Turning digital ideas into physical reality is not without its challenges, so Shapeways is starting the year off with an incredible new tool to make 3D printing even easier. Shapeways' Wall Thickness Tool gives you instant feedback at upload to improve your model by detecting areas that are below our Thin Walls thresholds for each material offered.
We're just one week away from Thanksgiving here in the US and the buzz surrounding Black Friday is already louder than Midtown Manhattan. We want to see all Shapie Shop Owners break their sales records in the next two weeks so consider this your friendly reminder to get ready for the surge of traffic!
Here are 5 tips to help you get there:
1) Tag: Tag your products well! People will be searching the site at a faster rate than any other day of the year 2) Photograph: Post those great photos you've had trapped on your iPhone, Photos sell more! 3) Merchandise: Organize your shop! Do you offer a wide variety of products? Curate them well for easy shop ability 4) Title: Make sure your title is descriptive, your model description includes keywords that people may search to find your product and your photos are up to date - we are running a marketing campaign through Google Shopping and your product may show up if people search for those keywords 5)Share: People are looking for new and interesting things to buy every holiday season, so take advantage of the opportunity to share your shop with friends! Tweeting: "Check out the deals going on in my Shapeways Shop and give a unqiue 3D printed gift this holiday" or "Hey #BlackFriday shoppers, check out my custom product line" etc. goes a really long way! Many of you shared the gift guide, and it's showing in the sales of your shop .
Have you ever wondered how to go viral? How to see a traffic spike in the five to six figure range? Well, while it does take a bit of timing and luck, there is a formula to it. Today, Christopher, our resident reddit master and general knower of all things cool breaks down how to design timely products and go viral! Take it away, Chris!
I’m going to start this blog post by making the following statement; virality is often based on the following few criterias:
Cleverness and Wit
Innovation & Originality
… or any combination of the above.
When attempting to create virality, it is important to think about the above aspects in context of sharability. Let’s face it; it’s easy enough to get your friends to share something for you. What becomes a true test of virality is how many of your friends’ friends re-share what they saw.
Then you might say: “Great! They shared stuff; I’ll be popular very soon!”
To which I say, hold your horses just a little there. It is also important to understand your product and target audience/market fit. For example; it may be very easy to get a cool 3D printed cat themed product viral and shared within Reddit; however if attempting to broadcast this on other websites/communities with a different culture and set of inside-references, your product might not get shared at all.
Which brings up an interesting question: do you design for a specific community (supply/demand model), or do you design something completely different that plays on other tangents of virality (new market creation model) and attempt to hit a cross-section of existing communities and markets.
Well, the answer to that is you. In almost all cases, that choice beckons what you, yourself, are truly passionate about, and what will make you put the extra effort into making your product become a hit. Whether it’s something you create for a personal or innovation reason, or it’s something you think is “hilariously awesome” and want to use to make other people smile with, and dig the idea that just snuck up on them. From there on out, it’s all about letting your inspiration and creativity lead you.
You can even combine markets and interest factors with pop-culture and contemporary inside-references. For example, things like “Twerking iPhone 5 Case” or “Internet Meme Poker Chips Set”, right now, have a virality potential that is higher than for example just “my new iPhone 5 Case”.
In almost all cases, when you find yourself looking for inspiration to create that runaway hit that everyone talks about; scour the media; the interwebs; popular online communities; and your friends for fads, interests and clever references that you can incorporate into your designs.
The bottom line of virality is to keep everything mentioned above in mind while you are creating. It’s easier to hit virality with existing trends and fads than it is to do with something completely new and original. At the same time though; the rewards (both financially, and emotionally), scale across that spectrum of easy to tough.
Ultimately, you are your own master, and experimenting with examples that hit nicely across the spectrum of inspiration from “riding a bandwagon” to “this is completely groundbreaking” is what is going to give you the experience needed to nail a product/market fit.
We've recently launched a bunch of new materials at Shapeways, so for today's Shop Owner Challenge, Raphael, one of our Materials Geniuses, shares tips for selecting the best material. Enjoy!
