Defining Your Market

It’s been said that drone service businesses don’t exist and that drones are simply tools that help you in your actual business. There is some truth to that and it should be considered when trying to determine your market. It’s tough to consider marketing if you don’t know what you provide and who will buy it.

Determining your market is the first step in your marketing efforts and many new pilots just don’t know what direction to go when they are first starting out. Determining your market can be difficult and the plans you make will most likely change as you get more experience and knowledge. But to get started, ask yourself some questions and be honest with your answers.

  1. Do you have personal knowledge of the market you want to service?
  2. Are the potential clients in those market people you want to work with?
  3. Do the potential clients in the industry have the resources to pay your fees?
  4. Will the potential clients value your work and pay your rate?
  5. How many clients will you need in the market to reach your goals?

Many new pilots fall victim to what I call the “Easy Market”. This approach determines your market based on the ease of entry into the market with little or no considerations to the other analysis of that market. The basic questions I’ve provided will help you avoid the “Easy Market” and save you time and money in pursuing a market you don’t want to be in.

If you have personal knowledge of the market you want to service, then you may know what products and services will be valuable for that market. If you don’t know what will be valuable, then you have to find out. Personal knowledge of a market is not a requirement but it is helpful to cut down on R&D time to figure it out. Simply wanting to do wind farm inspections isn’t enough to market your services and get work. You need to know what the inspections should show and what benefits they will have to the client. Personal knowledge of a market helps you understand what’s important and where your services could be used.

If the potential clients are not people you want to work with, you may want to choose something else. Clients that are notorious for not paying bills on time, cutting corners, or engaging in bad business practices are probably not the best people to work with. The clients you go after should be able to afford your services and have the resources to pay you. Many new pilots never consider this and end up working with clients that promise to pay when they get paid or get excuses instead of cash. To avoid this, go where the money is.

When a client doesn’t value your work, they will beat you down on price, hire the next pilot that works cheaper, or buy a drone and do it themselves. This is the worst client to work with and if the market you choose is full of them, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Not everyone forecasts the number of clients they need but they should. Securing 1000 clients to make your business successful is very different than securing 20 to do the same thing. The volume of work a single client can provide is important to understand when it comes to the amount of marketing effort put forth to get that client.

A real estate client that provides two jobs per year is probably not as desirable as a real estate firm that has 30 agents that could all provide 2 or more jobs per year. A construction company that would hire you to visit 5 job sites twice a month would be worth the extra time and money marketing to them compared to little time, little money, and little effort to secure the single agent that provides 2 jobs per year. Read “How To Get High Paying Clients” for more info.

**Note – We don’t have a question regarding the type of drone you have or might get. Getting into a market because you already have the equipment falls into the “Easy Market” category. The drone you have may be capable of servicing your market which is fine, but it shouldn’t be the motivating factor that establishes your market. 

Once you begin to figure out what market or markets you want to be in, then the big question needs to be answered. What will you provide to your potential clients that they can’t provide themselves? If the client can produce the same product that you are offering then chances are they won’t need to hire you.

A commercial drone certification from the FAA is probably not going to be enough. The test is not overly difficult or expensive, and it’s something that a potential client could get themselves, or even have one of their employees get. Simple aerial photos or video may not be enough either. Drones that can capture great images and video are readily available, easy to fly, and relatively inexpensive. A drone purchase is not necessarily something a company would shy away from if they wanted to do their drone work in-house. Think hard about what you will provide to your potential clients and be very honest with yourself in determining if they need you. If you decide you need to offer more than you have, here are some things to consider.

Producing a better quality product than your clients can produce is one way to get their business, but it isn’t a guarantee. The photos and videos you produce may be incredible and far superior to what a client could create on their own, and that may be the ticket to get you working for them. But just because you put value on quality doesn’t mean your clients do too. (See the video below) Quality is subjective and not all companies are as concerned with quality as we are as professional pilots. Right or wrong, consider that when determining your market.

Bringing expertise that the client simply doesn’t possess or would have trouble acquiring is probably the best way to provide services that are valuable to your clients. Just about anyone can take aerial pictures with a drone, but not everyone can turn those pictures into a digital elevation model or assemble them into an inspection tool that solves a problem.

Some pilots provide what their clients can’t simply by using superior equipment. While some companies wouldn’t think twice about dropping three thousand dollars on a drone, the same companies may not want to invest twenty-five thousand dollars in one. However, expensive equipment won’t get you work or clients unless a specialty or expertise comes along with it.

Most drone companies cast a big net and offer everything to everybody. So why is determining your market even relevant if you can promote Video Production, Mapping, Inspections, Agriculture, Construction, Weddings, Real Estate and more?

While a big net covers a lot of ground, it’s difficult if not impossible to effectively and affordably market to all those areas, businesses, and potential clients. It’s fine to have a bunch of tools in your tool belt to service clients that seek you out. But when you’re spending time and money to market to potential clients, you want to be as effective as possible. If you want to be in construction, that’s where you focus your marketing efforts knowing that if your phone rings for a real estate or inspection job, you can take it.

If you can determine your market by asking the right questions and making a plan of attack, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration in the future when you figure out that the “Easy Market” you chose isn’t providing the money you want, and your clients suck. Remember, this is a starting place and it’s very possible that your market will change over time.