Is Online Selling Right for You?

selling laser cut products online

Custom laser cut products can be a huge hit if you find the right market for it. While many brick-and-mortar stores and even big box retailers might love to put your products on their stands, the cost of selling through these channels are not always the most profitable. Your margin may shrink depending on what these merchants charge per sale — these may be based on a commission or a consignment fee. Starting your physical store for selling is even more costly. There is one channel where you can find success without a lot of fees or overhead costs eating into your profits: online selling.

Benefits of Online Selling: 

Aside from the revenue factor, other benefits of selling online include:

  • Accessibility – Essentially, an online store is open 24/7 and anyone, anywhere in the world can access it to buy from you. On the flip side, you as a seller, can operate the business anywhere in the world as long as you have internet access and a reliable fulfilment partner like Ponoko.
  • Measurability – There are many web analytics and ecommerce tracking systems now available to give you access to information you need to make smart decisions on the fly. Find out everything you need to know about your user demographics, website sessions, conversions, cart abandonment, time on site and more — data which is actionable and can help you achieve even more sales.
  • Scalablity – When you know which products sell best, you can easily increase stock levels, direct marketing efforts towards specific products, diversify your product range or cross-sell and upsell as necessary.
  • Flexibility – Making changes to your online store is usually very easy. This may mean adding deals of the day, putting products up for sale or on clearance, adding new products, changing prices and more. Unlike physical retail stores, there is no need to print expensive display materials to show your potential buyers these changes.
  • Visibility – Online marketing and search engine optimization can give your marketing budget more mileage. You can do very specific targeting of your market — from geo-location to interest. With your store already being accessible from anywhere in the world, the right marketing investment can give you even more visibility to an audience that can actually convert into sales.

There you have it, five amazing benefits you can get from selling online. We’d love to hear from successful online sellers about their experience. Please share your experience in the comment below.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #44

Laser Cut and Etched Family-Centric Promotional Items

laser cut family birthday calendar

Promotional items that have a personal touch can become valued trinkets for the recipient, and you can’t get much more personal than with a focus on family. The diverse capabilities of laser cutting and laser etching make customized family-centric products quick and easy to achieve. As we’ll see in the following examples, materials can range from the familiar to the experimental using a number of different techniques.

Pictured above is a laser cut family birthday calendar from Zetka in Poland, who provide options for custom text and different materials and finishes. The family tree is also a popular theme, with an interpretation in ply from Dansky Arts & Crafts (below, left) and hand-cut paper from Twenty Fingers (below, right).

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Continuing the theme of family connections, the puzzle pendant necklace pictured below from AJ’s Custom Jewelry is hand-stamped, but the same idea will translate nicely across to laser cutting and etching. The focus is all on the names of each generation with Jimagination Creations’ text-based family tree (below right).
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Moving from text to images, the beautifully simple use of silhouettes from Cheek By Jowl are one of many versions on the same theme offered by these clever designers.

laser cut family silhouette portrait

 

Photographic images can make for striking laser etched family portraits. The engraved wood example from Twiki Concept (below, left) has so much more presence than an everyday photo print, and the set of laser etched leather coasters from Sweenks (below, right) enable the family photos to become a useful everyday product.

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Puzzles are another great way to make use of photos; many print services provide custom puzzles as an option, and it really isn’t difficult to go one step further to make custom laser etched puzzles from family portraits. Pictured below is a puzzle laser cut and etched in ply from Factory eNova. Learn how to make a custom laser cut puzzle with this handy guide.

laser cut family enova

The final examples are a little more experimental. For those with extra time or just the urge to be creative, an organic laser cut puzzle portrait such as this one from MoaDesu (below, left) lends itself well to being finished with a coat of bright paint or even laser cut from different materials. Food products are not a part of the selection in the Ponoko Personal Factory, but it’s still interesting (and fun!) to see the exploration from Coby Unger (below, right) where famous portraits have been laser etched onto Matzah, a crisp flatbread traditionally eaten at Passover in the Jewish community.

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Adding a personal touch by featuring families and family activities in laser cut products can lead to some really creative outcomes that are more likely to be retained (and maybe even cherished) by the recipient. Let us know if you’ve seen other great ideas for laser cut family themed products in the comments below; and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Cashing In on the Wedding Industry: Photo Booth Props

How Others are Finding Success Making and Selling Laser Cut Photo Booth Props

laser cut wedding photobooth props evi 1

Photo booths at weddings are an increasingly popular way to engage guests with the spirit of the celebration, and with good reason. The photobooth provides a way to have a little carefree fun, all while creating lasting memories on the happy couple’s special day.

