Ever since the term “Internet” was introduced in 1982, online marketing has emerged as a valid and effective way to spread your brand’s message, and speak to both members and prospects. However, your online marketing strategy should be both carefully planned and executed — not all marketing strategies will work for you. Take a look at our online marketing guide for attracting the right prospects, engaging your online visitors and securing that coveted second hit from a qualified, online consumer.
Teresa Coffey-Gordon, the chief marketing officer for Millennium Partners Sports Club Management (the owner of Sports Club/LA), said the key to driving qualified users to your website lies in appealing to your target consumer. “We are always thinking about personalizing the online experience for both members and guests,” she said. “When we talk about driving people to our site, it always boils down to thinking about that target consumer — what types of content do they like? Do they prefer reading, or watching videos — on their laptop or on their phone? By researching the answers to these questions we are able to tailor our message and streamline our workflow.”
Working with a digital agency can help to narrow down the best type of content for your target demographic. California Athletic Clubs (CAC) has worked with MembersFirst, a digital agency and software developer for member-based organizations. With MembersFirst’s advice, CAC “created an authentic experience, visually, that our target audience responds to, through great design, videos and images,” explained Eric Schmitz, the president of CAC.
To create a great visual experience, MembersFirst gave CAC’s site a makeover by adding more white space, improving the quality of images and the site’s general usability. “They brought a level of professionalism to design and to the backend of our site,” said Schmitz, who believes that boasting images and videos that showcase real member experiences is paramount. “Don’t use models for photos,” he said. “All our images are actual members of our clubs.”
Put your best foot forward online, and you’re well on your way to attracting prospects that find your club’s website both appealing, and relevant. “People continue to say content is king, but in our industry, relevant content is king,” said Coffey-Gordon. “You have to remember that everyone is always one click away from going to another site. By personalizing and tailoring your content to your audience, overtime you’ll build trust and loyal visitors who want to engage with you.”
Personalized content could mean simply boasting updated information on new amenities or Group X classes, or providing a solution to problems that plague your target audience. “Prospects want to know everything about the club closest to them,” continued Coffey-Gordon. “When they land on our national site, they typically spend time familiarizing themselves with our brand by interacting with the timeline, and press carousal, and then often make a beeline to the club(s) in their city. From there, they watch the virtual tour of the club and often find themselves looking for amenities and classes.”
Boast relevant content, and both prospects and members will flock to your website to find the information they want, and need.
You offer relevant content that aids in attracting your target consumer to your site. Now, how do you engage them so that they remain interested?
elements® Fitness, a women’s-only franchise from Miami, Fla., recently began using Perkville, a points-based member rewards program to engage its members online. Created to reward members for using club services, members earn points for checking into the gym, interacting with elements® on Facebook and Twitter and much more. These are activities Christopher Palumbo, the founder of elements® Fitness, believes are “positive behaviors.”
These points are tracked online, via Perkville’s web-based platform, which integrates with most club management software. Members receive bi-weekly point balances that are tracked online via a member dashboard. Points can be redeemed for a host of prizes, including personal training sessions or club t-shirts. “We have seen it result in higher referrals, usage and utilization of club services,” said Palumbo, listing some of the benefits. “Our clubs are very pleased with the results, and the program has been a complete win with members and prospects.”
According to Palumbo, rewards programs make sense, even in a club setting. “The best brands offer loyalty programs for their customers,” he said. “Airlines do it, hotels and resorts do it, and retailers do it — all with outstanding results.”
Sports Club/LA has found success engaging with members using a “private trainer selection tool.” Recognizing the importance of personal training to clubs, the tool enables members to select preferred criteria to narrow the choice of trainers down to the one that best suits their training needs.
“Currently, we are seeing quite a bit of [web] traffic to our latest innovation, which is a proprietary private trainer selection tool,” explained Coffey-Gordon. “It is similar to Match.com for the industry, using smart algorithms to match you with a private trainer or instructor who fits your specific needs, schedule and has shared interests.”
According to Coffey-Gordon, innovative engagement tools such as this — which speak to members’ needs — are necessary for clubs looking to stay away from archaic marketing strategies. “As a category leader and innovator, it is in our DNA to challenge the status quo,” she said. “We look to integrate technology where it can improve our members’ experiences. We believe that working with a private trainer can lead to incredible results that truly can change the lives of our members. So, anything that can make the process more engaging and fun for members is high on our priority list.”
Member rewards programs, trainer selection tools and engaging videos and images are all great avenues for engaging content. Continue to offer relevant, personalized content, and you’ll be well on your way to creating lasting relationships with your target consumers. In addition, be constantly on the look out for new marketing strategies — just make sure they fit your brand’s message and will benefit your target audience.
CS: What are some tips for driving members to a club’s website?
JS: The easiest way to drive existing members to a club’s website is to give them tools and content they want. Let them book classes online, let them conduct gym business online, give them the ability to track their progress through your web portal. These are all things that drive repeat member visits.
CS: What are some tips for gym website design?
JS: Because it’s such a highly competitive market, the best gym websites provide current members with tools that encourage repeat visits and also let prospective members get the feel for the brand, before setting foot through the door. Once prospective members arrive at your site, give them a way (and reason) to visit the physical location. And always collect as much information online as possible.
CS: What are the biggest faux-pas you’ve seen in terms of website design?
JS: No information-capture tools, not enough of the vibe, or too much vibe and not enough content. You’ve got to strike the right blend of form and function.
CS: How can clubs ensure members continue to return to their website?
JS: Content and tools. You don’t need to market to members — they’re already your customers. Make the gym-going experience more pleasant by allowing your members to visit your site and book a class or bike, let them pay their bill or update their payment or address information online, offer them incentives for referring their friends — all of the same things you do when they’re on-site. With how fast things move today, providing members with the tools to interact with your gym at their convenience is the key to site user retention and, ultimately, member interaction. The more positive experiences a member has with your gym, the longer they’re likely to stay an active member.
By Rachel Zabonick