Laser Cut Geometry

Laser cut coasters, sleeves, flowers, and a cyclops!

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Above are a set of four geometric coasters. They are laser cut and etched into 1/8″ thick Baltic birch, like Ponoko.com‘s own  Birch Plywood, and come from Pixels and Timber.

After the jump, sleeves, flowers, and a cyclops… (more…)

Design A Custom Product for Salesforce, Earn $1,000

Salesforce Design ChallengeToday we present the first opportunity for our design/make community to earn money in a new way.

This comes as a result of us launching a new service for event marketers and businesses to design and make promo products from scratch, using our design/make community of 150,000 creative minds! (That includes you eh).

You’ll design a promotional product for Outforce – the employee and business resource group promoting diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity within Salesforce.

Your Design Challenge

Here’s your design challenge – including your audience, your goal, design guidelines and your payment.

The timeline is tight so grab a coffee, turn up some music, and get your thinking cap on!

Entries Close Sunday December 20th at 9am PT

See how to enter your designs, along with available materials & design requirements.

This is the first of what we hope will be many opportunities for you to earn a living from your product creativity online with our new service to match the $23 billion annual promotional products market with our custom product design community.

We hope you get in behind this first one to send us a signal we’re on the right track for you …

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #27

‘Swag Bag’ Items Destined To End Up In The ‘Trash Bag’

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Giving away promotional items at an event isn’t a new idea.

But just because this trend has been running for a while doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. If you don’t put enough thought into exactly what goes into your swag bag, chances are you’ll be forgotten minutes after the event. Or worse still, be remembered as the dorky brand that handed out real junk. While this kind of bad press would have faded quickly in the past, social media ensures embarrassment now follows you around for days and its impact can last much, much longer.

While choosing the right items for your swag bag depends on your company message, your audience and the event you’re attending, here are 10 wrong ones you must definitely avoid.

Branded Key Chains.

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It used to be cool to get a keychain in your swag bag, until everyone started giving them out. And right now, it’s become one of the least effective ways to get attendees to remember your brand. Of course, some companies think they’ve worked their way around ubiquity by adding other functions to their keychain. But most conference attendees already have enough bottle openers and whistles or pen torches around and don’t need one more.       (more…)

Stand Out
At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

Get 5 Fresh Ideas For Free »

Laser Cutting Comes Natural, To Some…

Laser cut camping, birds, rabbits, and sexy lady legs!

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Above is camping themed brooch set. It is painted laser cut and etched wood, like Ponoko.com‘s own Birch Plywood, and comes from The Twenty Fingers.

After the jump, birds, rabbits, and sexy lady legs… (more…)

Entrepreneur turning hobby into novelty toy and apparel company

Robots! Yeah!
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Imagine a community of robots; from helpers to dance masters to happy companions and more. What stories would they tell? What journeys would they embark on, as their world and ours merge into one fantastical creative adventure?

The characters from RoboMustache were created and designed by Charles Wade of Greensboro NC, and they are working their way into the hearts and imaginations of young robot enthusiasts one laser cut assembly kit at a time.

It all started with the Helper Bot

GREENSBORO, NC — After graduating from college, designer and maker, Charles Wade, began his hobby by making unique animal stickers, which later morphed into woodcraft and papercraft creations. During a test for one of his woodcrafts he designed and built a poseable wooden robot. The Helper Bot was born.

With the creation of the Helper Bot, Wade began experimenting with other ideas. After receiving feedback and appreciation for his work, he created more robots and designed assembly kits that would allow others to build his creations.

Resurrected from the scrapheap in a derelict factory

Wade has cultivated his hobby into a career by establishing RoboMustache; a collection of wooden robot assembly kits, accessories and merchandise. More than a collection of novelties, the RoboMustache hints at a rich world of storytelling as well. Coined from a found project in a derelict factory, as the company grows, so will the RoboMustache universe. The story will expand to tell more about the existing robots and bring in new robots along the way.

The most mustchioed  ‘Staff Pick’ on Kickstarter

Wade is crowdfunding the project to take the RoboMustache universe to the next level. The Kickstarter launched Dec. 4, 2015 and runs through the new year. Rewards for backers include assembly kits for each of the RoboMustache characters, laser cut in bamboo ply by Ponoko.

For more information on RoboMustache, visit RoboMustache.com or email contact@RoboMustache.com. To see the Kickstarter, visit RoboMustache.com/Kickstarter

It’s Time For Voucher Claus – Buy One, Get One Free

Until Midnight Thursday December 24th 2015 – Buy A Gift Voucher, Get A Making Coupon FREE.

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Hey makers, do you like presents? Of course you do.

