CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Twin Oaks Software
Joining season is upon us, the best time for health clubs and fitness centers to engage and sell new memberships. Are you and your website ready for online joining? Internet technology has evolved tremendously, and successful clubs are adopting sales strategies to send people to their websites and engage prospects and members throughout the buying cycle. Use this knowledge and extend beyond traditional means with an easy link for non-members, former members and prospects to join right from your website.
Industry statistics show that many clubs now sign up 15 percent to 20 percent of their new memberships online. By using their websites as a business platform, all visitors can connect, learn and perhaps purchase in ways not even imaginable a few years ago. Club operators need to see this as a sales tool with promises of significant sales productivity and revenue gains.
To move to online sales, start by talking with your club management software provider. They should be able to set up the functionality and the integration as well as provide the components to put online joining in place, linked from your club's website and integrated directly into your club management software. Part of the package should be incorporating the club logo and color theme into the offer pages, customizing special add-on services and allowing for an ecommerce account for credit cards to be accepted. The recurring cost should be minimal.
After this is set up, you need to create engaging visuals on your website, including simple examples of your membership plans. Keep to three or fewer membership options for maximum joining power and ease of use. A virtual tour, member testimonials and easy-to-understand membership rates will simplify decision-making for prospects.
Next, promote this easy-to-use capability. All marketing sources, direct mail, billboards, ads and posters should include the club website and mention the ability to join online. Even promotional flyers and pieces used for local community events should include language to prompt action. There is no confrontation, no dealing with a sales rep; prospects can do it all online and then come in to pick up their membership card and get started on their way to using the facility.
When prospects join, they should receive a confirmation message on the screen welcoming them, and they should receive a follow-up email. Make sure that the online joining program also allows the member to see and print their real contract with their information filled in. This serves as their official legal agreement and their receipt of membership and payment.
The program should generate reports of number of visitors to the site, who and how many joined, what type of membership was purchased and the monetary increase to the monthly dues line. Your report also should include the marketing source for the purchase, which enables managers to see the effectiveness of promotional campaigns so they can measure their success. Monitoring results is critical to determining start and stop dates, or whether offers should be changed.
Online joining also enables staff to focus more on members in house and the guests they tour rather than focusing on the immediate close. They can even suggest to the prospect that they think about it, go home and join online because they will find the same rates there. This eliminates haggling and negotiating. It also enables club staff to be honest and consistent.
Ironically, most club operators find that when they promote their websites, it leads to other online sales—items such as towel service, childcare, lockers, tanning and activity registration It can even help with offers such as refer a friend, add on a family member now and save $5 a month as long as they stay a member, a month free, a personal training session, and gift cards. The possibilities are endless.
Expect to pay a reasonable start-up fee of $100 to $400 to cover initial set up and contract customization for your online joining system. And you will need to pay about 2.5 percent for credit card merchant fees as these are e-commerce transactions. The return on investment easily offsets the upfront and recurring monthly hosting fee.
For best results, keep the responsibility with the owner or general manager to monitor offers and results.
Today's smarter and better-informed prospects demand more of fitness facilities. The ability to join online is just the first step in a collaborative and repeatable sales process. The results may lead to dramatic improvement in revenue generation and better retention as members become more involved in their facility.
The question is not why should a club offer online joining, but why not?
Carole Oat, national sales manager for Twin Oaks Software, was a large gym owner and operator for 15 years serving about 3,000 members and managing more than 65 employees in a 53,000-square-foot multi-sport facility. Now working on the vendor side, she oversees the sales and client relations staff for Twin Oaks Software, which was established in 1991 by two other former club operators. Twin Oaks, Berlin, CT, is a billing, software and returns management provider with 65 employees. Oat can be reached at [email protected] or 860-829-6000 x281.