No photobooth is taken seriously unless it has a good selection of props; and through laser cutting, it can be easier than ever before to make high-quality custom props for wedding guests to use in their photo session. Let’s take a look at a few of the fun ways people have used laser cutting to produce photobooth props for sale on Etsy.

Laser Cut Text Props

Pictured above is a collection of laser cut text props by Evi Amaira Custom Decor. Laser cut text works really well in this application because it is very easy to create relatively complex shapes, as can be seen in the fancy fonts used here. Two other approaches to text are shown below, where the messages have been laser etched into the timber surface and then finished to make the text really pop.

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In these exaples (above) from Studio 38 Torquay, the text has been laser etched and then filled with enamel paint. The surface is then coated with a clear matte varnish that prevents flash glare from ruining the photos. Here is a closer look at the laser etched text with enamel paint:

laser cut wedding photobooth props studio38torquay-2a

Laser Cut Object Props

For those whose actions speak louder than words, clowning around in front of the camera often comes naturally – but for others, it can help to have fun graphic object props at hand. The laser cut wedding photo booth prop sets from Evi Amaira (below, left) and Styline (below, right) can help to create that distinguished, formal feel or perhaps add a little spice to the party.

laser-cut-wedding-photobooth-props-objects

Laser Cut Photo Booth Frames

Another great idea is to go one step further and supply a laser cut photo booth frame for guests to pose with! The example on the left from PhotoBoothProp is in the style of a polaroid print, and the wood has been painted in preparation for dry-erase markers so guests can personalise their messages to the happy couple. Featured on the right, another approach to the photo frame prop from Scrapadabra includes the names of the matrimonial couple highlighted in ornate script.

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Photo booths are a lot of fun and set up an opportunity for wedding guests to share their joy with the happy couple in creative ways. Using your Ponoko Personal Factory and some clever laser cutting, the wedding photo both experience can truly become a dynamic memory maker for that special day.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #43

Marketing to the Travelling Executive

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When business executives and head honchos hit the road to seal the next big deal, they love to have all the right corporate gear. Let’s take a look at how laser cut giveaways and laser cut corporate gift ideas can smooth out even the bumpiest of business junkets.

Personalized Laser Cut Travel Accessories

Travel accessories are a great way to use laser cutting to customize products with company branding or personalized info. In the above example from Laser Cutting Lab, a leather passport wallet with laser etched details not only protects this important document, it also sets the exec apart from the other travellers in the departure lounge.

laser cut luggage tags

Briefcases, suit bags, backpacks and checked items all need to be easily identified. The scope for creative laser cut solutions is broad and varied when it comes to luggage tags. The two examples above show how laser etched details can be used effectively, and also how the shape of the tag itself can reference travel-themed forms. Luggage tags can be produced using most of the familiar laser cutting/etching materials such as leather, acrylic, ply and sheet metals.

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For the health-conscious travelling executive, laser cut kitchen tools are a novel way to keep that hard working body fuelled up. Imagine squeezing your own cup of fresh OJ before that important meeting! This travel friendly laser cut orange juicer (above) disassembles and packs flat, perfect for the open road.

Work hard, play hard… travel games are a great way to clear the head from all those work stresses while keeping the mind active. The portability of laser cut chess sets like the timber and leather Got Chess (pictured above) is just one example of how traditional board games can easily slot in to the briefcase or day pack.

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Document wallets, briefcase inserts, tablet and notebook holders can all be laser cut from leather and then stitched together. This method of construction gives a hand-crafted artisan look, and will balance nicely with any custom laser etched corporate details that are included in the design. In the example above from Laser Cutting Lab, slots for all of the essential business tools are neatly laid out in a stylish folding leather case.

laser cut felt pouch and etch test

Another consideration is to use laser cut felt, as in the example above from David Sjunnesson. Pictured on the right is a sample sheet showing how different engraving settings will look when using felt from the Ponoko Personal Factory.

Laser cutting makes it so easy to add custom details to executive travel gear, made even more accessible thanks to the relatively simple design requirements of products like luggage tags and basic document sleeves. Let us know if you’ve seen some great ideas for laser cut executive travel products in the comments below, and for more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Laser Cut Success Stories: Akujin Corps Etsy Store

How to quit your day job and find success with niche laser cut products 

akujincorps - laser cut glasses

Robert Overstreet was once a mild mannered IT consultant with a passion for cosplay on the side, but thanks to some clever design thinking and effective use of the Ponoko Personal Factory, his Akujin Corps Etsy store has turned into a serious full-time business.

