WebSavvy Mailbag: Reader Q&A

We invited readers to ask their questions about how to capitalize on the web in their health clubs, yoga studios, wellness centers, employee wellness programs and more.

1) What are QR codes?

Businesses place these square barcodes on websites, billboards, flyers, print ads, or another printed surface like a water bottle or t-shirt.  Here’s an example on the side of a building:

People scan the codes with their mobile phones. That scan then initiates an action: connecting to a website, sending an email, or making a phone call.

Generating the code is free.  Here’s the secret to success: synch the action they trigger with the promotion containing the QR code. For example, if the code triggers a web link or phone call, send them straight to a targeted page or a fully-prepped staffer’s telephone, not just to your home page or to your front desk.

How it works here.

Try creating your own QR codes at Qurify or at QRCode.

Real-life examples here.

2) We have a Facebook site. Do we still need a regular website?

Yes, yes, yes. That’s like saying “We have pillow cases, do we still need sheets?”

Social media is anything but a silver bullet. For most health and wellness businesses, your website combined with smart offline marketing has much more marketing potential than Facebook or Twitter.

You’re not a national retailer like Starbucks or Corner Bakery. How will potential customers know your FB page even exists? And why would they care? The buying process is completely different.

In our industry, it’s tough to motivate non-customers to fan you. And fans only matter if they’re actually listening to what you’re saying (and telling other people about it). Most of your customers are busy folks with serious work and family time commitments. They don’t plan their day around the nearest free Wi-Fi hot spot so they can check Facebook.

Facebook is more likely to interest your current customers than your potential customers. And even there, the impact can be limited.

Sure, at least some of your customers have Facebook accounts and may even “like” your business — but they don’t constantly monitor, post or respond to your Facebook activity. Often when we look at a client’s Facebook page, we notice that all that activity is really just coming from a few people.

3) Is Twitter + Facebook + a monthly newsletter enough?

“We’re focusing our marketing efforts on Twitter and Facebook plus a monthly email newsletter. Do we still need to do any other marketing?”

Closely related to Question 1: Yes, yes, yes. That’s like saying “We have pens, do we still need keyboards?” Effective health and wellness marketing reaches people through multiple channels — that means offline, not just online. For example, a simple direct mail postcard is still one of the most effective marketing techniques out there, and affordable for even smaller wellness businesses.

Neither Twitter or Facebook is very effective at generating leads and converting them to actual sales. Facebook is better for maintaining relationships if you have a consumer business. It’s largely irrelevant if you’re selling business-to-business (B2B) services like corporate wellness.

For example, people walk through your doors every day. The best way to reach them is to talk to them right then and there and/or to give them some form of print marketing that incorporates a compelling next step.

Planning an open house? Yes, we want you to get their email address and encourage them to join your social media sites. But in the moment — at that event — you’re nuts if you don’t have some kind of tangible marketing piece to hand them.

4) How can we get more email addresses?

“We need more email addresses for our newsletter. What’s the best way to get them?”

Read our article 50+ ways that health clubs, fitness centers, yoga studios and corporate wellness businesses can get email subscribers. Pick six ideas and start implementing two per month.

The one thing I wouldn’t do: buy a list. Especially if it’s offered by email at only “pennies an address!” You get what you pay for.

5) Is our search firm ripping us off?

“I’m the new marketing director and discovered that we’re spending quite a bit on paid search with our web developer. I’m not sure about these guys. What should I check out?”

Watch out for web development firms that say they’re also search experts or marketing experts.

Web development and marketing are just not remotely the same skillsets. Search gurus are essentially specialized marketers — they’re smart about how people think about your products and services when they’re online and how they buy them. Search is constantly changing, and local search optimization for a brick-and-mortar health and wellness business is even more specialized. What are the odds that the same folks who developed your site are staying on top of all this? Low, in my opinion.

One good sanity check is simply to invite several quality national or regional search firms specializing in small and medium-sized businesses to make a proposal.

They’ll assess your current situation at no charge as part of their sales effort. Don’t hold back information — share all the reports and data you normally get from your current vendor with them. They’re highly motivated to find and educate you about problems with your current firm, and if nothing else you’ll be much better-educated after meeting with several vendors.

Bad advice we’ve seen on multiple occasions:

  • clients told to create one blog per staff member rather than a single company-wide blog
  • clients told to submit their blog posts for “optimizing” by the search company before they can be posted
  • search firms who always tell you that your search results are great but never show you detailed actuals (especially important: trended month-to-month data)
  • banner ads or pay-per-click advertising, which hardly ever pay off for local health and wellness businesses
  • planting fake customer reviews on popular sites like Yelp
  • keyword stuffing at the bottom of  your home page

A even better indicator: assuming you ask for email signups on your homepage, how many are you actually getting?

And how are basic metrics, like visits to your site, trending from month to month?

Finally, just ask yourself this question: it’s not unusual for even a small wellness business to pay a local firm $500 — $1000/month or more for “online marketing.”

That’s $6000 – $12,000/year. Are you getting that kind of benefit? If you’re not sure, the answer’s usually no.

6) We want to add e-commerce to our site. Who do you recommend?

We recommend using a hosted service, not licensing actual shopping cart software. And DEFINITELY don’t hire a developer who plans to build your shopping cart and e-commerce capabilities from scratch!

If you have a WordPress site, there are lots of good plugins available and Stripe is by far the easiest way to go if you don’t already have a merchant account.

You’ll get more features and much better support and security for a lot less money, without the headaches of paying your web developer to tweak and update purchased software.

The most important price differences usually boil down to: disk storage charges (especially relevant for digital products), number of products, and pricing for certain features (like digital downloads).

DO check out their tech support — you’ll certainly need it at some point. Email support is OK, but it should be prompt, responsive to your question (not just canned answers) and understandable.

DON’T get hung up on setup fees. Most providers offer frequent promotions which waive setup fees. Regardless, setup fees shouldn’t be your primary decision criterion since they’ll be a tiny piece of the overall cost.

Fitness businesses, yoga studios and wellness centers often already have a back-office software provider that handles member, client, and student records and billing. These providers often offer e-commerce services — but don’t assume they’ve got the best features, price or tech support. You still need to comparison-shop, and remember: you CAN negotiate with your back-office provider.

Don’t forget to check the Better Business Bureau before you make a final choice.

7) Besides marketing, what else should we be doing on our website?

Don’t ask us – ask your customers!  And here’s what you should ask:

“What’s the one thing you wish we had on the website?”

Most wellness businesses underutilize the customer service potential of their website.

Examples include: release forms, contracts and waivers, price lists, daily hours of business, UPDATED to address this year’s holidays, food and exercise log sheets, “cheat sheets” with yoga poses, rehab exercises, etc.; food swaps, substitutions and recipes; printable class schedules, online scheduling with health and wellness professionals, a printable simplified map to your place (not just a Google link).

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Leslie Nolen, Radial's president, is the nationally-known expert on the art and science of selling health and wellness.

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