We recently had a chance to talk with Greg Fefferman from Jump A Roos about growing his business, his early success with "Spin to Win”, assessing the competition, and why taking sales calls is part of his routine.
Josh: Greg, thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us. Let’s start with some background on your business and how you got inspired to start it.
Greg: We're an indoor, inflatable, play and party center. We have bounce houses obstacle courses, slides, etc. We also have a redemption arcade area with about 25 games in it, and a small concession area where we make our own pizzas and cook up french fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets, popcorn, and snow cones. Kind of a kid’s paradise.
As a father of three kids with varying ages when I started the business, it was hard to find a place that had something for the two year old, the five year old, and the eight year old that they would all like and enjoy. I really felt there was something missing in the marketplace where I live so I put together a business plan to “build a better mouse trap.”
Primarily we want to have families come in and join us for play. We also have four private party rooms for birthday parties, which are a big part of the business. And we see our primary customer ultimately as the mother, bringing their children of between two and 10 years old coming to play for an afternoon or booking a birthday party.
Josh: As the father of a seven year old boy, I certainly see the appeal to all that stuff. We have spent a lot of time in similar places.
Greg: For me the “ah ha” moment was while we were visiting a place on the second story of a retail center that we could barely fit in. To get there we had to take out the two strollers that we had, push them through a poorly constructed parking lot, and take a non-air conditioned elevator in South Florida, which is never fun.
The kids wanted to do visit again, but we couldn’t because you could only go there for a birthday party.
So, I figured maybe there's a better way to do it where families can come and play, and also have birthday parties as well. As you know, it's always a struggle to find something fun for the kids to do.
Josh: How long have you been at this now?
Greg: We opened the business in summer of 2011. So, this is our sixth full year, going on seven.
Josh: Has the business steadily grown over time or was Jump a Roos a hit right away?
Greg: You know, we're always working for more customers. We grew steadily at the beginning. We were one of the first movers in the marketplace so we did have some great success early on as people found us, whether organically or through other searches or advertisements. But there's been a lot of new family concepts coming to the market over the past few years, so the competition for the limited dollars that families want to spend on their children is a lot higher in 2017 than it was back in 2011 and 2012.
Josh: The competition is interesting. I would imagine you have a set of direct competitors who are doing similar things to you, but then you're also competing for of all of the entertainment budget that a new family might have. Is that how you think about it?
Greg: You know, it's interesting that you say that. That's how I would have looked at it seven years ago, but the way that I see it now is that we're always competing for the discretionary dollars that parent allocate for their kids, whether they have their own mental budget or a true budget.
I truly believe families in our demographic allocate money spent on children, not necessarily specifically to entertainment. Instead, they'll look at entertainment as we'll go see a movie with the husband, wife, and the two kids, but that's different than taking their kids to an inflatable play and party center like Jump A Roos. Or even taking the kids to a video game center.
In my view and in the analytics that I've looked at, it tends to be families having budget to spend on kids, and that budget includes back to school supplies, and entertainment and recreational play as well.
And then within that, we are competing with Target and Walmart for back to school dollars, but we're also competing with the other family entertainment centers. As you go up the market to the movie theaters, or the centers that have activities for adults, then places like those, I feel fit into the family entertainment budget.
Josh: So, when you think about getting new customers for your business, what are some of the ways that you try to attract people in for the first time?
Greg: The best way I can attract someone for the first time is by overwhelming a customer with a great experience on their own first visit and they will then want to bring their friends, and their friends' children for their first time as well.
So, I'd say first and foremost, it’s about trying to have as clean and as fun of a facility as possible and offer as fantastic customer service as possible; which will allow our customers in turn to be advocates to bring in others.
But on top of that, we spend a lot of money on things like eCommerce SEO placement. We also try to be out in the community as much as we can, although we haven't done much of that in the last couple years, but our outreach is at this point is SEO.
And then at some point, and this is where Privy comes in, once they hit our website I want to be able to track them, grab their email and other relevant information and then market directly to them in the future via email where I can provide promotions and other great things that will bring them in again and again.
Josh: So you talked about using Privy, which is awesome! Obviously we're really excited about that. You recently tried our new spin to win campaign. How's that going for you? How does that compare to other things that you've tried?
Greg: We were using another technology for a while to provide a pop up type of ad to collect an email. We had some decent success with that but wanted to try something new. I'd been using their technology for four plus years and I hadn’t seen a single change or upgrade with them. So, at that point I started to look around to find other products that did something similar and that could maybe enhance our marketing. I came across Privy through a conversation with Constant Contact.
Josh: Nice, I used to work with Constant Contact.
Greg: They recommended the integration with Privy as something different to try than what I was using. Since then I have been using several different types of campaigns. On Jump A Roos’ landing page we had a BOGO offer; it's a buy one get one free if you give us your email. And on our birthday party page, we have a $25 off birthday party popup that I just recently changed to include a video rather than just the plain language that we’re testing to see how that works out.
And also, we have a coupon page where we have four different specials that are in the embedded category. So, I've been using the heck out of the platform and have gathered in a short period of time almost 1,500 emails...
Josh: ...that's excellent...
Greg: ... really since maybe the beginning of May. We do get a lot of activity through our website so when I came across the “Spin to Win” when I logged into Privy, I thought it was something extremely interesting to give a try.
You know, the neat thing about owning your own business and not having any sort of hierarchy, is that if you see something you like, you can give it a shot, see how it works.
And I felt that we had enough data to give it a shot to see what's going on, because we were getting about a 7%t sign-up ratio on both the birthday party page, and on our landing page. Which was okay, because we don’t have a lot of volume, but I wanted to see if there were ways to increase it.
