often fall into that keep us from being free.

Are You Trapped?

For example, one of them is titled The Previous Investment Trap. This trap is what keeps people stuck in a bad career or relationship, simply because of the amount of time they have already invested into it.

There are over a dozen ‘traps’ in all, and they cover many different areas of life, such as: morality, identity, the emotional & intellectual traps, and so on. In Part 2 of the book, he explains some of the ways you can be free of these traps; in other words, how you can escape from the traps you’re already stuck in.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true”]You don’t have to buy from anyone, work at any particular job, or participate in any given relationship. You can choose. [/tweetthis]

Starting From Zero

Part of the way you become free is using a technique called Zero-based Thinking. I originally heard about this technique from Brian Tracy, and it is basically where you reevaluate your past decisions and ask:

If I had not made this decision already, would I make it now, knowing what I do about the outcome?

If you could travel back in time to the moment you were about to begin dating your current partner, start your business, or buy your house, would you do it again knowing the outcome?

Answering “no” to any questions using zero-based thinking means that you’ll need to start re-designing your life. It may be tough, but it’s far less painful than living an un-fulfilling life.

Digital Nomad Start Image

(There’s an article that explains zero-based thinking in more detail here.)

The Impact

As with some of the other books I’ve reviewed, it’s hard to understate the positive impact this book has had in my life. It easily earns a spot in the top 3 books I’ve ever read, out of more than a thousand books.

The ability to become free, both in your mind and in your personal life, is achievable by following the suggestions contained inside. I’ve been able to carve out more freedom, autonomy, and peace that I ever thought possible by putting all of this into action.

That’s it for now. If you’d like to check out this book, you can find it on Amazon HERE, and I’ll end this post with the quote from Harry that I used in the main image:

[tweetthis]A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything.[/tweetthis]

Cheers!

Patrick

Medellin Colombia

Medellin for Digital Nomads

Medellin Colombia

After finishing up a 3 month stay in Medellin, I thought it was only fitting that I post a ‘digital nomad destination’ review for the “City of the Eternal Spring”..

To start things off, I will say that my original intent was to visit Chiang Mai, Thailand, but after tons of research, I realized Medellin better lined up with my needs, as you’ll see below.

What I was looking for

In doing my research, I made a short list of traits an ideal destination would have. Some of these things included, in no particular order:

  • easy to access
  • reliable internet
  • inexpensive (sub $1500/mo USD)
  • ability to come & go with pets
  • minimal culture shock
  • and so on..

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#digitalnomad”]Where to go? Somewhere easy to access, with stable internet, and all at a low cost.[/tweetthis]

Why Chiang Mai wouldn’t work

While it seems that Chiang Mai is a digital nomad hotspot, there were many areas where it falls short. On the surface, it seems like an inexpensive place to live, but upon further examination, there are lots of expenses that most people tend to gloss over.

Things like the cost of a visa, visa extensions, border runs every 90 days, and the somewhat substantial flight cost (if you’re not travel hacking). Not to mention the lengthy flight if you are coming from the US.

The Search Beginsglobe

It was these initial findings that had me start looking for an alternative destination.

I actually started my new search by reading ‘best international locations to retire to’ types of posts, and then checking SkyScanner for flight length & prices.

My logic was that retirees are often working from a smaller fixed income, yet they still need access to modern infrastructure and amenities. This would likely mean that these destinations would be cheaper than living in the US, but still relatively modern.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin SunsetAfter several dead ends, I found a location that looked promising. One of the things I noticed, was that much of the world still thinks Colombia is full of danger & chaos, while that hasn’t actually been the case in almost a decade.

You can see this reflected in the cost of living which, arguably, should be 50-70% higher than it actually is. Add in the not-so-stable currency, and you get a destination where the cost is roughly 50% lower than most American cities, but without sacrificing modern conveniences.

Also, when comparing flight costs, Chiang Mai was about $600 for a 1-way ticket, while Medellin was only $140. This, coupled with the short flight time (only 5 hours), was a huge difference, especially if I needed to return back to the US sooner than expected.

Life in Medellin

Aside from the initial confusion on our arrival (detailed in an earlier post here), we were able to settle in quickly and start to assimilate their culture.

One of the things that made the transition easy for us was the ubiquitous acceptance of Visa & Mastercard. In fact, there was only 1 shop (besides the farmers market) that I needed cash to pay. Another big plus was the ability to use Airbnb & Uber.

With Airbnb, we picked out a nice flat a month in advance that was within a few minute’s walk to the ‘Golden Mile’ in the higher end El Poblado section of the city. And after picking up a local SIM card, it was never more than a 5 minute wait until having a personal driver available from Uber.

