The Digital Evolution
“Everything is changing to online, it’s kind of unbelievable.” It may be difficult to fully grasp, but Christina DeGuardi, the vice president of marketing for Crunch, is right.
With everything becoming more web-based and digital, it’s important to look at your entire digital footprint and make sure that everything from your Facebook page, to Twitter, to your website, etc. represent your brand and your gym positively and effectively.
Website as a Portal
“A good website lets you experience the club, give you a feel of the culture, from the convenience of your own home,” said Nancy Terry, the senior vice president of marketing for Sport&Health. “It should be everything you can do at the club online — except actually workout!”
Sport&Health’s website offers users two different paths for current members and perspective members. If you’re a member you can find a club-like experience and even purchase programs online. Potential members can find introductory information with benefits and special offers. Sport&Health’s website (sportandhealth.com) generates 30 percent of its prospects. Memberships are not yet currently sold online.
DeGuardi thinks of Crunch’s website as a virtual location for the member or perspective member — they should be able to get the look and feel of what the brand is like. “[The website] really has any and all information members would want: descriptions of classes, class schedules, locations of gyms, guest passes, etc.” Traffic to Crunch’s website is split about evenly between prospects and current members.
Crunch started selling memberships online over three years ago. “We were skeptical at first, but modern consumers don’t necessarily need to see [the gym] before buying,” said DeGuardi. “We sell 10-20 percent of memberships online. It’s a vital part of presale. It doesn’t replace what our sales people do; it supplements what we do.
“Our target audience is savvy and young. You can tell perspective members that they can go home and think about it and buy online later that evening. It’s not an out for them, it’s another portal to use on their own. The online memberships are a great place for limited offers that we may offer online only — we get a great response.”
Anytime Fitness has a little different approach to their website. There is a website for Anytime Fitness (anytimefitness.com), and that website holds basic information for perspective members like a seven-day guest pass and basic information for locations and social media outlets. This website holds a lot of tools and resources for franchises, explained Brian Zehetner, the director of Anytime Health.
Anytime Fitness also operates a content-based website for members, Anytime Health, a consumer health and wellness portal that gets around 250,000 hits a month. Members get access to Anytime Health as part of their Anytime Fitness membership and gain access to diet and exercise tracking tools, recipes, exercises, discussion boards and much more.
Providing Members With What They Want
Members want all the conveniences any gym has to offer. Group X users can sort through Crunch’s many classes by day, class, instructor etc. on their website. Crunch members can log on to their own iCrunch account online and pay their bill, change their personal information and check their workout history. The free Crunch app has the same capabilities and then some, allowing members to set personal goals and input workouts.
Crunch members receive a monthly newsletter, the “Bench Press,” that has the highest open rate of the brand’s e-mail marketing. “I think part of being part of a gym is being part of a community. We are giving insider news in an unobtrusive place where members can choose to read it or not and I think that’s attractive to members,” DeGuardi said. Crunch has a dedicated staff member strictly focused on managing online content.
Sport&Health offers their members an opportunity to get a taste of the club online. They encourage members to become part of their club community by joining their social media networks from their website.
Additionally, they share their members’ success stories through their YouTube channel. For their newest location opening in Gainesville, Va., video was taken of the construction in real time so potential members could follow the opening of their new club in their community, Terry explained.
An e-newsletter goes to members on a monthly basis. “It enhances the value of their membership,” said Terry. “It allows you to show that you care and that you want to help [members] in the areas they might struggle.” Newsletters contain sections like: “Ask the Trainer” section with a tip and video, a nutrition article, a featured club program or service, a recipe and exercise of the month, Trainer Spotlight and possibly a charity event or update. Sport&Health has two people devoted to their website. “I think it makes your members want to return to your site,” explained Terry on why it’s beneficial to have a web staff. “They want to stay longer and spend more time.”
Anytime Health was started so that Anytime Fitness could touch members more often —365 days a year, 24 hours a day, explained Zehetner. Anytime Health provided that solution. The website officially launched in January of 2010. Anytime Fitness works with partners to provide its members with all the different types of content, from recipes to exercises to news updates. There is also a place for blogs and videos.
Members can use Anytime Health to track their club usage as well as shop at the Anytime store. Anytime Health is also available as an app for iPhone and Android users. A great feature, Zehetner said, is that members can post a question on the community page and the average response time is two minutes. There are paid moderators to ensure questions get answered.
Clubs have an opportunity to be viewed as an expert authority when it comes to things health and fitness related. Your members want easy access to your club so it’s important to give it to them, in the ways that are most convenient for them to access information. Remember your digital channel involves a lot of different facets, and all should be designed to positively market your club.
“You need to realize people touch your brand via Facebook, search engines, your website. Everything needs to be consistent. All online portals need to be linked and on the same page. Also, you can’t put up a website and just leave it. It needs to be as dynamic as the in-person experience,” DeGuardi said. “If someone is turned off [by your website] before they’ve even tried your club, that’s a bad thing. You’ve created an extra barrier instead of an extra invitation.” -CS
Use Technology to Stay in Touch With Your Members
According to Gartner.com, an information technology research and advisory company, mobile traffic to the web will eclipse standard web traffic in the next 12-18 months. “There’s a huge transformation shift coming,” explained J. Schwan, the founder and project manager of MiGym. “Users would rather get their information [via their phone] and we are trying to get ahead of that and educate our customers.”
MiGym is a company that provides brandable mobile channels as a service, in the form of apps for clubs. Clubs pay on a subscription basis for MiGym to create, develop and maintain their mobile channel. Features include membership card on phones, mobile friendly class schedules and notifications to changes, promotional capabilities, basic contact information and links other social media channels.
Tara Tims, the program director at The Belmont Athletic Club is using the app to run her group x program digitally. “When I took over four years ago as Group X coordinator, we used a lot of paper and wrote the weekly schedule on a white board with the instructors and their subs. We had a schedule on our website, but never changed it. Now, we have a 60-inch TV screen in our lobby (where the white board used to be). The weekly schedule is there, I can make changes from my computer or iPhone to announce subs for the week in a separate box. We also put digital flyers and sometimes videos of classes on the screen. It’s nice because I can keep everything current. I am working with J. Schwan so these changes can all be connected. Meaning when I update the schedule for the app, it also updates the screen downstairs and our website.”
Not only do the members appreciate the schedule being constantly updated and current but it has saved her hours of office work that can now be devoted elsewhere in the gym.
Club One launched their first branded mobile apps on Sept. 1, 2011. The app platform was created by MiGym and offers members instant access to view and download class schedules, member promotions and club contacts. “Our membership has been eager to get their hands on a mobile app, and MiGym provided the quickest solution. Feedback from members and staff has been positive,” said Kari Bedgood, the director of marketing for Club One.
Schwan said that clubs that continue to ignore mobile media are doing themselves a disservice. “Mobile is definitely something you want to consider. Maybe not now, but definitely in the future. It’s becoming the component.”
By Ali Cicerchi