There are thousands of ways to start a gym member referral program these days. Most referral programs offer an incentive of a free months of membership to your referring member. But, why not give out cash instead? If you own a gym, and you don’t currently run a ‘refer a friend’ type of program, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase membership and build community in your gym. Referral programs have been around forever, yet some businesses still aren’t using them to their full advantage. Referral programs are a simple and cost effective way to get more people walking into your business.
Here are some basic facts: 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 member referral program at your gym. 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!
You need to decide what promotion will be worthwhile to offer for a 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 gyms give out a free week pass for the new member. That work, 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 sees the benefit of taking advantage of the deal. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than winning some type of contest and getting a horrible prize as a result. The same mentality goes for your fitness center’s referral bonus. If you are not willing to give your current members some quality prizes and incentives, why should they care about referring friends to your business?
Make sure that the reward for your current members referring friends will be worth it. There are many ideas behind what makes a good referral deal. We personally think that giving out cash per referral makes the most sense. People like money, and they’ll work hard to get it. If you’re giving out a 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 for the referral. However, there is 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, don’t even bother! Why would a member bother telling their friends if it isn’t worth their time? However, if you were to give away one free month for every referral that becomes 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. This is a win-win!
Once you have established a good deal for the new gym member, as well as a worthwhile reward for the member that did the referring, it is then time to market and promote your deal. Pay someone to make you a nice marketing banner and referral cards! Make your banner 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 an 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 seems to be a common misconception that print is dead; it isn’t. It’s more popular than ever in all actuality. So get out there, print some flyers, and get them up around your business!
Social media have amazing uses. Use your social media pages to spread 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. Now that is a 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.
While you’re promoting the referral program on your social media, 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 as well, 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).
Don’t forget to 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.
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 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 monthly espenses and bills!
It doesn’t take much effort to start a referral program, 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!