Airbnb is a bit pricey, which is mainly due to the fact that most listings are priced in dollars instead of pesos, so you aren’t able to take advantage of currency fluctuations. For our 2nd & 3rd months, we moved to another flat, and negotiated directly with the property manager. This allowed us to stay in a place that was much bigger & nicer than our first flat, and at practically the same price.

Medellin Quick FactsWorking

Al Alma Cafe MedellinWhile there weren’t too many co-working spaces in the area, there were plenty of cafes and other places to get work done. If you’re OK working alone, you’ll have no trouble being productive.

Almost everywhere had free WiFi (usually between 5-10 Mbps) that was mostly reliable, with a couple exceptions; the entire El Poblado area was without internet for nearly 2 days, but this was due to some upgrades to the infrastructure, so this may have been a 1 time outage..

There is even a thriving ‘expat’ scene, not exactly tailored to digital nomads, but great for help with learning Spanish (and also nice when you need a break from Spanish and want to speak English with other native speakers).

Culture, Nightlife, and more..

Besides work, Medellin has a lot to offer with regard to culture; museums, parks, shopping, and more. There are plenty of options available for a night out, and a wide variety of cuisine can be found.

‘Cons’ of Medellin

With all of the upsides, there are a few drawbacks to living in Medellin. First of all, learning some Spanish is a must. Most people you meet will only know a few words of English (despite the fact that most movies in the theater are shown in English, with Spanish subtitles).

If you make an effort, though, they will do the same. I never ran into someone that wasn’t willing to try to help bridge the communication gap, when issues did arise. Having the Google Translate app on standby (and downloading the Spanish language pack in advance for offline access) will help out quite a bit.

Beyond the language barrier and a couple of WiFi outages, I didn’t experience anything negative about the area. I never felt unsafe, didn’t get sick at all, and was able to adapt to the elevation within just a few days.

Summary

I definitely Medellin Colombiaenjoyed my time in Medellin, and hope to return again. While I had been a sort of ‘digital nomad’ for a bit before visiting, leaving home to travel somewhere international made it feel ‘official’. I can definitely recommend it, especially for digital nomads living in the US.

If you do have interest in visiting, a great resource for information is the Medellin Living blog. It was my one stop shop for researching the area prior to (and during) my stay.

That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll have a post talking about a book that inspired me to become a digital nomad, long before I had even heard the term, and maybe before that term even existed. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read.

Cheers,

Patrick

DS Renaissance Soul Featured Image

The Renaissance Soul – Book Review

DS Renaissance Soul Featured Image

For this post, I have something a little bit different than usual. I think it’s fitting to talk about a book that really aligns with my philosophy & temperament. The subtitle is Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, and that about sums it up.

If you’ve read more than one of my posts, you’ve probably been exposed to a variety of topics & ideas, and that’s the way I’ve intended it.

This stands in stark contrast to the ‘niche’ mentality.

Niches are Boring

Basically, it can get boring talking about the same thing every time, and variety is a great way to learn & grow. A niche can trap you, make it harder for you to redefine yourself, and can even handicap you in other areas when you put too much of your focus in one place.

The Renaissance Soul

DS Renaissance Soul ImageWhat this book does, is introduce you to the idea that it is perfectly normal to resist having only a single field of interest. Think of Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci, and others who excelled in a variety of fields.

The book smashes the stereotype of the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. You can indeed be a master of many trades. The concept of the ‘career for life’ has been dying for decades now, and this book is your invitation to embrace this reality.

The author lays out a great framework for the different types of ‘renaissance souls’ to be able to blend their many interests into their work, free time, studies, and social circles.

My Experience

I have both a gift and a curse. The gift is that I can quickly become 80% (or more) proficient at whatever endeavor I set myself too, be it sports, business, language learning, and so on..

The curse, is that since I can get to 80% so quickly, the idea of putting in the necessary time to get from 80% to just 85% or 90% proficient is totally unappealing. Why would I spend one week getting to 80, and then 2 years to get to 90?

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#selfhelp #hustle”]Growth is the only evidence of life.[/tweetthis]

What this means

This means that I need to be involved in a field that is either:

  • rapidly changing
  • very broad in scope
  • very competitive

If 1 or more of these criteria are met, I’ll have enough space to breathe. This is the appeal of blogging, my income & investment strategies, and the digital nomad lifestyle.

Fork in Road Choices

What about you?

I’m sure you have at least a couple different interests, probably a lot more. The Renaissance Soul is about leaving the old model of ‘you work so that you can play’ into the new model of making your work seem like play.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t waste it by spending time on things that don’t excite you, help you grow, or enrich your life.

