Category Archives: Shop Owner Tips

Build Your Business with 3D Printing: Video from our Small Business Bootcamp

Shapeways now has over 22,000 shop owners who are building their businesses using 3D printing. The ability to build a 3D printing powered business is very new and we are proud that it is our community at Shapeways who are leading the way in developing best practices for these creative, small business owners. To further support and celebrate our shop owners we organized our first ever Small Business Bootcamp on October 24th, 2014 in New York City. It was a day of entrepreneurial and design inspiration that offered concrete advice on business planning, marketing and designing 3D printed products from Shapeways shop owners with support from Shapeways staff members.

3D printing small business conference

3D printing offers the opportunity of mass customization and making products you want, not just what is available. As Wayne Losey of Modio and creator of Modibot said as he discussed his discovery of 3D printing and possibility for customization after working in the toy industry, “We don’t live in a world where everyone loves Elvis. We have choices now.”

Wayne was just one of the speakers who shared ideas and resources the Bootcamp and you can find videos of the full sessions from the Small Business Bootcamp on our YouTube channel. We hear a lot from our community of shop owners and designers about where you feel you need extra information, guidance and inspiration as you build your business. We worked to highlight shop owners in our community that stand out as examples of marketing, branding, product development and their ability to create a unique business and audience.

The morning of the Bootcamp focused on business basics from a 3D printing perspective. We kicked it off with a keynote talk from David Gillespie, Shapeways Vice President for Manufacturing, about how 3D printing is driving the future of manufacturing and why he is excited to be working to solve the design and business challenges our community presents encounters. He was followed by Susan Taing, founder of bhold, who discussed her process of product development and iteration and how to choose a “winning” product. Melissa Ng, of Lumecluster, discussed her business planning process and how she finds and shares inspiration as an entrepreneur. Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things and Jeremy Burnich of Joy Complex discussed how they brand and market their shops with Global Community Manager Savannah Peterson.

In the afternoon we focused on practical tips for designing and maximizing the potential of Shapeways and 3D printing in your business. Thomas Ellison, Customer Service Team Lead, about the basics of intellectual property for 3D printing. Design Evangelist for Education Lauren Slowik moderated a panel with 3D printed metal sculptor Bathsheba Grossman, artist Ashley Zelinskie, and Wayne Losey about how they have found a niche and established themselves in their fields using 3D printing. The day ended with a panel on how to optimize your designs for the materials Shapeways offers and featured presentations from Rob from Gotham Smith and Christian Brock of Wulong Toys along with Raphael Stargrove and Gabe Leader-Rose, Shapeways Physical Product Managers.

3D printing small business materials

While 3D printing is a great way to create custom products, when you are launching a business there is always more to do to market and present your products to the world. In the spirit of the day, Bathsheba remarked, “The plain object, or the art, doesn’t sell itself – it’s the aura around it. 3D printing helps that, although it was easier 10 years ago. It’s starting to go away.” This also raises a challenge: as 3D printing becomes more widespread, what new challenges will arise for small business owners?

What do you think will the future of 3D printed business will hold? We plan to make this conference an annual event and look forward to your suggestions of what additional topics you would like to cover or delve into more deeply, and speakers you would like to hear from.

If you are in New York and would like to talk more about the small business of the future and how new technology is empowering small business owners, please join us for a Small Business Saturday Brunch at Wix Lounge on Saturday November 29 from 1 to 2:30 pm. You can find more details and RSVP on the Wix website!


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Quick Email Marketing to Boost Sales of Your 3D Prints

Love-Letter-Target-Shapeways-3DP

This is the ninth in a 10 part Shop Owner Bootcamp series counting down to black friday. Last week we focused on Supercharing Your SEO and this week we’re talking Email. Pictured above is Love Letter: Square by Target. Learn more about our partnership with them here

Are you beginning to feel the heat of Holiday Season yet? If you’re not, let me be the first to tell you, it’s go time, Shapies! We just released our holiday gift guide are in full-steam-ahead holiday mode. If you do no other marketing for your Shapeways shop today, do this: remind your friends, family and former customers that you make awesome products through 3D printing and that just about anything can be personalized through your skills and the technology. If you’re concerned that it will come off as spammy, we are happy to take a look in our Holiday Messaging Help forum. I also ask that you trust me when I say, your network will be interested. While it’s no longer new to us, 3D Printing, especially in our unique material portfolio, is still very cool and new to most folks outside the Shapie universe.

The email can be simple: 

Hi friends, 

2014 has been a great year, and I’m grateful you were a part of mine. I just wanted to share the 3D printed products I’ve created this year, and let you know that if you’d like any of them or any other custom products for holidays I’m here to help. 3D Printing is very cool and personal, and it’s not just plastic. Shapeways prints in Steel, Brass, Silver, Gold and even Platinum, too. Holiday season is fast approaching.  

(Insert a few photos of your work)

(link to your shop) 

Cheers, 

I bet you’ll be surprised how few people are aware of what you’re truly capable of, and what’s more fun than supporting a friends business and also giving a great gift? We see so many touching stories and personalized products come through our factories, I can’t help but encourage you to let your network know you’re there.

