Top 5 Tips to Encourage Member Referrals

1. Timing is Everything

When it comes to asking your members for referrals, timing is everything.  Finding the right moment in your member’s journey is important, as these are the times when they will be most open to giving you a referral.  If you ask your members at the wrong time, you run the risk of putting them off and getting ignored. 

Find those moments when you can catch and engage your members – likely when they are feeling pleased with your club and your products. Once you have discovered when those moments arise, you can then turn that positivity into action! 

Travis Balinas, Product Marketing Manager at OutboundEngine, wrote in his article “How to Pinpoint the Right Time to Ask for Referrals” that “there are no absolutes when it comes to timing except this one thing: your customer must be completely satisfied with your services or product.”

It goes without saying that an unhappy member is not one that you would want to approach for a referral for your club. At the same time, you also want to take advantage of the initial enthusiasm your members feel when they are feeling particularly fulfilled by their experience at your club. Don’t wait until their initial enthusiasm has worn off

But, the good news is that you have numerous chances to ask your members for a referral:

Shortly after they begin their membership: Research shows “customers are most excited about a product right after they purchase it”, therefore this is the perfect time to use this to your advantage to ask for a referral. You can even send out a reminder email or text one week after a new member joins your club, asking them to bring a friend with them for a free workout. 

After social media engagements: Boost your clubs brand by engaging with them on your social media platforms. This will also increase trust in the member. As you likely already know, most of your social media followers are advocating for your gym already on their own pages! When your followers mention or share your club’s name on social media, don’t forget to interact with them and engage with them, because this will show up on their friend’s feeds as well – thus increasing your reach on social media. 

After completing a survey: If a member has already completed a survey and given your club a high score on an NPS (Net Promoter Score) – they have already shown you that they are ready to promote your club to their friends or family. What better timing than this, to ask them for a referral! 

When a member gives you a high rating on your NPS survey (8 out of 10 or higher), you can use that moment to redirect the member to a Thank You landing page informing them of your referral program, or and inviting them to refer their friends. 

Communicating with loyal members: Most of your loyal members are already prepared to refer your gym to friends and family. In fact, some of these members may already be referring others without knowing that you have a referral program. When you do get ready to start a Member Referral Program, make sure to communicate with your loyal members to let them know about it. 

2. Offer the Right Incentives. 

Although, some loyal members are already referring friends and family without any reward, incentives still never hurt! In fact, research shows that 28% of people would refer more products if there were rewards in place for doing it. 

First, determine whether or not you will offer some type of reward in return for a member referral. Ask yourself, who you will reward (the current member and/or the referred member) and what type of incentives you want to offer. A few common rewards include:

  • Discount off of their membership
  • Cash incentives
  • Coupons on products or supplements
  • Free gym swag

Determine which rewards you think will give you the most referrals, and then decide on a value of each reward. Whatever reward you choose to try out, it needs to be something that is attractive enough for your members to promote your gym to their friends and family. 

Another important step – issue the reward as close to the referral action as possible!  

3. Make it easy.

Never assume that your members already know about your referral program, even if they are daily club visitors. Make sure you have your referral program featured prominently at your front desk, on your website, and posted as reminders on your social media platforms as well. Your members should be able to easily find information about your program, this is key to getting members to refer! 

4. Protect their reputation. 

Dr. Ivan Misner—the founder of (Business Networking International) explained one of the core challenges of referral marketing in a single sentence. “When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.”

This is called “reputational risk” and is one of the causes for why some members are hesitant to refer to their friends—even if they love your gym. Your members may also be afraid of ‘spamming’ their social media followers if you require them to constantly share posts.

These are just a few examples that to make reputational risk one of the challenges your gym may discover when launching a member referral program. Therefore, you will need to convince your members that they aren’t risking their reputation by referring friends to your brand.

5. Are your referred members, doing any referring themselves?  

Did you know that referred members are 4 times more likely to refer members to your gym? When members who become introduced to your gym by referral, they are now more open to referring your gym to others, themselves. 

Referred members have the knowledge that your member referral program has incentives, and reputational risk isn’t as a worry to them since they have experienced the side of being referred.

Referred members also are your most loyal members. Studies show that “clients who come from referrals have an average lifetime value that is 16% higher than customers who come from other channels, and the lifetime value of referred customers, measured over a six-year horizon, was 16 % higher, on average, than that of non-referred customers with similar demographics and time of acquisition.” This means that referred members will usually be more apt to refer others themselves.

Place your referred members into a different labeled group that allows you give them extra attention. Once you have identified these referred members, increase the member communication emails that you send out to this group.  Don’t forget to personalize the communication with this group: remind these members that they were referred to your gym and that they could now pass on the positive experience at your gym, to their friends! The longer your chain of referrers, the wider the reach of your brand.  

Don’t be afraid to remind your members about your referral program. 

Members who have taken advantage of your member referral program in the past are more likely to refer again. Promoting your gym’s member referral program regularly is key to its success. When promoting the program, use a more personalized message to those members who have referred members in the past. This might even mean making phone calls, or sending these members texts or direct mail. Re-establish that connection with these members and remind them to keep referring. Since these members have already experienced the incentives of member referral program, they are great candidates to refer again.

Designing a member referral program doesn’t have to be complicated.  Once you have it set up and ready to launch, you will quickly discover that it is worth the time, energy and investment and will allow your gym to benefit substantially.  It’s a win-win for everyone, and your members will turn into the best cost-effective marketing channel for your club!

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