Business In Arch Viz

By Jeff Mottle

Business in Arch Viz. Vol. 15 - Marketing & Sales

Welcome to the 15th installment of our new RebusFarm Business in Arch Viz series.  We will be featuring two articles every month. Each new article will discuss the business side of working in and running businesses in the visualization industry.  We will feature articles from some of the top studios in the world and have in-depth answers to questions that every studio and artist in the industry should know.  

The goal of this series is to provide a long-term resource for not only new artists and business owners entering the industry, but also long-time industry veterans.  The topics will range from contracts and IT infrastructure to hiring and business strategy.

Studios participating in this series include: 2G Studio, ArX Solutions, Beauty and the Bit, Cityscape, DBOX, Designstor, Digit Group, Inc., Factory Fifteen, Kilograph, Luxigon, MIR, Neoscape, Public Square, Steelblue, The Neighbourhood, Transparent House, Urbansimulations and many more. Collectively these companies generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue, and have decades of experience running some of the most successful businesses in the industry.

We hope you enjoy the series!

We would like to also like to sincerely thank RebusFarm for supporting this series. Through their support they are helping better our industry and contribute significantly to future generations of visualization businesses in our field. If you are looking for one of the best rendering farm companies in the world, we highly recommend checking them out here

Image Courtesy: MIR

Do you have a dedicated marketing and/or sales team? 

ArX Solutions: Yes, we have a dedicated sales and marketing team.

Beauty and the Bit: Nope. We do it ourselves. We are not the kind of company that wants to be 100 people. I just want to be the best possible artists with our talents and be a medium sized studio so we can completely control the quality and style of our artwork. In an era in which selling smoke is in vogue, we find it more fulfilling the DIY way.

DesignStor: Partially. We have dedicated marketing staff and are in the process of getting dedicated sales staff.

Factory Fifteen: No. Well sort of as three of us are represented as commercial directors through Nexus. This isn’t the norm and again makes us a little bit of an anomaly. But they find us branded work from time to time. Like Guinness advert or UEFA advert.

Kilograph: Yes we have a dedicated marketing team.

MIR: No. We consider the images we make our marketing.

Neoscape: Yes, we have both and a Business Development team.

Digit Group: Yes, our team grew out of our existing Innovation Team and is challenged with business development for all our software and visualization products and services.

PixelFlakes: Currently we are team of 13 and have one dedicated sales person in Marvin (Founding Partner). We have discussed bringing on additional sales power, however given the size of our studio and the number of requests we are currently receiving, have deemed it unnecessary currently.

Public Square: Sales is always a hard one to figure out. Over the years we functioned with and without sales. The best sales is word of mouth and reputation of the work in and outside of the community.

Pure: Yes. Very important.

2G Studio: No,Ii do all of it myself.

Ricardo Rocha: Yes, we need to maintain the same message through all of our communication, that includes not only social media but every interaction with our clients and the sales team is very important for that.

Urban Simulations: Yes, two local Country sales managers, one international and three overseas sales agreements.

Image Courtesy: Public Square

When and how did you make the decision to establish dedicated staff to cover this role?

ArX Solutions: As soon as you realized that you are the giant bottle neck of your organization and all your clients want to have you in in every single conference call.

DesignStor: Marketing staff was determined to be necessary long ago. There were simply too many tasks that were not able to be covered by other staff members, and we realized that their time was better spent doing what they were intended to do. Strategically, we knew that we couldn’t survive on word of mouth as our only source of promotion.

Kilograph: We decided to bring an intern in one summer to help with social media. We found our engagement really jumping and so we put an existing administrative team member on the job full-time. Shortly thereafter we hired a business development consultant who helped to further coach the marketing director. Right now both are not full-time, but we devote about 15 hours a week to the effort.

