We were in the right spot at the right time with the right attitude and know-how; when everything comes together like that, you need to ride that wave. We were extremely lucky and our first prototype started selling, financing the growth of the whole business.
In parallel, I was growing Kizny Visuals, which at that time was more of a film production studio focused on experimental cinematography and shooting techniques. That was a great time. We were in the early days of Vimeo and seeing the revolution as the film market becoming democratized. The internet wasn’t so saturated, so it was sufficient to put some great pieces of content out there and they’d organically convert into business opportunities.
Today it’s very different. The CG/VFX industry is highly competitive and since everyone has access to the same software it’s not something you can build your competitive advantage on. What makes a difference is a unique vision for aesthetics and visual style that you apply throughout your projects. That’s what makes us stand out from the competition.
Innovation and the future of visual effects
The technologies and our focus have changed over the years but one thing that hasn’t changed is our experimentation with different techniques. I’ve always had a huge interest in innovation and doing things on the frontier, which is how the time-lapse thing started. Since then we’ve explored a few other techniques which are pretty unique and haven’t been adopted yet by the industry.
For example, we’ve been experimenting over the years with visualizing 3D fractals and making them part of a visual effects pipeline. It’s nice to see that fractals are slowly getting through to the mainstream. Some blockbusters movies have now started using this technique, like Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 and Annihilation.
The other areas that we’ve been researching a lot are point clouds, laser scanning, photogrammetry and all kinds of related technologies and how to bring them into filmmaking and visual effects in a special way.
Because of my experience with time-lapse, I was invited to a few conferences for heritage documentation and it turned out this industry was using laser scanners and I thought wow, what a great technology!
They’ve been used a lot in engineering and architecture for about 20-30 years already, but they’ve never been used directly on the screen to create beautiful cinematic visualizations. I asked myself why not use it in film?
As a result I shot my first experimental film called Rebirth, the first to use direct point cloud visualization on the screen. It’s become one of the techniques we use these days more and more often, and one that our studio is known for.
Building the business with cold email
In the early days of the business, we were able to grow organically. We were lucky enough to have made a name with time-lapse, and the inbound marketing from our videos on Vimeo was working miracles for us.
When I started shifting focus more to building up a unique CG and VFX studio, we soon realized that we were stepping into a highly competitive market that required different approaches and different tools to generate new business. That’s when I decided we needed to start doing new business in an organized and systematic way.
As with every tool we use, it’s not a matter of picking something at random but rather doing a thorough investigation of what’s available on the market. Additionally, it’s not only about choosing one single tool but rather a bunch of tools that work together towards a single goal. That was the case with Reply.
I started to investigate the cold emailing applications out there. This was back in late 2015, and there weren’t many on the market. Still, I tested a few of them, really digging deep into them and using them for a month.
What made Reply stand out more than any feature set was the attitude of their team. The way they communicated with us and solved our problems was a big help, as well as how open they were to feedback, incorporating changes and adapting their software to our needs. We decided to stay with Reply because of the quality of their support and I’ve never regretted this decision.
We quickly managed to get a bunch of our applications working together for us, essentially removing the burden of manual communication and getting rid of any tasks that could be automated. We use a central CRM application, Base, which is integrated with Reply through Zapier (a web automation suite). It was quick and easy to put together an automation between Reply and our CRM through Zapier, so there was no need to try to code the integration myself.
Editor’s note: Reply now has native integration with Base (along with other popular CRMs), as well as 12 additional Zapier integrations which you can check out here.
Nurturing prospects for long-term results
We figured out pretty quickly that cold emailing is great to get attention. However, the most challenging part is not starting communications with someone but actually maintaining it in the long run.
From a business standpoint there are three buckets that we use to categorize our communications or cold email approaches:
1. Some are totally uninterested (which happens rarely).
2. Some are totally interested, and it quickly converts into direct business.
But by far the majority of the time we contact a prospect, they’re potentially interested but at some point in the future, and there is no way to convert them into clients right away.
In this situation, we need to nurture these people. For us, it’s essentially a person-to-person alternative to newsletters. Generally, the way we use it right now is to start with a typical cold email campaign, to spark communication.
After giving a personal presentation of the company and chatting with the right person, we put them on our nurturing campaign. These follow similar rules as a typical cold mail campaign, except it’s at a much lower frequency. They’re designed to solve the problem of maintaining communication with our potential clients and reminding them about our company and services.