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January is upon us, which is the best month for health clubs to engage and sell new memberships. So now’s the time to know: Is your website ready for online joining? If not, it should be.
Web technology has evolved tremendously, and it’s now easier than ever to allow customers — non-members, former members and prospects — to purchase memberships directly from your website.
Industry stats show that many clubs are selling 15 to 20 percent of their new memberships online, and that percentage is trending upwards. By using your website as a business platform, all visitors can connect, learn and perhaps purchase in ways not even imaginable a few years ago. Ultimately, online joining is a sales tool that can promise significant revenue gains.
To set up online joining, start by talking with your club management software provider. They should be able to set up the functionality, integration and components to put online joining in place. The recurring cost should be minimal, and will need to allow for an e-commerce account for credit cards to be accepted.
After online joining has been activated, be sure your website is as visually pleasing as possible. Have simple examples of the membership plans, keeping it to three options or less. A virtual tour, member testimonials and easy-to-understand membership rates will help in the decision-making process for prospects.
Next, promote this easy-to-use capability. All marketing sources such as direct mail, billboards, ads and posters should include your website and mention the ability to join online. Boast the benefits of customers not having to deal with a sales rep — prospects can do it all online, come in, pick up their membership card and get started.
When a prospect joins a confirmation message is given on the screen welcoming them, and they should also 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 is very important as it serves as their official, legal agreement and their receipt of membership.
In addition, an online joining program should generate reports on the number of visitors, who and how many joined, what type of membership was purchased, monetary increase to the monthly dues line and track the marketing source. This allows managers to see the effectiveness of promotional campaigns.
Ironically, most clubs find that when they promote their website it leads to other online sales as well, such as personal training or tanning.
Although you may have to pay a reasonable set-up fee for online joining (between $100 and $300) and approximately 2.5 percent for credit card merchant fees, the benefits are well worth the initial cost.
The big question is not, “Why should a club offer online joining?” but, “Why not?”
Carole Oat is the national sales manager at Twin Oaks Software. She can be reached at 860.829.6000 x 281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oat was a large club owner and operator for 15 years.