Are sustainable products profitable?

A few months back, I was looking at buying some reusable items that would in the long term save me money and reduce waste.

After a quick google I learned that this item could be used hundreds of times (one site even claimed up to 1000) before needing to be replaced.

And so I got thinking, if people are only making one off purchases of this item every couple of years, how does the company make enough money? Then on a wider scale, how do companies selling reusable or sustainable items make a good profit if they don’t have regular customers (as in the same person shopping from them every few months at least).

In terms of making money, something that is short term that needs to regularly be bought will make you more. Although of course a re-usable item would be listed at a price to accommodate for the infrequent repurchases. However, in the long term, customers tend to spend more on the less sustainable item like plastic straws than they would on the reusable option, in this case metal straws.

I think the answer to this is yes, sustainable products are profitable. If they weren’t people probably wouldn’t be selling them. But if the intention of a company is to remain environmentally sustainable, they can’t be focused on doing whatever it takes to make as much money as possible because that’s when they start to sacrifice the original intention.

When free is better than cheap

Most people that sell things that are ‘expensive’ also give things away for free.

Maybe you do some sort of one on one coaching but you also do a free weekly podcast or YouTube video. Doing so allows you to make a living from what you do whilst also ensuring that those that can’t afford your services still have access to your work.

Free stuff also allows potential customers/clients to consume your work before deciding whether they consider your product or services to be worth spending money on.

On the other hand you could have it so that nothing is free but instead is either cheap or expensive. However, I’ve found that overtime free stuff can help build trust. Whether it’s buying a book written by someone who has a free podcast or paying for a membership on a site run by someone who regularly shares useful information on social media.

When the stuff is free you take what applies or works for you and pass on the rest whereas if you pay, even if it’s a small amount you’re likely to be much more critical and judgemental.

The thing that has made me buy what a person is selling is when I’ve gotten great value from what stuff I haven’t even paid for. I’d have been much less likely to buy the more expensive stuff if I was already paying for the podcast, blog posts or newsletter etc.

5 ways to convince people to spend money

I recently got thinking about some of the ways we’re persuaded to spend money. Sometimes it’s things we planned to buy anyway but other times it’s things we actually had no intention of getting or stuff we just don’t need.

Tell them it’s limited edition

If something won’t be around for long they’re more likely to buy it because they don’t want to miss out. In many cases we’d actually rather take the risk and buy it, than not buy it and potentially regret it.

Make then feel like it’s something exclusive

Exclusivity makes people feel special. Similarly to when something is limited edition, when something is or feels exclusive people want it more. It could be as simple as having a special link to a product that you provide to those who sign up to your newsletter. Or it could also be something incredibly expensive that only the wealthy can afford it.

Let them know that it’s worth the cost

When you highlight that something is great value people want to buy it because it seems like it’s worth it. Maybe you highlight where a particular fabric was grown, the treatment of the workers, the minimal environmental impact or how long the product could last. The value that is focused on and highlighted will depend on the type of customer you’re trying to attract.

Let them know that it’s more than worth the cost

This method works well when you’re providing a service but can also apply to certain physical products. There are many things that we purchase that come with secondary value. It could be a cooking class that is worth it because you’re learning a new skill. It becomes more than worth the cost when now you’re more confident to host your friends and family because you now you know your way around the kitchen. It could also be a digital course where what you teach will allow small business owners to attract more repeat customers which will improve their profits.

Make them think it will improve their life

If you play into ideas of what people think is good for them then they’re more likely to buy from you. This is very rampant in the wellness industry but also in fashion. Many people buy items like bags because of signals they want to send and the way they want to be perceived. Going back to wellness, if you can sell someone something that is supposed to be good for them in some way, they’ll feel good even before they’ve used or consumed it. People are often aware if this which is what drives them to buy the thing in the first place.

Expensive online courses

I recently came across an online course that I had no intention of taking but I was curious of what the price would be. It was the kind of course where someone was selling something they had taught themselves to do. I personally thought it was quite expensive and I couldn’t help but wonder the sort of person the course was aimed at.

I knew that people would be interested in the course, it was just a matter of how much someone was willing to spend. I also realised that the person selling the course had created something they could continue making money from in the months and years to come and it would require no more effort.

I got thinking about it more and more and began to think about how in order to charge a price that is considered expensive, you have to put yourself in the position of a leader. You need to be someone with something to teach, someone that people can learn from but also be trustworthy. That’s what makes people feel like what they’re paying is worth it.

Cost and accountability

People pay a lot of money to ensure they remain accountable.

Perhaps you want to lose weight and you’re struggling to do it alone so you join weight loss group. You might be a writer who is struggling to make time to write so you join an online weekly writing group. Both of these types of groups can be created and attended for free.

