Your gym needs a strong digital presence.
You have one chance to turn a browser into an interested client, a single opportunity to get them to choose you instead of the gym down the street.
Do not underestimate the need to excel here. Every consumer in the connected world now builds their impression of your gym’s professionalism, potential for fun, and suitability to their needs via the Internet. They forego the cost of an in-person visit for the convenience of a quick digital snapshot, every time.
If you fail here, your success will suffer, and you’ll never know they came looking. On the other hand, if you can hook them quickly and get them to love your gym on sight, your odds of turning them into paying client skyrocket.
1. The Landing Page
Most customers never make it past your digital front door. Why? They see the hero image, the introductory copy, and the logo, it doesn’t speak to their needs, and they leave.
You have ten seconds to show them exactly what they want, a convincing argument that they’ve come to the right place. Create copy that welcomes them and tells them what you can do for them, coupled with an easy-to-use signup form that gets them in the door.
Write in your natural voice, like you’re talking to a friend, rather than resorting to marketing-speak.
Your landing page should use a clean, uncluttered design, with a navigation menu that lists no more than four to five possible selections, all of which enable interested browsers to sign up. Think like a client. What would you want to know? I’d suggest your main navigation include the following: Free Trial, Join, Coaches, Membership Benefits, and Schedule.
Make the first image they see beautiful (see below), and dedicate the entire area above the fold to joining: a few words about the free trial class, accessed via your sign-up form and a strong call to action, coupled with the signup form itself. The signup form should clearly communicate its use, i.e. ‘Sign Up Here for Your Free Trial’, along with fields for name, email address, phone number, and a drop-down menu showing dates and times when the free trial is offered.
Remember, the landing page is not about your WOD. It’s the face you show your potential clients, and their pathway to membership. Make sure it is attractive, that it speaks to them, and that it provides an easy path to join.
Further Reading from Hubspot: 8 Brilliant Landing Page Examples
2. Contact Information
The upper right hand corner of every page on the site should contain your phone number, email address, and physical address. Make it easy for anyone who isn’t interested in browsing the site to call, email, or find you immediately. Make sure the phone number goes to the person best equipped to answer any possible questions about the gym (typically the owner) and try to answer on the first ring, every time.
Pictures will do more to influence your potential clients than any other factor. Visitors want to see the spirit of the gym, the quality of the membership, the vibe of the facility. They want to see your professionalism.
Your job is to capture it, along with the joy of membership, in high definition.
Invest in a good camera and a versatile zoom lens (anything Canon makes with a “D” in the name is a good start), and stop taking pictures with your iPhone. Learn the automatic settings of the camera, including “portrait”, “action”, and “macro” and read tutorials on taking good action shots.
Then, start practicing. End the habit of taking a wide-angle photo without a single subject, of trying to capture your entire class. Instead, pick one person at a time, and think about capturing their emotion rather than the equipment they’re using. Show their humanity, not the accessories, and if in doubt, always get closer.
You may take hundred of shots before you find one that is truly compelling. Don’t let this discourage you; ninety-nine percent of media hits the cutting room floor in most professional shops.
Once you have good shots, pictures showing the achievement and ecstasy of belonging to the gym, post them on the web in the largest format that makes sense.
Further Reading: How to Take Tack-Sharp Action Photos
4. Mobile Optimization
The future of Internet access is in your pocket. It’s now 100% guaranteed that prospective clients access your site using a smartphone. This means it needs to looks as impressive on a 4” screen as it does on your desktop.
Short of developing your own mobile site (not a bad idea!), you want to make sure your current website uses responsive design. This means content is selectively displayed or hidden based on available screen real estate, with the most important content taking precedent on smaller screens.
Responsive design ensures you make a good impression on a phone.
Nearly every leader in off-the-shelf websites will take care of this for you (Wordpress, Squarespace, etc.), but it’s worth visiting your site on mobile to see if it gives visitors an easy path to membership. If not, you’ll want to get on a platform that enables strong mobile performance.
Further Reading: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer (Infographic)
5. E-Commerce Functionality
I’m routinely astounded that I cannot purchase a trial membership, pay on-ramp tuition, buy a drop-in pass, or even procure a t-shirt on most gym websites.
E-commerce functionality gives new visitors a quick, easy way to solidify their buying decision on the spot, and it gives current members a way to buy merchandise instantly.
Given the ease of setting up a store on most website platforms, this is something you should strongly consider.
You’ll inevitably find that dollars flow in with almost no effort on your part. Put up compelling copy and good photographs, and you’ll sell thirty-dollar t-shirts (often) and four thousand dollar lifetime memberships (once in a while), all from a platform that most of your competitors won’t offer.
6. Domain Masking and Business Email
Fairly elementary, but there is no reason you should have someone else’s brand in your web or email address. Whatever.wordpress.com is not an acceptable URL. It undermines your status as a professional, and communicates your amateur status to potential clients.
Through a very simple process (look up “DNS Settings” or “A Name” record on your domain provider’s site), you’ll be able to mask the default domain on your off-the-shelf website with your actual .com address.
In the same vein, stop using your Gmail address to communicate with clients. For $5 per user per month, you can have a professional email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) via Google Apps.
There are other things to be done in your move toward digital dominance (social media strategy, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization are the next stops in your curriculum), but the basics of creating a website that converts are right here.
Begin working on your digital presence now, and be the gym that grows instead of the one that flatlines.
This could be the single most important thing you do this year.