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IDEA FitnessConnect: Bridge Services With Consumers

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an integrated system that helps you manage all the details of your job as a facility manager or program director? A dynamic platform that serves as a portfolio, staff management system, marketing tool and event registration software? IDEA FitnessConnect fills this bill, and since its launch at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™ last year, the online fitness directory has grown to include more than 130,000 fitness professionals and 25,000 facilities. But it’s more than just a free-to-use, searchable directory of businesses and contacts—specific features also benefit facility management.

“[Fitness professionals] have told us [their] biggest challenges are finding ways to make more money, recruit new members and do so without having to spend all their time marketing,” says Peter Davis, co-owner and CEO of IDEA Health & Fitness Association. “IDEA FitnessConnect provides a variety of groundbreaking tools to increase marketing opportunities and improve member retention.”

Discover the tools that will help you manage your staff, learn ways to improve member relations and gain tips on how to supplement promotional materials.

Claiming Your Facility Profile

Many clubs already exist in the IDEA Fitness Directory (a profile is automatically generated when a fitness professional includes that gym or studio as a training location in his or her profile). Once you find your club in the directory’s home page (www.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect), the first step is to claim it (the option to add a facility is available if yours isn’t listed). Listing a facility is free; requests may take 3–5 days to authenticate.

All IDEA FitnessConnect club profiles start with a default template: an overview page for description, amenities, contact information, facility size, membership options and hours of operation. Additional tabs are available for listing classes and events, showcasing videos, featuring member success stories and authoring a blog. You may customize the profile with logos and include outgoing links to websites and other social media profiles (e.g., Facebook and Twitter™).

A “Verified” Staff Means a Certified Staff

IDEA FitnessConnect is the first online fitness directory to collaborate with accredited certification agencies to openly verify the credentials listed in a fitness professional’s profile. This keeps managers informed about the certification status of current staff and fitness professionals in their area.

“[IDEA FitnessConnect] allows the industry to offer greater transparency surrounding professional certifications,” says Scott Goudeseune, president and CEO of the American Council on Exericse (ACE), and one of the first to align his organization with IDEA FitnessConnect’s initiatives. “We feel this unifying step strengthens our industry’s credibility as a whole, which helps raise the profile of all fitness professionals and ensure safe, reliable fitness instruction across the industry.”

A “Staff Management” tab is available only in club profiles. It lists all fitness professionals associated with the facility and makes it convenient for managers and directors to follow up on certifications, continuing education courses and staff CPR/AED status. Of course, to make the most of this feature, your staff must also have IDEA FitnessConnect profiles (see the sidebar “Getting Your Staff on Board”).

Increase Touch-Points With Consumers

Membership sales and retention are part of what makes clubs successful. IDEA FitnessConnect has several tools to help clubs generate new leads and improve member relations. One way to do this is by enabling the “Guest Pass” button on the club profile. Any time visitors request a pass, their names and contact information are added to the profile’s “Members & Leads” tab (hidden from public view) for follow-up.

The free monthly “member newsletter” is another complimentary service. It simplifies the process of creating and distributing e-newsletters for busy managers. IDEA’s award-winning editorial team provides most of the newsletter’s educational content, which includes three articles written for the fitness consumer, a “Move of the Month” video and one healthy recipe. Managers simply add the facility logo, edit the distribution list and personalize the introduction.

The most engaging part of the IDEA FitnessConnect platform is the “Reviews and Ratings” feature. Comments can be posted by anyone, on any aspect of your club—from its profile page and professional staff bios to all uploaded videos and scheduled classes/events. This informal feedback (coupled with the platform’s built-in analytics) can be integral to monitoring club culture and developing future initiatives.

A Stronger Cross-Marketing Strategy

The more information you include on your club pages, the more likely the profile will rank higher in consumer searches within your ZIP code. “We don’t see the IDEA FitnessConnect facility profiles as a substitute for a website or blog, but instead as something that complements a facility’s website,” says Jason Davis, internet revenue director at IDEA. “We simply want to drive as much business to the facility directly from the club profile, whether it’s through a direct referral from a guest pass or by linking consumers to the facility’s website.”

Having a club profile on IDEA FitnessConnect can impact your promotional efforts in the following ways:

The Syndicate Advantage

IDEA is partnering with other websites to reach consumers who are looking for health clubs and fitness services. Besides being on www.ideafit.com, the IDEA FitnessConnect directory will be syndicated to other online audiences through Fitness Magazine.com, SparkPeople® and—coming soon—Active.com®, WebMD® and the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) websites. This means potential exposure to an audience of millions.

Social Media Integration

Social media profiles from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs can be linked to all club profiles. Consider adding a visual tour of the facility under the “Video” tab and synchronizing your current blog (or starting a new blog) on your profile’s “Blog” tab.

Website Enhancer

If your facility already has a website, supplement it with outbound links to your IDEA FitnessConnect profile. Feature the schedule and upcoming events on your website, but link to the “Classes and Events” tab on your profile for registration. Instead of building your staff page online, link to the staff page in IDEA FitnessConnect (which automatically updates when a fitness professional adds or removes the club location from his or her own profile). Embed a “Profile Badge” on your website or blog to send visitors back to your club page for a guest pass.

“[IDEA FitnessConnect] is definitely a great tool to [draw] awareness to your facility and help manage your staff certifications,” says Julie Wilcox, general manager of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. Several of her staff members have created their professional profiles on IDEA FitnessConnect and can see how their listings have impacted the club’s ratings.

IDEA FitnessConnect is another powerful tool in a club management toolbox. If you have not fully explored this platform, you might consider integrating some of its features. While the directory continues to get use from fitness professionals, more consumers are using it to find facilities and services—not just those closest to them, but the highest-rated ones (maybe yours?).

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