Launching a drone business is no different to starting any other business. For it to be successful you must get yourself in front prospective customers and convince them you are worth hiring. Now this may sound like a daunting task but by breaking it down into segments it does get easier and more manageable.

Identify Local Sectors

The first step is to fully research and identify your target market. This will be shaped by the markets available to you in your local area and your personal interests.  You may live in a rural area with large energy sources such as wind turbines, hydro dams or solar panel farms. Alternatively you may live in a large city with regular TV and movie production taking place.  The key is to be realistic.  If you want to become a specialist in wildlife monitoring but live in the middle of a large city then you need to accept that this isn’t going to happen and you need to be flexible in your approach to building a business. The most simple method is to produce a list of your personal interests and a second list of the biggest markets in your local area. Enabling you to identify the most suitable and realistic markets for you to target.

It may be tempting to target every sector and follow every lead available but a scatter gun approach can quickly lead you into the ‘jack of all trades’ mindset instead of building a proper business.  To be successful it is vital that you focus on providing high quality services to long term clients in the sector which offers the best opportunity to build a successful business with strong demand and repeat customers.

Focusing on a specific sector will also enable you to develop skills and experience in analysing the data gathered by your drone and extracting the key results from the data. This will enable you to add value to your customer, making your skills more valuable and important to your customer. Any process you can use to improve your skills and separate yourself from your competition gives you an advantage over your competition. Making it easier to build a reputation as an expert in a specific sector.

Being an expert in one sector offers the potential to be far more successful than providing basic services in a range of different sectors. By specialising and adding value to your customer you can charge more money and gain customers through word of mouth.  As an expert you can also attract publicity from specialist business publications who use you as a ‘go to’ specialist. For example, publications based on construction or mining will turn to you as an expert, providing you with publicity and visibility.  Enabling you to charge a premium to companies in these sectors.

Build a Relatable Brand

Once you have identified your target sectors you can begin to create your marketing material including a website and business cards based on those sectors. You may even want to name your business based on a specific sector, such as ‘Drone Energy Assessment Specialists’ or ‘Forestry and Wildlife Drone Aces’. This will enable you to build a brand which will appeal to your target market as a specialist in their needs and interests. This type of focus could be the difference between attracting small customers looking for one-off jobs or becoming a world renowned specialist in a specific sector.

Identify Customers Perceptions

Whether we like or not ‘perception is everything’ and there are many people who sadly have a negative opinion towards drones. Spending the time to research your chosen sectors views and experiences towards drone technology can make a huge difference towards how receptive people will be towards you, or how difficult it will be to convince people to hire you. For example, drones are widely used in movie and television production with most people working in these sectors receptive to the benefits drones offer. However, in other sectors such as wildlife monitoring or security your target customers maybe more cynical towards the use of drones with your target audience concerned about the noise or practicality and effectiveness of drones.

Understanding these views and opinions will help to sharpen your marketing material and the messages you need to use to change people’s perceptions. Providing solutions to these concerns is a great way to change people’s perception towards drones and establish yourself as a reliable and responsible professional drone pilot. This can be achieved by directly addressing these concerns in your marketing material by using videos and evidence of how your drone can perform specific tasks and solve problems your customer may not even be aware could be completed by a drone.

You also need to identify the key benefits your service offer to your customers. For example, can you perform tasks more safely and quickly than traditional methods, helping to ensure your customers save money and increase their profits. If your business does not solve a specific problem or benefit your customer then there are no genuine and practical reason why they should hire you.

When meeting your target customer don’t be afraid to ask them what their views are towards using drones.  By being direct with them you open a dialogue and the opportunity for you to allay any fears towards drones they may have. By tackling people’s fears and concerns about drones head on it also makes you are appear trustworthy and knowledgeable. Businesses like to meet people who understand their concerns and can address them quickly. You can do this by clearly listing your qualifications, experience and insurance policies throughout your website and business cards. You can also produce promotional videos with text or images which display your qualifications and credentials – use every opportunity to prove to prospective customer that you understand their concerns and how you can help them. Remember, you may have a deep passion for drones but your target audience may have a far more negative view towards drones. The more quickly you can overcome these concerns the more quickly you will gain customers and gain their trust.

