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Commentary & Analysis

3D Printing: Taking It to the People

A 3D print shop displaying at a local art fair? Why not? Isn’t that where many of its customers are?  

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: November 6, 2019

It’s festival season in Northern Maryland, and one of the events we regularly attend is the Bel Air Festival of the Arts. We have our favorite vendors we visit every year, but it’s always fun when we run across someone and something new. You never know what you’ll find, including...3D printing?

As we walked the tent-lined aisles, browsing fine art watercolors and artisan jewelry, I saw a booth that almost looked like it didn’t belong. It was filled with colorful molded objects and what looked suspiciously like a 3D printer. Sure enough, the company is called 3D Connected Printing out of Chevy Chase, Md. (just north of Washington, D.C.).  The booth was filled mostly with holiday objects, both lit and unlit, much as you might find in a Hallmark store. But unlike Hallmark, they’d printed the objects themselves.

This is not a typical print shop. It’s a loose collection of committed enthusiasts selling via Etsy and at local venues and targeting the “prosumer” market. It has eight business-level 3D printers and a team of 12, including 3D modelers and designers.

For consumer sales, their presence made sense. But for business? Then I thought, why not? It reminded me of when commercial printers attend marketing conferences and trade shows. Instead of waiting for the customers to come to you, go to where the customers are. Participating in their events, make yourself present and available (even consider speaking or presenting), so that they are inspired to contact you. Go to local business and Chamber of Commerce events. I still wonder why this is not something printers regularly do.

At PRINT 19, the aisles are lined with vendors that supply tools for every aspect of a printer’s business administration, workflow, and production. Why would we not expect to see the same from printers at marketing conferences? Here are samples of high-speed inkjet. Aren’t these dimensional pieces fun? Touch this piece with our latest specialty coating. Yet, the printer at a marketing show or conference remains the exception rather than the rule.

Ever wonder why this is? “Taking it to the people” works for Big Pharma, with mainstream media ads, complete with disclaimers. It works for politicians, although unfortunately, without the disclaimers. Why not printers? Isn’t that what printers tell their customers when it comes to multichannel marketing? “Put your marketing where the eyeballs are”? Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the same rule applies.  

That’s why it was so interesting to me to see a 3D printer at an art fair. Yes, 3D Connected Printing has an Etsy shop, but they do custom design and printing for businesses, too. What better venue than to display at a high-traffic event that draws people from all over the region? Not just regular people, but business owners. Marketing specialists. Architects. Artists. I would have to hope that the owners of the business anticipated this and had samples of business projects—jewelry prototypes, perhaps, 3D architectural renderings, or any of the types of jobs they might like to receive from the business community. I didn’t get inside the booth (it was busy), but I can hope.

Whether or not this shop had items that targeted the business community, the presence of their booth sparked some interesting questions, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you considered non-traditional marketing venues? If so, what?

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

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