For those of you with Existing Email Newsletters:

I get many of your independent newsletters each month and enjoy them all. The one thing that all Shapies have in common is how genuine your passion is. This comes through in your communications and in your work. Keep it up! And don’t worry, if you don’t have an email list yet, Holiday is a great time to make one. Just add a link to a google form (or whatever signup mechanism you prefer) in your shop description and watch it grow!

Two Emails You Should Send:

  1. Next week, ideally Tues-Thurs (higher open rate): Holiday preview and/or reminder about your shop including top sellers & latest creations. You can even offer design services.
  2. Small Business Saturday: A holiday mostly celebrated in the US, but one worth letting your customers know about. Black Friday is historically retail centric, Cyber Monday (a great day to send an email as well) is all about digital, but SMB Saturday offers a different unique opportunity to showcase how 3D Printing is enabling your Small Business and say thank you to those contributing to it’s growth.

Here’s a great example from Somersault 18:24‘s Monthly Newsletter:

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Their message goes on to include links to their shop and updates about the science and 3D printing world. It’s helped grow them to one of the most successful shops and collections on Shapeways.

Would it be helpful if included easy to share news stories you could include in your emails in our Shop Owner Newsletter? What emails that we send do you like best? And worst? Be honest with us the way you want your customers to be honest with you :) .


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Five Easy Ways to Supercharge Your SEO

This is the eight post in a 10 week series leading up to our busiest sales weekend of the year. We’ve covered everything from getting press for your 3D printed products to how to promote your products on social media and much in our Shop Owner bootcamp series. This week’s post comes from our performance marketing pro, Jeanne, we’re focused on SEO.

eggbot-mygadgetlife-shapeways

Scottish Shapie Shop Owner MyGadgetLife has some of the best product descriptions on Shapeways. Check out his eggbot (above) and his moon mobius to get inspired for your shop!

5 Easy Ways (Under 5 Minutes) to Get Your Products Picked Up by Google

We’ve already talked about various ways to get customers to your shop, but today we’re going to dive even deeper and talk about the importance of search engine results (SEO). Currently, organic search results are one of the top drivers to Shapeways. The more you can get your products in search engine results, the more likely a potential customer will visit your product page and make a purchase. Below are five tips to get your products search engine optimized in minutes.

#1 Use Specific Keywords in Your Product Titles & Descriptions

Your model titles and descriptions are used not only on your model page on Shapeways, but in search engine search results – a two for one! So, titles and descriptions with specific, relevant keywords will help your products appear in and get people to click (which helps it to surface even more frequently).

Action: You can spend a lot of time on keyword optimization, but here are two easy ways to get started:

  • If you were to search for your product, what would you type in a search engine? Make sure those keywords are in both your title and description

  • Be as specific as possible with your description, including all the peripheral search terms that might be relevant (synonyms, the category that your product belongs in, types of customization or personalization, etc.)

For example, if I title my product “Holiday Ornament,” the likelihood that my product will show up on the first few pages of Google is very low (there are a total of 22.8m search results). Sucks, I know. But if I title it “Custom holiday ornament with initial,” I’m competing against 8.7m search results. And in my description, I’ll write “Christmas or holiday ornament can be customized with initials, monograms, names, images, and is a great unique gift for your loved ones.” Sounds wordy, but it works.

#2 Update Titles & Descriptions to a Certain Length

Anything too long or too short is suspected by search engines to be of low quality. There is a min and approximate max, and you are penalized with less opportunity to turn up in search results for it.

Action: Titles should be about 6 to 8 words (55 characters), with the most important words in the beginning. Descriptions should be at least 15 words (160 characters) with keywords described above in it, as that’s the snippet that gets viewed in search results so you want it to be enticing! Use natural language (the way you would normally talk or write) in your descriptions, including facts and statements to help viewers see the value of your product immediately.

Description

#3 Give Your Images Captions with Keywords

A picture is worth a thousand words. More and more people are finding Shapeways products through image searches on search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, etc). Including a photo and a description with keywords will increase the likelihood it will get picked up in image searches (known as an “Alt text”).

Action: In the Details tab of your model, fill in the image caption with keywords, starting with the ones most relevant to your product. For example, for this ornament I created with Shapeways ornament creator, my caption is “Custom Christmas holiday ornament with organic design”

Image caption

#4 Every Product is Unique, so its Title and Description Should Be Too!

Every model should have a unique title and description. Duplications are penalized by search engines because it assumes the viewer won’t have a good experience if there’s a lot of too-similar content.  Unique titles and descriptions will help your products get shown by search engines.

Action: Give your product titles and descriptions. Your products are unique and their titles and descriptions should be too.  little bit different is better than no difference at all.

#5 Your Shop Description is Prime for SEO Opportunity

Your shop page is full of opportunities for search engines to pick up, with your product and their titles, image alt text, and the robust area to write in a shop description.

Action: Update your Shop Description in your Shapeways Shop Settings with examples of your products types, your background and your expertise designing them. Feel free to elaborate on your designs and products, as the more relevant keywords on the page compared to non-relevant keywords, the better.

Bonus: Also add an extended description for your shop page.

Shop Description

Search engine optimization is a time-intensive and ever evolving process, but the key tenets are consistent: quality content, natural descriptions, and following basic guidelines will go a long way.

What keyword search do you wish you were the #1 result for?