Develop Effective Systems

Using your time effectively is essential when you fulfilling the needs for one customer whilst trying to find the next.

  • Make sure you have access to your work emails at all times
  • If necessary employ an accountant to free up the time to allow you grow your business
  • Make sure your equipment is well maintained is fully working – your customer won’t be impressed if you turn up to site and forget something
  • Use diary and scheduling software – even a simple to do list can save an hour each day
  • Plan out your routes effectively and look for ways to avoid sitting in traffic. Just a few simple ways to save time to allow you to focus on growing your business
  • If you need to hire equipment for your business make sure the supply of equipment is reliable and covered by your insurance

Just a few simple ways to save time to allow you to focus on growing your business.

Make It Easy to Be a Customer

You may enjoy the technical details and intricacies of being a drone pilot but it is highly likely that your customers skills and interests lie elsewhere. Therefore you should avoid confusing your potential customers. Instead, focus on providing them with simple and easy to follow information. Your business needs to be accessible and easy to understand. You can do this by using images and videos – don’t forget, a picture tells a thousand words so use images instead of complicated text and diagrams to sell your business. You should also make the payment process simple by using a variety of payment platforms including bank transfer and even PayPal. Making it simple to pay you could be the difference between gaining customers and losing out to your competition.

Develop Long Term Relationships

Finding new customers can be time consuming and expensive. But developing a stable of repeat customers you can slowly start to expand your business by employing staff and focusing on completing work for customers who appreciate your quality of work and come to rely on you. To do this you need to invest time in the beginning stages of meeting a customer, taking the time to fully understand both their short term and long term needs.  Ask prospective customers what their long term plans are and whether they have other sites or contracts you will be able to work on.

Develop a reliable contacts list which you can access at all times. For example, you could use a smartphone app or sales platform that can make a record of your customers details. Some companies will be prepared to a premium to a supplier or is reliable and flexible to their needs. However, you also need to be clear what your service limitations are from the outset. For example, you maybe limited by weather, legal and insurance restrictions. The best policy is to be honest with your customers. If they believe that you can operate 24/7 or a single drone can fly for hours at a time then it may lead to misunderstandings and conflict between you and your customer. Don’t be afraid to make it clear what you can and can’t do to avoid disappointing your target audience.

You may want to use ‘bulk pricing’ to help generate long term contracts and more revenue for your business. By offering discounts to repeat customers or tender for fixed period contracts. However, you need to make sure you are not over committing yourself and making sure to fully read any tender documents. For example, most customers will be hesitant for you to win a contract and then sub-contract the work to someone else or they may require proof that your existing insurance lasts for a certain period of time. They may also expect certain pieces of equipment to be used or work to be completed in a specific time scale. These are all details that any business has to go through in order to win long-term business contracts.

Price Competitively

You may have seen reports stating that some drone pilots are making between $150 and $200 per hour. But before you set your prices this high you need to research what the true marketing prices are. These prices maybe for highly technical work or work carried out on an urgent basis where premium charges are including. Pricing your services to high may isolate you from your competition and label you as overpriced for the particular sector. This may be difficult to accept but having an effective pricing policy affects every single business. Would you pay $5 for a cheeseburger when the company next door is selling them for $3.  You need to understand what prices are being charged and whether they allow you to make a profit. Now here is the good news…by adding value and offering unique services you may be able to charge more money.

Affiliate With Other Businesses

To help grow your business you can also affiliate with other relevant businesses.  Businesses who you receive a payment from if you help them to win a customer or you reciprocate by paying an affiliate fee to another business if they help you to win a new customer. For example, if you are working in the property sector you can affiliate yourself with realtors and property maintenance companies. Or if you are working in the film industry you can affiliate yourself with independent location agents. This business model is not only a useful method to generating revenue but also gaining new repeat customers.  If you are prepared to pay a fee to other businesses they will almost certainly be interested in recommending you to prospective customers.