Akujin Corps specialises in laser cut acrylic glasses for cosplay enthusiasts. The designs are inspired by the dynamic characters from various anime, comics and other media – a wildly creative culture where everyday boundaries blur with fantastical action and adventure.

Let’s take a look at Robert’s journey and reflections on his laser cutting experience with Ponoko.

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How did you get started as a designer and seller on Etsy?

To be honest I do not recall how I found Etsy. I expect it was mentioned somewhere while looking for alternatives to eBay.

What was the inspiration behind your product?

I started going to conventions in the mid-1990s. As cosplay started becoming more common over the next few years I noticed a lot of Vash cosplayers did not have glasses or had poor replicas. I searched online and found the official movic replicas selling on eBay for $150-$300 and the poor replicas selling at about $90. I bought up a few pairs of similar looking glasses and modified the arms and started selling them for $20 on eBay. I did not make a lot, but I made enough to afford buying more glasses to modify as well as my anime, comics and games.

What led to you try Ponoko?

Before I found Ponoko my products were very limited. I mostly worked with existing products that I purchased modified, then resold.

In 2012 I discovered Ponoko. Now I could design and cut acrylic and started making unique designs instead of modifying existing products. When business started picking up in late 2013 I had to choose between working full-time in IT for the county or my glasses. Certain circumstances came up and I put in my two weeks notice with the county and have been making glasses since.
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What are the top 3 things you love about Ponoko? Why?

The simple design requirements, the great customer service, and a fairly decent number of materials to choose from.

The design requirements are easy to understand and work with in inkscape which is free. Files can be created saved edited without expensive software or conversion.
It is not unusual for me to receive product and let it sit for a few days before I need to assemble a piece from the lastest Ponoko delivery. Sometimes I find my acrylic parts are damaged under the original paper by the manufacturer. When I contact Ponoko about this issue or other issues like product broken in the mail or cut in the wrong color which both very rarely occur, I never have any trouble getting in touch with Ponoko’s customer service who quickly arrange for a replacement. The number of materials to choose from in acrylic alone is pretty great. I have only run into a few instances where color limitation was an issue and in those cases Ponoko was willing to help me with a custom order.

How did you make (and sell) your glasses before Ponoko? How is this different from your Ponoko process?

From 1996 until 2012 I worked with existing products modifying them to create new products. I believe I had about 17 unique products until I started working with Ponoko. After the discovery of Ponoko in late 2012 I went from making a few different products to hundreds of unique items in less than a year.

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How long does it take to go from: (i) idea to design; (ii) design to prototype; (ii) prototype to product; (iv) product to first customer (or media attention)? How do these 4 speeds compare to doing this without Ponoko?

With Ponoko, From idea to design takes an hour or two, and design to prototype takes about a week. If the design works out I also end up with a product at this point. If the design does not work out I am looking at another hour or two fixing issues with the design and another week waiting for the revised design to be delivered. Once I have a new product listed on Etsy I usually have my first order within a week. Without Ponoko or a similar service my business does not exist.

What advice do you want to give to other designer/sellers?

Do not take criticism and feedback personally, but do not let people walk all over you either. Customer service is important but you should expect to be treated respectfully by your customers as well.

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So now that you know the story behind Akujin Corps, you can find the current range of laser cut cosplay glasses on Etsy.

If you’re inspired by Robert’s success to try laser cutting your own products, head over to the Ponoko Personal Factory and start making today.

 

Creating Engaging Product Descriptions for your Laser Cut Products

Another factor that can help you sell your laser cut products better is your product descriptions. This is goes hand in hand with your product photos. An engaging product description lets your target audience understand what you are selling and why they should buy it.

Here are some tips to get you started on writing engaging product descriptions:

  • Know your audience – write for the audience that you are selling to. If you are selling items that are technical, provide specifications that would be meaningful to them. If you are selling fun items, make your copy resonante this.
  • Talk about features  and benefits – most people who write about their products only talk about the features such as size, material, etc and forget to focus on the benefits of the products that they are selling. Always answer the question “what’s in it for me?” for your audience.
  • Use bullet points – When talking about the key features of your product, using bullet points makes it easier for your audience to digest your content when they are just skimming through different products.
  • Skip the jargon – Tech speak or jargon limited to a specific industry may make you sound more credible but it is limiting your audience and therefore, limiting your ability to sell your product. Remember, if your potential buyer doesn’t understand what it is, they most likely won’t buy it.
  • Tell a story – When you’re selling online, people don’t see your products and they can’t touch it — so that means there might be a gap in that emotional connection with your product. Let their imagination fill in this gap by using mini stories to talk about your product. Tell them how you came up with the item. If it’s a BBQ item you are selling, make them image that they will become the hero of the BBQ with what you are selling. If it’s a beautiful accessory, talk to them about a glamourous night and standing out at a party because of your product.