The Sampler Platter

She talks a lot about a ‘sampler platter’, which is the main metaphor for choosing up to 4 interests and integrating them into your life. It helps to make this conscious choice

The Impact

possibilities road signThe biggest impact this book had, was in helping me to focus on a few projects instead of many of them. Using the sampler platter technique, I’ve been making good progress on 4 projects, rather than meager progress in 8-10 projects.

If you like the idea of pursuing multiple paths at the same time, then be sure to check it out this book. It will help you integrate them into your life without becoming too scattered.

Here’s a link to the Kindle version on Amazon: The Renaissance Soul

That’s it for now. Next week I’ll be giving an in-depth look at a potential digital nomad destination, which happens to be the city I’ve been living in for the post 3 months.. Medellin, Colombia.

Cheers!

Patrick

DS Blogging Schedule Featured Image

Why You Need a Blog Schedule

DS Blogging Schedule Featured Image

When you first start out blogging, you’ll probably have enough drive & ambition to stay focused and produce new content. At least for a while..

question markWhen I first got started, I followed other blogs, especially those geared towards new bloggers. I kept seeing question come up such as:

  • What is the best length for blog posts?
  • Which social media platforms should I be on?
  • How to I get more traffic?
  • and on and on..

These questions are a good start, but they leave out something important.

A Blog Schedule

One of the biggest keys to whether or not you become a successful blogger lies in your consistency. And how do you become consistent? By having a set schedule for your blogging activities.

I’m not just talking about posting on a regular schedule (like once a week, daily, etc.), I’m talking about having a daily schedule of tasks to complete. In my experience, having a set daily schedule makes the whole ‘blogging process’ effortless.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#hustle”]How do you become consistent? By having a set schedule for your blogging activities.[/tweetthis]

Example

Here’s a sample schedule I’ve created, closely based on the version I personally use. It follows a logical progression of creating posts and spending some time improving the blog itself.

Sunday – Brainstorm new post headlines

content machine coverThe best advice I found for creating content came from Dan Norris in his book Content Machine, and he suggests to start with post headlines, rather than just the generic subject you’d like to talk about.

This can be done in as little as 10-15 minutes. All you need to do is come up with about 5 good headlines, and you’re good to go.

Monday – Outline next post

Now it’s a good idea to have your posts scheduled out a month or so in advance, but either way, for Monday’s task, you simply choose one of the headlines and outline that post.

Again, this task can usually be done in 10-15 minutes. I use Workflowy to quickly and easily outline posts.

Tuesday – Write rough draft

If you have a good outline, the post practically writes itself. I use Workflowy and Writebox, opened side by side to effortlessly write the rough draft of my upcoming post.

Mistakes are OK, and the post doesn’t need to be in perfect order; simply get all of the content out on this day, and you can worry about editing on Thursday.

Depending on the post length, this step usually takes 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday – Work on imagesimage editing

Aside from the text component, blog posts need an array of vibrant images to accompany that text. I usually use Pixabay for free images (but there are many other options for images).

Stock images are fine throughout the post, but often (and especially for your featured image) you need to work on them a bit. I mainly use Canva, which lets me add overlays, text, and a variety of other components to the image.

Working on images can eat up a lot of time, so try not to obsess about getting things perfect. I like to complete this task in 30-45 minutes.

Thursday – Finish & schedule post

Thursday’s task is the part I like most; putting it all together. You already wrote the text and created the images, now you just need to work on the layout and proofread the text.

This step is pretty straightforward, and when finished, you can schedule the post. This usually takes me about 15 minutes.

Friday – Email broadcast and autoresponders

Since a big part of blogging is about building your email list, I have a day dedicated to working on those funnels.

ConvertKit Resource ImageI use ConvertKit for my email marketing service, and they make it easy to create & schedule broadcast messages and setup ’email courses’ (which are basically just autoresponder sequences).

I schedule a brief broadcast message that tells subscribers about my latest post, and have it go out on the upcoming Monday.

Beyond the broadcast message, I also spend some time working on my email courses. I have one setup for each of my books, and am working to have a course setup for each topic I cover. This way, the incentive to subscribe is more targeted, and I can give those subscribers information that’s more suited to their interests.

Although this day’s work covers a wide range of activities (from writing the email texts, to outlining the sequence of an email course, and more), I can usually fit everything in to a 30-45 minute time block.

Saturday – Work on website

web designSaturday is the day I work on my ‘site infrastructure’. Things like static pages (about, resources, contact), adding landing pages for new products, making sure the plugins & theme are up to date and functioning perfectly, etc.

Since this step doesn’t usually take very long, I also take this time to update my post links. Whenever I have a 2 part series, I go back and link them together once the 2nd part is live.

Another example would be going back to a post where I mentioned an upcoming post topic, and updating the post to actually link to that topic. This makes for better continuity within your blog, should a reader land on an older post. I also link all of my ‘personal progress update‘ posts together.