When picking materials for your model, think about how the material will help to position it as a product. Is it an exclusive piece that you want to only offer in Premium Silver? Or a versatile design that looks great in a range of materials and price points? Using different materials, a single design can become a variety of different products. For example, a model of a ring could become a fun, inexpensive piece of costume jewelry Alumide, or a precious keepsake in Polished Brass. Each deserve unique photos, descriptions, and price points.
Choosing the right materials for your products isn’t always easy, and has a huge impact on the value and success of your product. Here are some tips from the materials team to help you make the best choices.
Brass, Bronze, or Steel? With our recent launches, there are a wide range of steel finishes, and high-detail cast metals available. Both make for great products, but at different price points and levels of finish. Steel tends to be a bit rough, almost vintage looking, and lower resolution, with a lower price point to match. Our various steel finishes, including Gold and Nickel and Bronze offer the highest surface quality and consistency, while Patinas such as Matte black, and the basic steel is better for more rustic or steampunk pieces. To achieve much higher resolution and surface finish, our Brass and Bronze use the same casting process as Silver, and reproduce the finest details at high-end shopper ready quality.
Polished vs. Raw
While all our steel finishes are polished to improve print quality, Brass, Bronze, and Silver use such a high resolution production product that we’re able to offer both Raw and Polished version of these materials. Both are shopper ready materials, so the choice here is mostly an aesthetic one: Raw is rugged and rustic, while Polished is elegant and refined.
While we offer unpolished WSF and Alumide, you should think of these as low-end materials for prototyping and functional parts. Aside from special cases such as large or delicate designs and functional parts, we’d recommend disabling WSF for shoppers and directing them to polished materials, including Polished WSF, Polished Alumide, Black Strong and Flexible, or Colored Strong and Flexible.
Polished vs. Premium Silver The difference between Polished and Premium Silver often causes confusion. Both are polished, but the key distinction is the amount of polishing time invested in polishing internal details and hard to reach spaces. A simple ring may look very similar in both finishes, while something like Bathsheba’s Ora pendant will look very different;
Many successful shop-owners already have amazing miniatures on Shapeways that they offer in FUD or Detail Plastic. With cast brass and bronze, you can now offer these models in all their glorious detail to a much wider range of customers, and at a higher price point. When we launched these materials, we bought some popular miniatures in brass and bronze, and they haven’t left our desks since!
While you’re at it, you may want to consider enabling you models in Detail Plastic as well. While FUD offers stunning resolution, functional parts and supports the fine parts that miniatures enthusiasts love, our black and white detail materials offer a more shopper ready finish that can make these designs accessible beyond the finish-it-yourself market.
While great for visual models and items which don’t see extensive wear, our Black and Dyed Strong & Flexible aren’t recommended for things like iPhone cases which see constant surface wear. They look great at first, but eventually the dye can wear through, creating lighter spots in the finish, and potentially disappointing your customers. White Strong & Flexible doesn’t wear through in this way, but because it’s white it can look dirty with wear. For functional parts, or things where you don’t mind a bit of a worn-in look, this can be just fine. If that’s not what you’re looking for, Polished Alumide is a great alternative.
On the materials team we’re surprised Alumide isn’t a more popular material: it’s relatively inexpensive, polishes up to be very smooth, and wears well. The speckled grey color hides wear and helps to prevent discoloration, making for long-lasting products. The powder has the same color throughout, unlike our Dyed Strong & Flexible plastics; you can keep it in your pocket all day and the color will stay consistent. All that, and it sparkles too!
For smaller and more precious items, Brass and Bronze, in both Raw and Polished finishes, are durable solid metals that will wear beautifully, adding to their character. Steel is similarly long-lasting, but offers lower resolution, and a lower cost. Gold Plated Brass, is durable, but can eventually wear through if exposed to constant rubbing on clothing, skin, or when used as functional parts.
The task of pitching media can seem ominous at first. Today, I want to ease your fears and give you the tools to feel confident getting the press exposure you and your shop deserve. Here are six tips for product pitching success:
Do Your Homework
The more you know about a reporter and their beats (what they cover) the better off you are. Knowing what is timely and topical to them shows that you value their reporting and deserve their attention. I typically start by doing a Google news search for whatever I'm pitching to get a feel of what existing conversations are happening. I then figure out the key voices in that conversation and they become the top of my pitch list. This may sound extensive, but it will pay off. You would like them to learn more about you, right?
