The first time it happens is often in the bathroom. You glimpse yourself in the mirror and unwillingly note the trespass of time. Wherever and whenever this realization happens, usually, and meaningfully, we change the way we lead our lives.

Clubs experience a similar epiphany, and clear awareness of your club's economic life cycle can have an equally sobering effect.

This type of realization about both yourself and your business is an opportunity. If you take advantage of opportunities, they can be transforming. If you shrug them off, you won't secure the gains that will make a difference to your business. Marginal improvements will not be enough to stay competitive. You have to do something fundamentally different; in the process, your business will be fundamentally transformed.

What can your club do that is fundamentally different? Embrace the Internet to power your business.

Overflowing Database

Teeming databases filled with the names of your members and prospects enable you to gather a wealth of information that allows you to establish lasting relationships of mutual value. Obtaining this kind of information is one of the best strategies you can initiate.

The Internet's speed and convenience permit clubs to be of better service to their members and themselves. You can mail to multitudes with the ease of mailing to one. Although we are in the Information Age, we are also in the time-saving age. With e-mail, we can meet the needs of both ages at the same time.

Marketing Made Easy

People are learning to look to the Web for things they want to buy, making the Internet a natural means of marketing. As people learned to use the Yellow Pages in the past, they're now learning to use the Internet to search for the best values and services.

For club owners, this represents a tremendous opportunity to talk to targeted prospects, who single themselves out by visiting a club's Web site.

Even though the Internet seems to be about machines, it's really about people. The Internet allows you to maintain control of your relationships, saves time for you and your members, and increases your ability to satisfy them. The Internet enables you to lower the costs associated with pleasing (i.e., connecting with) members while increasing your productivity, so that members have more to be pleased about.

The Information Superlibrary

The Internet gives access to an unfathomable amount of data that gets bigger every minute, more valuable every hour, better every day and easier to navigate every week. The value of information is so high and the Internet makes it so easy to access, so businesses operating without this particular library card are at a huge disadvantage. Thanks to the Internet, you can learn from your industry, peek in on competitors, obtain up-to-the-minute information from around the world, and stay tuned to change as it happens.

Link, Link, Link

The minute you go online you should be looking for opportunities for fusion marketing. An example of fusion marketing is when an airline's frequent flyer program connects with a hotel chain, a car rental firm and a restaurant chain. Free links, traded links and small-fee links can make you marketing partners with businesses around the corner. You should have your Web address on every header and link with every merchant that is willing to do so. You may even be able to charge them a small fee.

— Jimmy Mack is a managing partner in healthclubexperts.com. Previously, Mack served the Q Club chain as national vice president of the company's lead generation and telemarketing division. He can be reached at jimmymack@ttinational.net or (864) 375-9596.


Healthclub.com Receives 4,000 New Listings

SAN DIEGO — Healthclub.com has added 4,000 new listings to its FindFitness Directory since the feature went live at its Web site in April. The FindFitness Directory is an online global resource that features fitness trainers, facilities, suppliers and organizations in one Web location. Currently, the directory has more than 29,000 listings.

According to Marti West, president and CEO of Healthclub.com, the new listings include both standard listings and upgraded Web page listings in all categories.

“We've had a very strong response from industry suppliers,” she stated in a news release. “At a time when the fitness market is relatively soft, companies are taking a hard look at their marketing and advertising budgets. While some sites offer similar Web page listings, they require expenditures anywhere from $50 to $20,000, without providing the centralized visibility available at Healthclub.com. For $19.95 a month for suppliers and facilities, and just $9.95 a month for trainers, our Web page listings are a tremendous value.”

In addition to the new listings from U.S.-based industry members, Healthclub.com has included international fitness companies. “Everyone likes the idea of a centralized directory,” said Petra Robinson, Healthclub.com's executive vice president. “In the last 30 days we've added facility listings for more than 15 countries, and are currently in development of the technology that will allow us to offer internationally the multi-category listing and search capabilities that we now offer for the U.S.”