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What can a 3D Printing Marketer do when the hype is over?

It’s been a wild ride for the marketers of professional 3D printers.  And by professional I mean machines that cost anywhere from $20,000 to $1M.  Five years ago these marketers were focused on personal sales to large automotive and aerospace OEMs.  The industry was early stage, but rational. 

The marketers focused on identifying prospects who had an application problem that fit the capabilities of their machines.  Those prospects were mostly manufacturers who were making design prototypes, short run production parts or jigs and fixtures. 



Then the personal 3D printer boom erupted, leading to a deluge of inquiries from uneducated shoppers.  Consumers desperately wanted a 3D printer in their homes.


Armed with their $1,000 budgets, these consumers went shopping on the Internet for a machine that would make their dream designs come to life. 


What they found instead were machines that could make a model the size of a mouse, and only in black plastic ABS.


The consumers then discovered professional 3D printers, and dutifully filled out countless forms on the vendor’s web sites.  The vendors were swamped with unqualified leads.  In response, they focused their marketing budgets on trade shows and print as a way to reach real engineers rather than consumers. 

This chart from 2011 shows the average B2B marketer’s share of budget compared to an estimate of the 3D printer marketer’s budget.  You can see that the 3D printing companies were overweight in trade shows and print and underweight in digital media


The hype has done them a huge favor.  Now there isn’t an engineer alive who hasn’t heard of 3D printing.  Most will even consider it for an application.  

Now that the hype is dying down, marketers of 3D printers are facing similar challenges to all other engineering marketers.  They now need a budget mix that includes awareness advertising for their particular solution.  Awareness advertising in digital media puts a heavier weight on storytelling through content creation (video, sponsored articles), and display advertising in the right places. 

Once the key application stories appear in the right digital media, more qualified leads will start to fill the marketing funnel.  These can be further qualified before they are turned over to the sales team.  Doing all this in the digital world provides key metrics along the way, leading to a useful feedback loop for future optimization.

So, 3D Printing marketers, are you planning to direct more of your budgets towards digital media? 

As always, please share your views.




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