Embrace Digital Tools to Boost Membership Sales at Your Gym­­­

From geo-targeting to custom audiences, social media, CRM, and other digital tools have enhanced the membership sales process in endless ways.

From lead generation to prospect management to the sales and enrollment process, there are a plethora of valuable tech options that gyms can explore and utilize.

If your objective is to remain competitive, profitable, and, most importantly, viable in today’s rapidly morphing marketplace, you’re going to want to have them in your toolbox.

More Qualified Leads Through Social Media

When it comes to bottom-line impact, the one area where technology has had the most influence is lead generation.

Dynamic websites that encourage sharing to social media, and have calls to action and contact forms, can be very productive in terms of lead generation as they capture prospect names, emails, and phone numbers at a very low cost.

It wasn’t long ago that a facility needed to spend several thousand dollars to reach 5,000 homes with direct mail. If the message was effective, then you’d get a phone call, but you had to commit the funds without any guarantees. Marginally successful campaigns were common and financially painful.

Fortunately, online advertising has fundamentally changed how clubs market.

Eddie Tock, the CEO of REX Roundtables for Executives, based in Quincy, MA, a global network of health club executives, says it’s not unusual for Roundtable members to have 50% of their sales leads come in through digital sources.

“For some, it’s as high as 80%,” he reports.

Facebook and Google AdWords are the most common platforms used in the fitness industry, with Facebook being the most popular. Key platform strategies that operators rely on to maximize their return on investment (ROI) include pixels, remarketing, ad diversity, and geo-targeting.

What are they, exactly, and how do they work?

Pixels are pieces of code placed on your website to track visitors. When used with other Facebook tools, your business can track sales conversions, re-target ads to previous visitors, and utilize data to refine ads to reach more qualified prospects.

Remarketing, which is called “Custom Audiences” on Facebook, ensures that ads quickly appear in a user’s feed after they’ve clicked on any of your Facebook ads or visited your website. You’ve probably experienced this yourself—when you’ve researched a product and were amazed when an ad for it showed up almost immediately in your Facebook feed.

Ad diversity: Just like having a good marketing mix, ad variety within your Facebook efforts is important. Among the most popular examples are carousel ads that tell a story with multiple images and video in one ad unit; canvas ads that give your viewer an instant-loading, full-screen experience; video ads that, obviously, feature videos; and GIF ads (graphics interchange formats) that often feature animation.

Finally, geo-targeting enables you to target specific geographical areas, a tool that can be combined with Custom Audiences on Facebook.

More Low-cost Options for Audience Building

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Dynamic websites engage leads.

Whether you’re using Facebook, Google, or another social platform, you can try a campaign with very little financial risk. With an investment of just $100 initially, you could test an ad’s effectiveness with regard to clicks and opt-ins.

What’s more, photos and ad copy can be changed in real time to improve their efficacy. Katherine Quinn, a customer service coach at Sneeze-It, a digital marketing firm based in Fairfield, NJ, that specializes in the fitness industry, notes the impact that quick refinements can have.

“A new client of ours, who was creating their own online ads, was achieving a click-through conversion cost of $26,” Quinn says. “With some analysis of their target market, we changed the photo, and, literally, two words in the copy. The conversion cost dropped to $8! When you target the right audience, monitor and measure results, and make the necessary adjustments, it’s possible to spend less to get more members with digital advertising.”

For a lead generation strategy that’s even more aggressive and diverse, consider creating, and leveraging, partnerships with influencers and thought leaders in your target market.

As an example, Vida Fitness, headquartered in Washington, D.C., whose primary market is ages 27 to 39 in the metropolitan area, has had great success with both local and national bloggers.

Mentions in various blogs by Bitches Who Brunch, a group of women who blog about fashion, vacations, and lifestyles in Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago, has been a great way to reach their audience, says Aaron Moore, Vida’s director of operations.

In addition, mentions by local bloggers and neighborhood associations have also been very effective. If your club serves the family market, check out PeachJar, based in San Diego, CA, a national organization that advocates for after-school programs, and offers a digital flyer program that enables clubs to market directly to the parents within a specific school district.

To find more digital marketing opportunities locally, simply identify the associations and organizations that represent your target market and inquire about online advertising. You may find a new approach that’s inexpensive and very effective.

Managing Your Prospects for Better Outcomes

For a club operator, there’s no bigger frustration than spending good money to generate a qualified lead and then not know if your salespeople are doing the proper follow-up.

Old-fashioned paper systems made that process cumbersome, and, frankly, many salespeople detested it. These antiquated methods were also difficult to monitor, and, because the information was often lost when an employee left, accurate sales statistics were hard to generate.

Fortunately, today’s CRM (customer relationship management) software programs remove the inefficient paper trail, and allow for accountability and protection of the lead, regardless of the staffing situation.

“Many of today’s clubs don’t have full-time sales staff,” notes Tock. “And, often, those with sales teams have eliminated the sales manager position for budgetary reasons. As a result, a good sales CRM system that automates the process is essential.”

Such a system is different, and separate from, club management and billing software, as it focuses exclusively on tracking prospects. The three common club sales software programs are Gym Sales, Club OS, and In-Touch.

Beth Saroka, the owner of Onslow Fitness, in Jacksonville, NC, has purchased and used all three in recent years.

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Integrated online calendars and reports help keep staff on track.

“Each has its own pros and cons,” she says. “My staff prefers Gym Sales, because it’s simple to use, with an integrated daily dashboard that tells them what follow-ups need to be done that day, without having to pull a report.”

CRM systems also have improved the sales process itself.

Now, some staff members make their price presentations using an iPad, which is very flexible. Others continue to use a desktop computer or a paper rate sheet.

Regardless of how the price presentation is made, most clubs have gone to paperless contracts. Vida Fitness is now completely paperless when it comes to guest registrations, waivers, and contracts.

Notes Moore, “We actually do 85% of our enrollments using our website portal—even when the guest is completing ‘paperwork’ at the club. The salesperson opens the online registration using an iPad, and hands it to the customer to complete. Since the vast majority of our members are Millennials, this is natural for them, and it feels more secure.”

“Today’s CRM software programs remove the inefficient paper trail, and allow for accountability and protection of the lead, regardless of the staffing situation. ”

And, it’s not just younger prospects who are embracing technology. Take fitness consultant Dante Briggins, who’s been selling memberships at Gold’s Gym, in Newburgh, NY, for 14 years. He embraces and loves the change.

“Eliminating the mountain of paper that used to be on my desk has made me more organized. In addition, Club OS provides me with an agenda detailing exactly what I need to do each day, making me more time-efficient. Members like it, too. It builds more value into our membership.”

The power of data and analytics Like compounding interest, using technology throughout every stage of the sales process will help you improve and refine your systems and, ultimately, the outcomes. The benefits will accrue over time. That’s because technology constantly collects invaluable data that provides answers to your toughest business strategy questions.

Veteran consultant Mary Laudati, the founder of New York City–based Mary Laudati Sales Consulting, puts it well: “There’s amazing technology to track your marketing ROI and sales trends. Use it to identify significant KPIs and, most importantly, to create a productive work environment. When executed correctly, technology helps drive winning results.”

As Briggins reminds us, “If you don’t embrace it, someone else in your market will.”

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