However, when it comes to losing weight many people choose to pay to join a group like Weight Watchers. Or perhaps they pay to join a gym or a particular fitness class. The group provides a community of like minded people and the fact that you pay makes you more likely to commit because now you have something to lose.

If you’re paying a certain amount every month or every week and you ignore the meal plans, don’t exercise and continue with a diet full of processed, sugary, high fat and high salt foods then you’ve just wasted your money.

With writing perhaps you pay to attend a writing group where you sit and write for an hour or 2 each week. The purpose of the group is to work on your writing separately but for many it feels easier together. Of course you wouldn’t be reliant on the group to get all your writing done however if the group also involves sharing writing progress made throughtout the week it gives you an incentive to something done between meetings.

From the outside some people may not see the value in joining these kinds of groups, perhaps because they don’t need to but I think if it works then it’s worth it.

So much more than the room you’re sitting in

When you’re a kid, not learning in a lesson or not being interetsed in the subject or topic being taught can happen when you don’t like the person teaching you.

At a young age some people totally rule out subjects like Math, Science, History or Art simple because of who the information is coming from.

But when you get older, when you’re at the age where you’ve picked the subject that you study you focus much less on who is teaching you because the stakes are higher and you’re choosing to be there.

In England you choose your GCSE subjects at 13, you’re A-levels at 15 and your Degree at 17. By the time you get to University, so much has changed. You’re studying something that you have picked for yourself and you’re now paying to be there.

When you’re 12 and don’t like your History teacher, don’t pay attention and perform poorly in class you can always say ‘Well, I don’t even care about this class, it’s boring’. Not much happens as a result of you getting a low grade when you’re 12. You have to be in school because it’s the law however, it’s free.

Now let’s skip forward to being 19 and doing a Civil Engineering degree. If you choose to not pay attention because you don’t like your Structural Engineering lecturer no one is going to force you to listen or make an effort.

But you could end up failing the module or even therefore failing the course overall. This might mean you have to resit an exam or you could end up changing your entire career plans. Nobody had to go to university, it’s a choice and it costs around £9000 every year.

The older you get, the less it matters who the information is coming from because you realise that it shouldn’t have really mattered in the first place. Overtime, you also realise that your end goal will always be so much more than the room you’re sitting in, the module you’re learning or even the course you’ve chosen to study.

No longer worth doing

When you have any sort of habit or action in your life, it will be helpful to regularly assess whether it is worth carrying on with.

The thing you started doing 2 years or even 6 months ago may no longer be worth doing.

On the flipside, it may be more necessary than ever before.

Understanding whether it is worth it is based on various factors. This includes: whether the pro’s outweigh the cons, if the cost outweighs the inconvenience, if there is a shorter or better way and if your quality of life would be less without it.

The purpose of all this is to ensure that you don’t just keep on doing things that you don’t need to do.

Does the customer determine value?

I recently saw some things for sale and my first thought was that I wouldn’t buy them. In my opinion the items weren’t worth the price they were being sold for.

But people were buying the items.

Turns out that that even though I didn’t value the items at the price they were being sold for other people did, which got me thinking.

Who determines value?

If you’re selling something for £50 and nobody buys it, is it actually worth £50.

Or does value come from what the customer is willing to pay for it.

In my opinion it is the customer that determines the value because they’re the ones willing to pay for it. However, it is worth noting that just because you’re unable to sell to one group of people, doesn’t mean you’re prices are too high.

It might just mean that those people don’t see the value in what you’re selling.

But maybe another group will.

Falling for a scam

Consumerism is out to get us.

Or at least that’s how it often feels anyway.

I’ve been noticing emails on my inbox from various retailers with things like last chance, don’t miss out, you haven’t completed your order (which is super creepy in my opinion).

Instead of finding it enticing, I just find it overwhelming, its too much. Often these great deals aren’t even that great and the ‘last chance’ will always come around again.

It’s like a false sense of urgency to try and get you to spend money on things you don’t even really want.

One of the biggest consumerism scams is the discounted items that are equal to or more expensive than the original price.

10% off something that costs £20 isn’t a great deal when yesterday it only cost £15.

A bad version of a good thing

Arizona Birkenstocks are a classic sandal, there is no doubt about it. They’re ergonomic footwear designed to mould to the shape of your foot over time.

There around  £60 which is not particularly expensive for a good quality pair of sandals. However, when there are similar versions for a quarter of the price it can be tempting to go for the cheaper version.

But the thing about the cheaper version is that it has a few things missing. There’s PVC/PU instead of leather, they’re not as comfortable and they show signs of wear much sooner.

They’re a bad version of a good thing.

That’s the sacrifice you make when you’re constantly looking for the cheaper option.