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How to sell digital products the sustainable way

How do you sell digital products? What is that important step that most people skip? And what steps do you need to take in practice? We'll cover that in this blog post.

Why digital products don’t sell

So let's start by flipping this. And looking at why digital products don't sell. So I'm going to use Etsy as an example. Because Etsy allows you to see lots of different products by different sellers at the same time.

So if you go onto Etsy and look at all the digital products on offer, they all look quite similar. It doesn't matter what you put in the search bar, the results that come up all tend to look very similar.

There's not much to distinguish one product from another. Because of this, sellers tend to compete on price. I've noticed that pricing on Etsy is getting lower and lower as a result. It's one reason that I gave up on Etsy, but that's a whole other blog post.

My feeling is you shouldn't have to drop your price to way below what the product is worth to make sales. And I'm going to share with you a different way to approach this.

If you’ve never met me before

My name is Amy and I have a corporate background in products. I have a degree in product design. And several years experience in retail buying and product management. I bring my knowledge from the physical product space and apply it to digital products.

The first thing for you to think about

A lot of people think that getting sales is all about sales and marketing activities. It starts way before that.

It starts with taking the time to find your competitive edge. Your competitive edge is that thing or mix of things that makes you different to everybody else. It gives your business the best chance of thriving. So here's an example.

I watched a documentary on Costco recently. If you don't know Costo, they're known as a place to bulk buy and find bargains across a crazy array of products.

But you have to be a member to shop there and they won't let just anyone become a member. You have to apply and meet certain criteria. Which means there is an element of mystery for people who are non members. Mystery about what you need to get accepted but also what it's like once you get inside the shop.

So Costco doesn't actually make much profit from the sale of goods in its store. It makes most of its profit from the income from membership fees.

I don't know about in the US, but in the UK, they don't make it obvious what the membership criteria is. This adds to the mystery surrounding the business. I would say their competitive edge is being aloof. Along with not making much profit on the sale of the products that they sell. With the intention of making the majority of their profit from their membership. It makes them different from all other retailers.

How to find your competitive edge as a solo business owner

As a solo business owner you’re thinking on a smaller scale but can apply the same principles. You can find your competitive edge by considering some of the following things:

  • Your values
  • Your past experiences,
  • your personality,
  • what you want out of life,
  • A framework or approach you use
  • The format of your digital product

A mix of these things will help you need to become known for something.

When I lost sight of my competitive edge

Here's an example of when I lost sight of my competitive edge. This is relating to the format that most of my digital products take.

I am a major introvert, that's part of my personality. As a consumer, when it comes to online education or digital products, I like a self study course. If I buy something that has live calls, I don't tend to attend them.

I way prefer to watch the replay in my own free time. Normally, if there's a podcast version I'll listen to that. Whilst I'm doing something else like dishes or cooking.

I sell Notion templates and short courses on my website. I had demo videos for my templates and some video course material too.

I decided to house my videos in a community called Heartbeat. I did that so I could provide support to the people who purchased from me. One of the reasons I did this is because of Thomas Frank, who is a well known, Notion template creator. He has a community for support to his template purchasers. I thought it seemed like a good idea.

But also Notion can be a complex tool to use if you've never used it before. So I felt like I needed to add that extra support.

Choosing to add a community because someone else does that is a terrible idea. I knew communities weren't my thing because I had tried them a few times in the past and I never kept up with it.

Adding features out of a sense of obligation

I added the community out of a sense of obligation. Like that's what you're supposed to do. But it didn't play to my strengths. The people that I attract to my audience agreed. Because I got several complaints about the faff of having to go and sign up to Heartbeat to access them. the content of what they've purchased.

After that, I change the setup. So that all people have to do is click a link and access all the material in one place on Notion. This was instead of having to follow several steps. To join a community to then click through to access the template.

I have always preferred things to be simple and to be able to get something and get on with it straight away. Yet, I had got in my own head and this was a mindset issue. In part, I was adding extras to feel like I was providing enough value for money.

But people don't want more to do. It's all about the end results and not the steps they need to take to get there and I lost sight of that.

Different digital products for different people

There are people out there who love communities and need that connection. There are also people who want to get the info and get out. I realised I should focus on that second type of person. Because that's the type of person who suits the type of product and content that I make best. They are the ones who will appreciate what I'm good at.

Practical steps to take to find your competitive edge

What practical steps do you need to take to find your competitive edge? There are three factors that you need to consider to build a strategy for your business. So that you become known for something.

  1. Start with you and what you want from your life. This is so that you design a business that works for how you want your life to work. So that you have a product or products that align with your life goals. You want your business to work for you now in the short term and in the longer term.
  2. Then you need to look at all those things that make you unique. Bring a mix of those elements together to inform your competitive edge.
  3. Lastly you want to understand your customer and what they want. When you know this, you can deliver what they want in your own unique way.

Once you have clarity on all three of these things you can work to bridge that gap. Create a product or product range that is of high value to your customer. Something different to what others are doing, but also plays to your strengths.