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Is your website ready for online joining? Internet technology has evolved tremendously, and successful health clubs have implemented sales strategies to send people to their website and engage prospects and members throughout the buying cycle. In the future, it will be more important than ever to utilize this knowledge to extend beyond traditional means with an easy link for non-members, former members and prospects to easily join right from your website.
Industry stats show that many health clubs are getting 15 percent to 20 percent of their new memberships online. That number will likely increase in the next five years. By using their website as a business platform, health club operators allow visitors to connect, learn and perhaps purchase in ways not even imaginable a few years ago. Club owners need to see this as a sales tool and realize it offers a promise of significant sales productivity and revenue gains. Incorporating online sales in your business will benefit your health club long into the future.
Where to Start
1. If you don't already have an online joining option, start by talking with your club management software provider about how to implement one. They should be able to set up the functionality and the integration, and they can provide the components to put online joining in place, linked from the club website and integrated directly into the club management software. Part of the package should be incorporating the club logo and color theme into the offer pages, and customizing special add-on services. Recurring costs should be minimal. You will need an ecommerce account for credit card processing.
2. The next step is to create engaging presentation visuals on your website. Have simple examples of the membership plans, keeping it to three options or less for maximum joining power and ease of use. A virtual tour, member testimonials and easy-to-understand membership rates will help in decision making for prospects.
3. Next, promote this easy-to-use capability. All marketing sources (direct mail, billboards, ads, posters, Facebook page with a link) 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’s no confrontation and no dealing with a sales rep. Prospects can do it all online before picking up their membership card at your facility as they start using the facility.
4. Your next step is to set up communications for when people join online. Online joiners should receive a confirmation message from you welcoming them and a follow-up email. Make sure the online joining program allows the member to see and print their real contract with their information filled in. This is important as it serves as their official, legal agreement and receipt of payment.
5. The program should generate reports for the number of visitors to the site, who and how many joined, the type of membership purchased and the monetary increase to the monthly dues line. It also should track the marketing source to allow managers to measure the success and effectiveness of promotional campaigns. Monitoring results is critical to determining start and stop dates, or whether offers should be changed.
An online joining allows staff to focus more on members in-house and the guests they tour. Staff can be more comfortable telling a prospect who can't commit the day of the tour that they can go home and join online at the same rates, which eliminates haggling and negotiating. Club staff can be honest and consistent along with being upfront about fees. Consider adding an iPad kiosk at the front desk, which allows prospects to join the club themselves at the customized offer that fits them best.
Club operators often find that when they promote their website, it leads to other online sales of items such as towel service, childcare, lockers, tanning or activity registration. You can even offer online options such as refer a friend, add on a family member now and save $5 a month as long as they stay a member, get a month free, get a personal training session or get a gift card—the possibilities are endless.
Expect to cover initial set up and contract customization, which runs about $100 to $400. You should also expect approximately 2.5 percent for credit card merchant fees as these are e-commerce transactions, considered card not present. The return on investment is great and easily offsets the upfront and recurring monthly hosting fee.
Today’s smarter and far better informed prospects demand more of clubs and facilities. The ability to join online is just the first step in a collaborative and repeatable sales process. The result: dramatic improvements in revenue generation and better retention as members become more involved in their facility.
The big question is not why should a club offer online joining, but why not?
Carole Oat is a former large gym owner and operator for 15 years serving approximately 3,000 members and having managed 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 is a billing, software and returns management provider located in Berlin, Connecticut. It has 65 employees.
This article was included in Club Industry’s 2018 report, “Forward Five Years: How the Fitness and Wellness Industry Will Change.” You can download the full report for free by going here.