Email Reporters/Bloggers Directly
Now that you've done your homework, send a personal email to the writers you want the attention of. Did you love the last piece they wrote on 3D Printing? Great, let them know. You can usually find a reporters contact on the publication's website, or if you're like me and prefer stalking them on social media, Twitter is an invaluable resource.
Be Succinct and to the Point
Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit and author of "Without Their Permission," keeps his emails to five sentences or less. You can do this (or close to this) with your emails to press. Most reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches a day. Be personal, poignant and direct them to your Shop so they can do nothing but write about you after seeing your awesome products.
Target Multiple Outlets of Varying Size
Make a list of the publications you would like to be featured in. Do you solve a unique need or cater to a specific niche? There are hundreds of blogs and forums specific to almost every topic you can imagine, in addition to the "top tier" outlets we're all familiar with. Don't discount the little guys, often the more specific the subject matter, the more sales a press mention drives. Treat each pitch equally and you'll certainly be rewarded.
Have High-Res Photos on Hand
So you want to go big time? Well the first question a reporter is going to ask after interviewing you is, "do you have an high-res photos of your products?" Likely followed by, "and a headshot?" Do yourself a favor and have both. It translates well in your Shop and in the news.
No one appreciates an entitled attitude and your best bet for getting reporter's attention is to be patient, persistent and positive. Try not to get frustrated if you don't hear back right away or at all. Some reporters take content and run with it (so make sure you have a google alert set up for yourself) and others will conduct a thorough interview. Keeping a smile on your face will help with every step of the process.
Let us know when you get featured so we can share it with our community! Don't hesitate to reach out if you want a pitch reviewed or have any questions as you begin press outreach.
I'm fortunate enough to be here in the town that Shapeways started, Eindhoven, NL for Dutch Design Week. We're featuring a variety of Shop Owners in our booth over the course of the event, and anyone in the area with a complete shop is invited to come show! It's been an incredibly inspiring 48 hours in Holland and today your challenge is to join us, or throw a Shapeways event of your own! Dario Scapitta is a long time Shapie and a Shop Owner who showed with us today at Dutch Design Week.
Reach Out to Us
Let us know where you are and how we can help. We may not send the fleet, but we can always support your efforts to be at, or host, an event/fair/bazaar etc.
Find Great Events
You know your city/region/country better than we ever could, so be our eyes on the ground and alert us to the awesomeness in your area! We love sharing the Shapeways spark with new communities.
Have Your Best Products on Hand
Sometimes events pop up unexpectedly. Having your favorite models on hand (or preferably on display in your home can be handy when getting in on something last minute. No need for inventory though, as shoppers can buy the products they see in real life, online instantly.
Brand Your Shop Well
All of the designers at our Dutch Design Week booth have well designed business cards and collateral to give away. These little touches make the experience with your products and the power of Shapeways memorable.
Have a Positive Attitude
We feed off positive energy, the people visiting our booth feed off it, and it will keep you going through a long day! Every Shop Owner I've worked with leaves feeling exhausted and inspired- signs of a good days work .
Don't Be Bashful
Everyone wants to hear about 3D printing, your design process, and how they can get your products so they can tell their friends about it all. Seriously. *Drops Mic*
Hope you're all having a fantastic week! Best wishes from here in Eindhoven.
Today's Shop Owner Challenge comes from Stephen, a welcome new addition to the Shapeways Marketing team. He's a fabulous master of words and is channeling the greatest authors of all time when he delivers these tips.
This is Stephen, Shapeways Resident Wordsmith. For today's Shop Owner Challenge, I'm going to give you Five Quick Tips From Famous Authors On How To Improve Your Copywriting, citing some of my favorite writers whose work I have learned to appreciate, trust, and ultimately love. Remember, you can always use words to dazzle your potential customers and sell products, so don't be shy with them!
1. George Orwell has 6 legendary writing tips, but the one that is most relevant to the Shapeways community is "Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent." In short, remember the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid!
