How to grow your drone mapping & inspection business?
Updated: Nov 23
All business owners have been there - even the big ones. You had the guts to go it alone, you’ve done your training, and you've got all the kit, now how do you get customers for your drone mapping & inspection business?
It can be difficult as a small business owner to be the sales team, marketing department, accounts assistant and chief tea maker all at once. Here are our quick wins to drum up business for your drone inspection or mapping company.
1. Know Your Audience
Identifying who your customer is is the first step towards attracting the right customer to your drone business. That may sound obvious but if you get 100 enquiries a day and 99 aren’t from the right customer you’ll have wasted hours and the frustration will kick in.
Creating an ICP (ideal customer profile) will help you to tailor your marketing plan, sales pitch and collateral to not only target your key audience but also to answer all of their questions before they’re even asked.
This is where the psychology of sales comes in. Consider who your services benefit. What are their pain points and how can your services help to make life easier? What challenges do they have? What objections will you face?
You also need to think outside of the box. For example:
You have a background in mining. You understand the industry, the risks, and the driving factors. Chances are there are many other industries and businesses with similar issues and needs. For example, stockpiles exist in many industries other than mining. Recycling, aggregates, and construction all need to monitor and measure the volume of stocks and waste. They are also dirty and hazardous workplaces so you already know you’re set up for the challenge. Make sure your ICP includes all parallel industries.
2. Create a Value Proposition for Drone Inspections
Chances are you didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to start a drone inspection business. Your past skills and experience probably led you to notice that there was a gap in the market in your area or you’d previously worked for a larger company doing the same job. The rise in drone mapping and inspection businesses has been rapid in the last 5 years so what makes you so special?
This part may make some feel uncomfortable. You need to identify where the strengths of your drone business lie and you’ve got to blow your own trumpet. You need to build your value proposition.
USPs are getting scarcer - is anything truly unique anymore? A value proposition is slightly different. It’s a bit like the overview on a CV. It’s your opportunity to state why your drone inspection business is better than all the rest. A value proposition should include your areas of specialism, any specialist equipment, and how your drone software delivers exceptional results for your customer’s specific needs.
"A value proposition should clearly explain how a product fills a need, communicate the specifics of its added benefit, and state the reason why it's better than similar products on the market" - www.inverstopedia.com
Back to the mining example:
You know that safety is a key consideration for decision-makers and that the working conditions are pretty tough. Use your own experience and knowledge to your advantage. Use relevant examples of where you know your drone services would improve their business.
It’s also important to price your solution competitively. With the right value proposition you don’t have to be the cheapest in the marketplace. You need to make sure that you cover your costs. provide value to the end customer and make some profit at the end of it. We’ve created an article on How to Price Your Drone Services which may help.
Starting a drone services business can also be a bit of a postcode lottery depending on how you go about marketing yourself. Set yourself a ‘territory’ that includes at least one large city and mark out your niche in that area. It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big one so don’t try to spread yourself too wide, certainly at first.
3. Understand Your Sales & Marketing Channels
You’ve defined your target customer and territory and you’ve got your value proposition sorted. You’re nearly halfway there! Now you need to actually get your customer to notice you.
There are typically 2 main modes of Sales & Marketing: 1. Inbound (the customer comes to you) 2. Outbound - you go to the customer. When you’re first looking to build your drone service business most activities will be outbound. Here are some key ways to target new customers:
Building interest in your drone services using email can be highly effective. It gives you the opportunity to layout your value proposition in writing to a specific person. Start with your own contacts and then look at large organisations in your territory and start building a list of targets. Many businesses will have details of key personnel on their website or you can just call and ask who the right person would be to email.
Do not spam people. Take a genuine interest in your customer’s business needs and maybe give away something for free to add value before asking them to jump on a call.
Also, don’t forget to create a database of all of your contacts and make sure that you are GDPR compliant. Tools like Mailchimp are affordable for drone start-ups and make sure you keep your customer contact details safe.
LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to potential customers. You have the added advantage of adding things to your profile that people can use to reference your skills and expertise before entering into a conversation. You can get some great insights into people’s business challenges by looking at their profile and you can also send direct messages and share links to case studies that may be specifically relevant to their sector.
