How important is your club's Web site? Is it a retention tool or a way to bring in new members? What should it look like? How much should you spend on designing or redesigning your Web site? These are all questions that need to be addressed if you are considering developing a new Web site or redesigning an old one. At Greenwood Athletic Club, in Denver, we went through a three-month process to improve our Web site and give it a more contemporary, inviting look.

  1. We determined what role our Web site should play in the marketing mix. The Web site should serve as an important communication vehicle for current members providing class schedules and information on programs and soliciting member feedback. So while its primary function is retention of current members, it can also be a valuable lead generator and communication tool for prospective members, since it provides key information about the club in a way that lets them picture what it is like to be a member. Our prospects can go directly to a membership page to request information and even download our application. We also included bios and photos of our marketing staff so these potential members will see a familiar face when they walk in for a tour.

  2. We set criteria for the overall look and feel of the Web site. What is our club's personality? What impression do we want to make and what style needs to be conveyed? How will the appearance of the Web site fit with our marketing materials and the color scheme of the club? We defined these criteria when we bid out the job. We decided to use only photographs of our own members “in action,” including group exercise, cycling, kids club, Pilates and interior as well as exterior shots of the club. We felt that using photos of our own members would show the true spirit of the club, and the members love seeing familiar faces on the site. We also featured a full listing of staff members, with bios and photos of all the trainers, so members can locate particular trainers and communicate with them directly if they'd like.

  3. We determined the functionality of the Web site. What does it need to be able to do and how interactive should it be? At the minimum, it should provide club information, class schedules and program information. We wanted to provide one-click access to all departments and programs with links to exercise schedules and class descriptions. With the help of an online survey on our home page, we now know that more than 80 percent of our members visit the Web site for class schedules and more than 40 percent seek information about programs and special events. We chose to update our schedules weekly and highlight special activities every week via links from our home page to our weekly newsletter and special events. Our quarterly club magazine, The Pulse, is now available online, and we can feature special events, such as races or health seminars, right on the home page.

  4. We set a budget and bid out the job. We solicited three bids and took each potential supplier through the first three steps described above. We gave them an understanding of what we were looking for and what our budget parameters were. Before entering into the design phase, we determined how we would maintain the Web site and how often we would update information. We planned for an online survey and continuous improvements after we launched the site.

  5. We established a process to make it happen. Once we selected a design firm, their first step was to develop a site map and present several designs for the site itself. A Web site is only as good as its content, so we met with our department heads and helped them decide what information to provide. They now understand that the Web site is a representation of their programs and their staff, and they consider it a primary communication and retention tool. We hope that over time, the need for flyers and paper schedules will diminish as members seek information from the Web site on a daily basis.

After only two months, the response from our members has been outstanding. Many are checking the site daily as part of their routine. We have quadrupled our visits per month and dramatically increased our repeat visits, and we are identifying additional improvements for next year to make it even more inviting and effective.

Jennifer Londre is the director of marketing and sales at Greenwood Athletic Club in Greenwood Village, CO. Inquiries can be forwarded to the club at greenwood@greenwoodathleticclub.com.