Neoscape: We’ve always had dedicated sales and marketing - at the beginning I did both roles but fairly quickly we added another sales rep and now have three plus myself, a marketing team of three and two business development people.  Many of our decisions about hiring happen when we are running at capacity for an extended period of time or are unable to keep up with demand or make a decision to focus on something new and important. When you’re small you tend to wear many hats but once the studio grows to a certain level you just don’t have the bandwidth to do it all nor should you.

Digit Group: Since our visualization deliverables are tied closely to functional software, our costs are covered by combining the line items in our budget to cross-over to functional software, just not an image or video delivery.

PixelFlakes: This decision was made from the very beginning. It allowed us to play to our strengths as individuals whilst also covering the need for consistent work. Without someone from the very beginning dedicating their time to the capture of work we would not have been able to grow at a consistent rate and form worthwhile relationships still visible to this day.

Public Square: We didn’t decide: someone approached and offered to do sales for us. We gave it a chance. When it does not come from the executive team, sales is not an easy job.

Pure: Right from the start. From day 1 onwards.

2G Studio: When you’re not able to handle everything yourself, and want to have some free time. When you already own a bigger company, you do need to have sales team.

Ricardo Rocha: When our work became difficult for one person to achieve the quality we wanted to provide to our clients, since then, we growth as we need it and feel like the natural next step for the business.

Urban Simulations: Since it's a really specific role, and absolutely different from artistic and creative skills.

Image Courtesy: PURE

What method(s) do you find most effective for getting new clients?  

ArX Solutions: Referrals are the primary source of clients. Active marketing is the second.

Beauty and the Bit: I firmly think that the best marketing tool is what you show. It has to be something  that is not questionable and beyond any doubt. Something that leaves everybody saying “wow, look at this”. The rest is a matter of organic word of mouth.

DesignStor: Reaching out personally - by phone, email or otherwise - is highly effective. Being friendly, intelligent and knowledgeable in communications is key. A good website is also a major factor.

Factory Fifteen: CPD’s as in going in and doing presentations. Making sure our work is in the public eye as much as possible. Having a good relationship with our existing clients for recommendations. Getting in magazines, online blogs and such. 

Kilograph: Referral 100%.

MIR: The best way is to make really good images for unknown architects in competitions. Architects hate it when other architects make beautiful presentations that put them in shadow.

Neoscape: Relationship selling has always worked well for us.  We target clients and projects and build relationships to gain trust and get work.  We also get a lot of referrals and repeat business. 

Digit Group: Storytelling.  Storytelling is a good way to describe to a client what they are getting from you.

PixelFlakes: As it currently stands a lot of our ‘new clients’ usually find their way over to us through client referrals, both internally between different teams and also from studios collaborating on projects and recommending Pixelflakes in the process. Ensuring that you are credited for work as imagery goes into the public realm goes along way. We completed imagery for the LM Museum based in Leicester for Hawkins Brown and were inundated with work for weeks after. Of course, being credited for work is one thing, ensuring the level of the work is another, good work brings more clients!

Public Square:  Reputation of the work.

Pure: Visibility in the market.

2G Studio: Build a good portfolio, and do direct selling.

Ricardo Rocha: Top of mind is our motto and we believe in allies, but word of mouth and recommendations are our most effective way.

Steelblue: Word of mouth referrals.  Of course this is not necessarily something you can just switch on. Continuing to put out your most amazing work is the best way to new clients.

Urban Simulations: Social media, and 75% word of mouth Internationally

Image Courtesy: Beauty and the Bit

As companies grow they tend to evolve into full service creative studios.  Can you speak to why this is, when to decide to go that route and the drawbacks and advantages of going one way or the other?


Beauty and the Bit: We don´t go in that direction, in fact we are not comfortable with that role. We are architectural illustrators so we illustrate, we don´t do marketing, we don´t do brochures and we don´t do product-oriented stuff because we find it boring. Obviously there are a lot of awesome companies we admire in that field but we do what we do, that is architecture artwork. In fact, we find more interesting growing the company experimenting with other fields such as concept art for films, video games, etc. We enjoy that much more.

