Over the past few years, drones have infiltrated our news headlines and airspace. People are flocking to the flying devices for recreational and commercial activities, and it doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon.
Drones come in all shapes and sizes and can be equipped with a camera to capture angles that are otherwise difficult to get. Because of this, drones are becoming increasingly popular in the garden center industry to not only pollinate and feed plants, but to help create marketing videos to promote the company’s offerings from a perspective rarely seen before.
Neil Marek of Magnolia Gardens Nursery in Waller, Texas, has been experimenting with drones and drone videos for his business. What once started out as a hobby for Marek, he now uses drones for many different aspects of the business.
“I received an RC [radio controlled] plane for Christmas in 2011, and that got me on to YouTube looking for flying videos as I was learning to fly the plane,” Marek says. “I saw a video of someone flying a drone FPV (first person view is a method to control the drone from the driver or pilot’s view point) and was instantly hooked, ordered the stuff to build my first drone right away. Once I got myself in the air, I fell in love with flight and started to dream about what all the possible applications could be. Not too long after that, I made my first aerial videos of the farm to use in marketing.”
Here are Marek’s six tips to use drones for your garden center’s marketing efforts:
1. Know your equipment
When starting out, choosing a drone can be a daunting task with the many available options, says Marek.
“A good way to think about it is to consider a drone a tool, and there is the right one for the job,” Marek says. “When looking for the right drone to make marketing videos, you will want to choose one with a good camera that is on a motorized gimbal to help smooth out the shots and GPS capabilities, so it can assist in flight and be able to return home if any problems arise.”
With the cost of drones varying from as little as $25 and up, Marek says, what you invest in your drone will determine the quality of the device.
“As a general rule, which holds true with most things in life and surely does with drones, you get what you pay for,” Marek says. “I have found that most of the offerings from the company DJI would be perfect for nursery owner, the Mavik and Phantom being the most popular models. It is very important though to read the manual of whatever platform you choose so that you can fully understand how it operates and what its limitations are.”
2. Practice makes perfect
Like anything you are trying to learn in life, working with drones takes practice to truly master all the nuances of the device.
“No one was born knowing how to ride a bike, drive a car, or even walk for that matter,” Marek says. “Those skills were learned and needed some practice before they became second nature to most all of us. Flying a drone is much the same way.”
Just as pilots and golfers use simulators to help them practice their craft, drone simulators are ready and available to those looking for extra tutorials.
“There are now some really great simulators out there in the world that are very inexpensive and can really help anyone get a feel for how to control the drone,” Marek says. “Once you get the feel for the simulator, I would then recommend spending some time with your drone flying it in a very open space with no people or obstacles near so that you can also become very comfortable with the controls.”
3. Know the story you wish to tell
In order to produce a good marketing video for your garden center, Marek says the key is editing the photos or videos collected from your drone and knowing the story you wish to tell while filming.
“Think about the story that you want to tell, what it is that you want to show, what do you want people to remember about you,” Marek says. “Have that idea before you go out to shoot content, and it will help you out a ton after. Meaning if you have a plan of what you want to see and how you want to show it, it will make the editing process much simpler if you are working to gather your content with that final product in mind.”
Length is also something to consider when filming. Marek says shorter videos tend to resonate better with consumers.
“It depends on what you are doing, but as a rule, the shorter the better,” Marek says. “Unfortunately, people’s attention spans aren’t as long anymore, and you want to be able to get your whole message through to them before they move on to the next thing.”
4. Shoot to edit
When shooting your marketing video with a drone, you will want to remember to save time to edit the content that you collect.
“No one wants to watch 5 minutes of uncut, raw, jerky video,” Marek says. “Anything that is going to be enjoyable to watch is going to take a fair amount of post-production.”
Programs such as Windows Movie Maker, GoPro Studio and iMovie for Mac are free and may be good starting points.
5. Know your surroundings
Though drones are fairly safe, they can cause harm if operated improperly.
“I like to take a walk around an environment that I am about to fly [a drone] in to make sure there are not any obstacles that might be missed from where you plan to launch from,” Marek says. “You should never fly near or over people, or over anyone else’s property without permission.”
Marek also recommends business owners or employees who plan to operate drones become certified and get a commercial license through Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training.
“Through this training, you will learn valuable information about safe operations and restrictions on where you can and cannot fly,” Marek says.
According to the FAA, anyone flying a drone less than 55 lbs. has to register each drone they intend to operate. They recommend registering your drone via the automated registration system.
6. Have fun
With anything new that you are trying to master, it is important to remember to enjoy yourself.
“You are going to crash [your drone] at some point no matter if you follow all the above tips and are careful,” Marek says. “If you stick to it, you will be able to produce some amazing content that will set you apart from the crowd and help your customers know who you are, remember you, and think of you when they make their next garden center purchase.”