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.

50% off

50% off something you had no intention of buying.

Somehow, the marketers find a way to make that sound appealing to the point where we feel like we’re better off spending rather than simply buying nothing at all.

No instructions, no outcome, just play

Sometimes there is this child-like sense of curiosity or this feeling that you probably had as a child when you just wanted to play.

It’s things like reading a story, having paper and pens to create whatever you like or even a bunch of building blocks. There’s no instructions or a specified outcome that you need to meet and you have nothing to prove.

Once you’re done you can just move on to something else, the outcome doesn’t even really matter. At that age you’re just creating, using your mind and being free. In hindsight you might notice certain things you were good at or enjoyed more but in the moment that wasn’t a priority.

As an adult we’re often focused on the outcome, how good we are (often in comparison to others) and how much money we can make. At times, so much emphasis is put on making money that we’re made to feel like what we do is pointless, worthless and a waste of time if it generates no income.

Something to prove

Sometimes the only reason we choose to stick at something is because we have something to prove to ourselves.

From the outside it might seem as though we’re wasting time and money because the success isn’t coming. From the inside we’re just not willing to give up yet because we believe that somehow we can find a way to make things work.

People tend to make fun of or be critical of things people do when they don’t consider them to be successful or aren’t making money from it. But the thing you choose to stick at doesn’t have to be something you’re trying to earn a living from.

More importantly, if you have something to prove to yourself, don’t let other people get in the way of that.

Is it worth fixing?

Before you make the choice to fix something, ask yourself if the thing is worth fixing in the first place.

Nobody wants to spend their time, energy and possibly money on something that could end up being a waste of time. As much as some things are worth sticking at and working on, sometimes the best thing to do is put it aside and start over.

Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been duped

When we think about getting someone to buy something the first is probably that it’s a bad thing. Perhaps what comes to mind is a greasy car salesmen or some sort of trickster who will tell lies to convince you to spend money.

But what about the other times we buy things based on being influenced and we’re happy with the choice. I don’t consider that to be a bad thing.

It could be a £1,100 pair of Valentino Garavani boots that you feel great in, you get you compliments every time you wear them and they were purchased in a store where you received excellent service. It could also be £10 water bottle that doesn’t leak.

The issue arises when we buy something and it doesn’t work as it should, it doesn’t feel worth it, it feels like a waste of money, we regret the purchase or it stops working and you can’t get a refund.

Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been duped, we want to feel like we’re making good choices and spending our money well.

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.

The benefits of creating free content

Many of us regularly post free content and some people also use that to lead people to their paid services.

Sometimes the easiest way to get someone to value what you want them to pay for is by offering them something amazing for free. They’ll either be so enticed that they want what you have for sale because they think it’ll be even better or they’ll be willing to buy something that you offer just as a means of compensating you for all your great work that they’ve consumed for free.

Some types of free content are: Podcasts, Youtube videos, Blog posts, Instagram posts and Newsletters.

90s baby show is a free podcast that also share the podcast visuals on YouTube. They have a patreon where they upload new content each month.

Stacey June is a former podcaster who has had various free podcasts and regularly shares does content on Instagram. She also runs an online self-care club that has a monthly fee.

Both have been able get people to buy from them based on what they offer for free. If someone doesn’t know who you are, as in what you do and the services you offer with some visible examples of your work then it can be hard to get them to buy from you.

The problem with trying to be relatable

A lot of people build personal brands around ‘the struggle’, being relatable and essentially saying that they are ‘just like you’ (but a little more visible).

People are often drawn to things that they can relate to. It’s comforting to see someone also going after the thing that they are working towards. But if their interest in you is because they feel like they’re like you (often including financially), of course how they feel towards you will change when they can no longer relate.

If you spend time growing a personal brand and a big part of that is you saying you’re just like the people watching, listening to and supporting you, if you’re now regularly shopping from luxury brands, mingling with celebrities, attending events and you’ve bumped yourself up a few tax brackets then you’re clearly not ‘just like everyone else’, your life is now different.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all, I think the issue comes when people try to deny that their life has changed much in order to still be relatable. We’re all aware that a persons financial situation doesn’t mean they don’t go through some of the same things as the average person but it’s okay to acknowledge the other parts of your life too.

With influencers the need to be relatable comes from the fact that it’s easier to sell to people when they feel like you’re just like them rather than when you show up as a millionaire that you are. It’s really just a marketing tactic which I don’t think it necessarily a bad thing. However, it shifts influencers away from being the relatable stranger online who recommends things they’ve used or clothes they’ve worn to instead being just another sales person trying to get you to buy something.

When to change your customer

In a podcast episode from a while back the host answered a question about what to do if your customer, the people you’re selling to, aren’t allowing you to make enough money. The answer was something along the lines of ‘change your customer’.

If you know how much you want to make a month as a minimum and you know how many clients you can comfortably take on at once, it’ll give you an indication of how much to charge. It’ll also offer a good idea of who your customer is and who your customer isn’t.

So, often people get caught up in keeping prices low to try and attract more people. Or the tell themselves that helping others requires them to sacrifice their own wants and needs. In this case it means providing affordable services but barely scraping by financially. The reality is that low prices means you need to make a lot more sales.

Instead it is worth thinking about who you can provide services to so that you won’t need 101 sales each month or 101 clients. That might mean increasing your prices and changing your customer. Helping people shouldn’t be at your own expense. You have to Many people want to help others but that shouldn’t be at your own expense. You have to find a way to do it in a way that works for you.

That could mean providing services to a select few customers/clients that enable you to make enough money to live comfortably. Then use your spare time to provide something for free that will he helpful for those that can’t afford to pay for what you offer.