Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps fitness facility operators find and keep members. Understanding customer behavior and tracking sales opportunities are tough without an automated system for managing customer relationships. In today's market, prospects are smarter, and members expect more from your staff and services. CRM turns these challenges into opportunities, uniting sales, marketing and customer service across a single platform that not only provides customer intelligence but also differentiates your facility. 

Regardless of facility size or service scope, CRM software is a must-have for any business looking for an edge. The perception that CRM is only for large enterprises is dying fast. Health and fitness clubs deal with the same multichannel marketing and customer empowerment challenges that giant retailers face.

"CRM will be at the heart of digital initiatives in coming years," says Joanne Correia, research vice president at Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company in Stamford, CT. "This is one technology area that will definitely get funding as digital business is crucial to remaining competitive."

Getting to know your customer is not a trend. Using technology to get the most out of your business is no longer a luxury. CRM software reduces complexity. It redirects your resources toward people and processes that drive a modern health and fitness facility.

CRM software tracks, measures and details customer behavior, leading to smarter decisions and more profitable relationships.

So how will CRM software benefit your facility? How do you implement a CRM solution without headaches and hiccups? The answers to those questions and how CRM grows business are below.

1. Sell more. CRM software is all about selling more. And, of course, it is about retaining existing customers because the cost of finding new ones is three to five times more expensive.

We work in a competitive market with fickle, informed customers, and having the ability to execute a sales strategy and stick to a process using a tool built for sales, marketing and support is invaluable. No more sales plans guided by gut feelings, naive projections and old data. CRM puts everybody on the same page and puts processes and plans on track.

In a CRM world, leads come in bunches and sales close like clockwork. Repeat business means big business when your CRM system generates so much customer data that opportunities appear out of nowhere. Marketing can track customer behavior and create targeted promotions with a higher probability of success. This squeezes time and saves money.

CRM is a weapon for customer service, too. Finding that intersection between customer needs and facility strengths helps keep customers happy and loyal. Again, CRM software is all about making more sales and retaining more customers. 

2. Manage better. CRM software allows sales managers to focus forward and hit sales targets because everybody is armed with up-to-date intelligence. Hot leads no longer disappear. It becomes easy to track deals from first contact to close without any surprises. Response times are a function of design, not intuition.

When was the last time you felt confident in your sales pipeline? How about your forecast? CRM won't make your numbers but will provide real insight into deals and a formula for making smarter decisions. 

3. Boost efficiency. Without CRM, salespeople spend more time looking for information than selling memberships and services. Managers never know exactly what their salespeople are doing. CRM software helps bridge these knowledge gaps. Communication will improve, workflows will become smoother, and everyone will be better organized. It's nice when efficiency leads to bigger sales numbers and not just lower costs. 

4. Deploy in cloud. CRM SaaS solutions have reached critical mass. In fact, Forrester Research included cloud deployment as a top trend for CRM in 2014. Why CRM in the cloud? Yes, it is less expensive to deploy in the cloud. But the downstream benefit is speed and agility for adapting to changes—both internal and external—that can undermine your plans and sabotage your success. CRM in the cloud makes you more adaptable, minimizing churn and maximizing the customer experience. 

5. Integrate, integrate, integrate. First, choose software that integrates seamlessly with your existing customer applications. The alternative can be painful. Once you are good and compatible, integration benefits start rolling in. Your entire staff can now leverage a 360-degree view of both new and existing members. From Excel to Outlook, from sales to segmentation, all of your customer data tells the same story. CRM software represents a unified technology stack that shortens the learning curve and positions your people and services for success.

Here are four ways to choose a CRM solution:

1. Define requirements

  • Choose a CRM package tailored to the size of your facility.
  • Align software capabilities with business goals.
  • Are social and mobile part of your marketing mix?
  • Start with one or two (reachable) goals to ensure early returns.

2. Consider costs

  • Select a vendor that can adapt to your needs and budget.
  • Budget for more than just licensing. What will training and process change really cost? Are there opportunity costs associated with keeping the status quo or waiting until next year to purchase?
  • Figure ROI into the equation.

3. Select a vendor

  • Do research, ask questions and talk to your peers.
  • Does the CRM vendor have experience in the health and fitness industry? If so, how are your competitors using CRM to keep customers and drive membership?
  • Is your data management software truly compatible with the vendor offering? Are the vendor technology partners with the companies behind your existing customer-driven applications?
  • With a lot of CRM options in the market, is your potential vendor around for the long haul to update and support?

4. Get buy-in

  • Identify and address all obstacles before implementation, including people and processes.
  • Rally the troops—sales, marketing, customer service and management—in support of the CRM initiative.
  • Pick a tech-savvy employee to champion the effort.
  • Reinforce to your business users how and why CRM builds better customer relationships.

The time for CRM software is now. Make it the engine behind your new sales machine.

Content Sponsored by CSI Software.

Rory Crump has more than 15 years of data management experience, including network design, technology support and market planning. He specializes in virtualization, enterprise software, cloud platforms and big data tools and technologies. Crump is the creative technology writer for CSI Software, a leading provider of software and services for the health and fitness industry. He is responsible for helping develop and execute CSI Software marketing and communication initiatives.