Well, Uncle Ponoko has something for you this year, Ponoko Gift Vouchers with a bit of a bonus …

If you know anyone who loves to make stuff, then you know someone who would love a Ponoko Gift Voucher. But it’s not all about them. Perhaps the best part of giving this gift is that you get a little something for yourself ; )

Buy a Gift Voucher by 11:59 pm Thursday December 24th and get a FREE Making Coupon!

• Buy $1,000+ of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $500 Making Coupon.
• Buy $500 – $999 of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $225 Making Coupon.
• Buy $250 – $499 of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $110 Making Coupon.
• Buy $100 – $249 of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $40 Making Coupon.
• Buy $50 – $99 of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $20 Making Coupon.
• Buy $25 – $49 of Gift Vouchers – get a FREE $10 Making Coupon.

But Uncle Ponoko, What’s The Difference? I Mean, Isn’t A Voucher And A Coupon The Same Thing?

A *Gift Voucher* is good for any part of a make-it-yourself laser cutting order: the making, the materials and the shipping costs. And they never expire.

But a *Making Coupon* is good for the making costs only (IE – the actual laser cutting). And they expire within 3 months.

And The Finer Details

Both these Gift Vouchers and Making Coupons are valid for Ponoko USA & NZ Free & Prime account orders. But not for 3D printing, PCM, making speed upgrades, Prime subscriptions, Samples or Showroom orders. You can use one Gift Voucher or Making Coupon redemption code per order. There’s no change given if the service cost is less than your voucher value. And they are not redeemable for cash.

Please see our Gift Voucher Guidelines and our Making Coupon Guidelines for all the important fine print.

How Do I Game Ponoko’s Free Offer?

It might make sense for you to buy your Gift Vouchers in separate orders, rather than bundling them all into a single order. Examples …

• If you buy $2,000 of Gift Vouchers in a single order, you will get a free $500 Making Coupon. But if you buy $2,000 of Gift Vouchers in multiple orders (IE – a Gift Voucher order for $1,000 plus another for $1,000), you will get free Making Coupons for $500 AND $500. A total of $1,000 for free, not just $500.

• If you buy $75 of Gift Vouchers in a single order, you will get a free $20 Making Coupon. But if you buy $75 of Gift Vouchers in multiple orders (IE – a Gift Voucher order for $50 and another for $25), you will get free Making Coupons for $20 AND $10. A total of $30 for free, not just $20.

• And if you buy $25,000 of Gift Vouchers in multiple orders, you get the picture – you’ll get $12,500 of Making Vouchers. Etc, etc.

So, feel free to do your last minute shopping here until midnight before Santa squeezes down your chimney.

Ho ho ho …

#HolidaySales Tip #10: Better In The Loop, Than Out Of Mind

Better In The Loop, Than Out Of Mind

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The holiday season can be maddening for sellers for multiple reasons. Over the course of this blog series, we’ve tried to address each of these key reasons.

Our last blog saw us deal with what may seem to be an innocuous issue like shipping. But as we read in that blog, even simple things have the potential to get out of hand when things get busy around the store both offline and online.

In this final part of the series, we’ll look at the last step to monitor once the holiday season finally kicks off – keeping customers in the loop about the stock of your products.

Understand The Difference Between ‘Clocks’ And ‘Clouds’

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When it comes to producing an item, nothing is particularly ‘easy’. Even products that may seem easy to make such as a t-shirt has to go through several layers of production from selecting the material, to stitching the shape, to adding the colour. You may already be aware of this as a seller, but for your customer understanding the difference between production cycles of different items may be harder than you imagine.

But there is a simple rule-of-thumb you can stick to when trying to explain inventory shortages to your customers. There will always be certain products that are ‘clouds’ i.e. they have a production or delivery cycle that matches most products but consumers think they are quick or relatively simpler to make.

Then there are products, which customers see as ‘clocks’ i.e. they recognise the difficulty in producing these items and are a bit more willing to wait to see these items get through their schedule, before they reach store shelves.

Your job is to try to identify which products are perceived as ‘clouds’ and try to convince customers that they are in fact, ‘clocks’. This brings us to our next point.

Don’t Be Afraid To Acknowledge Shortages

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Every seller reaches shortages at some point.

Especially during the holidays when demand for certain products spirals upwards in a relatively short timespan. What is important to remember is this – customers are aware that shortages occur and most of them are willing to be reasonable with sellers when this happens. But there is a caveat. Sellers have to be upfront in acknowledging their shortages and give their customers a compelling reason to wait for the item to come back in stock.

