So you've decided to dive into the field of drone services. You have your Part 107 License, your equipment, and maybe a client or two. At this point, you might find yourself thinking, "Where do I go from here?" Don't worry; you're not alone. Building your drone service business, and positioning it for long-term success, is about so much more than just firing up that Phantom 4 Pro. We get a lot of questions from new commercial drone pilots about the best way to position their services in the growing market and build those services into a thriving business. Start by focusing on these three initial tasks, and you'll be well on your way to building a solid marketing strategy for your UAV business.
Develop a Company Name, Tagline and Logo
Your business name, tagline and logo are in many ways the "face" of your company. Develop them thoughtfully. Spend time researching how other drone businesses handle these elements, and then create a package that is unique, memorable and reflects how you want prospective clients to think about your business.
In terms of a logo, do make sure it's responsive — meaning it scales well to fit a variety of digital formats. If this is beyond your skill set, you can hire a freelance graphic designer through websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or CloudPeeps.
Create a Professional Website
It goes without saying that you won't get far with your marketing endeavors if you don't have a user-friendly, professional website for your drone business. Sites like Squarespace and Wix are affordable tools that make it simple for anyone to design a site — no coding experience necessary. Or, you can access website designers for hire through marketplaces like Codeable.
As you design your site, keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. For web marketing newbies, SEO just means you are drawing relevant people to your website by designing it — and the content on it — in such as way that it ranks high on search engine results. This ensures people can find your business without having to search for your business name. Instead they can use search-friendly terms like "drone services in Chicago", or "drone mapping Seattle" to locate your business on Google and other online search engines.
Launch a Blog Highlighting Customers and Successes
Publishing regular blog content, even just a short post once a week, will improve your SEO. Frequent blogging will help keep you top-of-mind with current clients and send the message to potential clients that you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy resource. You can say you are a drone expert all you want, but a blog helps you show it with photos and testimonials from happy customers.
Your blog content doesn't have to be fancy. A post highlighting a successful project, or a short video in which a client talks about how your drone services have improved their business, are two easy ways to get blog content up on your website.
After you've laid the groundwork with a solid business model and marketing plan, a big question still remains: how to find customers? Joining drone service directories like DroneDeploy's Drone Mapping Directory, droners.io and airstoc is a great way to put yourself out there.
But in addition to getting on directory lists, it's important to put yourself out in front of as many potential customers as possible. Many people simply don't know what drones can do, but once they realize the business benefits of drones, hiring a DSP becomes a no brainer. Consider setting up an exploratory call to educate people on the benefits of drones. Demo and pro-bono work also goes a long way toward finding new business opportunities.
Attending professional networking events and rotary meetings is another way to connect with local businesses and find customer prospects. Create presentations and slide decks to share at these meetings to give your presentation even more impact.
Gregg Heath ofSilicon Falcon Micro Aviation takes this approach. He also keeps an eye out for opportunities to network on the fly. He recounts stopping to talk to the staff of a crop management company when he happened to drive by one morning. "They tried drones on their own a few months ago, but they didn't know it was possible to do things like stand counts." Not seeing the value, the crop management company gave up on drones. But after hearing from Gregg what drone mapping can accomplish, they turned from skeptics to a solid business prospect for Silicon Falcon.
And finally, never underestimate the importance of networking with other drone service providers. You never know when someone might get a query for work that is outside their service area. Likewise, if a local colleague ends up with more work than they can handle, they may refer clients to other trusted drone businesses. Connect with colleagues in the commercial drone field by joining pilot networks and communities. Examples include the DroneDeploy Users Forum, PhantomPilots, and the SUAS Commercial Mapping Pilots Facebook group. DroneLife's guide to the top drone forums is also a useful read.
No doubt about it, building a thriving drone business requires a lot of hard work. But if you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take things one step at a time. And remember, all of this work now will pay off down the road. Veteran drone service provider Ed Schmalfeld sums it up best:
"You want make sure you set yourself up for success. If you run your business like it's a little teeny tiny thing, it's going to be very hard for you to grow or manage success. If you start things like you're going to be a big formal company, as growth and success come, you just kind of grow into it. You already have a lot of the pieces in place." — Ed Schmalfeld, Drone Service Provider