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These days mobile apps can do a lot of tricks. As a business tool, mobile apps should help prospect, engage members and manage members. Squeezing all of that into a small digital icon requires the right app for the job.

But do I really need a mobile app? And, if so, what are my choices?

According to a recent IHRSA, ACE and ClubIntel study, club-based mobile applications increased 168 percent between 2013 and 2015. And comScore reports mobile apps now account for more than half of our digital media time spent. The average user scans their smartphone about 110 times a day. We could keep going with jump-off-the-page mobile stats, but the message is clear: mobile is where it’s at and will be as long as we stay addicted to our mobile devices.

Yes. In 2016 you need a mobile app to stay competitive, reach your audience, and execute your business plan. Mobile is the new desktop. Mobile is the new web. Your millennials, club superfans and high-value members are all tied to their mobile devices and mobile apps are the best way to interact with them.

NOW WHAT ARE MY CHOICES?

1. Build your own - The good news about mobile app development is we’re no longer at the pioneering stage. Blazing a $100K trail strapped to the back of untested mobile hacks is no longer necessary. There are a lot of proven companies with impressive portfolios building sleek native apps with powerful functionality. Unfortunately, this route requires constant updating and optimizing by developers that may not know your business, or be able to stay in business.

2. Buy off-the-shelf - Go online and you’ll discover a bumper crop of template-type web apps for small businesses. Providing basic functionality and fast deployment, the template app has a generic look and feel that will bore or anger heavy app users. These are great for a food truck but not a full-service health club.

Beyond basic branding and contact info, the off-the-shelf option leaves a lot on the table, namely the lack of integration of back-end applications and robust billing and payment options.

3. Fully integrated app - Imagine migrating key parts of your existing software platform into a mobile environment. Then add the latest mobile genius to it. Working in harmony with your enterprise-grade applications, this fully integrated app truly streamlines your sales, marketing and operations efforts.

BENEFITS OF AN INTEGRATED APP:
  • - automated scheduling and registration
  • - account management and CRM
  • - secure billing and payment options
  • - custom club features and modules
  • - geo-aware technology and Passbook integration
  • - push notifications and social media

The benefits of an integrated app magnify if your software provider also designed your mobile app. This insures seamless upgrades and dependable support and maintenance. This also insures app customization is consistent with industry trends. Buying off-the-shelf limits your mobile capabilities, reducing your chances of app survival and mobile success. And developing your own app doesn’t take full advantage of a health and fitness expert capable of delivering true integration.

Let’s get back to why we want a mobile app in the first place: prospect, engage members, and manage members. Integrated mobile apps can make all of this happen.

LET’S SEE HOW.

Prospect - Acquiring new members is the lifeblood of health and fitness. All managers would want a tool that shortens sales cycles and closes more prospects.

An integrated app works like a multi-bit power tool for your sales team. App customization enables a wealth of opportunities to entice prospects with guest passes, promotions, and targeted club info. Once the leads are generated, your sales team can siphon those leads from your app as a function of your CRM software. Then, as follow-up, sales can connect with those leads using preferred mobile devices and operating systems.

In addition, linking and updating social media accounts through your app increase awareness and referrals.Your mobile app can make a great first impression, and provide the hook needed to catch a mobile-first customer.

Engage members - Push notifications, push notifications and more push notifications. Push notifications are a mobile marketing miracle. Having the power to connect with members at the right time, in the right place, with the right message is unique to mobile marketing.

Also, your app should include a feedback feature. Feedback features create the open forum and real-time intel smart marketers crave.Integrated apps create big opportunities to gather data and run analytics, leading to more personalized marketing and better use of resources.

Manage members - Receive updated customer profiles. Create dynamic schedules. Allow registration for classes and programs. Bill and accept multiple forms of payment. Using an app syncing with and feeding off your existing software system takes member management to another level.

With an integrated app account management and CRM are actually pushed to the edge, delivering on the promise of mobile business for businesses not named Amazon.

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