Now, as a seller when you do acknowledge the shortage, try to keep the following in mind:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to make an announcement: If you have a good idea that certain products will be going out of stock soon, start prepping customers for the news as early as possible. You can do this by setting up a countdown for the number of items you still have in stock for a particular SKU or even estimate the number of days you believe current stocks will last.
  2. Don’t play the blame game: Every seller wants to maintain a good reputation with his customers. But many imagine (wrongly) that the best way to achieve this is by diverting the onus of stock maintenance on someone else. In fact, the exact opposite is true. If you make an honest admission that you failed to anticipate as much demand for a particular product as you are now seeing, customers will respond to your brand’s honesty and reciprocate with patience.
  3. Try to switch perception: Like we mentioned earlier, to convince customers to wait, you have to make a ‘cloud’ sound like a ‘clock’. You can do this by explaining just how the product is made and hence justify the time delay. Or you can outline how your end-to-end delivery systems are strained during the holiday season and thus shipments which would have come in faster in the rest of the year, slow down considerably during this season.

Don’t Just Be ‘Sorry For The Delay’

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Once you have admitted to the shortage, you have to be prepared for a certain amount of customer ire.

At this time, the worst thing you can do is hand out platitudes such as “being sorry for the delay”. This kind of stock messaging only makes your brand sound automated and less concerned about the inconvenience being experienced by your customers.

Instead, you need to empathise with your customers during this period. Send out messages on your social media channels stating how you are genuinely concerned about the delay. Maybe share a possible story from your own experience about waiting for a product. Or even just setup a countdown (if you have exact delivery dates) for when the coveted product will be back in stock.

Each of these small steps helps divert the customer’s attention away from being angry. It also shows them that you’re not just a money-grubbing seller but also a customer just like them. A customer that understands the agony of waiting for a product to arrive and thus among the least likely to inflict such behaviour on someone else.

Focus On The Experience, Not Just Time

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Now that the shortage has been admitted and you’ve outlined your concern for your customers, it’s time to move to the next step – handling the actual waiting period.

According to the Customer Experience Report by RightNow, most customers abandon a brand altogether due to poor quality of customer service, citing this 18 percent more often than slow or untimely service.

Now, if you’re asking, “How do I service a customer who’s just waiting?” that’s the first step to correcting your mistake. You see, through the year, you might be able to get away with offering a sincere apology and giving customers an accurate timeline for when products will be back in stock. But during the holidays, this just isn’t enough to keep a customer satisfied.

What you need to understand is during the holidays; customers are on their own deadlines to buy gifts for their loved ones. And even a single day’s delay might not be time the customer has to wait around. This problem is exacerbated further by tight delivery deadlines. This means that if a certain product isn’t immediately available during the holiday season, most customers are happy to take their shopping somewhere else. And in the mobile era, that action is literally an app click or a browser tab away.

So, once you’ve told your customers the delay is genuine and your product is worth waiting for, you need to have a plan for the impatient ones. Here are some tips we suggest:

  1. Offer them a better deal on the item: This is the first step you must take when trying to retain a near-sale. Try to convince the customer that you are actually paying for the time they have to wait by offering them a discount on the item that’s out of stock now.  
  2. Offer the next best thing, cheaper: In some cases, a discount may not cut it or if the item was not too expensive, then a discount doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t add any value to the transaction. In such a case, you should look deep into your inventory. Search for any similar products (either in utility or within the category) that you could offer at a lower rate.
  3. Offer them a storewide discount: This may sound a tad lazy but at a time when every customer is bargain hunting because they have multiple purchases to make, offering a discount might just do the trick to keep them from migrating to another seller.

Think Of Loyal Customers Differently

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While waiting can be laborious for any customer, not all waiting times are equal. The time spent by a loyal customer waiting for a product to come back in store is worth much more that the time spent by just a casual one-off customer.

And as such, you need to recognise and reward loyal customers differently for taking the time to wait for your products. This helps build precious brand loyalty and depending on what products you offer, might even increase the ticket value of the sale when the customer finally comes back to complete his purchase.

With that we come to the end of our #HolidaySales blog series.

We hope you found each of these tips useful and have already begun incorporating them into your business plans for the season. But in the midst of all this planning, just remember not to lose sight on the joy that comes with the holiday season. Be sure to take time out for yourself and your family and try to have fun while selling this holiday season.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #26

Cool Conference Swag You Could Laser Cut For Pennies!

Packing for a conference is a lot like packing for a hike.

You have to pack the essentials, you want to pack a few standby items and you’d like to bring certain vanity items along, just for the heck of it. But as you pack, you also need to keep a check on the weight of your pack. Plus, unlike a hike where you probably won’t encounter more than one or two people at most, a conference is full of people who are eager to hand you bags of stuff!

Yet before you begin rummaging through conference bags for stuff to keep, here’s a quick list of things most attendees wish they had brought along which can be laser cut really cheap.

Simple Conversation Starters.

