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Marketing, Retention, Sales

7 Steps to Grow Your Fitness Studio’s Membership with a Referral Program

Mike Arce

Mike Arce

One of the things that many business owners struggle with is getting new customers. If you don’t already have a referral program at your fitness studio, you miss out on a huge opportunity to get tons of new members in your door. Studies show that not only are people 4X more likely to buy when referred by a friend … but the lifetime value of a new referral member is 16% higher than a non-referral member.

1. Decide on an Incentive for Your Referral Program

Decide how you’ll reward your referring member and your referral. Research shows that offering a referral incentive increases the likelihood that your members will bring in new business … and that the size of the reward doesn’t matter. So take a look at your target demographic and decide what works for your members and for your studio’s budget.

Here are some great examples of incentives that you can offer:

  • Buddy passes — About 44% of gym-goers prefer to exercise with at least 1 other person, so show your members their friends are welcome.
  • A discounted membership — Choose a small dollar amount or percentage to take away from their monthly dues for each person they refer.
  • Gift cards — Support your members in their healthy lifestyle by giving them gift certificates for supplements, nutrition bars, athletic wear, etc.
  • T-shirts — Design a special t-shirt just for members who bring in new referrals, OR award a different t-shirt for each number of new members referred.
  • Rubber wristbands — Give different colors for different numbers of people referred

You Can Personalize Your Referral Program Too

If your studio has members who completely crush it at referrals, consider creating different rewards for different levels of referrals. So someone who brings in 1 referral might get a certain incentive, while someone who brings in 5 might get something else.

Also, have a great incentive in place for the referrals themselves. All of the above examples are great for this. You can also offer a free week or 2 before they sign up. This is a great way to get them to fall in love with your classes.

Some gyms offer a cash incentive to their members or referrals, but we actually recommend steering clear of this practice — non-cash incentives are 24% more effective at bringing results than cash prizes. And if none of these prizes or incentives sound appealing, we covered a TON more ideas in this video:

fitness studio gym referrals

Lastly, when someone wins one of these incentives, be sure to award it publicly, like in front of a full class. There are 2 reasons you want to do this:

  1. Praise and recognition feel good, so that member is now more likely to refer even more new members.
  2. Your other members who watched want that recognition too, so they’re going to work extra hard to reach that level and bring in more business.

2. Keep Your Referral Program Simple

After you decide on an incentive, think about what process your members will go through to refer someone. Less is more here. Too many details or steps can get confusing and hard to follow, and may be frustrating for someone to navigate. So keep it simple.

We like to use a landing page integrated with our CRM for this process. ClickFunnels can link up with your customer database (like MINDBODY) to save your new referral’s name, phone number, email address, and name of the person who referred them so that you can reach out to them to schedule an initial visit.

3. Promote it Well

For your referral program to be as valuable as possible, promote it effectively. Post about it organically on all of your social media accounts. And because 82% of people interact with brands on Facebook, who like a brand on Facebook end up recommending that brand to friends, you may even want to boost those posts so that more of your brand’s followers see it. You should also post about it in your studio’s members-only Facebook group, so that current members have all the tools they need to start referring friends.

Utilize Your Email List

Email marketing is also a great vehicle for getting the news out there to members and fans. So mention it in your monthly or weekly newsletter and include a link to a page where new referrals can sign up for a visit. You should also send out an email blast just about the program to all of your members. And never underestimate the effectiveness of the signature space in your personal emails. We even promote our own referral program this way:

email signature ps referrals

Finally, promote the program in your studio. Have your instructors and coaches mention it before and after classes, and put up signs at the front desk and in the bathrooms announcing the program.

4. Approach Members Directly

Approach your members directly and ASK them for referrals. This makes the entire referral program much more personal. It also helps hold your members accountable and ensures they’ll follow through.

When it comes to asking your members for referrals, approach it the same way you would when asking a new lead to sign up. Here’s how:

get referral program free script

5. Put a Deadline On Your Referral Program

If you really want to motivate your members, trainers, and instructors to bring in new referrals, your referral incentive needs to have a deadline. Pick a date that’s 1 – 2 months out so that you have plenty of time to work your sales magic on the new referrals. Then, make sure this deadline is clear every time your referral program is mentioned — on Facebook and Instagram, in your emails, and in your flyers around the studio.

6. Keep Track of Referrals

This next step is one that a lot of fitness studio owners skip or forget when they start a referral program: Track and measure the referrals that come in. There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, you need to track your new referrals so that everyone gets the appropriate incentive or reward … and so that you’re not doubling up on the amount of freebies you give away. If you use a landing page and CRM for your referral program, this will help organize and sort everything.

A Manual Process Isn’t Wrong Though

You can also make note of this manually in your system. When someone comes in for the first time, have your staff member who signs them in ask which member referred them. If you have them fill out their own hard copy of an intake form and waiver, you can include the name of the person who referred them as another blank on the form. You can also print up some business card-sized referral cards for members to hand out … just make sure they write their name on them first so that you know who the referral is from.

The second reason is to figure out what about the program works and what doesn’t. Here are some specific metrics to track:

  • How many of your members referred someone
  • The average number of people referred per member
  • How many people were referred
  • How many people who were referred purchased a membership or class package
  • If you used more than one referral method, which method brought in the most referrals (ex: landing page vs. referral cards)
  • Your cost per referral (the amount spend promoting your program, divided by the number of people who purchased), as well as your Return on Investment (ROI)

7 Steps to Grow Your Gym’s Membership with a Referral Program

If after looking at these numbers you decide that your program wasn’t as profitable as you’d hoped, take a step back and reexamine what should be changed.

7. Give a Great First Experience

Give your newcomers the best first (and second, and third) experience possible. This is how you stand out from all of the thousands of other fitness studios they could go to.

There are ton of ways you can do this … but that’s another article (or 4 … we’ve written about it here, here, here, and here). Read up on the tips we give in these articles and decide which ones you’ll implement for your studio. Believe me, these strategies are how you’ll sign new members that stick with you for the long haul.What strategies do you use for your fitness studio? Let us know in the comments below!

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