Marketing and Selling Hardware Hack Chat

Turning projects into profits

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Shawn Hymel will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at noon PDT.

Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter!

Join Hack ChatIt may not be every hardware hackers dream, but a fair number of us harbor fantasies of thinking up the Next Big Thing and kissing the day job goodbye forever. It's an understandable dream and a laudable goal, but as they say, a goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. What's your plan for turning your project into a marketable product? Chances are good you don't have one, and if you ever expect to get to your goal you're going to need one. 

Shawn Hymel is an engineer who led several marketing campaigns for Spark Fun and recently shared his thoughts on marketing with attendees of the first-ever KiCon conference in Chicago. He'll be dropping by the Hack Chat to talk about everything you ever wanted to know about marketing your hardware projects but was afraid to ask.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Design for manufacture, making sure your widget be built;
  • Where to manufacture and how to navigate the process;
  • The "marketing funnel"; and
  • Will it all be worth it?

Speech - Tips for Making, Marketing, and Manufacturing (1).pdf

Slides from Shawn's KiCon talk

Adobe Portable Document Format - 1.38 MB - 05/08/2019 at 20:14


  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Lutetium05/08/2019 at 20:08 0 comments

    Caleb12:51 PM
    @Rob Reynolds Do you have any insider info on how well going to makerfair (or similar) works for someone just starting out? I'm hoping (long term) to build open hardware for a living, but don't have much of any idea how to get started on the biz/sales/marketing side.

    Rob Reynolds12:52 PM
    @Caleb I don't yet, as I haven't done that route yet, but we should know more when Nick returns from MakerFaire.

    Michael Graham12:52 PM
    @Shawn Hymel Do you currently sell any of your own DIY creations, or do you live off selling your services? Tangent question, does passive income from prior work provide you with significant returns (if you dont mind my asking)? (Youtube ads, affiliate marketing, other?)

    Shawn Hymel12:53 PM
    @Caleb I can also put in my 2 cents: events like Maker Faire are great for building a network of potential partners, but did not seem to do much for direct sales. Maker Faire, especially, is mostly kids now with little/no disposable income.

    doug.leppard12:53 PM
    I did a makerfaire, got a lot of interest but in the long run product not ready and the big boys came into the market and killed any chance

    Caleb12:53 PM
    @Rob Reynolds thanks, do you know if he'll be posting his experience anywhere?

    deshipu12:54 PM
    @Shawn Hymel I recently started a mailing list for the PewPew devices, but that's mostly people who already have one

    Shawn Hymel12:54 PM
    @Michael Graham I don't sell any product (yet), as all my income is from services. I've had luck creating content for Udemy, which gives me some passive income.

    TheMarpe12:54 PM
    @doug.leppard Did you gather any new audience and if yes, through what channels?

    Caleb12:54 PM
    @Shawn Hymel Ohh, that's a good point about how much open cash the audience has. Defcon might be a good counterexample. Lots of cash flowing there for the badge-scene.

    Rob Reynolds12:55 PM
    @Caleb Nick has been pretty good about posting progress on Insta and Twitter, I'm assuming he give give a debrief once it's all over

    Shawn Hymel12:55 PM
    @Caleb definitely....working professionals usually decent amounts of cash to burn.

    Shawn Hymel12:55 PM

    TheMarpe12:57 PM
    @Shawn Hymel Any recommendation of how to keep in touch with audience? Gather them in a mailing list? Redirect them all to one specific site or being active on multiple sites at once and in the end when product goes live, notify them about the website where they can purchase?

    Caleb12:57 PM
    @Rob Reynolds just to be sure, you're talking about Nick Poole?

    Shawn Hymel12:58 PM
    @TheMarpe It depends on what the audience likes. We found at SparkFun that many of our buyers came in through the email newsletter, which often proved more beneficial for sales than a Twitter following.

    Rob Reynolds12:58 PM
    @Caleb yes :)

    Shawn Hymel12:58 PM
    Another question for the room: how do you all like to interact with a brand (e.g. get news updates or new product listings)? Email, social media, YouTube?

    Michael Harris12:59 PM

    Arsenijs12:59 PM
    me, email

    But I keep hearing that email is dead, lol

    Asher Gomez1:00 PM

    Audi McAvoy1:00 PM
    email, with links to YouTube is fine.

