How to Get Clients as a Drone Startup

Getting Clients as a Drone Startup

The recipe for getting clients as a drone startup; start with market research, engage prospective clients with insightful questions, showcase your skills with sample data, and offer a free trial service to build trust and demonstrate capabilities.

Hello and welcome back to my blog. I’m Gale, founder of Gale-Force Drone and a seasoned consultant in the commercial Drone Industry. From a childhood passion for RC toys to developing and conducting innovative drone services internationally, my path has been as dynamic as the drones I pilot. To find out how my drone life developed, feel free to visit my ‘About Us‘ page.

In this article, I share insights and strategies to help you transform your drone interest into a profitable venture. As you begin, or continue the transition of turning your drone enthusiasm into a thriving business, it’s vital to recognize that the drone industry isn’t just about the hardware and software you possess. The real game-changer is acquiring paying clients. With over nine years in this dynamic field, I’ve honed strategies that are essential for success. In the next sections, starting with ‘Market Research,’ I’ll share these key insights to help you not only navigate but excel in the commercial drone landscape.

First Up. Market Research

starter guide marketing research

One of the fist steps to getting clients as a drone startup, is market research. No matter what industry you are getting into, you will need to do some form of market research, and it’s the same for the drone industry. And I promise it’s not as difficult or boring as it might seem.

The Significance of Market Research

Market research will be the foundation that you build your drone business on. It’s simply a matter of understanding the industry, identifying its various sectors, and ultimately, creating a roadmap for your drone services.

My Personal Experience

For me, market research started with meetings – not just with potential clients, but also with other local drone operators. At that time there were only a few, but the insights I gathered were eye opening and very helpful. I also joined my local chamber of commerce, attended events, luncheons, and any of the ongoing fellowships. The intent was to network in the community, but this actually led to learning more about opportunities in the market

One notable experience from my early days was a chance encounter with a gentleman at the Chamber of Commerce. As I sat in the waiting area, he kindly offered me a bottle of water. A simple gesture turned into a significant opportunity. When he learned I was an FAA certified drone pilot, he fired off a barrage of questions about the industry and FAA regulations. That “accidental” meeting led to numerous drone projects, including work for the city government and various subdivision developments. Those were truly exciting times!

Practical Tips for Effective Market Research

Here are a few methods I employed during my market research:

  • Online Study: Get online and begin researching drone services-related webinars, forums, and industry social media. LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook are great resources to follow and learn about drone industry trends, pain points, and emerging opportunities.

  • Local Engagement: Never underestimate the power of local connections. Joining community groups and participating in industry-specific events provide on-the-ground insights that online research simply can’t replicate.

Ask Questions

Next Up. Asking Questions

One underestimated superpower in getting clients as a drone startup, is the ability to ask the right questions. Something I learned early in my sales career is that it’s not always about pitching your services; it’s also about a deep understanding of your client’s needs and providing services specifically tailored to their needs.

The Power of Asking the Right Questions

Asking the right questions isn’t just a conversation starter; it’s a game-changer. When you engage with potential clients, the questions you ask can uncover hidden opportunities. It’s like turning on a floodlight in a dim room, revealing everything that your client is looking for.

Another Story from my Startup Days

Back when I was getting my drone services business going, I was supplementing my income with freelance work – some IT consulting from my previous life as a corporate IT consultant – and also doing rideshare driving with Uber and Lyft. During a late-night Uber trip, I picked up a couple from a restaurant and it was a 45-minute drive to their home. Naturally, I struck up a conversation, and the topic easily drifted to my drone business.

Lo and behold, to my surprise, the passenger turned out to be the VP and Director of Social Media for a global company that had recently moved its North America HQ and constructed a brand new high-rise downtown. By the time we arrived at their home, I had shown him some of my work on YouTube and received his business card. Ultimately I secured a five-figure drone project that included aerial photo/videography of their new high-rise building, another facility, and a corporate event that was scheduled in the same timeline.

They not only paid generously but also featured my drone video in their global grand opening event, and all these years later, my photos are still prominently displayed on their websites.

Guidance on Asking the Right Questions

As a startup drone pilot, your questions should revolve around understanding your client’s pain points and objectives. Ask about their goals, challenges, and expectations. Tailor your services to provide solutions to their specific needs. Remember, the power to succeed in this industry often lies in the questions you ask.

Sample Data

3rd Tip: Showcase Your Skills with Sample Data

Another key component that will genuinely set you apart when getting clients as a drone startup, is the ability to effectively demonstrate and showcase your skills. Potential clients want to see your capabilities in action before they commit. Here’s some ways to do it effectively:

The Power of Demonstrating Your Skills

Sample data is a powerful asset, and serves as tangible proof of your abilities as a drone pilot. In my early days, I recognized that having demo data readily available could make a substantial difference. When you can confidently present a potential client with a glimpse of what you can deliver, it immediately establishes credibility and you’re more likely to win their trust and earn their business.

