Economic headwinds: You feel them at the pump, the grocery store, and now in space.
Investment in the space industry has fallen back to Earth, totaling only $2.2B in Q1, according to Space Capital. Q2 was better, but excluding the Maxar take-private transaction, Q2 was the lowest quarter for private market investment in the space industry since 2015. In general, funding is scarcer, investors are more cautious, and company leadership more crucial.
Is space business dying? Hardly. The global space economy is growing. But are investors more selective? Absolutely.
“We are seeing a sharp bifurcation between the winners and everyone else, as the market mania of the previous two years has fully subsided, tourist investors have left the market, and VCs are increasingly reserving capital for companies built on strong fundamentals,” Space Capital explained in its Q1 report.
Consolidation is in the offing.
So who will survive the shakeout?
There are a lot of factors behind that answer, including financials, sector demand, proprietary technology, partner dependency, business planning, processes, risk, government support, regulation, artificial intelligence, and geopolitics.
One factor in space business success, however, is often overlooked: clarity.
Do investors and prospects truly know what your business does? Do new contacts really understand it when you explain it? Is your relevance obvious? Too often, the answer is no.
Start making sense
Investors and prospects may overlook you if you haven’t made yourself clear. Too often, we in business talk more to ourselves than our most important audiences. When we’re meeting a new contact and sharing our company’s value proposition, we subconsciously imagine that insider jargon, ten-dollar words, and high-minded abstraction make us sound smarter. It happens in conversations and in marketing. And it’s a miscalculation.
Try dumbing your story down a bit – or rather, clearing it up. Clarity beats cleverness. Simplicity is smart, memorable, and inclusive.
Especially in this more discerning investment climate, audiences need to understand what your company is actually making or doing. How does your product or service relate to a) mission success, whatever that may look like, and b) timeless concerns like human discovery, prosperity, sustainability, or national security?
Most importantly, how does what you’re doing in space benefit Earth? That’s critical: More than three in five Americans believe any public spending on space programs should have an immediate benefit to life on this planet.
Remember the generalists
But still, why simplify your value proposition when you’re talking to fellow insiders in the space community? Easy. Although space is a profoundly technical world, many audiences with big sums of money – investors, CEOs, generals, and senators – aren’t engineers. Neither are decision-makers at of the world’s most influential business publications and broadcasters. For them, deep technology discussions yield quickly diminishing returns. Few of them like to be dragged into the weeds.
So, here are five ways to achieve clarity, which will go far to answer people’s questions and extinguish their doubt:
Talk to me like I’m 12. Politicians are great at this, constantly distilling their messages to ultrasimple concepts: jobs, jobs, jobs; it’s the economy (stupid); good schools. Embrace your audiences from the start with easy concepts, then walk them gently down the road of detail to your unique value proposition. Orbit Fab’s tagline is, frankly, great: We’re gas stations in space. Although that’s literally incorrect, it’s simplicity conveys a lot of relevant information and plants the seed of curiosity.
Start with the why. You’ve seen the video. Every company was founded for a reason. There is an unmet need and you aim to solve it. You’re not in business to make propellant; you’re in business to move vital spacecraft so humans can continue getting video, broadband, or spy pictures. Your purpose matters.
Tell stories. A story always starts with a problem and leads toward a solution (or resolution). Humans love stories, and audiences will lean forward to hear them. Tell stories of your company’s origin, your executives’ lives, your clients’ needs, and how customers will benefit from what you make/do. People remember stories.
Don’t rely entirely on logic. Although we love Spock, he was missing a little something. Infuse your company story with purpose, colorful sensory details, values, and ways you create community. Use video, animation, infographics, and beautiful photography.
Communicate often. Investors and prospects need to know who you are as much as what you do. Still, many companies stay dark on social media, opaque on their websites, and absent from the news. They’re in perpetual stealth mode. Be transparent. Look alive on social media, document your success in news releases, and spotlight your people. Get your executives out there telling stories and commenting on news.
Try these clear communication techniques to help you survive the cruel winds of the global economy. Or get to the next level. Some businesses will still suffer in this climate, but chances are you won’t have heard of them.
Steve McGrath is senior vice president of Brodeur Space Group.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of SpaceNews magazine.