The important thing to remember when you are writing your product descriptions is that you are talking to actual people. They want to know more about your product and how it will benefit them. Have you tried writing product descriptions before? Do you have tips to share? Comment them below! We’d love to hear from our makers, too.

Etsy Wholesale will relaunch its Open Call in August. Are you ready to pitch?

Now in its second year, Etsy Wholesale’s Open call brings together independent designers and buyers from top retail stores in the US. Members of the wholesale community are invited to apply and post their pitch to Instagram by tagging @EtsyWholesale and #EtsyOpenCall along with one of the participating retailers.  Up to 50 selected designers will be given a chance to pitch their line to a panel of retailers at Etsy’s Brooklyn headquarters in August.

What’s on the line is a chance to get huge purchase orders to see your products in stores during the busy holiday season. During the Open Call, the retailers will be looking at samples, giving critiques and suggestions and more importantly, placing their orders for their stores. Participating retailers include big names such as Cooper Hewitt, Paper Source, giggle, Macy’s and Whole Foods.

During the event, HGTV Magazine’s Lifestyle Director Jodi Kahn will award one seller with the “Designer to Watch” title and feature their work on hgtvmagonline.com. Three finalists for the title will be invited to present their products at HGTV Magazine’s 3rd Annual Blogger Block Party in New York City.

To find out more about Etsy Wholesale’s Open Call event, visit: https://www.etsy.com/wholesale/opencall

Are you ready to pitch your products? Ponoko is your personal factory and we can help you supply that purchase order if you win.

 

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #41

Trade Show Marketing: How to attract people to your booth with gifts/giveaways and promo products

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Setting up at a trade show so that your brand can have maximum impact is important, not only to ensure that you get noticed on the day but also so that your presence is memorable beyond the trade event itself. Promotional products and giveaways are a great way to create these interest and memory triggers, so let’s take a look at how to get the most out of this essential trade show marketing tool.

Understanding value

Choosing what to use as a giveaway item at your booth will only work for your brand if it has value – both in terms of being cost effective for your company and also a sense of value to the potential customer. While it might be nice to give away iPads or other fancy items, most companies simply don’t have a budget that stretches this far! A small, interesting keepsake is more realistic; and that is where laser cutting services can best provide unique customized solutions for your brand.

Quality vs quantity

Setting a budget for your promotional products (and, more importantly, sticking to it) will free you up to focus on developing more effective solutions for your brand. Being cost effective is important but that does not mean you have to be cheap! Your brand is more likely to make an impact if you can increase the desirability of giveaway items by being selective about who they are handed out to, rather than flooding the floor with cheap promo products that have no meaning or context for the recipient.

Targeting booth visitors based on criteria that promotes common ground and also business opportunities sets up the exchange for your valued, quality item. The result will be something that is a real conversation-starter both at the time of interaction on your stand and also when they return to their co-workers after the show.

Be interesting

Visitors to your booth need to be enticed to take a closer look, and clever promotional products are a good way to get peoples’ attention. For laser cut trade show giveaways, this could mean something that is particularly useful, and/or something that is incredibly unique. If your promo item comes under either of these two categories, then chances are it will make it further than the unfortunate (and inevitable) post-show purge when so much mindless event collateral gets tossed in the trash.

Don’t forget Branding

While we are talking here about trying to do more than the obvious solution of plonking your company logo on the side of a pencil, it is important to ensure that your company branding is a part of the promotional product outcome. Laser cutting services like Ponoko’s Personal Factory are a good way to incorporate branding and brand messaging in clever and unique ways that will help your promotional products have brand recognition and lasting value.

Variety

Preparing your trade show campaign with more than one promotional item can ensure you are ready for unexpected outcomes on the day. You may have come up with a clever, unique solution… only to find that the stall across from you has also been clever and unique to the point where attendees find it difficult to distinguish between the two! Providing more than one item means you are more likely to have something truly unique in the sea of booths at the show.

Another possibility is that your killer promo idea is so successful that supplies quickly run out, leaving you with just a smile and a handshake to offer further visitors. You are less likely to run out of giveaways if visitors to your booth can choose between a few options. If you do happen to run out of one of them, you will have a backup or two to ensure awareness of your brand is effectively passed on.

Planning ahead

All of the above tips won’t count for much if your timing is off. Be sure to plan your promotional products with enough lead time to design, source and/or produce the items. While laser cutting services do have a quick turnaround, planning ahead will mean you can get the most out of the versatility that laser cutting can provide.

