It is amazing in the year 2002 how many fitness facilities cannot clearly summarize their objective for having a Web site. If you need help clarifying your online mission statement, look at the following “Big 7” outline suggested by Successful.com, an Internet marketing agency.

  • BUILDING BRAND AWARENESS AND LOYALTY

    No matter what your target segment, clubs need to promote themselves and their product or service (brand) to a target market segment. Your Web brand marketing tactics may consist of promotions and creative sponsorships, but they can also include aggressive cross-linking of your Internet site or specific page content with other sites (i.e. supplier Web pages featuring the product lines you use or sell), plus well-placed listings on major search engines.

  • DIRECT RESPONSE PROMOS

    Given the one-on-one nature of the Web, e-mail and other online promotions can generate immediate action from your target audience(s). However, there is a difference between promotions that help build brand awareness or loyalty, and promotions that entice people to take an immediate action. Knowing your online needs can help solidify the correct message and direction for these promotions.

  • EDUCATING YOUR MARKET

    Market education goes beyond making people aware of your brand. It includes giving customers and prospects an in-depth understanding of your services, plus allowing consumers to find that information fast through easily navigated pages.

  • VIRTUAL CLUB TOUR

    This is a highly effective way to build people's comfort levels, plus get them to make a visitation decision on the spot after already being there once — virtually.

  • PUBLIC RELATIONS

    Many journalists who may be the targets of your PR efforts go online to communicate with clubs and are looking for facility and/or company information. Make your site work for writers by posting all news releases on your site, and don't forget to list an e-mail address for a media contact.

  • RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

    One of the most overlooked benefits of the Web is its research potential. Feedback can make the biggest difference in a club's ability to be profitable. Organize your database of contacts into targeted sub-segments for ongoing e-mail communication, and remember to include an incentive — no matter how small (i.e. free downloadable calorie or carb chart) — to return surveys back within 24 to 72 hours.

  • SERVICE AND SUPPORT

    A presence on the Web infers your organization is open to communication via the Internet. There should be easy-to-find sections of your site for phone and e-mail addresses, as well as street mailing address, fax numbers, a map to your club location(s), and contact names.

  • Kellee K. “Sparky” Harris is a contributing editor for Sporting Goods Magazine, Billiards Digest and NSGA Retail Focus. She can be reached via e-mail at KKHarris@aol.com.