3. Tradeshows | Events
This might be one of the more expensive outbound sales and marketing channels, but it’s a great to meet people and build up relationships that can later result in sales. After all, people buy from people! Even if you can’t afford a stand at a trade show there are often speaking opportunities available or it’s worth turning up just for the networking opportunities.
After a short while your outbound marketing efforts will start to pay off and you’ll start building your list of leads. Now’s not the time to take your foot off the pedal. Now’s the time to get your inbound sales and marketing set up to ensure leads keep coming in whilst you’re dealing with the day-to-day. Thanks to search engines and social media, people are searching for more solutions than ever. Here are a few channels ways you can make sure people find your drone services business when they search:
If you’re reading this article chances are you were searching for ways to get your more customers for your drone services business. We identified that many drone services companies need help getting started so we created an article that we hoped search engines would link to to help you. SEO is about identifying your audience's needs and providing some advice or information to help which search engines then find and serve to your searching customer. FAQs, Q&As, eBooks, Blogs, webpages that explain more about your services in detail will all help with your SEO.
2. Content Marketing:
Creating engaging online content can be a great way to get people’s attention. Whether it’s a video, static image, ebook or blog, make sure your content is engaging, educational and entertaining.
3. Paid Ads
If your outbound sales model has really taken off, you can allocate some of your earnings into paid online ads so that people can learn more about what you do. Google Ads are one of the most effective methods of paid advertising and don’t have to cost a fortune. You can create your ads strategy to target specific sectors in your territory. You can also choose keywords that reflect your drone mapping & inspection business.
Let’s go back to the mining example. Using Google Ads you could specify the following keywords and phrases to target people in your territory:
Stockpile survey, Drone inspection business, drone survey company, drones in mining, drone surveyors, mining survey company - You will intuitively know the right keywords to use for your target audience.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
With so many sales and marketing channels out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you’re going to pick a priority, SEO is good practice and you can reap the rewards for years to come. It’s a slow burn but it will also be key to getting good results from your Google Ads when you come to set them up.
4. Use Example Datasets
One thing central to drone operations is the data. Ultimately, end customers are not buying your drone inspection services, they are buying the data to solve their specific issue. You can learn more about that here.
Prospective customers will want to see your output. They will want to know that your services have tangible benefits and given that most won’t have the technical knowledge to interpret a full dataset it’s important to make it as visual as possible. People also love free stuff!
We’ve assembled a list of datasets here that you can freely use.
5. Build Your Network
Word of mouth is possibly the most powerful thing when you start building your drone inspection business. Whether it’s a referral from current clients, people you have worked with in the past or friends and family, people are more likely to hire someone who knows someone they know. Did you follow that? If you do a great job for your client, your reputation will grow, as will your business, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take the time to invest in your network separately.
Social media can be a great to way to build out your network and if not there are plenty of drone communities that you can join to become part of a larger circle of people all with a common interest. Not everyone will be a potential competitor and groups are a great place to ask for advice or share best practice..
LinkedIn is a great place to network and learn more about the industries you’re targeting. LinkedIn is the world’s largest business network, People share case studies, WiP, and challenges they are facing and ask for recommendations for services. It’s a great place to ask questions, start conversations, and network the old-fashioned way without even leaving the house.
Events are another good place to drum up business and meet people in your target market. Rather than attending events for drone service providers, as much as it can be useful to learn from your peers, look at attending events specific to your audience - construction and engineering, forestry and agriculture, facilities management - all industries have trade shows and many even offer speaking opportunities around challenging subjects.
In this post, we looked at the 5 step process of how to build your drone inspection business. Here are a few last tips:
Building solid foundations will be key when starting out so it’s important to make sure you have your building blocks in place. Create a business plan, consider your customers and put yourself out there.
Unless you are a sales and marketing genius or bring a whole network of clients from a previous role, building a service business takes time, so it’s important to not get downhearted. Keep pushing and keep talking to people.
Having a genuine passion will go a long way towards making your drone inspection business a success. People buy from people and when you show your expertise and enthusiasm for your chosen profession your credibility increases tenfold. Never be afraid to be passionate!