Try to fit the following into your pre-event workflow:

– Start with a test run to prototype your solution before committing to the final order. For many laser cut solutions the first step is to mock-up your design on paper with a desktop printer!
– Next, send through a few variations to your Personal Factory to further test and refine the laser cut/laser etched designs.
– Allow enough time for the finishing touches. Depending on your design, laser cut items may need to be cleaned, assembled, or inserted into packaging.

Keeping on top of this will give you the confidence that your promotional product is ready for the public by the time the trade event comes around.

Ask for help!

The friendly staff at Ponoko are not only experts when it comes to the technical side of making laser cut promotional products, they are also capable designers and clever thinkers in their own right. So if you have an awesome idea for your next trade show but are not quite sure how to make it happen, do get in touch at any stage of the project to see if we can help you reach a successful outcome.

How have you had success on the floor at trade events using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #42

Targeting the Golf Enthusiast CEO

laser cut golf putt marker

Those hard working executives at the top of the corporate ladder need to balance their business brains with some serious leisure activities, and as every CEO knows, the golf course is a great place to escape from the pressures of the office. Golf related goodies are always popular with corporate types, and this opens up a number of opportunities to introduce laser cut promotional products to tickle the fancies of the golf enthusiast.

Genuinely useful laser cut golf accessories

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Pictured above, a laser cut divot repair tool available on Instructables incorporates a magnetic disc marker that would be an ideal surface to add laser etched logos and personalized messaging. The divot repair tool is a simple device that can take many forms, so long as the functionality of the prongs is not compromised. Use laser cutting to get creative and customize a truly unique golfing accessory.

Tee markers are also a part of the group dynamics on the golf course, and as with the divot repair tool, what happens above the ground is quite open to interpretation. The brightly colored examples here from Boyd Golf (below, left/center) show how laser cutting makes it easy to follow a golfing theme. Using the same approach to suit particular corporate clients with branded imagery, logos and text can give a personalised feel to the laser cut golf accessory.

Golf themed products

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Golf themed products are a lot of fun as well. The reliable source of quirky products Vat19 has a neat Sportula (above, right) on offer, giving the trusty BBQ tool a golfing makeover that is sure to be a talking point at post-game drinking networking events.

Laser cutting enables you to be creative in the ways that you engage with your client’s penchant for golf accessories. The Ponoko Personal Factory makes this easier than ever before! Let us know your golf-related laser cut ideas in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

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Where Should You Sell Your Laser Cut Products? Makers Markets vs Online Selling

Custom-made items are steadily gaining popularity. But you probably already know that by now. If you’ve ever thought about selling your laser cut products, now is the best time to do it. There are a lot of channels you can try for testing the waters of selling your products. The two main channels are online selling and selling in a physical location.

Online makes it easy to expand distribution and sell products. Even in this space, there are several channels to choose from. As a maker, you can set up your own store. Buying your own domain, getting hosting and putting your site together is relatively easy if you have some coding skills. If not, you can always buy turnkey solutions or get easy-to-setup sites like WordPress or Shopify. There are also DIY-friendly retail sites such as Etsy which have made it easier for artisans, woodworkers or metalworkers to sell online.

Then, there are maker community conferences usually called Maker’s Markets or Maker Faires. The first Maker Faire started in San Francisco and New York but are now becoming more commonplace across the globe. These events are also drawing in crowds by the thousands. According to Make magazine, the attendance of about 74,000 in 2009 grew to 120,000 in 2013.

So how do you choose one over the other?

It really depends on your skills and your comfort level as a seller. Skill-wise, selling online requires a bit of technical knowledge. If understanding terms like html, hosting and FTP seem out of your league, then start with face-to-face selling via a Maker’s Market. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are uncomfortable chatting up with potential buyers or pushing to close the sale, then an online channel might be your best bet.

There are also several benefits to consider. Online selling means less overhead cost. There is no need to rent out a both or set up your physical store, pay for utilities or hire people to maintain your retail space. Another important advantage of online is selling is the wider reach. Over 1 billion people worldwide use the internet today, reaching them is a matter of knowing how to market your products online. Analytics software also makes it easy to measure the results of any activity you do and attribute success to the right campaign.

Selling in a physical store, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to talk directly to your target market. You can easily find out their feedback and take note of improvements you need to make without conducting complicated surveys or focus group discussions. As a maker, you also get instant gratification when you hear good reviews about your work and can be quite exhilarating and inspiring.

That’s our take on both selling channels for makers. Have you tried selling your products online and in Maker’s Markets? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.