    Shawn Hymel1:00 PM
    I'm still amused at how many marketing blogs/books say that social media is the way to go, and yet, lots of us technical people enjoy the email still!

    Caleb1:00 PM
    @TheMarpe This isn't an electronics example, but Matt Colvile mentions at the end of each of his videos that his company has a kickstarter coming up. The lesson being thow a footnote in every (long form) message about your next project. He specifically uses a mailing list, that he promises to use once and only once to annouce the kickstater. Presumably he'll build a new one for the next project.

    doug.leppard1:00 PM
    @TheMarpe at makersfair? No new channels but a bunch of names that were interested, but like I said it wasn;t ready and I dropped it. fun experience if...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium05/08/2019 at 20:07 0 comments

    Arsenijs12:22 PM

    Michael Graham12:22 PM


    Original Home Goods, Novelties, & LED Cosplay Props! by RadiantArtifacts

    You searched for: RadiantArtifacts! Discover the unique items that RadiantArtifacts creates. At Etsy, we pride ourselves on our global community of sellers. Each Etsy seller helps contribute to a global marketplace of creative goods. By supporting RadiantArtifacts, you're supporting a small business, and, in turn, Etsy!

    Read this on Etsy

    Shawn Hymel12:23 PM
    Nice! So you're appealing to the art, home goods, cosplay crowd it seems?

    Michael Graham12:23 PM
    @Caleb Maybe with a big BUT. Etsys primary audience is WOMEN. I

    Michael Graham12:23 PM
    Yes, exactly.

    pop1312:24 PM
    sadly marketing maker stuff rarely works for me, as i buy it when i need it, not when i feel like it

    Jasmine Brackett12:24 PM
    Etsy is great for custom items or items more at the consumer end, rather than boards and shields.

    Shawn Hymel12:24 PM
    That's a good point, @Michael Graham : know your audience. Has anyone tried selling more bare hacker/maker electronics on Etsy? Any lucj there?

    Caleb12:24 PM
    @Michael Graham your stuff does have more of a craft bent than the kind of thing I make.

    Shawn Hymel12:24 PM

    Yeah, that was going to be my point. I only know Etsy through my daughter, who always wanted to start a store for her leathercrafts. Is it really the place for boards and widgets?

    Shawn Hymel12:25 PM
    I would think Tindie or rolling your own ecommerce site would be the way to go, but I don't have the data to support it.

    Michael Graham12:25 PM
    I hit enter too soon. @caleb I do not think a custom pcb by itself would do well on etsy. BUT if you integrated it to create some custom solution that only you offer that appeals to women then you have something. Just my opinion.

    doug.leppard12:25 PM
    Michael a lot of interesting stuff

    It's one thing to get a lot of eyeballs on your products, but it's another to get the right eyeballs on it.

    Caleb12:25 PM
    I can say that you get some free views on tindie. A (small) number of people do seem to browse the site.

    Shawn Hymel12:26 PM

    Shawn Hymel12:26 PM
    @Dan good point...that brings up my next slide: how do you figure out your audience?

    Leo12:26 PM
    What about starting with CrowdSupply? anyone try stuff with them?

    Shawn Hymel12:26 PM
    CrowdSupply and GroupGets seem to be like the Kickstarter of electronics

    Shawn Hymel12:27 PM
    I don't think they offer a storefront once your campaign is done (I could be wrong)

    TheMarpe12:27 PM
    Did anyone do a preorder or a campaign before? So that it was possible to order a larger batch without risk of not getting customers?

    Arsenijs12:27 PM
    @Shawn Hymel they do offer a storefront

    Shawn Hymel12:27 PM
    @Arsenijs Good to know!

    Shawn Hymel12:27 PM
    With full ecommerce like what Tindie offers?

    Caleb12:28 PM
    I think all of the major crowdfunding sites let you keep the campaign page up so you can take orders through it or direct people to your new store.

    Arsenijs12:28 PM
    Not sure what you mean by that, but they do have an option to "sell" stuff after the manufacturing's... either gone through and the stuff's been sent, or right after the campaign has finished (I don't recall exactly, sorry)

    Leo12:29 PM
    Yeah, I was able to purchase a limeSDR mini through CrowdSupply after the campaign ended.

    Arsenijs12:29 PM


    HiFive Unleashed

    The world's first RISC-V-based, Linux-capable development board

    Read this on Crowd Supply

    Arsenijs12:29 PM
    there's an "add to cart" version

    Shawn Hymel12:29 PM
    Ah! That's a good one with "Add to Cart."