DesignStor: Creative studios get to control the process, and that’s probably the greatest reason to evolve in that way. Often the viz studio is being “directed” by a creative studio, and that direction is often a hindrance rather than a help. Full service creative also taps into many other revenue streams that can be more profitable than visualization. One major drawback is that by becoming full service, one eliminates other creative studios from being proponents or actual clients (in other words, you become a lone wolf).

Factory Fifteen: Essentially it’s strength through diversity and keeping staff interested by evolving their roles and responsibilities into new areas. These are the two main factors. Advantages are that you have more streams of revenue, disadvantage is that you become a doer of much and a master of none. It becomes very hard to say that you are THE BEST at something.

Kilograph: Renderings are increasingly being done in-house by architecture firms as the technology improves and more and more students learn visualization workflows in school. In the US we are also competing more and more with lower-priced studios overseas. The good ones have a translator or even a one-person presence in the big cities. They can afford to turn renderings around extremely quickly and not charge for changes. This has been very difficult for us to compete with for still renderings and has made for some very unrealistic expectations with certain clients.

For the more comprehensive creative work such as marketing videos and branding, we find it necessary to be in very close communication with our clients to establish the creative brief. The idea that the “agency” and the “production company” are one is extremely attractive to clients. We are able to turn a full-service offering around through one account management team and at a cost savings. Clients can come to our offices for reviews or we go to them. These jobs have a higher fee so we can get greater visibility for the teams and begin to plan budgets 3 and 6 months into the future. This is very attractive. Of course there are still a great deal of clients who continue to want renderings by we are definitely pushing in the direction of a full-service marketing agency.

MIR: We have made the decision to not become a full service creative studio. We have been a full service studio in the past and did not like it.

Neoscape: It’s easier to sell new services to existing clients and it keeps the studio buzzing with new ideas.

Digit Group: The market will provide the proper path for each company if they are ready to grow your company.  Not only have we seen growth leading to full service creative studios, but we have also seen growth into functional software firms, media companies (advertising, commercials) and professional services firms (Architects, Interiors, etc.).

PixelFlakes: Speaking from our experience (and as we also begin to follow this same trend) we feel it is for a few reasons. The first of which is very black and white, turnover. As a company grows there is a need to create a certain number of images on a monthly/weekly basis to hit financial targets, this amount, of course, increases as a studio expands. The easiest way to secure this workload is to complete larger projects, image counts ranging from 10-25 images are not uncommon and once confirmed will go a long way to securing the image count require. These large projects often come as a ‘package’ with a variety of different marketing products being developed in tandem with the imagery. These will often include graphic design elements such as websites, logos, brochures and also presentation material such as physical models, animations and of course imagery. Larger projects such as these will be quoted on by a huge variety of firms, many of which are able to complete all of the above in house, under the governance of Art Directors who ensure all mediums are completed to the same high level and in the same style. Given the allure of this it becomes more and more unlikely for larger projects such as these to separate the imagery from the other mediums, and in turn, more and more studios begin to evolve into ‘full service creative studios’. Secondly, the larger projects are often very high profile, with hundreds of thousands being invested into the development of marketing collateral. These are the projects most creative studios would kill for, to stand a fighting chance you need to offer more than just visualisation to stand out in this incredibly saturated market.

Public Square: We are a typical case. We were doing renderings and films and now do branding and identity. We see mostly advantages of doing all aspects of a campaign. More creative freedom, more efficiencies and bigger market share.

Pure: It’s very tempting. We decided to stay a visual agency with a focus on the renderings /
animation. Becoming a full service company makes a lot of sense, but you are a competitor
to existing agencies. And these are a bigger part of our client list. We don't work a lot for architects, but a lot for developers and agencies. Therefore we stay a render company.

2G Studio: I think it's because of the money, bigger money I guess, but I think more problems in the the process. At the end of the day, most clients try to dictate what we have to do based on their needs. So at the moment, we are not interested to be a full service creative studios.

