Nanotechnology is NOT a Value Proposition

This blog discusses a common error made by nanotechnology start-ups

A value proposition is a marketing term that is supposed to tell a customer why they should buy your product. Typically, a value proposition is framed relative to alternatives and intended to highlight key differentiators. The point is to communicate value. How does the customer gain value, monetarily or otherwise, from your product? Though simple, this is a difficult question to answer and many advanced material startups get it wrong. Here, I discuss common errors made by advanced material manufacturers.

“Your product messaging should focus on why your customer benefit from your technology”

There is a difference between what your product does, how it benefits your customer, and what enables your technology. Nanotechnology is an enabling innovation. It has created a $1 trillion dollar marketplace of products. Nanotech drives innovation across multiple industries. It is not, however, a value proposition. The value proposition for a nanotechnology is what that technology enables; decreased cost, increased reliability, or performance improvements. How you got there is secondary to what a given technology does. If a customer wants to know more about the technology or there are critical EH&S regulations to follow, then disclosing the technology is important. Other than that, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, nanotechnology should not be in any part of your value message.

Many smaller companies fall into a trap of value proposition confusion. They confuse their company identity with the product value proposition. Or they are scientists that confuse describing their technology with their value proposition. Either way, they do not fully understand what their customers want and how best to communicate that. Below are some examples of bad value proposition messaging.

Examples of Bad Value Messaging using Nanotechnology

Examples of Good Value Messaging without using Nanotechnology.png

Larger companies typically have a more sophisticated marketing team and communicate their technology on a higher level. Rarely do you find marketing materials that highlight the use of nanotechnology in fortune 500 companies. If you search hard enough, you can find one of two pages (e.g. 3M) on their website that discusses their interest in nanotechnology. It can be research focused and usually there to appeal to investors by discussing high-level investment. The term becomes more synonymous with continued innovation that a specific product release. Other companies, like Loreal, do not mention the use of nanotechnology. They do this because of public concerns about nanotechnology and the risk of backlash. This is despite both companies using nanotechnology regularly in their milk or makeup products.

This concern is for good reason. A recent poll published by Corey & Scheufele noted found two trends: First, the general populations’ understanding of nanotechnology has remained fairly static in the last few years, second, there is a widening gap among education groups, with the less-educated respondents having an increased perception of risk by a factor of 3 to 1.  Many companies have made the decision to stop communicating their use of nanotechnology due to the risk of backlash from a significant portion of the population. Understandable, considering this is regardless of internal quality standards or safety testing.

Examples of how Large companies message technology value propositions.png

Now some of you may have read my blog about Starting with Why. While those principles still apply, they are not necessarily reflected in the selected value messaging listed above. Instead, the examples focus on features of the product. This brings up an important point. Starting with why is important, but following up with what and how are equally critical. Without a what and how, no customer knows what you are selling. Listing quantifiable benefits is a key step in the communication of value. Also, not every marketing team is a great one. So, for the points of this article, they serve the purpose. Here, we are trying to make the point of why nanotechnology not a quantifiable benefit.

Instead, take the time to think critically about why your product really benefits your customers. Perform A/B testing on your message with focus groups. If you are in a B2B market, try getting your customers to tell you why they like your product. Translate that focus into a brand messaging template. Then, have the website, marketing materials, and sales pitches connect to this value messaging template. Revisit this template annually to make sure it aligns with your customer base and future trajectory. Long term you will be able to refine your message and increase customer engagement.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Thoughts on this article? Please post comments and questions below!



2 thoughts on “Nanotechnology is NOT a Value Proposition

  1. Good piece. I often find somewhat challenging to structure a good value proposition for investors who are not tech savvy or involved in the industry. I think we have done an OK job presenting it to clients (because they understand their problem) but building a proposition that is both easy to digest and convincing for financial investors, especially early in the life of the company, it is fairly complicated.


    1. Thanks for the comment Ares Materials. You bring up a really good point. The value proposition for investors is completely different from that of customers. While there is a lot of people talking about what you need to convince investors, they really are only thinking about one thing: How do I get my money back out of this investment? Material about market, customers, burn rate, technology all are ways of supporting their financial returns analysis. I’ll think about this point more and try to write something up on it in the coming weeks.
      Thanks again!


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