Originally published at 3dprint.com on December 18, 2020. Written by Mike Moceri.
From a high-level perspective, you can categorize clients of 3D printing service shops into one of two buckets.
Some clients tend to be more transactional in how they conduct business. They prefer to submit new projects through your project submission portal, they share quick notes, they review and accept your quotes, they confirm their project has been received, and then it’s off to the races with their order.
Transactional clients are efficient and nice to have in bulk (they’re great if you’re a print farm or specialize in bridge manufacturing) but they also tend to be price-sensitive and may not stick with you for too long if they decide to shop around and find a cheaper alternative.
Then there are clients who may require more consultation and tend to be more hands-on in the process. They ask more questions, they require status updates, they seek a better understanding of your process, they want to tap into your expertise. They are prone to be more collaborative, and over time as you work more and more together, you develop a mutual partnership. These are relationship-based clients, and these are the types of clients you should seek out and cultivate. Here is why.
Relationship-based clients tend to be high-value ones because you’ll most likely retain them over a longer period of time, and as is the case in any industry, high retention rates are good for business. High-value clients don’t want to be transactional, they want to collaborate and work with a partner. In growth marketing, there’s a metric called “Lifetime Value,” or LTV, which is a calculated dollar amount for how much a customer will pay you over the course of their patronage to your business. Taking that concept and applying it to machine shops, the LTV of relationship-based clients is high.
Those two client distinctions became apparent to me while running 3D printing service bureaus in Chicago and Detroit for several years. My best clients in terms of both financial gain and project success were the ones that I developed strong business relationships with over time.
The challenge was in balancing those relationship-based, high-value clients with my transactional ones. I wanted to allocate more of my time to my relationship-based clients, but providing quotes and estimates to transactional clients was an equally tedious task and took up almost an equal amount of time and maintenance. I was limited by the software tools at my disposal: my project intake forms, my file-sharing system, email for communication, and others. These tools were disparate and time-consuming and in order to grow my business, I need something better.
I wanted to cultivate better relationships with clients to grow my service bureaus but was hindered by technology. I knew that in order to grow my business, I needed a solution that enabled me to cater to both relationship-based and transactional clients, and this was a big part of why I created MakerOS.
MakerOS is an all-in-one business operating software for manufacturers, engineers, designers, and fabricators to facilitate modern product development. In regards to managing client relationships, the platform is built for seamless and efficient management of both transactional and relationship-based clients because of the Client Portal.
The Client Portal allows any client to start a project, upload files, see project statuses, and communicate with your team. What makes our Client Portal unique is how flexible its capabilities are when managing transactional and relationship-based clients.
For transactional clients, you can quickly create quotes via the Autoquoter, upload and comment on files, message back and forth, and get projects started. You can save quotes and estimates that either you, as the administrator, or your client via the Client Portal, can reference and use later. You can even send them a link to an invoice that does not require your client to create an account and log in to pay you if they prefer not to. The Client Portal is designed to give a lot of autonomy to your client if they prefer to do more themselves, allowing you to be more hands-off in the process.
For relationship-based clients, the platform’s flexibility allows you to do the exact opposite. You can be more consultative, communicate more frequently, and develop the relationship all within the Client Portal. MakerOS allows for natural conversations, and those conversations are synced in the same project with all previous records. The paper trail is there; the conversations, files, updates, and billing are all in one place. The client does not need to search for anything in their inbox or shared folders, everything is centralized and easily accessible. With that quality of service, it’s less complex for a client to collaborate with a partner who uses MakerOS. They will keep coming back to you as a recurring client. You’re more than likely going to retain their business and build the relationship if you have a client within MakerOS as opposed to outside of it.
MakerOS is the best value for growing businesses that need to maintain transactional and relationship-based clients. Try MakerOS for free for 30 days, or contact us with any questions, we’d be more than happy to talk shop.
About the Author, Mike Moceri
Mike Moceri has deep experience in manufacturing, design, and software. In 2013, he co-founded the world’s first 3D printing retail service bureau in Chicago. In 2014 he founded Manulith, a 3D printing and product design agency, where his clientele included Fortune 500 companies within the aerospace, automotive, and medical industries. Mike is also a mentor at Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator, a mentor at WeWork Labs in NYC, and formerly a mentor at TechTown Detroit. He’s previously been featured on MSN, Make Magazine, NBC, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. D-Business Magazine called him the “Face of 3D printing,” and 3Dnatives named Mike one of “The Most Influential Personalities of Additive Manufacturing in 2020.”
Mike was the founder and CEO of MakerOS, an all-in-one business operating software for manufacturers, engineers, designers, and fabricators to facilitate modern product development. Shapeways acquired MakerOS in April 2022.