I usually limit this step to about 30 minutes.

Batching

If you’re a student of productivity, you probably already know about batching your tasks, and how it’s much quicker to do the same task multiple times than to switch and start on something new.

This schedule is setup exactly in this manner.

For example, on Monday when I’m outlining my upcoming post, I usually have enough time to outline a 2nd post, either to help me stay ahead of things, to use as a guest post, or for posting to another platform (Quora, Medium, Reddit).

It’s much faster for me to outline 2 posts, than if I were to try to outline and then write 1 post, since I’d have to ‘change gears’.

What about marketing?

You may be thinking that I’ve overlooked social media and other means of marketing my posts, but I haven’t. Based on what I’ve read, a good blend seems to be ratio of 30% content creation, 70% marketing of that content.

I came to the conclusion of needing a ‘marketing schedule’, just like I have a ‘blog schedule’.

blogging board no border

Example

Here’s another sample schedule I’ve created, and this one is closely based on the version I personally use for marketing my blog. It again follows a logical progression, but this time, it’s just a few tasks that repeat twice a week, with a ‘filler’ day in the middle.

Social Media MontageThe tasks are:

  • Posting for Traffic
  • Posting in Social Groups
  • Sharing quality post & articles
  • Outreach (the ‘filler’ day)

I’ll go into more detail on each of these tasks, and then end this section with an example of a schedule you can follow..

Posting for Traffic

When I say posting for traffic, what I mean is posting content to a site or platform (with a link back to your own site), and the whole intent is to drive the readers back to your blog. This is different from sharing on social media, in that the content is a bit longer, and it usually has a longer shelf life than a Tweet or Facebook status update.

Some good examples would be Medium, Reddit, Quora, and maybe LinkedIn. Posts here would be somewhere in the middle, lengthwise, between a Tweet and a full length blog post. (200-500 words)

My personal focus for this task is Quora. I’ll talk about Quora more in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say that I’ve found that answering questions on Quora leads to some good, steady traffic back to the blog.

Posting in Social Groups

facebook groupsThis should be self-explanatory. Posting in Facebook groups, Google+ communities, and the like. These posts typically get a lot more engagement than just a simple social share.

I like to either post a question, share a helpful tool, or leave well thought out comments to help people one on one.

This probably won’t bring in as much traffic as the last task would, but it builds a lot of good will. When you have a question, need help, or come out with a new post or product, you might be pleasantly surprised by how willing the group members will be to help you out in return.

Sharing Quality Posts & Articles

This section could more accurately be titled “loading the Buffer stream”, but let me explain the basic premise. Social media is overflowing with people who do nothing but share their content over and over.

Be different.

Share great articles written by other people. Follow a variety of blogs and other media sources in and around your niche, and regularly share their stuff. I use Buffer for this, as it is simple to use, and takes virtually no time to implement.

Simply install the Buffer browser extension, and then whenever you read a great article, add it to your Buffer stream with 1 click. I’ve actually written a Quora blog post that goes more into much more depth on this.

Outreach

microphoneOutreach isn’t a big focus for me at this time, but I try to do a little each week. This would include pitching guest posts to other bloggers, lining up podcast interviews, or asking people to participate in a ‘expert round up’ post.

I’ve been having consistent success with posting for traffic and sharing quality posts & articles, so I haven’t spent much time with this.

So let’s see how these play out in a typical week. I’ve put together a simple image, so you can see the pattern I use..

Blog Schedule Image

Explanation

I’ve attempted to balance the workload out between both schedules. For instance, when I’m writing a post for the blogging schedule task, all I need to do is reload my Buffer stream for the marketing/promotion schedule’s task. This tends to keep both tasks for the day to an hour (or two) of actual work.

Well, that’s about it for the marketing schedule. Let me briefly touch on how to put this into practice.

The Schedules in Action

monthly plannerCreating these two schedules for blogging and marketing the blog was a great first step, but I then needed to setup a system for following through with them.

The two best ideas I found were by either using recurring tasks in a task manager like TickTick, or simply having them in a document that I check out daily.

I chose the 2nd option, and have a nice set of bullet points in Workflowy. I use this tool for a variety of things, and always have it open. All I need to do is glance at it when I’m ready to start working, and I’ll know what to do for that day.

If you’re just getting started with blogging, there’s a much simpler version of this concept explained on the CoSchedule blog HERE.

The Results

working onlineThese schedules have helped me immensely. I’ve been able to increase the length and quality of my posts, get consistent traffic from outside sources, and slowly build up a social following.

On top of all that, it’s made blogging quite enjoyable. I encourage you to experiment with these two schedule types and give it a go.

Talk to you soon,

Patrick