2. Tell stories! James Patterson said, "I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished. I’m very conscious of an audience. I’m very conscious that I’m an entertainer." Be an entertainer. Don't bore your audience!
3. One of Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules of Writing is to "Laugh at your own jokes." Humor is an excellent and proven way to build trust with your customers. So don't be afraid to be funny in your copy!
4. Mark Twain, one of my all-time favorite authors, wrote, "Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." (Yes, Mark Twain just used a semicolon, but he's Mark Twain...) My advice to Shapies everywhere is to be cognizant of repeating phrases, because if your ceramic vase is very lovely and very nice and very cool, your potential customers may think it is actually very, very, very boring.
5. Finally, as Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Even if you lack confidence in your writing abilities, it is surely better to have some product description written when the alternative is to have none written at all. Don't hesitate to ask a friend or family member for writing or editing help!
I hope that these tips helped you, and if you want to reach out with any questions, my email address is Stephen@Shapeways.com.
Even though additive manufacturing has been around for decades, the concept of 3D printed consumer products is still relatively new to most people. Pete, our fearless leader and CEO, often says that "feeling is believing." What he means is, once people touch and interact with a 3D Printed product from one of the Shop Owners or Makers on Shapeways, they begin to understand the infinite possibilities in product design this technology opens up.
So how does this relate to the Shop Owner Challenge? Each and every one of you has the power to spread the spark of Shapeways and the magic of 3D Printing in your community! The more people who know about the wonderful things you and the Shapie Community create, the more people that will come to our site and buy your products! Today's challenge is brought to you by me, as in my life before Shapeways, I started a guerrilla marketing company and love cultivating brand ambassadors. This 365 Heart Napkin holder by Marc van Megen is a subtle example of how 3D Printing can find its way to your dinner table.
No one starts a great business without the support of their friends, family and extended network
There may be a few superhero-esk outliers that defy this rule, but this holds true for most of us. The people that already like you are probably the most likely to like your products (or at least boast about the fact that you've started a "3D Printing Product Design Company" on Shapeways). Empower them to spread your good word by letting them interact with your designs. The more they know the better story they can tell about your shop. How can you do this?
Have a Dinner Party!
You don't have to cook to be able to have a good time, but often a big long table full of food doubles as a great display space for your models. This Candleholder by Virtox is a great example of something that could easily make it on to your holiday dinner table without feeling too obvious.
My friends have actually started making a game out of "what is Savannah wearing or carrying that is 3D Printed?" I make a point to wear something 3D printed every time I leave the house (with few exceptions) and you should aim to do the same! Even if your models aren't in the wearable category, I bet there's a way you could mount a model in your car, attach something to your Work ID keychain, display a 3DP friend up on your desk or otherwise show off your awesome work. If you haven't figured it out already, let me tell you, EVERYONE is interested in 3D Printing and wants to talk about it.
Bring a 3D Printed Hostess Gift
Next time your buddies invite you over for a football game, season finale or party of any sort, bring some of your work to leave behind! The more people that can be talking about your Shop, the more customers you will inevitably have. Your friends will evangelize for you, and they won't even realize they're doing free advertising for you. You can bet they'll buy the next model from you, it will be be worth the nominal upfront cost.
This holiday season, customize gifts for your friends and family! One of the coolest things about 3D Printing is that you could make the same style of gift for everyone on your list, but customize each one to their preferences or initials like this ring by lensman.
The more people see and feel your products and familiarize themselves with Shapeaways and the evolution of 3D Printing, the better for all of us. I am confident that if you start making a concerted effort to tell people about what you do and how the process works, you would see results in revenue.
Every time someone encounters your work, you should have a strategy for future communication with them handy. Whatever your preferred method of communication, email, facebook, twitter, your website or through ESP, make sure you have a way to reconnect with everyone who enjoys your work.
Consider this the first step in starting an epic following of your design work and generating big sales in your Shapeways Shop. Speaking of, have you written your marketing plan yet?
