Scaling and Strategy

So let’s say you’ve working on or for a small business and you need to take the next step and get out into the big, bad marketplace. The Space Foundation Space Commerce workshop (courtesy of Kelli Kedis Ogborn) addressed ways to refine a product, identify growth opportunities, understanding gaps and barriers to your goals, and ways to overcome them. Read on!

Refining Your Value Proposition

Having identified how you add value in the marketplace, it still helps to clarify who your product or service best serves, what sorts of problems you can solve, and how you can expand your range of customers. It helps to understand how your target market is structured in the first place.

This being a space-focused workshop, the marketplace is differentiated by type of customer: civiil space (NASA, other government space programs, academic); military; and commercial (private businesses); and “New Space,” which is a subsection of commercial delivering rapidly advancing industries and markets.

Another question to ask: what forces, activities, or policies are shaping your market? In the space business, those include

  • satellite launch
  • satellite-based internet services
  • deep space exploration*
  • lunar landing*
  • Earth observation
  • asteroid mining*
  • space debris
  • space tourism*
  • space-related research (e.g., astronomy)
  • space-based manufacturing.

(* Activities most likely to affect your friendly neighborhood space writer)

Also, what sorts of technologies are affected by–or could affect–your target industry? Tech trends in space include:

  • data analytics/mining
  • energy/energy storage
  • biometrics and health
  • creature comforts for in-space and lunar habitation
  • telecommunications
  • miniaturization of materials (nanomaterials)
  • textiles
  • advanced and additive manufacturing
  • environmental assessment and agribusiness
  • smallsats
  • satellite servicing
  • satellite repair (in space)
  • cybersecurity
  • uncrewed autonomous vehicles
  • robotics
  • debris monitoring and cleaning
  • advanced materials and coatings
  • artificial intelligence
  • sustainability

That’s space–but what technologies are changing or will change how you do business? And beyond that, what are some other trends that could affect your business? For example, in space, hot-button issues include decreased government funding and increased private funding of space ventures; increased international demand for space-based services; increased commercial competition; and an aging workforce.

Following the Money

In a previous posting, I mentioned the potential for doing business with the government. To get smarter on that side of things, it helps to be able to read a Congressional budget for the agencies doing business in your field. For example, knowing budget codes for funding research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) activities are numbered as follows:

DoD RDT&E Budget Activity Codes and Descriptions Code Description

  1. 6.1  Basic Research
  2. 6.2  Applied Research
  3. 6.3  Advanced Technology Development
  4. 6.4  Advanced Component Development and Prototypes
  5. 6.5  System Development and Demonstration
  6. 6.6  RDT&E Management Support
  7. 6.7  Operational System Development

Source: DoD RDT&E: Appropriations Structure

If your company is developing new technologies, its current level of development can affect how much funding you can seek and who funds it. NASA evaluates development based on its Technology Readiness Level (or TRL). A technology that’s based on cutting-edge science and still in the theoretical stage would be TRL1; a technology that’s operational in the field and easily obtainable off the shelf would be TRL 9. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) office handles the cutting-edge stuff, with the hopes of turning the theoretical into something approaching practical.

Developing Collateral to Support Your Marketing

One of the more common marketing tools in the tech field is the white paper, which can come in two versions: 1-3 pages and 3-5 pages. Both are meant to be a brief summary of an existing technical problem and how your particular product/service and solve that problem. The content format for the longer version includes:

  • Executive summary
  • Problem statement/solution/impact
  • Core technology
  • Development timeline
  • Company and team information

The 1-3 page version keeps things short and snappy:

  • Executive summary
  • Problem/solution/impact
  • Core services
  • Integration timeline

Again, the goal of these documents is to demonstrate how your product or service can solve specific problems for target customers.

Another product to have handy is a presentation deck to deliver to a prospective client or customer (Microsoft PowerPoint is still the standard, but there are others, like Prezi, which can provide other features). This, too, should be brief. The key slides here would be:

  • About You
  • Vision & Value
  • Problem & Solution
  • Graphic (of your product)
  • Opportunity & Benefit
  • Next Steps/Ask

That last slide is crucial and often left out. It’s not just a matter of telling someone how cool your product/service is, you need to ask for the sale.

Strategy

Strategy is simply a plan for what you need to do next to grow your business. The typical gaps you’ll encounter in your business are time, money, and expertise, and some of the typical questions you’ll need to ask yourself (or your partners) are:

  • What do you I/we need to accomplish?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will I/we need to hire to do the work?

Additional tips Ogborn suggested included:

  • Start with a due date for accomplishing a particular outcome and work backwards to determine what needs to be done when.
  • Identify/track whom you are contacting and how often.
  • Identify promotional components: events, articles, etc.
  • Develop a timeline.
  • Identify the internal resources necessary for success.
  • Clarify how much funding you’ll need to keep the company alive while you pursue your strategy.

The adventure of building You, Inc., continues!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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