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Make Each Social Media Platform Work For You

Hello Shapeways designers and shop owners! My name is Eric Ho and I am the Social Media Specialist here at Shapeways and in this blog post I’ll be teaching you how to promote your business on social media and how to make each social media platform work for you. The four big social media platforms we will be focusing on will be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

In the world of social media there is no one social strategy fits all, there is only one social media strategy tailored to you. The better you understand the tools, function, and advantages of each social platform the better you will be able to develop a social media presence catered to your business. One rule that everyone should follow on social media is that content is King and distribution is Queen. Tailoring your messaging to your audience with eye catching visuals and thought provoking text will increase the likelihood of people sharing and engaging with the content you’re sharing on social media. Mastering how to tell stories and tailoring your messaging specifically for each of these four major social media platforms will allow you get attention and increase your chances of you acquiring new audiences.

Facebook

The largest social media platform on the internet means there is the most demand for attention to be sought after on ones newsfeed. Make sure you have a business fan page on Facebook and most of your posts should include a highly engaging image. especially a high quality image that visually showcases the product. Keep the text short, straightforward, and include the information readers care about. Don’t be afraid to include a call to action which can include “learn more, shop now, get started”. Facebook posts with photos included get at least 2X more engagement (likes, shares, comments) than text posts alone, and including a video in your post can lead to 4X more engagement. For more information on managing your Shapeways Shop Facebook fan page go here.

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(embedding a video to the Facebook post instead of linking to a YouTube video increase views of that Facebook post by 3X, Learn how to upload a video to Facebook here.)

Twitter

Twitter is like one giant cocktail party and anyone is invited. If you are going to use Twitter for one purpose I recommend you take advantage of Twitter search, whether that’s searching a keyword or a specific hashtag. For example if you’re a jewelry designer and want to jump into a conversation about Jewelry, just search #Jewelry on Twitter and you can begin tweeting at people talking about Jewelry, following those people, or you can tweet about #Jewelry to anyone else looking to join in on the conversation about Jewelry.  Learn more about how to how to best compose tweets here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 6.00.35 PM

 

 

Pinterest

People come to Pinterest for visual discovery, creative inspiration, and sharing and collecting those discoveries and inspirations. The Pinterest platform is made up of 80% females, It is no coincidence that many businesses are using this platform to attract shoppers. Just like with Facebook, keep the text short and post  visually attractive images of your products. Make sure to Pin to various categories which your designs may overlap. Also similar to Twitter, you can search various categories and comment on other people’s pins to increase the chance of pinners discovering you. Interested in having your own Pinterest board on the Shapeways Pinterest page? Learn how you can have your own Pinterest board on the Shapeways Pinterest page here.

 

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Instagram

Think of a photo snapped from your phone straight to Instagram. Instagram is one of the most personal and human ways you can engage with your customers on social media. Often times photos on Facebook and Pinterest are touched up to look pretty but with Instagram you have the option to make photos and video up close and personal, whether that’s with products or behind the scenes of your business. When it comes to sharing products I find that utilizing videos and photos that show the products out in the open and in the wild are very effective. Share photos of people engaging with your products and ask yourself what does my customer look like? And what use case scenario can can they use my product in? If you’re making sculptures, share photos of your your sculptures on someone’s bookshelf. If you’re making jewelry share a photo of someone wearing your jewelry trailered to a specific occasion or outfit. Get creative with Instagram and you’ll make it work.

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The best way to find success on social media is to jump right in it, experiment, learn, and get better based on results you are looking for whether that’s growing your followers, increasing engagement, driving sales, or driving traffic. There is no one method fits all when it comes to creating a social media plan for your business but if you’re looking to get more active on any of these four major social media platforms, the information above is a good starting point.


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Seven Steps to Get Press for Your 3D Printed Products

This is the sixth edition of our ten week series counting down to Black Friday. Previously covered topics include engaging forums, tagging products, photography, market research, and reputation.

press-dcyaleRadial Drill Press HO Scale by Dave’s Model Railway Stuff

Have you dreamed of seeing your products on your favorite website, blog or media outlet? Are you ready to expand your audience? Believe it or not, it’s easier than you think. Getting promoted on Shapeways is always a great start; and by targeting publications and outlets with audiences that align with your target customer base, you can really see your sales go through the roof. Write out the checklist below and seek holiday press, one article can make you thousands of dollars; really.

Seven Steps to PR Success:

1) List Your Dream Publications to be Featured in: Where have you always wanted to have been featured? What would validate your company or give you bragging rights amongst those less familiar with how great your business is. Make the wishlist of publications you want to be featured it, you’ll check them off over time, I promise. Plus, visualizing where you want to be helps make it happen.

2) Identify the Reporters that Cover Your Niche: Almost all reporters have topics or “beats” that they cover. Make a list of 1-2 journalists at the publications that you want to be featured in to target for coverage of your work. Communicating with the right people at a media outlet is essential to you getting featured and saves everyone time.

3) Find and Document Ways to Reach Reporters: Twitter handles, news tip forms, and individual emails are all great ways to get in touch with journalists. I have found that twitter handles are often the fastest way to get in touch with someone, followed by email. Platforms that journalists check in real-time are always best. Make a list or spreadsheet of these.