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Laser Cut Wristbands.
While you will do your best to network before the session and during the breakout periods, the fact is you won’t be able to approach as many people as you’d like. But rather than rush through conversations with multiple people, you can use a little laser cut panache to draw people to you.

If designed well, this is bound to get you noticed even when you do something as simple as answer a phone call. It also helps you stand out in a crowd by acting as a distinct visual marker. Within a conference setting, you get instantly noticed if you have to raise your hand. And finally, it can be a great way to share your personal details without having to repeat them over and over (just in case your name or email has a complex spelling). Plus, if you run out of business cards, or don’t feel the need to share a business card with certain people … you can redirect them to your wristband for your details instead of the awkward fumble for a pen and napkin.

Things That Make You Memorable.

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Laser Cut Business Cards.
Getting noticed is only half the battle. Your next step is to leave a lasting impression on your new acquaintances. Here are some easy to produce laser cut items, which can do the trick.      (more…)

Stand Out
At Your Next Event.

Your Promo Products Designed By 171,793 Designers.

Get 5 Fresh Ideas For Free »

How To Increase Profits with the Best Pricing For Retail

Keep your expectations realistic to secure the highest returns 

Without a careful, methodical approach, it can be difficult for makers (and indeed small businesses) to find the right balance when it comes to pricing their products. Let’s take a look at the considerations and contributing factors, so that this critical part of running a maker business can be controlled to work in your favor.

If you’re making as a hobby, then profits may not be such a priority – but a business cannot be sustainable if it does not turn a profit.

Setting a price for your products

In the creative marketplace, there are 3 key components to consider:

  1. Your cost price
  2. Your wholesale price
  3. Your retail price

This is the simplest breakdown, where the cost price refers to the sum of all the cash costs that go into making each product; the wholesale price is the cost price plus the amount you want to earn for your idea and your time (this can be seen as a ‘creative fee’, but we’ll get to that later); and the retail price is made up of your wholesale price plus the retail margin.

When seen in this way, a general guideline can be followed with the ratio of 1:2:4 where $1 of cost will have a $2 wholesale price and a $4 retail price.

Looking at it from the other direction can also help, as the focus on starting with the final selling price has a stronger connection to the reality of your target market – ie, the price of competing products. There is no point working out a price based on your own production costs, only to find that you are no longer competitive in the marketplace once your product reaches retailers.

Therefore, the simple equation looks like this:

Profitable Retail Price = 2x Wholesale price = 2x Total Production Cost.

How do you calculate your Creative Fee?

The tricky part, particularly when you are just starting out, is how to account for your creative spark and your design/assembly/packaging/marketing/etc time. How long do you spend assembling each product? What about all those trips to the post office? Every moment you spend doing ‘work’ should be accounted for, and given an appropriately proportioned value to insert into your calculations.

There is a handy Ponoko walkthrough on how to calculate these figures that can really help to prevent you from falling into the common trap of under-pricing your products.

Tough negotiations with retailers

Selling direct from your bedroom home office is one thing, but when retailers put the squeeze on you for tighter and tighter margins, the figures you carefully worked to when just starting out can suddenly leave you operating at a loss!

The Ponoko Cost Saving Guide uses a set of laser cut coasters to simulate the full process from initial design through to high turnover retail product. It makes for interesting reading, with a guided navigation through all the considerations that contribute to product pricing.

These include:

Minimum Order Size
Most Profitable Order Size
Minimum Wholesale Order Size
Tough Retailer Negotiations 

Knowing where your boundaries are in terms of lowest acceptable price and also highest realistic goals before you engage in large volume orders can make the difference between whether you actually realise a profit or not.

Making a Profit

Profit is very important, if you are seeing your making as a business venture.

There is no rule that you have to make a profit! It is totally ok to be making for the joy of making, but consider that without profits from your efforts, it can be very difficult to continue your passion for making things for others. When you make a profit, you are also creating new possibilities for yourself… so without a profit, you are not going to be running a business for very long.

Once dollars are involved, rules become very important. In Chris Anderson’s 10 Rules For Maker Businesses, profit heads the list, and with good reason. Reading through these articles will give you many tools and insights that can help to set and maintain realistic goals for your maker business.

“…if you don’t get the price right at the start, you won’t be able to keep making” – Chris Anderson

Let us know in the comments below what your personal experience has been in balancing the tricky task of how to achieve the best pricing for your retail products.

 

10 Rules For Maker Businesses

Ponoko Cost Saving Guide

Stop Under-Pricing your Design Products

 

 

Laser Cutting Some Cheer

Laser cut holly, pharmaceuticals, dragons and saints, watermelon!

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Above is a graphic holly Christmas card. It is laser cut from paper, like Ponoko.com‘s own Cardstock, and comes from Storyshop.

After the jump, pharmaceuticals, dragons and saints, watermelon… (more…)