    Jasmine Brackett12:29 PM
    Many people over order for their crowdfunding campaigns and then sell on Tindie or their own store after.

    Nicolas Schurando12:29...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium05/08/2019 at 20:06 0 comments

    Hi everyone - Hack Chat starts in about 15 minutes. Shawn Hymel will be talking about the business end of hacking.

    Art G. Granzeier III joined  the room.11:47 AM

    Mathieu Stephan11:48 AM
    hacking? I got an email that says: " He'll be dropping by the Hack Chat to talk about everything you ever wanted to know about marketing your hardware projects but was afraid to ask."

    doug.leppard11:49 AM
    about how long will the chat be?

    Shawn Hymel11:49 AM
    Dunno if it's strictly hacking, but I'll be talking about how to sell and market hardware stuff that you might be working on. It's based on a talk I gave at KiCon.

    Asher Gomez11:49 AM
    Nice, I cant wait.

    Hacking as in building electronic projects

    doug.leppard11:50 AM
    thanks for being here and sharing

    pop1311:51 AM
    Just asking, why shawb left sparkfun?

    Asher Gomez11:51 AM

    Shawn Hymel11:51 AM
    I wanted to pursue my own thing....I'm making videos and content now for other companies.

    jonathanfdillon joined  the room.11:52 AM

    pop1311:53 AM
    I hate when the keyboard laggs on my phone

    doug.leppard11:53 AM
    Shawn what was your main role at sparkfun?

    Shawn Hymel11:55 AM
    I was an engineer for 1.5 years (laying out boards, writing libraries). After that, I spent 3.5 years in marketing making videos, writing tutorials, and going to events. I think my official title for that was "creative engineer."

    Leo joined  the room.11:56 AM

    thomas.lepi joined  the room.11:57 AM

    Kojoe joined  the room.11:58 AM

    patrick joined  the room.12:00 PM

    OK, it's noon here in the Pacific time zone, so let's kick things off. I'm pleased to welcome Shawn Hymel to the Hack Chat today to share his experiences with marketing and selling hardware projects.

    Looks like you've already given a little bit of your background at Sparkfun, Shawn. Anything else to add?

    Shawn Hymel12:00 PM
    Sure! just for folks who missed it: I worked at SparkFun for 5 years, with 3.5 of them being for the marketing department. I really enjoyed making videos and tutorials, but I got more into marketing strategy toward the end. I found out that there was a lot more science that goes into marketing than I initially thought.

    Shawn Hymel12:01 PM
    At KiCon last month, I gave a talk about how to market and sell a device, aimed at hobbyists and people looking to sell their weekend hardware projects. I’d like to go over a few of the slides I used as a starting point for our discussion.

    Shawn Hymel12:01 PM

    Shawn Hymel12:01 PM
    It’s not marketing yet, but I’d like to start with a question to everyone here. What recommendations do you have for an electronics assembly or turnkey contract manufacturer (if you’ve used one)? This is for my own curiosity :)

    Michael Graham joined  the room.12:02 PM

    Henrik joined  the room.12:02 PM

    Shawn Hymel12:02 PM
    I sent this basic project out to Screaming Circuits for some estimates, and found that it didn't seem worthwhile to manufacture anything less than qty 1000 if you hoped to maybe make money off it :-/

    jonathanfdillon12:03 PM
    What was the mix of SMT to through hole? Through hole tends to be the expensive step of China

    doug.leppard12:03 PM
    I found that 100 brings cost down, but 1000 and up is thee real savings

    jonathanfdillon12:03 PM
    outside of china

    pop1312:04 PM
    A local one called Elektromont, they charge a lot, but it's fast and you don't need to bother with hard to solder components.

    Shawn Hymel12:04 PM
    There were only 8 unique SMT parts on it, no PTH

    doug.leppard12:04 PM
    It seems that it takes a lot more to units to bring it down much more.

    Shawn Hymel12:04 PM
    good to know! Was there a certain quantity you recommend with Elektromont, @pop13 ?

    Shawn Hymel12:04 PM
    *minimum qty

    1000 seems like a lot to manufacture up front, but is it that much in terms of sales? IOW, isn't selling 1000 units of something a pretty reasonable expectation?...

    Read more »

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