Incorporating a Web site into your health club is an excellent way to obtain and retain members. The key? Make the Web site a valuable tool for your club, your existing members and future members. Here's how to do just that in six easy steps.
Decide exactly what you want from your Web site. The first step to building a successful Web site is knowing what you want whether your site will be used to inform new users about your health club, obtain membership leads, provide health information, act as a reference for current members, or all of the above. Even if you aren't familiar with the Internet, picturing your club's perfect Web site in your mind and putting it down on paper will get you started in the right direction.
Find a reputable Web-site development company. The best companies are ones that can do a turnkey job. A turnkey job includes, but is not limited to, designing your site, registering your URL, hosting and updating your site, conducting Internet marketing campaigns and creating e-commerce applications. Another extremely important element is making sure you are confident that your Webmaster will finish your Web site in a time-effective manner and be able to update and improve it when needed.
Create a Web site. This is the point where you sit down with the developers and discuss your Web site. Be sure to bring all the ideas that you thought of in the beginning (Step 1). Go in with an open mind and don't be afraid to express your ideas. The Internet holds endless possibilities. Don't go for the “cookie cutter” approach, or your site will look like everyone else's. Make sure your site is a reflection of your club. Use the same colors that are in your club, and use pictures of your members and your staff. The new thing on the 'Net is to KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Be ready to work. The best thing you can have for your Web site is a Web-site manager: a person who is in charge of, and accountable and responsible for, your Web site. Anyone on your team can take this role. Enthusiasm for the project is more important than knowledge of the Internet (although that helps too!). It is easy to learn the ins and outs of the Internet, but only a dedicated team player will keep the site fresh and always look for ways to improve it.
If you PROMOTE it, they will come! Your club should have a countdown to the first day your Web site goes live. Run a print ad or buy radio time, and let everyone know that your club is on the Internet now! Hold Internet contests that will attract people to your site. Print up special Internet T-shirts and have your whole staff wear them as you count down the days. Continue wearing them for a month after going live.
Market, update, improve... market, update, improve. If you take care of your Web site, it will take care of you. Always update your site. If your site gets old, visitors will stop coming. Make sure you are changing your dated information and keeping your site fresh. You can do this simply by rearranging the pictures. You can also add special fitness articles or even animated graphics! More importantly, once you encourage your members to get your group exercise schedule from your Web site, make sure that the schedule is ALWAYS up-to-date.
A Web site won't become successful overnight. But once you have the site in place, all of the extra time, effort and money will be well worth it. Now that you are on the right path, think of the future and the possibilities that your Web site makes possible.
— Kim Donovan is the director of marketing and advertising for Brick Bodies Health Clubs in Baltimore. She is available for Web-site consultations for health clubs. She can be contacted at (410) 252-8058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.