Digital information businesses are awesome. They’re all but infinitely scalable with the potential to be tremendously profitable, but there’s more than that, too. Being able to trade your expertise for the lifestyle you want, and knowing that your knowledge is helping others find their way to success, is a source of a lot of inner satisfaction and fulfillment.
So trust me, I understand the allure. And I’m not telling you to give up your digital information business, either—far from it. Keep building that brand, that audience, and that revenue by offering great information and a high educational value.
And while you’re at it, why not turn your profits up to 11 by adding some physical products to the mix?
If you look around, you’ll find HUNDREDS of articles talking about digital product businesses VS. physical product businesses, as if the Internet Police will only let you sell one kind of thing at a time.
Turns out, you can actually sell digital products AND physical products, on the very same website!
And the benefits of physical product sales are outstanding, for you and your customers.
Physical Products Are Still a Popular Way to Consumer Content
One of the obvious places to start is with physical incarnations of your digital information products. You already have the e-book, why not offer it in print? You already have the audio and/or video lessons, why not put them on some CDs or DVDs?
You’re worried about cost, of course; a digital product costs nothing to reproduce as many times as you want, but a physical book or disc requires an actual investment, and print-on-demand services are pricey. To make a profit, you’ll need to pre-order (or pre-sell) a few hundred, and you’re not sure it’s worth a roll of the dice.
The numbers suggest it is.
Though CD sales have been losing ground to digital since 2001, well over 100 million CDs are still sold in the US every year. Book sales—that’s physical books with pages and ink, not ebooks or audiobooks—brought in more than $10 billion in revenue in 2015, and paperbacks alone account for more than 40% of ALL book sales, including ebooks and audiobooks.
Those of us who live on the web may have trouble believing it, but there are plenty of consumers out there who like their content to come in a physical format. These consumers do tend to be a bit older, but unless you’re only targeting twenty-somethings you probably have a sizable contingent in your audience who would leap at the chance to purchase an actual book, CD, or DVD from you.
You might want to run a very limited test offer to gauge interest before you bite the bullet on a publishing commitment, but many digital businesses have become huge empires with their endless supply of CDs, ongoing book series, and training DVDs. Why not try for a slice of that physical action yourself?
Sell More, Earn More, Make Less
You don’t have to limit yourself to informational products, of course. We promise, the Internet Police are fine with you branching out and selling…well, anything it’s legal to sell. And the beauty is, you don’t have to have anything to do with actually making the product—you don’t even have to deal with storing and shipping your inventory if you don’t want to.
It’s so easy that maybe it ought to be criminal, but it ain’t.
You want to pick products related to your information business, of course, and products that help solve the same sort of problems you try to educate your customers and clients about. If productivity is a big part of your informational push, maybe your audience would like to see your favorite organizers, planners, inspirational wall calendars, and kitten posters.
If you sell information products related to a niche hobby, you’ve got a built-in ecommerce smorgasbord of physical products. Electrical components, train sets, woodworking tools, pan-flute kits and accessories—whatever’s relevant to your niche, I guarantee there are physical products that can make life easier for your audience and might even be 100% necessary for them to purchase. Give them a chance to purchase it from you, their trusted source of information, and chances are they will.
If your audience is large enough and you have a core group hanging on your every word, you can even sell branded merchandise. T-shirts, coffee mugs, and all sorts of practical and novelty items can be emblazoned with your name, logo, and photo and sold at a hefty margin. It’s like getting paid to advertise, and services like Printful, Amplifier, and others make it easy to make the operation almost entirely hands-off. Customers place orders on your site, the printer makes and ships the ordered item(s), you get the profit.
In fact, most sustainably profitable ecommerce businesses use a similar arrangement for everything they sell. Someone else—Amazon, a manufacturer, an independent distributor—actually handles the inventory storage, shipping, and all of the other physical demands of selling a physical product. The ecommerce business is devoted to generating sales, not fulfilling orders (though obviously you want to work with companies with a solid track record, or your own name will end up tarnished).
Sell more things and earn more money, while investing less of your time in actually making the stuff you sell. You’ll still have plenty of time to develop new informational products, and the profits to do it in style.
Online Physical Products Sales is a TRILLION Dollar Industry
I saved the most compelling evidence for last. You’ve already seen that physical information products can be big business, and you know that branching out into physical products of all kinds can be almost entirely hands-free. Now I want you to take a look at the sheer size of the online physical product market, and imagine grabbing just a tiny bit of it for yourself:
That’s over a trillion dollars this year in ecommerce sales, with a projected $1.7 trillion just four years from now. And it’s across basically all consumer sectors:
People are buying EVERYTHING, including all kinds of physical products, from online portals. While you can’t compete with giants like Amazon in the “everything” market, your information business puts you in the perfect position to sell highly targeted products to a niche audience.
And make a pretty penny while you’re doing it, too.
Start conversations to see what products are falling short in your clients’ lives. Think back about your own career and progress and see if there weren’t a few key tools you wish you’d picked up earlier. Reflect on the number of physical products you rely on to run your business now—you might even surprise yourself with just how useful the physical world and all the stuff in it is.
Once you have a few ideas, do some searches and poke around other ecommerce sites—big ones and niche sites like your own—to get a feel for the competition. You already have an audience with your information business, and you need to make sure you can extend your differentiation through to the physical products you decide to sell. If you can get that down, the only thing left is to set up a simple shop, get an order fulfillment service to handle the back end, and watch the profits roll in.
It sure is nice to make a living selling information. It’s an even nicer living selling a few products to go along with it—now that you have the info, we hope you agree.
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