4) Engage with Reporters BEFORE you Ask for Coverage: In order to get what you want (coverage) you need to give (engage). Follow those journalists online and interact with the content they create.  Comment on their articles, share those you and your audience will find relevant and make yourself known on their radar before you ask for a feature.

5) Ask for Attention: The notion that if you model it the journalists will come is naive. Everyone is overwhelmed by the amount of content online, and the best way to stand out is to contact writers directly. For example, if you design camera parts, tagging the reporter at Engadget that reviews cameras and saying “Hi John, loved your article on DLSR’s last week, I made this mod for my Canon,” etc. are great ways to get the conversation about you started.

6) Post Your Products on Platforms Journalists Often Search: You may not get a journalists attention the first time you reach out, but since what you’re creating is so cool, they’ll notice the buzz you stir up. Getting an existing online community excited about your work, like we discussed in last week’s forum tips, can really boost the exposure of your products to journalists and potential shoppers alike.

7) If at First You Don’t Succeed: Try, try again! Journalists are busy and on tight deadlines. Just because they don’t cover you today, doesn’t mean they won’t cover you next week. Share your latest creations with them, reminding the writer why their audience will love to hear about what you’ve done.

There are Shop Owners already doing a great job with this, and you can too! Some great recent examples include:

natasha-long-prosthetic-leg-by-melissa-ng

ittyblox-toyland-shapeways

Remember, both your products and your story as a 3D designer are noteworthy. Don’t be bashful, start growing your audience today!

Bonus challenge: Share your list of target outlets and reporters in our Marketing Your Shapeways Shop forum thread – the more we all work towards getting exposure for our work, the more journalistic interest there will be in all of us. One lucky list sharer will get $25 Shapeways credit.


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Five Reasons You Should Tag Your 3D Prints

This is the fourth in a 10 part bootcamp series counting down to Black Friday. We’ve covered reputation, photography and market research already and this week we’re talking about tagging.

How is your work currently being discovered? There are now millions of models on Shapeways, and the best way to stand out from the crowd (aside from photographs of your great products and collections) and be discovered by shoppers is by tagging your products properly. Yes, it can be monotonous, but it is literally how we and others discover many of you. Since the tag is a plus sign, there was no more fitting lead image here than Lucas Goossen’s Solid Plus Pendant.

LucasPlusPendant

Here are five reasons taking the time to tag your models is worth it:

Tags Equate to More Sales Through Organic Search (aka SEO) – Tag words help your products get found on and off our site. The more people that find you organically, the more “popular” your products become in our search engine, leading to greater sales. For example, when I search “Drone” Shapie MaikelsDesigns takes the top spot.

Drone copy

Niche Communities Have a Home on Shapeways - the products that are most unique are often the most successful on Shapeways. Products that fulfill needs not met by other markets. The search terms on our site are always very specific. Think about the words your target audiences uses and would use to search for you and be sure to include them. When shoppers view products like yours, they often are served your products in the “related items.” Looking at the Pitch Control Lever of Maikel’s above, Shapie shoppers are served products from four related drone mod designers:

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Trending Tags Lead to New Shopping Hubs- We’ve built awesome features now that allow us to create tag pages. Connect with people who model similar things in our interest groups forum and come up with a shared model tag. Share the tags on social media so shoppers (and us) can easily spot them. You can always post in “feature this” on our forums, include the tag you & others are using, and we’ll direct shoppers looking for products like yours straight to you! Here’s an example of the DJI Phantom Niche Hub:

DronesPage

Tags are Often How We Curate our Newsletter & Homepage- Wonder how we pick the products on our homepage? Aside from catching them in feature this, we find them by searching key terms. Recently we searched “space” for our space themed newsletter and “pumpkin” for fall finds. Thinking about seasons and holidays your work may be popular at is a great way to get extra eyes on your products.

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There is a Higher Chance Your Products Will Get Advertised if They are Tagged Properly- Tags can lead to your products being featured in our retargeting and Ad Words campaigns. Not only does properly tagging benefit you through the promotions we run, the models we feature, and relevant surfacing based on customer searches, it can even get you advertised courtesy of Shapeways.

Bonus: Tagging is also a way to sort through your shop inventory!

The best time to test tags is the holidays. Apply your learnings from google analytics, monitor which of your products get the most hits and optimize your collection’s tags based on that data. It’s great for your sales and makes our curation easier. Remember, we generally only feature products with photos, and tag those beautiful creations so they can be found by the whole Shapie community.

What tags do you wish had a more prominent home on Shapeways?


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: The Importance of Taking Photos of 3D Printed Products

Shop Owner Bootcamp is a 10 week series aimed to help Shop Owners prepare for holiday. Week 9 is focused on product photography and the importance thereof.

Have you been thinking about taking photos of your products but been making excuses for why you don’t need to? Keeping your shop up is no easy task, but a little effort upfront leads to significantly greater sales. If sales aren’t enough, we are constantly looking for great models to feature on Shapeways and promote through our press and media opportunities. Most publications won’t print renders, and there is nothing more disappointing than not being able to feature a Shop Owner because we don’t have any photos of their great products. Plus, photos help build your reputation too, as Vijay discussed last week.dragonfly-shapeways-paul-liaw

I was a very late adopter of iPhoneography, despite having been a smartphone user for nearly a decade. Admittedly, I’m not sure I would have felt 100% genuine telling you to shoot your holiday collection on your phone before last week. Paul Liaw, the designer behind NeoNouveau is a legend; an award winning digital artist, a Adobe showcased 3D Printing designer, and is this week’s Shop Owner mentor. When not 3D modeling, he brings the lucky community team at Shapeways cheesecake!

