Auckland, New Zealand — Les Mills International, the Auckland, New Zealand-based distributor of group exercise-to-music programs, uses Webinars to market to its customers and potential customers. It's a tactic that Marketing Director Vaughan Schwass says club owners could also use with their members and potential members.

“I think that as part of developing sociability in clubs, I see a great possibility for club owners to run Webinars with their members,” Schwass says. From the comfort of their own homes, members could sit in on a Webinar about nutrition, strength training or another topic related to health and fitness.

“It's a way of adding extra value to your club for club members. You make sure you are creating real value for your members,” he says.

Schwass wouldn't say how much it costs to produce a Webinar, but he said the cost of the technology is relatively affordable.

“The cost is promoting and marketing it and preparing presentations and delivering content,” he says. Despite those costs, Webinars are a relatively affordable way to reach out to existing and potential customers, he says, despite not charging for attendance.

“We can reach 250 people with good, quality information in a relatively affordable way,” Schwass says. “To me, it's an affordable way to share information with a wider group of people.”

Webinars are like a virtual group of people, Schwass says. Attendees can listen to the presentation, ask questions and vote.

“The more interactive it becomes, the more powerful it becomes,” he says.

The company began sponsoring Webinars in early 2007 as a way to reach its broad base of U.S. customers on a regular basis without running up tremendous travel costs. Last year, Les Mills held three Webinars. This year, the company will hold six.

“For our existing customers, we felt it was a good way to give them continuing education to get the best out of our product,” Schwass says. “For potential customers, it was a way for us to be able to talk to them about our product in a remote way.”

Attendance for the Webinars varies depending on the subject matter, but it averages about 250 people. Topics for Webinars include maximizing membership sales through group fitness, instructor recruitment, the power of quarterly relaunches of programs and how to get the most out of e-club, which is the online marketing resource library set up by Les Mills. Because the e-club topic relates specifically to Les Mills programs, attendees were predominantly existing customers. However, one seminar on how to get the most out of group exercise programs had an attendance of 30 percent Les Mills customers and 70 percent potential customers, Schwass says.

Webinar presentations on Les Mills-specific topics are presented by Les Mills employees. However, more general topics typically call for a third-party presenter, often a consultant in the industry, says Schwass.

When people sign up for a Webinar, the information they input to register is shared with Les Mills agents in their area. Those agents then follow up with the registrants to see if they need additional information.

“Our agents have been very positive about the power of Webinars,” says Schwass, referring to the number of leads that have been generated.