Small Business Profile: Zoom Room
Doggy training center utilizes iPad for creative marketing tactics
It’s hard to remember a time when “iPad” wasn’t a household name or when “checking in” meant standing in line at a hotel front-desk. In the span of just two years, the Apple iPad went from just another tablet to an effective business and marketing tool for the nation’s up-and-coming businesses.
Take Zoom Room, a leading dog-training franchise, for example. After receiving a MacArthur Genius Grant from Apple, Zoom Room went from one single, dog-training facility in Hollywood, Calif., to one of the fastest-growing franchises in the pet industry.
Mark Van Wye, Zoom Room’s chief operating officer and head of marketing, said that Zoom Room uses the iPad, along with several web-based applications, to promote and market Zoom Room’s innovative concept for dog agility training.
Zoom Room was founded in 2007 by Mark’s wife, Jaime Van Wye, an expert dog trainer whose credits include teaching a dog how to use a urinal. Jaime’s concept was both simple and original: a place where people could go to train their dogs in a fun, engaging learning environment.
“Zoom Room is a place where that unbridled activity and energy as a dog can be channeled into something really productive and into a learning experience,” Van Wye explained. “The fact that the iPad fits aesthetically as an object [and] beautifully into our setting, helps to accentuate that forward-thinking aspect of the plan.”
Together, Mark, Jaime, and their shaggy Komondor, Clyde, have franchised 10 Zoom Room locations around the U.S., and Van Wye says that number will probably double in the next six months. Van Wye attributes this success to Zoom Room’s well-engineered concept and the efficacy of the iPad for marketing.
“One of the reasons we’re growing so fast is that there’s no other business like us out there,” Van Wye explained. “There’s no other in-doors training facility that really spotlights agility; that’s a place where people come with their dogs and have a social experience, as opposed to just a drop-off facility.”
For Zoom Room, the iPad serves multiple functions— cash register, camera, map, Wi-Fi hot-spot— just to name a few. Each Zoom Room location has two swappable iPads, so that one can be used for basic operations like ringing up customers, while the other can be used to further Zoom Room’s various marketing initiatives.
At each Zoom Room location, the iPad works as a self-serving kiosk that allows customers to check-in their dogs, using an ID card or collar tag. Once registered, the iPad greets and informs customers of new classes and information and allows them to sign-up for private training sessions.
Not only does the system provide a quick and user-friendly interface, but it also removes the need for paper schedules and check-in sheets, which supports the franchise’s green initiatives.
“In the third quarter of this year, we’ll be rolling out a new program that will actually give [customers] rewards for signing in,” Van Wye said. “Each time they sign into classes and perform other actions, they’ll actually be earning bonus points that can be redeemed for prizes and awards later on.”
After checking in at Zoom Room, dog owners are also encouraged to do the same on their favorite location-based marketing sites such as FourSquare and Gowalla. (Find out how to claim your business on FourSquare and Gowalla here.) In the unlikely event that a customer leaves his or her cell-phone at home, either one of the two iPads can be used to access the sites online.
In the gym, Zoom Room trainers use the additional iPad to take notes on dogs during private training sessions and to recommend additional products and services. Trainers also use the iPad to take pictures of dogs and shoot videos of the training sessions using the iPad’s camera.
“[Dog training] is one of the most photogenic businesses,” Van Wye said, “and almost all of our classes, parties, and events make great videos for YouTube and Facebook and all the social media.”
Van Wye said that dog owners are always eager to share news and updates about their dog’s training and achievements in class and that this kind of client-to-client referral service is a potent marketing tool for the franchise. Zoom Room uses social media sites, namely Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, iMovie and Foursquare, to harness the power of this type of marketing.
“Dog training is one of those businesses where people do want to read about other’s experiences, so that’s been a fantastic marketing tool for us,” Van Wye said. “We don’t really do the work, our clients do it through affection and admiration of the trainers.”
Even as the marketing darling of the pet industry, Zoom Room also uses the iPad to em-bark on a grassroots marketing campaign. Zoom Room franchisees are often out in the community doing marketing and grassroots networking, Van Wye said.
“(Our franchisees) are always at events,” he said. “They’re always at pet fairs at fundraisers and cancer walks. You know, there’s no more traveling salesman with a pocketful of brochures and a briefcase of samples. You’ve just got the iPad and a very elegant stand.”
Besides its grassroots campaign, Zoom Room’s greatest marketing strength lies in its customer interaction, both on-site and online. At Zoom Room, the interaction between pets, their owners and trainers, coupled with multiple features of the iPad, help customers feel like they are participating in the business, rather than passively dropping off and picking up their dogs.
“We’re one of the very first companies in the whole country to start using an iPad for business,” Vay Wye said. “It gives our customers a sense that they’re indeed in a place, they’re not in an aisle in PetCo with kitty litter and iguanas, that they’re in a special place that’s dedicated to them and that is looking to give them a unique experience in training with their dog.”
There was a time when direct-mail was the only game in town. It’s now 2011, almost 2012. Given all of the wealth of opportunities for reaching out to people who have dollars to spend, and who might be interested in your brand, is there still any value left to direct mail? Several franchisees have asked me to consider it, and I’m hesitant to put together campaigns. I’m just wondering what the most recent statistics are. I’m wondering if for a forward-thinking, modern business, is it an old activity or something that is evergreen and a good, go-to-resource for businesses to look into to generate new clients?
-Mark Van Wye, COO of Zoom Room
In its 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, the Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail had a response rate of “3.42 percent for a house list and 1.38 percent for a prospect list.” That may seem pretty low, but it’s not completely out of line with conversion rates in other channels. Beyond response rates, though, it’s important to consider costs, and unbiased information on that is frustratingly difficult to find. Any specific campaign might, of course, experience vastly different results anyway, so sometimes the only thing to do is test.
There is still a time and a place for traditional advertising. In fact, rather than considering any single marketing channel as being effective or ineffective, we should think of creative ways to integrate multiple channels.
Depending on your target market, it is possible that direct mail might work well, especially in conjunction with other channels. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to test a campaign in one of your franchisees’ markets. Be careful, though, to ensure that it’s an integrated, cross-channel effort to maximize the effectiveness.
Here are a few ideas:
- Drive mailer recipients to your website where, in exchange for providing something of value (e.g., a discount or a ’10 Tips for Training Your Dog’ sort of e-book), you collect their email addresses. Have a plan for how you’ll utilize those email addresses over both the short- and long-term before doing the mailing.
- Send recipients to your Facebook page, where they have to click Like prior to the valuable information or discount being revealed to them. Strategize beforehand how you’ll continue to provide useful (to them) posts after they’ve liked you.
- Integrate the direct mail campaign with other non-digital efforts like print ads, billboards, or radio spots. Seek opportunities for earned media by hosting an event that attracts news outlets, and tie that in to the mailing campaign.
John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing has some other great suggestions in his post, Is Direct Mail Dead or New Uses for Old Tactics.
- Rob Croll, Full Sail University Internet Marketing Program Manager and Marketing Zeus columnist
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