Ricardo Rocha: There is a natural growth in everything and our company wasn’t the exception. Our work start to growth and so the requirements of our clients, so we growth with them and decided to be alert to any new opportunities. The clear disadvantage is the learning curve and the money you have to invest at the beginning of every new technology we offer. 

Steelblue: A one stop shop is desirable for many clients we work with. If we do not provide a service they need, they, the client, needs to manage multiple companies which takes effort. Making your client's job easier helps in successfully securing project.
We have decided to focus on what we excel at.  We will miss out on project opportunities to those that have other capabilities in house. I think it is important to do well whatever it is you are offering. It is easy to say you offer other services (naming, branding, identity for example), it is not necessarily easy to do them well.

Urban Simulations: Since we are involved in tasks related to creativity it's a natural movement. Our clients rely on us for the key message of their products: the visual one, then other services surrounding our work are easy for us to be developed around our creativity. You design a sunny day with a specific palette… let's use it for the whole printed, online and animation tools the client are going to use.

Image Courtesty: ArX Solutions

How much of your time is spent on marketing and sales in the company?  Do you wish you did more or less?

ArX Solutions: I spend 15% of my time coordinating the marketing and sales efforts.

Beauty and the Bit: As we do it ourselves we do it when we can. Sometimes it passes a long time until we can publish or promote anything because we are always busy, but that proves that marketing sometimes is really overrated. I don´t die to be in architizer or arch-whatever..if it happens it happens but I prefer to play with my kid at the end of the day.

DesignStor: At least 50%. I wish I did more.

Factory Fifteen: I wish we did much more. But we don’t have anyone dedicated and us directors are caught up in management, creative direction, and often still, production.

Kilograph: Lots of time with clients and potential clients. I would say 30% of my time. I wish I had more but we are still growing our senior project management team so my time is spent mostly in coordinating projects, creative direction, communicating with existing clients.

MIR: We don't spend any time on marketing, but we have a Facebook and Instagram account that we update from time to time.

Neoscape: I think that we always need to be doing more and pushing harder because competition is fierce. I always want more attention and focus in these areas.  That being said- we are much better at marketing/social and prospecting than ever.

Digit Group: 50% of my time is in Marketing/Biz Dev.  For our type of work, I am load balanced correctly.

PixelFlakes: Currently the sales required to sustain our team of 13 is a full-time job, as we expand this will no doubt be increased to cover the amount of imagery required monthly. As for marketing, we have an employee working around 50% of her time on planning and production, this will increase over the coming months as we grow into a new studio and will soon become a full-time job. Marketing, Facebook and Instagram can be just as powerful as competition wins and high profile projects if approached in the correct way, it’s something we are realising only recently and will be looking to make this a full-time position as we move into the third/fourth quarters.

Public Square: We do not spend nearly enough time doing sales. We started as creative guys and to this day have not yet figured out a perfect recipe for sales. But it looks like it is a tough nut to crack for a lot of other creative agencies.

Pure: Not enough :)

2G Studio: I do it  2- 3 times a year, because I want to have a client that keep sending me jobs every month. So once I get one, I need to see how many project that they will send to us. Is it going to be regular or not. This is time consuming I guess, but we need to be very careful because we cannot add another team member without training them. We decided not to hire any mid or senior artists. We always train our own team. They are easier to work with, but still need time to train them.

Ricardo Rocha: An important aspect is that everyone in our team is part of the customer experience and interact with the client through diverses contact points, since we value fluent and transparent communication for our clients best interests.

Steelblue: 20%.  Maybe more.

Urban Simulations: 15% and in specific seasons. We found out that November, February-June are the most useful months to do marketing actions with our sort of clients.

Image Courtesy: DesignStor


How hard is it to market new technologies and services to clients?

ArX Solutions: We believe that new technologies and services are new opportunities. Sometimes it is hard but at the end, it is the only way to know what the market really wants.

Beauty and the Bit: It is as easy as presenting them an offer they cannot refuse.