In my head I was always disappointed by the results. I was like “hey, we're giving away … essentially a $10 coupon … why aren't more people signing up?”
I thought that the wheel was kind of fun for our customers. We're a family business, it's an interactive type of technology and I thought it was something worth trying. Right now we're at 16 % sign-up ratio, which previously we were at 7%. We peaked at around 20, 21. It's only a few days so far, but we've nearly tripled our sign up ratio, which is pretty exciting.
Josh: Yeah, that's pretty awesome.
Greg: Especially given the volume that we have to our page and I think a lot of it has to do with the interaction of the wheel. Now, that's only one part of it. Right Josh? Just capturing emails is important, and we like it, and we appreciate it. We hope that it's a legitimate email and something that we can make business out of and promote, but I do want to see the redemption ratio because quite frankly, to fill the wheel, we've got to give a lot of different prizes and aren't giving away the house.
Ultimately the idea is to get someone to come in here, see our product, enjoy it, and maybe host a birthday party down the road, or at least tell their friends, or point people in the right direction. That we're getting more emails, that's great. We'll have to continue to monitor the redemption rate though!
So, the success has been great on the front end of gathering, we'll see how it is on the back end of the actual redemptions.
Josh: Yeah, totally. And when you think about email marketing, what types of things are you doing to drive people back to the site and ultimately into your location?
Greg: We utilize a few different email platforms. I don't believe my open rate is nearly as strong as it used to be and I don’t have all of the answers. The problem with being a small business like we are is that I don't have a marketing department. So, I can't sit there and say, “All right let's utilize this data to see which works best for us and let's cross reference the emails that we got with the party bookings down the road that we have, based on the different platforms that we utilize to select the email.” As someone with an analytic background, I would love to have someone on our team that could just crunch those numbers for us in that way.
It could be a product of several different things. Maybe the inbox technology doesn't necessarily recognize the same way that they do with the Constant Contact now that we’re using someone else, so they're getting sent to the spam folder. Maybe after the course of six years in the business, some of our data for our customers is a little bit old, so we're marketing to more people, but we're not marketing to people that are in our direct market, so they're ignoring our email. Maybe some of the emails, as I said we have 1,500 in three months, we'll get 10,000 new emails a year, maybe some of those aren't necessarily people that want to be repeat customers, but we've seen a significant drop off in our open percentage.
And the other thing, as the entrepreneur and business owner, you have to consider that maybe people aren't buying what we're selling anymore either. That could also be one of the factors in there.
Josh: I'm guessing it's some combination of all of those things.
Greg: Hopefully not the last one, right?
Josh: Hopefully not.
Greg: So, we're not using Constant Contact per se, but we are sending direct emails. We have a great text messaging platform and we are good at capturing people’s phone numbers and getting them to opt in. And we do a lot of promotions on Facebook as well, where we can micro-market to a variety of different categories with our customers.
Josh: I would imagine that there's some sort of lifecycle with your customers too where they come in where the kids are at a certain age, and at some point they age out.
Greg: Well I'm having job applicants who were once customers now, which is kind of cool.
Josh: That's pretty great. So, my last question is what advice do you have for other people, other entrepreneurs who are just starting out or struggling to grow their business and just need that little bit of encouragement. What would you tell them based on your experience?
Greg: Don't be afraid to try something new or even tweak something that is already successful. The conversation we're having is a perfect example. I mean, we were doing okay with the buy one free, get one free; but then we saw something new or different and said, “hey let's give this a shot.” And in a matter of two hours, I've got something completely different on my website that happens to seem to be significantly more successful. And if it wasn't, what did I lose? Three, four days, two, two three weeks of trying something?
And like I said, don't be afraid to tweak something that is already successful. Listen to your customers and your employees, they're really the ones that are interacting with each other. Often times I'm in the back office, but get out of the back office and get in the front lines as well to see what's going on with the customers, with the employees.
Get their input and experiment. I like to say that no one has a monopoly of good ideas... even if you think you're doing something well or right, be open to hear other ideas.
As an entrepreneur you're going to get inundated by dozens of phone calls throughout the course of the week from people that want to sell you something, or give you a better platform, or a better idea. What I've done to deal with that, rather than just saying “no” to everyone is that I've literally set up what I call office hours. So, a certain day of the week, between this time and that time if someone calls me up, I say yeah let's have a meeting. And that's my ongoing education. The worst case scenario is that we don't do any business, but at least I learn something new that I can pursue.
And quite frankly, often times I don't end up ... I hate to say it, but I don't end up doing business with them, but I go to the Internet and do research, and maybe find someone else that has a little bit better of a product and the better pricing. Or even better yet call them back and say, “Hey, I liked our meeting. Let's give it a shot.”
Josh: Love it. I think a lot of times people get scared to take a call.
Greg: Not necessarily scared, there's just a million and one things to do, right? I'm operating a small business with 25 employees that requires so many different things. So, when I come in and want to do one thing ... when you think you're going to come in and get it done, but you come in and there's 12 other things that you need to tend to; bills you need to pay, vendors you need to see. So, then a sales person calls and the last thing you want to do is have to deal with them, because you already have what they're trying to sell. Or you don't have what they're trying to sell and are already operating the business without them. Why should you talk to them? But I treat it as an educational opportunity that’s usually worth my time.
Josh: Awesome, thank you very much for taking a few minutes. This has been great and
thanks for choosing Privy, I really appreciate it.
Greg: Thank you Josh! This was fun!