| Text Message Marketing for Fitness Studios

7 Steps for Starting a Gym Referral Program

Last Updated on Mar 14, 2018

Gym referral program ideas are a dime a dozen these days. You can do a Google search and find thousands. Most deal with giving away free months of membership to your referring member. We think you should give out cash, and we’ll tell you why. If you own a gym, and you don’t have a refer a friend program, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase membership and build community in your gym. Referral programs have been around since the beginning of pay-for-service gyms, yet some businesses still aren’t using them to their full advantage. If powerhouse gyms like Healthtrax are using referral programs, you should too! They’re an easy, and normally quite cost effective, way to get more people in the door.

Let’s talk about some basic truths; friends like to work out with each other, friends like to tell friends about good deals, and people like to get rewards and “points” for doing stuff. These three reasons alone should be enough encourage for you to start a refer-a-friend program at your gym, CrossFit box, karate studio, whatever!

Once you’ve decided that starting a refer a friend program would be a good marketing strategy for your business, it’s time to work out the details. Have no fear, the folks at FitnessTexter marketing are here to help you out. Here are the 6 steps(as we see them) to starting a refer a friend program.

1. Decide on the Promotion for the New Referral

First and foremost, you need to figure out a worthwhile promotion to offer the referral. A refer-a-friend gym promotion only works if the promotion is good for the new member and the benefit is great for the referrer. Most FitnessTexter clients give out a free week pass. That works great as a FitnessTexter deal, but you might want to go with something a little more valuable for your referral deal. Maybe a 50% discount on a month of service, or 6 months for the price of 3. Make it a worthwhile promotion so that the person really see the benefit of taking advantage of the deal. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than winning some type of contest and getting a horrible prize as a result. The same mentality goes for your studio’s referral bonus. If you’re not willing to give your current members some quality prizes, why should they care about referring friends to your business.

2. Figure out the Reward for the Referring Member

Before you can even think about starting a referral program, you NEED to make sure that the reward for your current members referring friends is worth it. There are many schools of thought on what makes a good referral deal. I, personally, think that giving out cash per referral makes the most sense. People like cash, and they’ll work hard to get it. If you’re giving out free membership, you’re going to attract some people to your referral program, but you’ll refer a lot more if you give out cash per referral. However, since I know this can seem a bit crazy, there’s still the old reliable “Free Month with Every Referral.” Either way, if you’re charging $150 a month for membership, and you’re giving your current members a $10 discount per referral, FORGET ABOUT IT. Why would they even worry about telling their friends if it isn’t worth their time. However, if you were to give away one free month for every referral that become a paying member, now we’re talking. You won’t even lose any money as a result. The new member will be paying the membership that the referring member would have paid, and then in month 2, you’re getting BOTH members paying membership. Score!

3. Print out Marketing Materials for the Refer a Friend Program

Okay. We’re almost there. Now we have a good deal for the new gym member, as well as a worthwhile reward for the member that did the referring. Now it’s time to promote your deal. Get out there and pay someone to make you a nice marketing banner and referral cards. Our designer friend Mat Vogels does a great job creating PDF flyers for gyms. He’s cost-effective and a great guy to work with. The marketing banner is self-explanatory….”Tell your friends about our gym and get a free month of class!” The referral cards should have your business info, as well as a little area for the referring member to write their name so that they can get the reward should someone present the card when signing up for the gym. There seem to be a common misconception that print is dead; it isn’t. It’s more popular than even. So get out there, print some flyers, and get them up around your business.

4. Leverage Social Media when Introducing Referral Program

Social media, though not our favorite marketing tool, does have good uses. It works great for marketing your FitnessTexter deal, but it also works for spreading the word about a referral program. If you’re offering 1-free month of gym usage, you might get a guy who goes out and finds you 12 new members. He’s going to get a year of free gym membership, but you’re going to get full-price memberships from 12 new members. Pretty good tradeoff. Plus, if that guy is out their talking about your gym, you’re getting added publicity as well. So, make it a point to let EVERYONE know that you’re starting a referral program and that, if they really work hard, they can get free gym for a year, etc.

5. Promote your Refer-a-Friend Program to Current Members

While you’re promoting the refer-a-friend program on Facebook, make sure you let all your current members know about the promotion. Give each of them 5-10 of the referral cards that you had printed up. They can give these to friends, coworkers, relatives, whoever. As long as someone comes in with that card, the referring member will get credit. Have a stack of referral cards at the front desk so that people can grab a few on their way home from tonight’s workout. You’ll be surprised as how many cards you go through when you have a worthwhile deal for your referring members(free month of gym use per member referred or something similar).

6. Make Good on Your Deal and PAY for Referrals

Last but not least, make sure you hold up your end of the bargain and start giving out that cash. You can call it a “Free Month of Membership” but make sure you’re paying out in hard currency. Not some flimsy little piece of paper. Make a show of it and give the member a month’s membership worth of cash after the workout of the day. They’ll be able to walk home with a fat stack of dollar bills in their pocket, and the other members will see that you’re actually true about the referral program; paying out hard-earned cash for every referred member. Once members start seeing you give wads of cash to members for referring their friends, you better believe other members will start telling all their friends and coworkers about your gym.

7. Encourage Your Members to Spread the Words about Referrals

The best possible scenario you will have for your gym referral program is that you have lots and lots of members bringing in lots and lots of referrals. That’s where the benefit of giving out cash instead of membership months makes the difference. If someone gets a free month of membership for every referral, it might not be worth the effort. However, if you’re giving out cash, someone could potentially make a couple extra hundred bucks per month just by becoming your de facto salesperson. If you give out $50 for every referral that comes in your door, and someone gets 10 referrals a month, that’s $500. That’s a nice chunk of change for them to put towards their rent, car, etc.

Well guys, there you have it. Get out there and start a referral program today! It doesn’t take that much effort, but it sure is a worthwhile gym marketing strategy. Figure out some referral program ideas for your gym, create the referral forms, and you’re good to go! Until next time!