DesignStor: It is very challenging to cut through misconceptions and competitors’ misinformation when marketing new technologies and services. Education is the most challenging aspect for sure.

Factory Fifteen: Very. VR is a classic example which some find easier than others to sell. Client who actually want VR tend to want to go to people who seemingly specialise in it, especially the big projects. Unless you are seen to be market leader in that area they don’t want to go with you. Obviously the standard 360 images and what not come into play but even those are a bit of a gimmick. We are interested in the creative long term of VR rather than plugging in existing methods of representation into a fad.

Kilograph: Not very if you are trying to market VR. Everyone wants this badly. We have a nice middle of the road solution that leverages the other assets we are creating for a film or still rendering process. This is a nice add-value to a client and gets them talking about the work to others. It is also quite easy to sell videography. It is something everyone is comfortable with and integrates well with websites. Website design and re-design had been another area we have had success offering as an additional service.

Neoscape: The only difficult part is getting a long term customer to think of you when they need services other than viz. 

Digit Group: New innovations are not hard to market, it's very hard to close.  People love our “Shiny keys”, but how and who is going to pay for it is always the challenge.  We have learned who our early adopters are and who are the laggards, so that makes the sale a bit easier.

PixelFlakes: We have been developing a new presentation platform in house over the last two years which is nearing completion. This platform is unique in many ways and has been showcased to a variety of our established client base such as WATG and Foster and Partners to great success. This success has been down to a few factors, firstly our pre-existing relationship with the client is very strong in both instances, allowing us to discuss this new technology as it is developed, on a casual basis, explaining the pros of the technology and how it will be improved over the coming months. Secondly the standard of work we are currently producing showcases to the client our level, it is this level which instils trust in the quality of our services with the client, making the marketing of any other mediums a smooth process.

Public Square: We have two divisions in our company, Public Square for real estate and Piranha, a creative studio. We do see that real estate is slower to adopt new technologies than consumer brands.

Pure: Pretty hard. At least our clients take a long time before they are really open to new approaches. They might find it interesting, but it's still a big step to order them. That takes much more time.

2G Studio: It is hard. Not all clients want to use new technologies. Most of them still love the old way. Still images and animation.

Ricardo Rocha: There is always a learning curve to any new technology and selling is always hard, but the excitement of develop and/or create something new that we pass to our clients always help, you have to believe in what you do!

Steelblue: We try to not market technology for technology's sake.  We evaluate the new “sometherother” to see if it make sense and have value for a client and this is usually on a case by case basis.  When it does make sense, it is not difficult to introduce and sell a new way to look at the communication strategy.

Urban Simulations: Half of the clients must be believers to trust on us, but if they are recurrent clients is easier to address new products.

Image Courtesy: 2G Studio

What types of services historically have proven the easiest and hardest to sell?

ArX Solutions: Renderings are the easiest. Films and Real Time are the most difficult.

Beauty and the Bit: The easier thing to sell is cliché, kids with balloons. The harder service to sell is something really personal, emotive and sincere.

DesignStor: Renderings have always been easiest to sell. They are universally recognized and serve a simple need. Complex interactive is the most challenging. It involves a lot of explanation, pre-planning and budgeting before getting a sign-off.

Factory Fifteen: Easy - images, high end film when a budget exists. Hard - Real-Time

Kilograph: VR has been pretty straightforward to market to clients provided we are already doing work together. Branding is the toughest as clients still prefer to go to boutique firms for their identity.

Neoscape: Visualization services would likely be the easiest - branding / creative services would likely be the most difficult.  This is due to the subjective nature of these services and the difficulty of proving the value for these services. And when selling these services the roster of competitors grows exponentially.

Digit Group: Counter-intuitively, we find selling animations easier than still images.  When we go through the storyboarding with a client for an animation, the client is brought into the process.  When choosing a still image, sometimes the client does not like the outcome… not because it is not a great image, but because they spend less time choosing the composition and then complain that it was not what they were thinking.  Much more time spent in re-work for stills than animations.  The hardest projects are the ones that are poorly designed and they expect us to make it look good… lipstick on a pig is still a pig.

