Reason #1 - Create and Foster an Online Community
I took the opportunity to reach out to Elaine Barnard, a key member of the Lake County YMCA staff. Elaine has been in and around the YMCA community for over 25 years. She knows the Y mission inside and out. I asked her, why should a Y care about its website? Rather than me translate her thoughts, I’d like to provide you Elaine’s comments.
Today, building relationships isn’t limited to connecting to people in person. Millions of people plug in every day and Y’s need to be there. An August Harvard Business Review article about the death of marketing explained "Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews."
When we connect to people online, it’s our opportunity to not only build relationships, but also build a reputation . . . prove we are experts in the community. This won’t happen magically. It requires a commitment, strategy and planning. Our online presence needs to be more than electronic bulletin board for posting events, promoting programs, announcing closings and cancellations. It’s our opportunity to tell REAL stories, share healthy recipes or simple exercise routines, speak to busy families, tell people what makes us different and PROVE THAT WE'RE MORE THAN A GYM!
Elaine has many good points, and what I like about these points, they are from her perspective. A view from the inside of a YMCA, not James Harsh the Web Solution Sales guy. The Internet is always on, your members and prospective members are looking for information at all hours of the day. Inbound 2012 states “89% of people in the US search online before they make a purchase, even when the purchase is made at a local business”. That’s an astounding amount of people! What is your website saying to them? Is your website easy to navigate? Does your digital image look professional? Is a visitor “invited” for a free trial?
Not only are these web visitors on their desktop and laptop, but many are accessing your site on their mobile phone. Inbound 2012 provides us with another interesting statistic, “2014 is when mobile Internet usage is expected to surpass desktop Internet usage”. This boggles my mind but I would agree as I use my iPhone more and more to search the web. Does your website load properly on a mobile phone? Or, is it just a micro version of your full website that is impossible to read or navigate? Google states that 9 out of 10 people take action when searching from a mobile device. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you can say goodbye to that potential member or lost parent trying to find the swim meet from their mobile phone.
There is not much I can add to Elaine’s points above. Elaine is the expert. You are the expert. You know the YMCA mission. The challenge is to transfer everything you know and do into the digital world. If you don’t, as Gary Vaynerchuk says, “you will die”. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is the truth. The way we do business has forever changed. And, if you dive into a bit, you won’t be scared because what you will find out is that the ones “who care, are the ones that will win on the web.” This also comes from Gary Vaynerchuk, social media trailblazer. The days when doing the right thing for your customer and truly caring about your customer are back. If this doesn’t fit perfectly into the YMCA mission, then I am not sure what will.
YMCA web presence matters! Your website should be the foundation of all your marketing efforts. What is your website saying about you?