Wait, do not recoil just yet. I know as a creative/maker/DIYer/modeler/artist the term marketing plan could at first be off putting. This won’t involve powerpoint or excel, I promise. No pie graphs either. Just bear with me as I teach you how to write a marketing plan in just seven sentences. It’s always good to have a high-level outline of your business, and just because your shop is online does not make this step any less vital. So let's take the plunge together!
For the sake of setting an example, I’ve channeled one of the many sides of my personality. Whimsical Sav, a product of the yoga-instructor-turned-Chiropractor parents I was raised by and the hippie household I grew up in (yes, there was tofu, kale, and cotton diapers). Whimsical Sav is opening a Shop on Shapeways to sell dreamcatchers. Play along with my blatant California stereotypes:
Sentence One- The Purpose of Your Shop: Why are you doing this? What is the purpose of your blood, sweat and tears?
My shop on Shapeways serves as the creative outlet for my whimsical mind and generates enough income to sustain my artistic passions.
Sentence Two- The Need/Benefit:What problems are you solving? What about your needs were not satisfied by the existing products on the market? The custom dream catchers I design nurture the subconscious of all my customers, based upon their individual energies.
Sentence Three- Who Will Buy your Product? This can be determined through your existing google analytics, or a speculation of who may be interested. Fellow free spirits and lovers of of mother earth.
Sentence Four- How You Will Reach Your Target Audience? What style of marketing do you like? Events, Digital, Dinner Parties or ideally a combination of many styles. I will market my dreamcatchers using colorful facebook campaigns, Renaissance Fairs, Pinterest and good vibes.
Sentence Five- What Differentiates You from the Competition? You’re leveraging 3D Printing through Shapeways, you’re creating things impossible to make any other way, you’re the only person doing whatever it is you do, etc. I model the dream catchers after each persons individual aura and chakra alignment.
Sentence Six- The Personality of Your Company/Brand: People want to connect to brands and the easiest way to connect to your customers is by humanizing your company. Embrace your character and individuality! Peaceful, serene and inspiring, my designs reflect the serenity in the world around us.
Sentence Seven- The Numbers; Margins and Goals: What would make this a full time business for you? What is your dream income from Shapeways?
I will set my markup at 30% across all my products, and hope to sell 1000 dream catchers to enlightened souls this holiday season and another 5000 next year.
Ready to take stab at your own marketing plan? Want me to take a look? Shoot it over to ShopCoach@Shapeways.com for feedback.
Over 100 people took our pre Shop Owner Challenge survey and the results were clear: the biggest point of frustration with Shapeways is having a model rejected. Our Customer Service team is dedicated to helping you resolve these issues. Today, Andrew, a very helpful recent addition to the team teaches you how to use netfabb, the same program we use here at Shapeways, to optimize your models printability.
Open your model in Netfabb. Netfabb can only open .STL or .OBJ files. If you need to convert to these file types you can use Meshlab, see our tutorials section for details. This model was made with the 2D to 3D Converter.
You've got some great tips so far, nows the time to really put some polish on your shop and get it ready for an influx of sales! Natalia, our Community Manager here at HQ, breaks down the secrets to a shop that tells a great story.
Hi Shapies! Hope you found yesterday's post on getting promoted on Shapeways useful. I heard from a few of you last night, great job heeding the advice! Today, our brilliant Director of Marketing, Carine, shares her insight on merchandising. Know what to design and who to design it for can be a real challenge. Here's an overview of what merchandising really means. Seedling Design, featured below, does an outstanding job of merchandising their shop currently on Shapeways.
Four Things to Consider When Deciding What to Design
Designing for 3D printing is a whole new ballgame: it's much faster than traditional manufacturing, there's no inventory, no waste, and you can even tweak your products based on your customer's feedback. This means you can take risks, fail, and still win. It's a beautiful thing!
With the unique benefits of 3D printing in mind, what does this mean for product merchandising, or in other words, what products should you design, 3D print, and put in your Shapeways Shop? Ask yourself these questions and determine what products are right for you.
Who are you designing for? Whether you're making a special gift for a loved one, or you want to design the next big hit, you always have to start with understanding your potential customers. Who are they? Where do they like to hang out in person? Online? What gets their heart fluttering and emotions stirred? What's on the top of their Christmas wishlist?
