How to Approach Marketing in Early Adoption of AM Photopolymers
A guest article by Cindy Deekitwong, Global Head of Customer Experience, Incubator Business-Henkel Adhesive Technologies.
In developing new business opportunities in a young industry, specifically photopolymer materials for 3D printing, material development and qualification come quickly to the forefront. Once the science is in place and the internal team understands their mission, there’s often a hesitation on what to do next, once a new portfolio is ready for market. Even in the case of well-known global companies like Henkel, a new market – 3D printing – represents a significant undertaking.
We’ve learned some important lessons about the value of marketing and getting it just right. Here are some of our key takeaways about the stages of marketing and how to share vision without overpromising. It all comes down to asking the right questions.
A New Market Means New Marketing Approaches
Henkel is a global business, operating since 1876 across more than 800 industry segments. When we decided to take the LOCTITE brand into additive manufacturing (AM), it meant a whole new market for us – and so a new approach.
Operating as, effectively, a startup inside a major corporation is not a story unique to LOCTITE when it comes to 3D printing. We’ve seen other major chemical companies enter the 3D printing industry with much the same foundation. We had to develop a new mindset and new business and marketing approaches to match our new market.
When our team began developing 3D printable materials, we had a lot to learn. Approaching a growing industry as a newcomer meant learning a new language. We had to become conversational and then fluent in the terminology of vat photopolymerization, the 3D printing process that our resins are developed for.
Once the science was in place, the first resins tuned for the first compatible systems as we built an ecosystem of technology partners, we faced an interesting roadmap: marketing.
How do we take a well-known name into a new industry? The best way we’ve found has been a simple one at heart: slowly.
By coming in humbly as an acknowledged newcomer, we were able to spend more time listening to the market, to our partners, to our potential customers. What did they need when it comes to 3D printing? What needs hadn’t yet been met? How could we work with them to meet those needs – and make sure they knew we would be there for them?
These questions informed a great deal of our initial approach. By listening to the market and taking in what other companies in the space were finding effective, by identifying gaps, by developing fluency, we soon identified our value in this industry.
What we discovered was that the AM industry has been historically limited in terms of material selection, especially when compared to traditional manufacturing. We strive to meet the most significant requirements: The need for familiar materials that could be qualified, that could be validated, that could perform in a number of trying environments.
Marketing Approaches and Asking the Right Questions
So what have we actually learned? It’s all about asking the right questions under a few key umbrellas to take a step-by-step approach to building a new marketing mindset.
• Do Your Diligence
To set the stage for an entirely new type of marketing plan, the first step is all-important: doing your diligence in understanding that new market.
Competitive research will help establish understanding of the existing landscape as well as the hole your new offering can fill. What is your value proposition and how is it different from what’s out there today? What exactly are the technologies you are targeting? How does vat photopolymerization work – and how do your new materials fill a market need?
• Experience the Product
To best understand that last question raised on the first step of this journey, it’s time to go hands-on. Experience your own product. How does it work?
Talk to the materials scientists, get into the lab, hold final parts in your hands and put them to the test. If you don’t experience your own team’s product, how can you convey what it is?
• Customer Centricity
Once you know what your product is and how the market looks, it’s time to start targeting: who’s your customer? What do they need, what are they thinking, what is their experience?
A customer-centric approach to marketing means you speak their language and connect on their level. How can your offering fit their needs? Customer experience management is a vital component of what can be a long-lasting, ever-growing relationship.
• Know Your Business
What is your unique proposition – not just for this product, but for your full business and market placement?
Here we can go foundational into the business of marketing with the 4 Ps of Marketing:
Dig into these areas to best know your own business and establish your unique selling proposition.
• Ecosystem & Partnerships
What is a partner ecosystem – and why would you want one?
You can’t be everything to everyone. But what you can do is establish a strong ecosystem to offer end-to-end value to customers. As a materials company, working with trusted OEMs, service bureaus, and distribution partners creates an invaluable ecosystem. Through these established relationships we can validate workflows to offer trusted, repeatable, reliable 3D printing.
• Bring Proof Points
When telling a story, there’s something important to remember: it’s not your story. It’s your customers’.
The proof points come from users. Their experiences lead to your validation. Create leading indicators for small success. What does success look like? How can you back up claims? What differentiates what you bring?
• Humanize Marketing
We all know B2B: business-to-business is the way of, well, business these days. But ultimately it’s not a business you’re talking to; it’s a human. Keeping a “B2H” – business-to-human – perspective at the forefront humanizes your marketing.
Connecting on a human, if not personal, level reinforces messaging. Speaking the language of your market and your customer base, connecting with people as people, will see that message not only resonate, but be memorable.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou famously said. Let your user base remember what you make them feel: they’ll remember that. They’ll remember you.