Sav-Paul-Nat-Shapeways

This week’s challenge is to take photos. Products that have sold, sell 10x more when they are photographed. It is impossible to stress enough how much photos can make a difference in your sales. Use these quick tips to make your products sing:

  • Use a single tone background – while white is classic, any solid color can do. Don’t have a plain table or desk? Lay down some 2D Printer Paper or a bed sheet. It’s amazing how far you can get with resources around the house.paul-bracelet-alligator
  • Stabilize your camera or smartphone; books, tables and trees work in a pinch – the easiest way to screw up a great shot is to blur it. I always shoot products here at HQ on our white Ikea desks, with my iPhone in landscape mode, resting on the table.
  • Shoot multiple angles – without the ability hold your product in their hands, customers want to see every angle. Pretend you’re taking it out of the Shapeways box for the first time and capture the angles you examined first. Even if you feel silly taking the photo, it could be the one that makes the sale. No need to hold back with the shutter, thanks to our smartphones, a tap is all it takes to discard extras. Paul-Liaw-Fish-Side-Shapeways
  • Always shoot in landscape – our product photos are 625 x 465 and its much easier to crop them when you’re shooting horizontal. In fact, if you’re shooting in landscape, you’re likely already framing your products in this ratio.
  • Show Scale – The average consumer can’t visualize millimeters the way we all can. People, pets, currency, common household items, even fingers cad add crucial context for your consumers.fish-coin-paul-liaw-shapeways
  • Tag materials in your photos – this is the easiest way to set customer expectations. When the material in the image matches the swatch the price reflects, the anxiety surrounding a first time buy is eased. It’s easy to forget this important step; and yet we see it convert to sales, and with material filters, it really helps surface your great products. Click the camera icon in the upper right hand of your product photos to check and set the material tagged in each.
  • Compare Materials and Finishes - Not everyone is as familiar with our materials as we are, showing the difference makes a difference. For example, here are Raw Brass (top) and Raw Bronze (bottom) version’s of NeoN0uveau‘s wheat bracelet. Paul-Liaw-Wheat-Bracelet-Shapeways
  • Have fun! Customers will be drawn to your personalities and you can tell a lot about yourself and your brand through your photos. We encourage you to upload as many photos as you want, invite friends over and get creative with your product shoot.

What’s the greatest barrier between you and great photographs? How can we help?


 

Shop Owner Bootcamp: Build Your 3D Printing Reputation

This is the first in our new series, Shop Owner Bootcamp: 10 week countdown to Black Friday. Every week we will be discussing advanced tips and tricks for optimizing your holiday sales. This week’s focus is reputation. 

Can you feel it? The churn of excitement that only comes with Holiday season and sales? We are just 10 weeks away from Black Friday and it’s time to whip our Shops into shape.

Vijay-Paul-Dotsan-Stag

Wired Life Stag by Dotsan

This week we’re focused on Reputation. Customer trust is the single most important factor when it come to repeat business. Knowing that they can get something unique, custom, and awesome from you that works as expected is crucial to the growth of your business. How do you build this customer trust? Back when I was on the UK roadshow, Vijay Paul of Dotsan, one of the most trusted designers on Shapeways, was kind enough to discuss reputation and tips for building it with us.  He’ll be guiding us all as we ramp up to holiday with our new Shop Owner Series.

Video produced by Stephen Greenwood, with help from yours truly

Consider this checklist your challenge for the week:

  • Print Your Models- Much of what we create has never been done before, and unexpected things happen to even the best designs from the best designers. The only way you can ensure form and function will be as you hope and expect for your customer, is to print it for yourself first. We know that with nearly 50 materials offered now, from plastic to platinum, that printing in all of them may not be an option. That’s okay, focus on ways you can paint the best picture for your customers. For example, even if its not possible to print a product of yours in a premium alloy like gold or silver, our stainless steel finishes can give the customer a very good idea of what to expect.
  • Document Your Process- One of the most compelling things about Shapeways is that every product has a story. Taking photos of the iterations that didn’t make the cut and illustrating how you’ve improved a design over time lets customers know you care about your products. It gives them the confidence that you’re not selling something you wouldn’t try yourself, and shows them your keen design eye.
  • Engage With Your Customers- Shapeways now shares the user name of a customer if they made the purchased logged in. Make a note to check back with them after the product should have shipped and see what they thought! Encourage them to post their photos in the comments on your product page, letting others browsing know how great your work is. Be open to updating your design based on their feedback, these early adopters can give you great UX advice!
  • Be Yourself- In your brand, in the products you design, in the product descriptions you write. This is your business, your baby, and the more it aligns with who you are, the more it will sing. Talk about your inspiration for the piece in the product description, upload photos to your personal and shop profile; and make the Shapeways Shopping experience personal!
  • Complete your Profile- Seeing a face and lineup of great products instills confidence in any consumer. Knowing who is behind the brand encourages people to try it out. Uploading your avatar is more critical than ever, now that your designer card shows up on every product page. Include your twitter handle so shoppers can chat with you easily on the go. Make a sweet shop banner. Invest in this now, so when traffic floods your shop around holiday, you like the reputable, fabulous business you are.