My Go-To Demo Data

I have my go-to data set that I know like the back of my hand. It’s a combination of data from various projects, including construction monitoring, a rooftop solar inspection, a cell tower inspection, and clips from both commercial and residential real estate shoots. I have used it for reference in numerous presentations because it effectively represents my overall capabilities. The reason it work so well is because it shows my in-depth understanding of various practices, allowing me to provide potential clients with insights they never knew were possible.

Practical Steps to Creating Sample Data

Creating your own sample data isn’t as difficult as you might think. You can either start with a service that you are passionate about or that best showcase the skills you wish to highlight. I like to present outlines for every step of the given drone mission, from planning to data collection to the analysis and final deliverables. I highly recommend building a portfolio that demonstrates your capabilities, and you’ll find it’s a powerful tool in your quest for clients as a drone startup.

Free Sample

Tip 4: The Power of Free Sample Services

A great strategy that often pays off remarkably well for getting clients as a drone startup, can be performing and providing free samples of your services. This approach allows potential clients to experience your services firsthand, demonstrating the value you can provide, without any upfront commitment.

A Success Story

Earlier in this article I shared the story about winning the drone project for the global company on an Uber drive. I glossed over one of the steps in winning that project. After that Uber drive, and the initial phone and email exchange, the client went quiet for a few weeks. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by this, because corporate clients will need to determine budget availability and allocation, generate purchase orders, and other bureaucratic processes.

But still, not hearing anything, I decided on a strategy to send them a free sample and after a long day out flying other projects, it was the perfect ‘Golden Hour’, and the perfect sunset. I did a quick stop at the building, flew the 10-minutes remainder of one of my batteries and captured a stunning sunset video of their building during a ‘Golden Hour’ flight. I showcased not just my creative skills, but also my instinct for the perfect shot. This gesture led to them hiring me for extensive projects including another facility and a corporate event, which turned out to be a significant 5-figure contract.

How to Offer Free Samples Effectively

When considering offering free samples, do it strategically. Identify potential clients who are genuinely interested but may need a nudge to commit. Focus on projects where your skills can shine the brightest. Quality in these samples is key—they are a testament to your service level and can be the foundation of a trusting, lucrative relationship.

Mentoring and Networking

Tip 5: Finding a Mentor and Collaborating

Back in 2016, in the early days of my drone career, I found myself being one of the few drone guys in my local vicinity in Nashville. I did meet with a couple of the other guys, but rather than finding any mentors close to home, I found myself sharing my experiences of getting out and finding work. Nearly all of my initial guidance came from seasoned professionals I found online. Guys on YouTube, who were out there, conducting real-world drone operations, through their shared experiences and expertise, unknowingly helped me find my way.

As my business progressed, my drone services expanded. I began collaborating with drone service providers in different countries – from conducting wind turbine inspections and aerial construction monitoring with a company in Munich Germany, for operations in the Philippines. These partnerships were a two-way street of learning and growth, which has continued to influence my career.

This phase of collaboration was instrumental in my transition from drone work in the field, to more of a consultative role where I am now. Working with companies like Scopito in Europe, I have become an expert in utilities, infrastructure powerline and solar inspections, and image data analysis and reporting for clients worldwide. These collaborations not only helped to broaden my technical expertise but also deepen my understanding of the industry’s nuances.

Dive into the drone community, seek mentors, and don’t hesitate to share your journey and insights.

My advice to those starting out is to actively seek knowledge, be it through digital platforms or industry seminars. The drone industry thrives on shared knowledge and experiences. Whether you’re learning from a YouTube tutorial,  just remember, mentoring is reciprocal; sharing your unique experiences can enlighten others just as you learn from them. And as you gain experience, remember that your insights can be just as valuable to others. Embrace the role of both student and teacher – it’s a dynamic that keeps this industry innovative and ever-evolving.

How to Choose Your Niche as a Drone StartupClick into my article “How to Choose Your Niche as a Drone Startupwhere I go into great depth on how to effectively determine what Drone Services to offer.


Conclusion: Embracing the Drone Industry’s Potential

As we bring this guide to a close, I hope these insights and stories from my journey in the drone industry inspire and equip you to carve out your own path to success. The drone world is ever-evolving, brimming with opportunities for those willing to learn, adapt, and innovate.

Remember, whether you’re just starting or looking to expand your drone business, the key is continuous learning and collaboration. Embrace every chance to learn, whether it’s from a mentor, a peer, or even your own experiences. The drone industry is not just about flying high; it’s about the connections we make and the knowledge we share.

Keep Exploring and Learning

I encourage you to continue exploring and learning. Dive deeper into the world of drones and discover more strategies, tips, and personal experiences by browsing through the other articles on my blog. Each article is designed to provide you with knowledge and inspiration, helping you navigate the complexities and joys of the drone industry.

Stay curious, stay committed, and let’s soar to new heights together!

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