Although you can use direct mail pieces, ads and TV commercials to attract potential members to your site, you also can use search engine optimization (SEO) marketing to draw them in from Web searches. By optimizing your site for keywords and phrases, such as "New York health clubs," your site can appear toward the top of search results when users enter that phrase into their Web browser.
"We're very big on seeding," says Howard Brodsky, CEO of New York Health & Racquet Club. "If someone searches ‘New York health clubs,' I want to be in the top three results. We constantly work on keywords. I'm constantly looking on search engines, and if we don't show up in the top three, we work on changing the keywords."
Although Brodsky employs an in-house Web department, site development companies, consultants and ad agencies can assist you with SEO projects. Web sites like www.searchengineguide.com also feature numerous articles about SEO for small businesses.
Simply using keywords throughout your site's copy also can "organically" boost rankings in search results.
"You have to work hard to be in the one to three spots organically," says Rick Bouza, owner of RHB Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in single-source management for health clubs.
Buying key phrases and words is essential, too. Search engines, such as Google, sell keyword-based text ads that appear when a user searches for your target phrases. From the Google home page, you can select the "Advertising Programs" link to learn more.
Brodsky's company courts Generation X and Generation Y customers by advertising on social networking sites like MySpace.
"We do very specific direct marketing on MySpace where we can pick any demographic we want," he says. "We basically place an ad directly on a user's home page."
By advertising on users' pages that fall within a specific age and salary range, Brodsky can pinpoint his target market as well as get statistics about how many people viewed and clicked through his ads. His company also plans to advertise on Facebook.
Read the main article, Online Outreach, for more information on how Internet and e-mail marketing are becoming essential tools for a club's lead generation efforts.