Next week we’ll be talking about the importance of photography and tagging in the getting your products discovered. Feel free to get a head start!

What help do you need to take your shop to the next level? Feel free to ask for guidance here or in our Marketing Your Shapeways Shop thread on our forums.


 

Refining the presentation of products in your Shapeways shop

by William Seligman

From Eleanor: William Seligman is a jewelry designer who creates pagan and Wiccan themed Jewelry on Shapeways for his Kickin’ Wiccan shop. He posted a version of this entry on his blog and we enjoyed his thoughts about how to effectively edit, curate and present products in your Shapeways shop so much we wanted to share them with the broader Shapeways community.

The three Kickin' Wiccan styles of triquetra ring in raw bronze.

The three Kickin’ Wiccan styles of triquetra ring in raw bronze.

On my 53rd birthday, I lost an intricately-designed custom-made ring that was precious to me. The ring was made 15 years ago; the original jeweler no longer had the molds. So I started looking into ways to recreate the ring from photographs. I discovered Shapeways in the
process. After months of experimentation with 3D software and many test prints, I finally had my ring again.

I emerged with a self-taught skill set in 3D design and printing. I decided to put those skills to use in a market I knew well from being a consumer: Wiccan and pagan jewelry. It’s my first experience with setting up a storefront on-line.

Recently, I consulted with the talented artist Vann Godfrey about Kickin’ Wiccan, my jewelry shop on Shapeways. I’ve spent the past few days putting his advice into practice. Vann’s advice was similar to that of Shapeways’ advice to its shop owners. Here’s what I’ve figured out, both from Vann and from my own investigations:

wovenringkickinwiccan

No more plastic or renders for shop images

Plastic models, no matter well I photograph them, will never look as good as pictures of metal jewelry. Plastic models of metal jewelry detract from the look of the shop. A single plastic photo will drag down all the other pictures, no matter good those other photos are.

This has two corollaries:

  • I’ve had to pull items from my shop because the only pictures I have of them are of my plastic test prints.
  • I can also create rendered scenes from the same 3D graphics program I use to design the rings. I’ve reached the point where my scenes are slightly better than the photographs of plastic, but they still look artificial. They’re not good enough to put on my storefront. Even if I did, Shapeways frowns on rendered scenes; if I used them, Shapeways would not consider my store for promotional purposes.  Eleanor’s note: We now feature material renders, which you can read about here, but still encourage actual product photography as the best way to show off your designs. 

 

So some of my designs will have to wait until I get metal prints and take pictures of them. I won’t add a new design to the shop until I can print it, or arrange for someone else to print and photograph it for me. Eleanor’s note: we also encourage designers to try out Beta products for this purpose. 

This can happen: I designed a heptagram ring for a friend. To my surprise, the response was so positive that I was encouraged to make it available for purchase even though all I had was a rendered image. I’ve asked the buyers to send me photos. This is nice reinforcement. It tells me that maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m doing.

WGS-kilt-full

No more plastic jewelry

I’ve stopped selling plastic versions of my designs. For one thing, it helps the shoppers if they have fewer options to choose from. For another, I have to value my time and skill in creating the jewelry.

Most of my designs are rings. When the shopper buys a ring, they have to specify the ring size. I customize the design for that particular size. This takes time. It’s barely worth doing for the stainless-steel versions of the rings; for me it’s not worth doing for cheap plastic versions.

In general, there many good reasons to work in plastic, but the jewelry I am making is not suited to it.

What choices have you made to edit the products you sell on Shapeways? How do you decide which designs to offer and in what materials?


 

Tweet Your Best Tweet Forward

We recently added Twitter to your Shop Owner profiles to allow you to share updates with your followers. You can have a shop/brand handle on your Shop page and your personal handle on your profile page. As the social media specialist at Shapeways, I believe that Twitter is an exciting platform for Shapeways Shop Owners and users to showcase work, market products, and generate conversation around your Shapeways Shop.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 11.16.13 PM

If you’re already on Twitter and follow @Shapeways, I’m often the eyes that get to see all of your tweets. My favorite part about Twitter is that it’s only 140 characters and it’s a great way to provide frequent updates to your followers. If you’re a Shop Owner or designer looking to tweet about your work, following these best practices for composing a tweet will significantly increase the likelihood of engagement (retweets, favorites, mentions, replies).

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Here’s an example of a quality tweet by Brandon George, the owner of the Shapeways Shop 3by3D. Let’s breakdown what makes this tweet a great tweet in my opinion.

1) It includes a quality photo relevant to his tweet. Everyone is competing for eyeballs on your Twitterfeed so having a attractive visual image in your tweet gets twice the response rate than a tweet without a photo.

2) The tweet uses hashtags like #Flower #mensfashion #Style which relate to the product being promoted, and using popular hashtags increases the chance of exposure of your for people searching for that hashtag.

3) The tweet includes a shortened URL linking back to his Shapeways Shop where interested followers seeing the tweet can be directed to find his shop.

