Reducing the Hype in 3D Printing

By on August 29th, 2019 in Ideas

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With 177 3D printer manufacturers at last count, most offering multiple systems, it is becoming increasingly difficult for OEMs to differentiate.

What can you do when everyone claims they are faster, cheaper, stronger, more accurate, revolutionizing or reinventing? Competitors often ‘one-up’ each other with exaggerated or, let’s face it, misleading claims about their capabilities.

I reluctantly admit that I have been guilty of this as well, albeit unintentionally. Many of us in the 3D printing industry bear some blame for the hype, and not just those of us in sales and marketing. OEM management, engineering, reselling partners, customers and industry influencers also play a role in this problem.

The realization that I, along with others, had at one point, engaged in 3D printer hype came to me in a very public manner by an industry journalist. At first, I felt defensive and of the opinion that the journalist was taking marketing language far too literally, rather than embracing the spirit of the claim. Upon further discussion with the journalist, introspection and feedback I sought out from users and my engineering colleagues, I realized the journalist was spot on and I immediately modified the claim in all of the company’s communications. Since then, I am careful to hype-check all of my communications.

Sometimes, it is out of our control. As marketers, for example, we can be directed to use certain language despite our vocal objections, or we might not be privy to critical technical facts about a product that would alter the language we use to promote it.

An industry veteran pointed out to me that sensitivity to hype can be influenced by region. A European, he observed that US companies tend to oversell their products and services more than European companies, which tend to be more cautious in the language they use. Surely buyers around the world are interested in the facts. One prospective US customer confessed to me that his European management simply had to purchase a certain additive manufacturing system because of significant industry exposure, despite objections from the US user, who could not obtain necessary data or a benchmark part from the OEM. Further, the expert user knew the technology wasn’t the right fit for his application. In this case, the US company oversold, but the European buyer purchased the product, sight unseen so to speak, based on hype. My conclusion? This is truly a global problem.

Regardless of whether hype or misleading information is intentional, it inevitably results in unmet expectations among users and cynicism among buyers. This hurts everyone in the industry. Even more serious are the implications of overselling capabilities in healthcare and aerospace applications, where lives could be at stake. 

Where does this leave us? There’s a fine line between hype and bold, defensible and engaging marketing statements.

Here are three ways to reduce hype in 3D printing:

  1. Don’t claim untrue, exaggerated or misleading capabilities. Do make claims that are supported by 3rd party data and are important to your buyers. Buyers, do your homework and conduct tests to ensure the system meets all of your requirements.

  2. Don’t make grandiose statements about changing or revolutionizing the industry. Useful only in certain situations, these statements are inward-looking corporate statements that talk about your company. Do make statements directed to your buyers that clearly and honestly communicate how you will benefit them. 

  3. Don’t use smoke and mirrors, glitz and glam to get noticed. Do use innovative, comprehensive and integrated sales and marketing techniques, including strong positioning and content, to get noticed by your target audiences for all the right reasons. Ensure you have a high-quality product that is priced right. Buyers, avoid being influenced by the glitz and be sure to conduct in-depth research.

By Julie Reece

Julie Reece is an award-winning marketing expert with more than a decade of experience in the 3D printing industry. Founder of J. A. Reece Associates in 2019, a marketing consultancy, Julie has held executive marketing positions at several established and startup 3D printing companies. She has also been a respected advocate for increasing the representation of women in the 3D printing industry.