Do you know who your customers are? Figuring this out is sometimes easy - if you know your customer, just talk to them! If you think your customer is similar to you, ask yourself these questions, honestly. And ideally, you can get some data from Google Analytics or other tools to get some broad strokes of demographics and interests.
Is your product timely, relevant? Once you have an idea and have a better understanding of who might buy this product, start digging into whether it's the right time to bring this product to market. Think about seasonality - is it related to a holiday, season, warm or cold weather, vacations? Also consider relevance - depending on who your customer lives and what they're interested in, perhaps there's something super timely in the news or culture that you can tap into. Is there a viral video, a new Apple iPhone, or a big election coming up? You can even go down the rabbit hole of understanding trends and what's selling in bigger stores by researching trend reports and checking out your favorite stores. (Always stay original though!)
It it useful? The next big question to ask is whether it's useful. Not to say that fun desk toys are not useful; they make us smile! But think hard about how this product fits into someone's life, what need you're solving, and whether it's emotional (making them smile) or functional (helping them make better coffee). This will not only impact the design you make, but how much you can charge, what materials you could use, and the balance between form and function.
How does it fit into your brand or collection? Finally, if you're really trying to run a business, you'll likely have more than this one product in your Shop. Consider whether it makes sense to launch this product as part of a bigger collection, such as four custom ornament choices for the holiday season, or eight ring designs based on your favorite animals. Seeing products next to those with a similar purpose and aesthetic will help tell your story. That doesn't mean you won't have a one-hit wonder, but think about CD; most artists have a couple singles that play all the time on the radio, but they also have the album for their top fans to play on repeat.
So, what's your album called?
Here's Carine looking awesome and encouraging you to keep working hard on your shop:
See you all tomorrow! Thanks for your hard work! Let us know what else you'd like to learn in the comments .
I bet many of you have wondered, "How do I get my product featured on Shapeways?" Today, I'm going to let you in on our secrets and give you the Pro Tips for making the Shapeways.com front page.
First, your shop must be “complete.” How do we define that? Four or more products (take a peek at the designer spotlight each week to see examples) that have been printed successfully before.
Second, all four of those products need to be photographed, not renders. This is so your future customers can get the most realistic feel for the products you’re offering. Yes, we know some of you are amazing at photorealistic renders, but when you’re offering products to someone who has likely never seen a 3D print before, it’s nice to show them the tangible proof of concept.
Third, we look for shops that have been built with care. Designers and Makers who have taken into consideration the template images on the site and will translate well across platform. Taking the extra few minutes to build your banner is worth it!
Fourth, we want people and stories our community can connect to. Upload a thumbnail of yourself or your favorite model as your profile image. Share your design inspiration with with the shoppers on our site. Humanize the micron-precision of the lasers. Tell us how Shapeways has changed your business.
Fifth, let us know you’re out there! We do our best to constantly search for new emerging brands and shops on Shapeways, but even we are human. Tweet at us, post on our Facebook wall, or join us in our forums and post your designs in “It Arrived!” or “Feature This.” Feeling shy? Email Savannah@Shapeways.com- I’m happy to give your shop the once over anytime.
Today we continue our journey on becoming successful shop owners with the second part of Brad's three part series on google analytics. Yesterday, we added it to your shop, and now Brad will guide you through the basics.
How Many People Visit My Site?
The default Dashboard in Google Analytics is a summary of who has visited your site in the last 30 days. This is most likely the first thing you’ll want to take a look at everyday to get a sense of how your shop is performing.
Many of you have asked for advice on tracking your traffic and leveraging Google Analytics in your Shapeways Shop. Conveniently, when I asked our staff if they had any super powers in addition to their job description at Shapeways, Brad (below with his beautiful wife), expressed his love of analytics. I was elated to hear his insights and pro tips, and I'm sure you will be to! Today we have Part One of his Google Analytics series. Enjoy!
Part One: Learn More About Your Customers with Google Analytics
One of the most important aspects of designing great products is understanding the customers that show enough interest to take a look. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they buying? If not, why not? Shapeways supports Google Analytics, a tool to analyze who is visiting your shop, which can help you answer these questions.