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(Shop Owner Jeremy Mallin tweets about his Mobius Cinquefoil Knot Pendant)

I plan to continue to share more social media tips and tricks to help the Shapeways community win on social. In the meantime I can be reached at eric@shapeways.com if anyone needs any advice on social media strategy.

Remember to tweet your best tweets forward and you can engage with us on all of our other social media channels below!

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shapeways
Follow us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/shapeways
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Shapeways
Find us on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/shapeways
Subscribe to us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Shapeways
Follow us on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shapeways


 

Sneak Peek into new ways to design products on Shapeways: First To Try & Beta Products

Here at Shapeways, we’re changing how products are made and by whom. We have makers and designers from all over the world in our community, some of whom are making their first product and others who have been professional product designers for their whole lives. They’re creating everything from jewelry to rocket ships, GoPro accessories to chess sets. No matter what they’re making, though, we know how involved the creative process can be. Taking a great idea and making it real takes a lot of hard work and iteration before amazing products come to life.

With 3D printing, designers are not alone in the creative process. They don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get the form and function just right, and they don’t have to wait to go to market until they’ve undergone extensive testing. With the support of their friends and fans, they can share their products with the world and get the feedback they need — wherever they are in the product development process.  We’re committed to helping you create great products, by embracing iteration and encouraging your customers to actively participate in earlier stages of product development. Step one is setting the right expectations, and step two is opening up the conversation around products.

Today, we are excited to give our community and particularly Shop Owners a sneak peek into two new ways to get support and feedback on early stage products that we’ll release later this summer: First to Try and Beta.

Shop Owners, you can see all of the new tools on your model edit page today and preview what your products will look like when this is released to shoppers later in the summer.

Beta 

BetaProduct

Design is becoming far more collaborative across companies big and small, and we’ve already seen thousands of examples on Shapeways in which designers and customers work together to tweak products and make them more personal. We want to make it easier for Shapeways Shop Owners to tap into this trend and develop deeper, ongoing connections with their customers.

The first way we’re fueling this kind of collaboration is called Beta. Products in Beta are in active development and are being improved upon through product iteration.  As a Shop Owner, you will be able to invite your friends, fans, and communities to support you in the product development process and get feedback to improve the design. You can ask for feedback on how it fits, whether they like the design, or anything else you need to get your product over the finish line. More and more, people want to be a part of the creative process — we’re excited to help open up the doors with you.

How will this work?

The purchase area on your product page will prominently announce that this product is in Beta, and has space for you to briefly explain to customers your goals and what you’re looking for in the Beta testing. You can opt to make your product a Beta Product or to move it out of Beta at any time.

Beta Materials

By positioning your product in Beta, you will have a private comment stream to collaborate with your customers and solicit their feedback. We see a lot of this happening in comment streams today on Shapeways, but we also want a private place to encourage honest feedback and collaboration on products. Elaborate on your goals, ask specific questions, and keep customers up to date on the progress of your product and new versions you’re working on. We’ll be encouraging customers who buy a product in Beta to come back here after they receive their product to share photos and let you know what they think.

Learn more about how to use Beta Products

 

First To Try
First To Try Product

3D printing a model in every material finish you’d like to offer for sale can be quite expensive. We’re working hard to reduce the barriers to entry and we don’t ever want to make you 3D print a model in every finish yourself unless you prefer to. However, because 3D printing is still new, some customers don’t understand the risks subtleties involved with 3D printing and can be disappointed if their product doesn’t turn out the way they were expecting — or especially disappointed if it can’t be printed at all.

As a part of our efforts to increase transparency about the manufacturing process with designers, including the Print Success Rate

we are also going to provide more information to shoppers by showing the “First To Try” label on any product that hasn’t been printed before in that material. This helps shoppers understand our level of confidence that we can successfully create the product that they are looking to buy.

How does this work?

When your product has First To Try materials enabled, your customers will see a different set of choices on your product page. We’re also investing in beautiful material renders that match the color and finish of all of our materials, so you can show a shopper exactly what the product will look like, while also helping them understand that they are one of the first to 3D print it in that material and are seeing a computer-generated render, not a photo.

Once you or your customers have successfully printed your product in each material you’re offering for sale, the First To Try label won’t apply any longer. There are a few ways to progress through First To Try:

  • You can enlist your friends, fans and community to buy your product and share a photo, which will be important for your long term product success
  • You can print the product in your preferred materials and ensure you meet the Print Success Rate before you launch your product
  • You can disable the materials that haven’t been successfully printed before

Learn more about how to use First To Try

 

Beta vs First To Try

When you are really hoping to get feedback on your product — from fit to form to function and everything in between — we recommend using Beta. It’s a great way to solicit feedback and build a community around your products and ideas.

If you’ve already tested your product and are trying to understand whether you product can be successfully made in a given material, First To Try is your best bet. It sets the right expectations for your customers and helps you enlist support.

 

The Future of Product Development at Shapeways

With a process as new and rapidly-changing as 3D printing, expectation setting is critical. But we know there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We’ll continue to build more tools to help you solicit support from the community and help them understand how the process works. We’re really excited about these new additions to our marketplace, and would love for you to join the discussion here in comments and the forum to let us know what you think!

