The 2016 CES Show and its 3D Printing Conference, powered by TCT, had a different vibe. Rather than being awe-struck with the concept of 3D printing, visitors were seeking insight to make good decisions. I witnessed this shift first-hand as I stepped from the stage following my recap of what’s new in the industry.
A dozen or more attendees queued up to speak with me. All of them had questions emanating from a central theme: how to get a grasp on all that is available and how to select a solution. With the rush of new products and startups coming to the 3D printing industry, they have found it increasingly difficult to determine a path to success.
Overwhelmed and perplexed, these inquiring minds were seeking answers from within a dynamic, chaotic industry. They were seeking details that are blurred by the quality of information that is available.
The sheer number of options makes decision-making a challenge. However, this is compounded by the quality of information that is presented. The vendors’ stories start to run together and sound the same. When there is an attempt at differentiation, it is often accompanied by unsubstantiated and unqualified claims like “leader,” “best,” “fastest,” “revolutionary” and “first.”
If driven to know everything in order to find the absolute best solution, you should be prepared for a long journey with lots of investigation. Research will be needed to determine the validity of the claims and to determine the unique advantages of one solution over all others.
For those that don’t desire a journey, there is a simpler solution: make it the vendor’s responsibility to convince you that its solution is unique and that its claims are valid. And don’t hesitate to cut a vendor from the consideration list if they fail to do so. In essence, act like a Dragon seeking to invest in a promising proposition.
On the TV show Dragon’s Den, contestants have just seconds to capture attention and create interest. In the sales and marketing realms, they present “unique selling propositions”, which are concise statements that clearly differentiate one solution from competitive offerings. If not compelling enough, the Dragons write them off. If intrigued, they then look for details substantiated by facts. Should a contestant make unbelievable, unrealistic and over-generalised claims, those with the money pass on the investment opportunity. The last element is a discussion of weaknesses and the plans to improve. Those that are not realistic in understanding their challenges are ushered off camera with empty pockets.
You are making an investment, although in a different way, when selecting 3D printing solutions so why not use the same approach? There are a lot of 3D printing options; cut through the clutter by finding reasons to remove a company from consideration. Sounds like yet another “me too,” move on. Too much hyperbole and too many questionable claims, find a better partner.
Although the callers weren’t looking for money, I played the role of Dragon in back-to-back phone calls last week. One call was from a hardware vendor, competing in a crowded 3D printing segment. The other was from a solutions provider that had a service that appeared to be like many others. The hardware vendor conveyed an arrogant attitude of being the leader and the best, followed by a statement that it was soon to be the first with a specific type of material. These were all claims I knew to be inaccurate. When I pressed for substantiating details, the caller responded, with a condescending tone, “It is clear that you don’t know us.” My reply, “No, it is clear that you have given me no reason to get to know you.” Harsh, yes, but necessary considering that time is limited.
The solutions provider was the exact opposite. The caller concisely stated three differentiating factors; offered substantiated fact; and avoided questionable claims. He had my attention, although there are others attempting the same thing. In the ensuing conversation, we covered the details, including weakness. This conversation motivated me to keep an eye on this up-and-comer.
We are in an age of 3D printing innovation; so many unique solutions will be coming our way. Some will be worthwhile while; others will be worthless. Find the winners amongst them by placing the burden of proof on the vendor. If they don’t intrigue, excite and convince you that they are worth looking at, move on, quickly, to those that do.