Public Square: Not sure if there are marketing assets easier to sell if we take them out of context.

Pure: New technologies like VR are still hard. Animations got hard as well. Still images are very easy.

2G Studio: Still image are the easiest, the hardest part is VR using Unreal.

Ricardo Rocha: Well, our name is very forward of what we do, so renderings are our best sellers. On the other hand, we are now promoting this new sales tool (VR) and that has been a challenge!.

Urban Simulations: Still renderings the easiest, storytelling in commercials the hardest.

Image Courtesy: PixelFlakes

Do you see value in going to and/or having booths at trade shows or industry events?

ArX Solutions: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. We participated in several events and trade shows but none of them were related to our industry. We don't see a value on doing that. We prefer to market where our clients are (real estate expos, etc.).

Beauty and the Bit: I only go to industry events when they invite me to lecture and drinks are on the house. Haha. Jokes apart what I see most valuable in industry events is not selling anything, but networking and have a good time with geeks like you that have the same struggles and motivations. At the same time I also think that if these events don´t change their approach they will be dinosaurs in short time. Thay have to give a deeper experience than talking about presets and Quasi-Boring-Montecarlo. Curiously I attended this year the IAMG Masterclasses in Paris with artists like Ryan Church, Raphael Lacoste, Ash Thorp, Joaquin Baldwin, etc. And no archviz studio was there…Eventually I´ll go THU this year since I enjoyed a lot this event out of archviz.

DesignStor: Yes, definitely.

Kilograph: Yes absolutely! We get to interface with a greater segment of the population and find out what resonates with them. It is also great for social media marketing and team morale.

MIR: Maybe for hiring, but we have never tried this. Since our focus is not on growing, we don't need «as many jobs as we can get our hands on».

Neoscape: We attend industry events to support our clients, further build relationships with those clients, as well as prospect to new clients.  We do not typically have a booth as the “vendor” areas don’t tend to attract decision makers. 

Digit Group: I find having a booth at a trade show for a services company to be challenging for providing value as the format of an expo is more valuable to companies that have a commodity or singular product.  Products need “shelf space” like a trade show booth, while services need time with clients to build trust.  Trade shows are not the right environment to build long term trust for services, other than brand awareness.

PixelFlakes: As a company, we do see the worth of attending trade shows and industry events, having attended MIPIM in Cannes and the London Forum on a few occasions. Attending events such as these has allowed us to create relationships with a variety of architects, investors and developers from a variety of different studios across Europe and also the United States. These relationships have led to collaborations across multiple projects. Whilst these events can be somewhat ‘hit and miss’ there is value in attending. Strong research beforehand can help you focus on speaking / networking to the right groups of people.

Pure: Going there to have a look at potential clients of to meet existing clients. But not for sales.
Normally the clients are focused to sell THEIR product, not the other way around. Later on it's time to get in contact more concretely.

2G Studio: For me, no.

Ricardo Rocha: Yes, 20 years in the market and we still go to these type of events, not as much as when we started, but we network our way through every event.

Steelblue: I see value though we rarely go.

Urban Simulations: Depends on the event. Real Estate fairs such as MIPIM are great to showcase your work, but 5% of the contacts are leads becoming revenue, depending on your investment and the sort of services can become useful or not.

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very informative for new studios as well studios trying to expand.
Thank you, guys! Marko Stojkovic Founder of Renderus
Amazing information and resource! Keep them coming.
Thank you, guys! Very useful article! Practical tips! Anastasiya Kot, Co-founder, Edger VR Studios +1(415)972-9212
You're welcome!
Thank you, guys! Very useful article! Practical tips! Anastasiya Kot, Co-founder, Edger VR Studios +1(415)972-9212

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Business in Arch Viz. Vol. 15 - Marketing & Sales

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About the author

Jeff Mottle

Founder at CGarchitect

placeCalgary, CA