Editor's Note: Welcome to From the Lip, a semi-regular opinion column penned by industry vet Michael Scott Scudder. Although you may not always agree with Michael's take on the industry (we sure don't), we hope his razor sharp insights will get you thinking about the way you run your business.

I have been asked by so many people so many times to talk about the use of technology in health clubs, that I frequently feel like Stephen Hawken, the brilliant scientist and author of “A Brief History of Time,” must have felt when questioned about the subject of space and time. In other words, it seems like everybody wants a succinct, how-to short answer on a complex subject.

THE WAY I SEE IT

  • Technological capability in our industry far exceeds technological application. (Translation: most clubs are using their technology like most people use a word processor; clubs think that computers basically check people in — people think that a word-processing program is basically to write a letter.)

  • Most club operators are scared to death of, or sincerely distrust, computer applications.

  • Most clubs think that having a web site gives them an Internet presence.

  • Most club operators would rather buy a treadmill than invest in technological training.
  • The good news is that there are thousands of club web sites, where just three years ago there were a few hundred web sites. That's a good sign. I've reviewed several hundred web sites and most of them are simply posting stuff rather than creating a marketing vehicle. It's a shame that more operators simply don't get it when it comes to technology and the use of the marvelous tools that are so available to help a club market itself.

    I recently read a study from Jay Conrad Levinson's “Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter” that said that less than 10 percent of people will pay attention to a newspaper advertisement; less than 20 percent will respond to a TV or radio commercial (and then only after a dozen repetitions); and approximately 40 percent of people will read a fax; but that more than 80 percent of people will read an e-mail.

    In our clubs, Fit For Life Centers in Fort Worth, TX, we regularly:

  • E-mail a periodic newsletter to all members with e-mail addresses.

  • E-mail “interest offers” to members and guests who have indicated an interest in a certain program.
  • Automatically respond to every e-mail that comes in from our web site.

  • Gain about 10 qualified prospects per week off our web site and have high appointment setting and sales closing ratios with these people.

  • Now is the time for you to get on the bandwagon. Learn the Internet and discover easy, practical applications that will help you make more money, stop spinning your wheels, waste time and spend money you don't need to.

    Remember when fitness was called a flash in the pan — a fad that wouldn't last? I do. Well, the Internet is no flash in the pan. It's here to stay and it is the way we will communicate in the very near future. Get modern. Stop being a dinosaur and get over your “technophobia.”

    Michael Scott Scudder is a 28-year veteran of the fitness industry. He is managing partner of Southwest Club Services, a club management training company. He can be reached at 505-690-5974, by e-mail at scuddertour@directway.com or on his Web site at www.scuddertour.com.

    THE WEB IS HERE — USE IT

  • Collect e-mail addresses from members.
  • Get the e-mail address of every guest or walk-in.
  • Set up e-mail campaigns and e-mail newsletters to get the word out about activities and programs in your club.
  • Send out periodic “interest ticklers” to guest and members via e-mail.
  • Save time and money and labor by using the Internet.