The fitness industry is always in competition with itself. Although we would love to think everyone wants to join a gym, in reality, we are all fighting for the same people, many of whom already belong to another health club or fitness center. That’s why your health club needs a gym referral program. Tapping loyal members for friends and family referrals is one of the most effective methods of luring new customers.
What is a gym referral program?
This is a specific marketing effort created to encourage existing members to refer other people. It can be baked into your signup process, become an ongoing promotion, or involve specific, limited-time events.
Why is a gym referral program important to my health club?
Because your members are an excellent source of good referrals. From a social perspective, we are often friends with similar people. According to IHRSA, 2020 reports:
- A majority of gym members boast household annual incomes above $75,000.
- Members generally stay with a gym for about 4.7 years.
- Average membership cost of between $500 and $700 a year.
So one current customer referring one person can turn into strong, profitable lead. Additionally, and most importantly — if your sales team has a strong referral offer program in place, they can elicit names and contact information from enthusiastic newly signed-up members.
A great gym referral promotion case study
The owners of Core Fitness in Alabama tired of giving away free months in return for referrals. Then owners of two franchise fitness centers, they quickly found members taking advantage of the established promotion. Frequently, current gym clients would circle back and claim responsibility for a new member’s decision. This put Robert and Linda Logan in the awkward situation of trying to validate an unknown.
When they got out from under the franchise, they decided to try a few fresh ideas to generate leads.
Referral business builds on a good client base.
The Logans created a program that engaged their entire gym community but built business specifically within one location. The two gyms are significantly different. One location faces significant challenges from nearby local and national fitness centers. However, the Logans know once they sign up, Core Fitness customers stay members for years, as both gyms are very clean and extraordinarily well maintained with a fit, likable client base.
Giving away prizes in return for referrals
The first promotion centered around Super Bowl. The Logans bought a 65-inch Samsung television and mounted it in the gym. Using Doodly software, Robert created an entertaining 20-second clip that looped 24-hours a day. Members who referred a friend were entered into a drawing for the high-quality TV, along with their referral. The flashing clip and impressive television immediately gained attention and interest. To keep all the members happy, Robert devised ways for nearly everyone to earn tickets.
Robert and Linda have since held two other promotions, learning from each one. Their second event celebrated Memorial Day and featured a Monument six-burner grill with LED lighting. The most recent promotion gave away an even larger television just prior to the NFL/college football season. Each of these efforts garnered about 10 to 12 new members, a number that sounds more compelling when you consider the continuing membership revenue.
Promotions can soon become publicity on social media.
The Logans quickly learned to adapt their promotion to maximize its outcome. Soon, they expanded the promotion to include an incentive to “like us” on Facebook. For every Facebook like and friend referred, they and their referral were entered into the drawing – no limits. In the third campaign, members were asked to write Google reviews for a chance to win the 70-inch television. Robert expected members to pen a sentence or two. Instead, they wrote paragraphs of positive reviews. By the third promotion, the newest members were now referring their friends.
As an added draw, though, the Logans invited local people, including the town’s mayor in one case, to conduct the drawing. The ensuing video ran on their social media pages, as well as on the social media of the individual who pulled the winning tickets – a win-win in publicity that can’t be bought.
Creating a referral program takes planning.
As Core Fitness’s experience shows, developing a good referral program takes creativity and a bit of extra work, but it’s worth it. For a referral program to work it must:
- Provide a compelling offer for both parties.
- Be simple for the member to execute.
- Be communicated effectively through the gym or across marketing channels.
- Involve human interaction to encourage and build excitement.
For more information on selling gym memberships, go to our most recent blog series, How to Sell Gym Memberships. Good luck and keep thinking creatively!
At Gym Insight, our gym membership software provides a clear, transparent picture into your company’s financials, and offers a platform from which to run your business effectively. Our software is built in-house, by fitness club owners. There are no cumbersome third-party plug-ins or complicated protocols, and it’s available for a single, low monthly subscription price — no hidden fees, no links to your payment processor. Call us today for a free demonstration on how we can lower your software management costs and free up time and capital.