This is the next article in a continuing monthly series chronicling the growth path of NanoScale Corporation, a growing nanotechnology company based in Manhattan, KS that is commercializing various advanced materials and compounds for improving indoor air quality, removing pollutants, and containing and neutralizing hazardous chemicals.
Crawford & Co. labels itself as “the world’s largest independent provider of claims management solutions to the risk management and insurance industry.” In other words, it handles insurance claims on behalf of insurers and, with operations in more than 70 countries, it certainly does not lack for scale.
Now a big part of handling insurance claims involves repair, restoration and remediation services. In the U.S. market, Crawford has this base covered with Contractor Connection – a network of about 4,000 general contractors who must continue to meet certain quality benchmarks to remain part of the Crawford network.
Throughout the year, Crawford hosts a number of CAT (for catastrophe) conferences and Contractor Connection events. These kinds of industry events are crucial for NanoScale Corporation to showcase its products before what is often a sizeable captive audience of disaster restoration general contractors and insurance professionals who are in a position to provide a significant boost to its business.
With the convention and tradeshow circuit heating up for a busy spring season, NanoScale Vice President and General Manager Kyle Knappenberger is developing battle plans to measure the effectiveness of the company’s prospecting efforts against cold hard revenues. However, he appreciates the less tangible, but equally important goals of general awareness building and networking with other vendors and product manufacturers.
“These events are places to meet new distributors and new potential partners,” he said. “It’s a meeting of the minds between different manufacturers that can also result in cross-promotion and lead sharing.”
In fact, it was such a “meeting of the minds” which connected NanoScale with a manufacturer that was bringing to market a new air purification unit. The two companies ended up working together to create a new NanoScale OdorKlenz cartridge to fit the unit.
In addition, NanoScale is working a variety of other regional education seminars at distributor locations where various vendors pitch their products to contractors, as well as events where NanoScale provides sales support to individual distributor retail locations.
NanoScale is heading into the event season having recently created a new commercial sales division and expanded the sales team. It has also secured its second nationwide distributor to boost its reach in the U.S. northeast and Texas markets. All of this puts added pressure on Knappenberger and his team to get NanoScale’s story out and capitalize on the new opportunities that have been created.
The right story, for the right audience
With all of these local, regional and national events, NanoScale must be cognizant of its audience. As we have discussed in our previous posts, the company is marketing products derived from innovative, and proprietary, nanotechnology research. It has two general B2B market segments – old-school building contractors who are unlikely to be impressed by a sales pitch that focuses on a technological wow factor and insurance industry professionals who are looking for products that will reduce their costs.
Regardless of the audience, NanoScale’s best hook is to focus on the health and safety benefits afforded by its product, without fostering the impression that OdorKlenz is some type of medical device. This means focusing on much more than just odor elimination since this is quite difficult to illustrate and doesn’t adequately convey the game-changing benefits provided by NanoScale’s technology. As with any product or service, the marketing effort must focus on its high-level, life-changing benefits rather than dwell on specific technical details.
NanoScale’s greatest competitive advantage is that it decontaminates an environment without the addition of potentially hazardous agents which themselves must then be eliminated. For families affected by a natural disaster, this means they can get their lives back on track faster. For contractors, it means they don’t have to deal with additional toxic materials on the jobsite and can reduce their equipment costs. A contractor’s cost savings can be passed on to the insurer. In addition, anything that allows for quicker remediation and restoration of a home or business reduces the costs which insurers can incur in a claim, such as providing a family with alternative living arrangements.
“Contractors are out there to make money, not do a job at cost,” said Knappenberger. “But insurers have their schedules for how much a certain job should cost. Contractors are usually working with insurance agents and adjusters who are trying to get them to reduce costs.”
Since OdorKlenz is a new product, contractors are sometimes reluctant to use it because they fear the cost will not be reimbursed by the insurer. Much of the work by Knappenberger and his team is focused on educating insurance professionals and contractors alike on how its products ultimately provide cost savings that make it ideal for situations where a contractors’ remuneration is tied to an insurer’s schedule.
This brings us back to Knappenberger’s battle plan for the conference and event season. To make the most of getting NanoScale’s out on the conference floor, the team focuses on three fundamentals:
1) Go prepared. Coordinate with the event organizers to obtain lists of participating vendors, speakers and associations, and research who you will have an opportunity to meet ahead of time. “This is pretty standard stuff,” Knappenberger said. “But if you don’t do it you are already behind the game.”
2) Think through possible situations or questions that may arise with customers, partners and so forth. “Even if you don’t have a perfect answer, having recognized something could be an issue will allow you to better navigate it should the situtaiton present itself.”
3) Determine your objective going in and daily take notes and monitor progress. “Have a planning session each morning to make sure the team is on the same page each day.”
In our next installment, we’ll see how the effort is paying off.