Direct-to-Consumer Spotlight: How One Brand’s $2,500 Product Cut Its Way Into the Lives of Americans Despite a Difficult Economy | Coronavirus Series

Easy, personalized, and at the touch of your fingertips. These were the qualities Dan Shapiro, CEO of direct-to-consumer brand Glowforge, had in mind when he set out to create the Glowforge 3D laser printer. 

Thousands of people at home and small businesses across the country use this printer. It’s a unique tool that helps people to unlock their creativity for do-it-yourself (DIY) home projects or for personalized gifting like pet collars, jewelry, and even maps.

Three years before the product even launched direct to consumers, though, the company made staggering headlines. 

There was so much demand for this unique tool in the market that in 2015, Glowforge launched on a 30-day pre-sales crowdfunding campaign and raised about $28 million dollars, which is an unheard-of record

Today, if you scour Glowforge’s website, you can see their customers proudly showing the different things they’ve created using the Glowforge 3D laser printer and touting what a great tool the Glowforge is. 

Here’s an image of a Map award posted by customer, “pubultrastar,” on Glowforge’s website.

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Bailey Boynton, senior marketing manager at Glowforge describes the phenomenon as incredible. 

“Glowforge is a product that takes folks a while to understand and to start to dream about how they’ll use it in their own lives—and it isn’t inexpensive. Depending on the model, it ranges from $2,500 to $6,000 dollars for a Glowforge printer. Even so, we’ve seen positive growth for the past two years and we’re introducing more new people to Glowforge every day,” she said. 

Glowforge’s success has come from many factors, but there are three, in particular, that stand out: how the company develops content, how they connect with customers, and how they keep a pulse on their growth. 

How Glowforge develops content 

Before the global coronavirus pandemic, Bailey and her team ran a monthly livestream program from their office. 

On the livestreams, they showed customers what they could make using their 3D laser printers such as a customer pour-over coffee maker, an engraved cutting board, or a hand-drawn necklace. This content series served as inspiration for their customers, so it was important that they find a way to continue it.  

After the onset of the pandemic, Bailey and her team continued to run the livestreams, but from home. And Bailey says they’ve shifted the tone and the messaging they use to meet the moment.

“Our livestream had become a pretty core monthly tactic for us, so with the recent pandemic, we had to adapt to run it all from home and hope that prospects would be along with us for the ride! We’ve made it a point to lean into empathy. This is a hard time for a lot of folks, and we want time spent engaging with Glowforge content to be supportive,” Bailey said. 

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"Our livestream had become a pretty core monthly tactic for us, so with the recent pandemic, we had to adapt to run it all from home and hope that prospects would be along with us for the ride!"

Bailey Boynton, senior marketing manager, Glowforge

In addition to reworking their livestreams as a result of the pandemic, Glowforge modified their paid advertising strategy and created new ads and videos that feature at-home messaging. They’ve been showcasing them on Instagram organically, and Bailey says they’ve seen that both their social media engagement and the time people spend engaging with their content have increased.

“We were conservative with our paid advertising in March and dialed it back to watch new ‘at home’ behavior. That meant we needed to amplify our marketing efforts in other places, and engaging with our customers and followers through our own channels made the most sense,” Bailey said.

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"We were conservative with our paid advertising in March and dialed it back to watch new ‘at home’ behavior. That meant we needed to amplify our marketing efforts in other places, and engaging with our customers and followers through our own channels made the most sense."

Bailey Boynton, senior marketing manager, Glowforge

 

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How Glowforge connects with customers

Glowforge has a large and active community of customers who share the different things they make using their laser cutters. Part of Bailey’s role is to listen to their customers and learn what they’re doing so she can provide existing customers with valuable guides and tips to use the product more effectively. 

Recently, the Glowforge team noticed an interesting trend and opportunity to help others, and immediately took action. 

“A ton of our customers were using our product to make Ear Savers to use with protective face masks so their ears won’t hurt. We decided to create an official design and host a network where our customers could connect with essential workers who needed Ear Savers. So far, customers have helped us print and donate more than 600,000 Ear Savers to hospitals and essential businesses all over the nation, and we’re so proud of them,” Bailey said.

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Many people use Glowforge to make money and, given the current economy, Bailey says she and the team wanted to help people bring in an income with Glowforge-printed goods for sale. 

“Many people who have bought a Glowforge in the past couple of months tell us that they’ve been thinking about it for a while—it’s typically quite a considered purchase. So why now? Some theories I have are that people might be feeling insecure about their jobs and want to spin up a side hustle, or they want to make things for themselves rather than rely on a supply change. It’s also possible that a movement like Ear Savers helped accelerate the buying process of people who were already in our marketing funnel. It gave them another reason to buy now because they could have an immediate impact and help people,” Bailey said. 

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How Glowforge keeps a pulse on their growth

The recent pandemic has catapulted Glowforge’s growth, but pre-pandemic, Glowforge had already seen many consecutive quarters of sales growth. 

At the end of 2019, the brand saw they were growing really quickly. Bailey said they realized they needed an email marketing platform that could help them communicate effectively with their donors and their rapidly growing email list, and keep up as they embarked on their next phase of growth. 

“We were communicating with our original pre-order customers, but we weren’t using email for marketing until pretty recently. In June 2019, we started capturing email addresses with a clever Madlib [-style quiz] that helps us learn what our prospects want to do with a Glowforge. Our list is now growing tremendously each day, and our previous platform was limited. We really needed one that could integrate with Shopify Plus and that had advanced segmentation capabilities to help us talk to all these new leads,” Bailey said. 

The Glowforge team started their research in January 2020 and came over to Klaviyo in March 2020. Despite a pandemic and current economic uncertainty, the team knew that communicating with customers was vital to continuing to grow their business and decided not to wait.

“Klaviyo checked all of our boxes, and in this environment where we’re especially mindful of our marketing spend, it was simple to make a case for it given your month-to-month pricing arrangement,” Bailey added. 

"Klaviyo checked all of our boxes, and in this environment where we’re especially mindful of our marketing spend, it was simple to make a case for it given your month-to-month pricing arrangement."

Bailey Boynton, senior marketing manager, Glowforge

Final thoughts

Sales in the toys and hobbies categories have increased since the start of the pandemic and, clearly, Glowforge is an example of a brand that’s seen tremendous success. 

Glowforge has found a way to combine their unique product offering with compelling content, and build valuable relationships and use their data to better serve customers and continue growing their brand—despite a difficult economic climate. 

With a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign, it’s clear that there’s an interesting trend with do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that only seems to be growing.

Learn more about how to use empathy to communicate with your customers. 

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