Google Alerts popped up a notice on a news release recently about what was described as the “first digital signage franchise providing a “one-vendor” approach for installing and maintaining a digital signage network for small and medium size businesses.”
Hmmm. I have seen a few franchise opportunities here and there through the years, offering up territories to put up screens and get stinkin’ rich selling advertising. That model is still out there – despite the big body of evidence suggesting ad sales is NOT easy. But that’s not the angle this company was selling.
Zinger Digital Signs offers exclusive territories and complete industry certified training, says the news release. The franchisees provides “value-added” services to the local market offering; equipment and software sales, site-surveys, installations, design & consulting, management services, content creation and training. Zinger offers many types of digital signage including; portable, touch-screens, large screen panels, all-in-one units and video wall displays.
Franchises for pizza, coffee and dry cleaning I get, but for digital signage, that takes some thinking. And many more questions. So I sent a note to David Bawarsky, who launched the business this week. He got back to me promptly, happily and fully answered all the questions, and laid out how he thinks this addresses a need in the marketplace, and has some legs.
What’s your company’s background, and how long have you been involved in the digital signage sector?
I have been in the digital signage business actually since 1978. Back then it was analog and on tape. I was one of the first to use that media for real estate signage, placed in realtors’ offices and windows. Ever since then I have been involved in all aspects of the audio/visual industry; hardware, production, post production, digital content, etc. I have also managed and owned several ad agencies and content production companies.
Your tag line is trademarked as the digital signage experts. How has Zinger built up that expertise?
We require all our employees, including all franchisees and all of their employees, go through third party certification training, like through DSEG. In addition, we require other certification programs depending on the type of employee. Our management team also has extensive experience in this market.
I have seen attempts at franchise models for ad-based digital sign networks, but that’s not what your franchise model is about, correct?
That’s correct. We see a merging market with local small and medium size business that recognize the need of Digital Signage, but don’t know who to call. Most local installers cater to the larger and national type clients. But we believe the small and medium guys are un-tapped and ripe for establishing a relationship with a national brand company. We also don’t believe in the “all-ads” revenue model. We only believe in it as a supplemental income, to offset one’s digital signage costs. But it is not for everyone. We don’t go in and try to sell that they are going to make money in the advertising business. We go and tell them how digital signage can help their business grow, not others.
With all that said we do have an ad program, but it is much different than what is currently being offered, more like ad management brokers. But this is not our main focus and I can’t talk much about it right now.
Can you plot out how it works and how your franchisors make money?
We’ll there are multiple revenue streams; equipment and software sales, installations, design & consulting, calibrations, display management, content, ad sales and training.
Why would someone choose to secure a franchise from Zinger instead of just reselling any number of turnkey packages out there?
I could write many pages on that one. A Zinger franchise is much more than reselling a turnkey package. We are a “one-vendor, value-added” digital signage network installer. Yes, we offer a wide selection of equipment and software, but we are selling solutions. We will do a complete site-survey with the client and get into their expectations and educate and recommend ways to maximize their investment. We also offer display management services and content creation. Clients only need to deal with one vendor, saving them money, time and potential problems.
Most people in the digital signage market, don’t do everything. They partner with others. Partnering is good, but you don’t have control over the other partners. It makes projects take longer and cost more. And you are at the mercy of the other partners. With a franchise, we are partners with the same goals, on the same team. We control our own destiny and we aren’t dependant on any outside partners or subcontractors. People feel more comfortable dealing with a national franchise than a local AV or IT guy.
Who do you see as the typical franchisor?
We feel a good candidate for us is the middle and upper management person who has been displaced in the employment world and recognizes to be employed, they need to create their own job. We look for professional types, with experience in sales or executive management.
Is this your own software platform, or a white-labelled version of something already on the market?
We use proprietary software from existing proven platforms, customized for our specific requirements. We have a suite of software programs for all aspects of managing a franchise.
How many franchises are in place now and what are your growth expectations?
We are a new franchise. We just released our franchise today and currently don’t have any. We have a lot of interest because if one is looking to get into this business, there are not many options.
We have a very extensive training program and provide the tools and support for franchisees to succeed on a local level.
Have you done franchising with other businesses?
Yes, I have extensive franchise background. In the 80’s I franchised “do-it-yourself” video editing and duplicating centers throughout the country. I have also been involved in other startup franchises.
What’s the franchisee investment?
Total investment is $71,000 – $124,000, which includes a $27,500 franchise fee.
Interesting. There is a vast market of small businesses out there that will at some point have screens in the office or retail lobby, hopefully playing something more useful than the local weather and headlines news cable channel.
Despite the many attempts, I don’t see many hyper-local ad sites, the ones that put screens here, there and anywhere, as viable Digital OOH ad venues now or anytime soon. The network has to have a big national footprint, or have enough in a smaller cluster to be worth the attention of an aggregator/ad network.
I also don’t see local/regional AV and systems integrators selling turnkey bundles because the jobs are too small. They’ll take inbound business, but aren’t likely to be out shaking trees for this work when they can be booking bigger budget corporate and government work.
So maybe local guys with biz dev skills and a willingness to knock on a lot of doors can make this go. There would certainly be some receptivity to a package that dumbs it down and has some uniformity to it.
Bawarsky has been at in some ways since even I was a kid, so he’s no bug-eyed young entrepreneur who thinks confidence overcomes any business obstacle. I’m not convinced, but I’ve also given this nowhere near enough thought. The Zinger website is polished and straightforward, and free of the BS we often see when companies come into the marketplace thinking they’re about to conquer all who get in their way.
Zinger is not showing at InfoComm next week – wrong forum – but the boss will be there. His email is included in the release if you want to reach out and have a chat.
(Note: that’s not an endorsement, by the way. I’d never heard of Zinger until this morning)
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.