Learn more about Product Development at Shapeways, or jump into the tutorials on how to use Beta Products & First To Try in your shop today.


 

How to generate supplemental income using your Shapeways shop

Posted by in Shop Owner Tips

by Mike Sill

From Eleanor: Mike Sill is a 3D prop designer, modeler and pinball enthusiast living in Pittsburgh who is a member of Shapeways Crew. His Shapeways shop is Mad Hat Studio

Own Your Business!

Take the mindset that you now own a business. You are in charge of all aspects of your shop, from presentation to sales. Look professional, act professional, be professional.

Find Your Market!

Find a specific, unique niche for your shop on Shapeways, or create a print that is different enough to get noticed. Don’t copy and paste from other models. This might get you a sale, but the stream of sales from that model will dry up quickly as the market becomes oversaturated. Find a target audience that is interested in what you want to sell on Shapeways, and theme your shop around attracting that audience.

Stay Busy!

Brainstorm a quick and dirty list of potential models you would like to make. Then motivate yourself by creating on a regular schedule.

Stay Smart!

Find the balance between selling at a markup that is affordable for your target audience yet high enough for you to make a decent wage.

Network!

Talk! Be it online or in person, your best chance of making a sale is to get people talking about 3D printing. There are countless people who want something to be 3D printed, but have no idea where to go or what to do. That’s where you come in!

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Build your maker business with Shapeways and 3D printing

Posted by in Shop Owner Tips
To celebrate National Small Business week our May New York City meetup was focused around a panel discussion on how tools like 3D Printing, e-commerce and a robust website and social media presence can empower maker entrepreneurs. 

The panel featured Shapeways shopowners and designers, including digital artist and sculptor Ryan Kittleson; artist and designer Sophie Kahn; and entrepreneur and 3D printing artist Melissa Ng. I had the honor of facilitating the talk and asking these three about how they have built their creative businesses.

We are excited to share this conversation with our community as a whole and are happy to share the discussion in full with you. 

For me, the key take aways from this discussion were:
  • Because you will be spending a lot of time with your business, spend time finding your voice as a designer and making work you are truly interested in 
  • Using Shapeways for 3D printing has enabled these designers to incoporate it into their work because they can access different printing processes for “Tens, not hundreds” of dollars
  • Use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to tell your story about who are as a designer
  • Make sure potential customers can find you online. Have a website, as well as a robust social media presence
  • Selling products on Shapeways is an great venue for selling multiples of a work and can help build a designer’s reputation and portfolio when they also offer one-of-a-kind and commission work
We look forward to hearing your thoughts about this discussion! If you are a Shapeways shopowner, maker, or entrepreneur we’d love to know about the tools and strategies you use for building your business. Thanks again to our panelists and to Wix.com for hosting us at the Wix Lounge! 

 

New Shop Owner Tool: Pricing

You have finished your design, uploaded it to Shapeways and put it up for sale. Now it is time to set your prices. Pricing is a key part of product merchandising, but we often hear from shop owners that it is challenging to choose the “right price.” Today, we are making changes to help on this front. 

When it comes to choosing the right price, there are many factors to consider outside of base price and markup. These can include: What type of product am I selling? Who is my ideal customer? What’s the value to my customers? The right price will resonate with your audience in the same way that descriptions, photos, and videos do. And that means you could improve your sales.  

The best way to do this is to always think about the prices your customers will see. With the new pricing tool, you will find the following changes to make the experience simpler and more efficient: 

  • Dedicated space for pricing, with a cleaner interface
  • Ability to edit prices for multiple materials at once
  • Emphasis on editing total prices
  • Customized tips to help with pricing

Shop Owners in European countries will also find the following changes:

  • Price entry in USD, while viewing both USD and EUR prices 
  • Prices displayed with VAT

We’re excited to share these changes with you today. Improving our pricing tool is just one of the many steps we’re taking to provide you with a great Shop Owner experience. 

If you’re interested in helping to test other shop owner improvements, please reach out to our Community team at community@shapeways.com. And as always, we welcome your feedback either here in this blog or in the forums.

Notes for advanced users:
The CSV Wizard will be changing, and the current APIs will still be supported. Please check out our forum post for more details. 

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Welcome to the Golden Age of 3D Printing: Introducing 14 Carat Gold to Shapeways

Update: As of May 22nd, Gold is now available worldwide and can be set as the default material for the products in your shop. 
Featured models from left to right: Hibiscus Ring by alaswadi, Cousin Gabriel Ring by cousingabriel, Rock Ring by thefuturefuture, and Arrow Ring by courtneyetc

Today, we’re proud to welcome the most precious of metals to the Shapeways family - 14k Gold. We’ve been inspired by the accessories and jewelry you’ve made with our Silver, Brass, Bronze, and Steel; and we have heard your requests for more premium metal options. 


Droplet Pendant by LIFIC

Our solid, hand-polished 14k Gold is simply stunning. It’s meticulously polished to a beautiful, smooth sheen. With a high-shine look that’s perfect for rings, cufflinks, pendants, earrings, charms, or whatever you decide to create. Not to mention, wedding season is right around the corner, ladies and gents!
Greek mythology deemed the people of the Golden Age the “golden race” of humans who came first. You’re all part of the Shapeways Golden Age, so which one of you fearless designers will try our Gold first?

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