How to Create a Successful Gym Member Referral Program

A gym member referral program can be powerful and effective for driving revenue and retention. Here's why you need one and how to start one!

Monica Hilton
December 21, 2022
How to Create a Successful Gym Member Referral Program
A gym member referral program can be powerful and effective for driving revenue and retention. Here's why you need one and how to start one!

Did you know that a prospective member is four times more likely to join your gym if they were referred by a friend? In addition, members who came from a referral tend to stick around longer than those who didn’t. This is why a gym member referral program should be a key part of your marketing strategy.

A referral program is a marketing tactic where a business rewards the referring customer, and the person they refer to the business. In the context of a gym, members get rewarded for inviting friends who also decide to join. A referral program is beneficial to both people, as the friend also gets a reward.

Create a gym member referral program

Word-of-mouth has always been the king when it comes to marketing. Today we’re digging into why that is, and looking at some examples of solid referral programs. The goal is to provide you with a step-by-step guide to help you set up a successful gym member referral program.

Why A Gym Member Referral Program Works.

A program like this is highly effective because it turns your gym members into ambassadors. They’re able to reach people with a persuasive message that you might never have converted otherwise. Here are a few reasons why referral programs work so well for fitness businesses:

  1. People generally trust friends and family above all others. Even the best salesman isn’t as powerful as a personal recommendation from a friend.
  2. Most people would much prefer working out with friends to working out alone. Not only are they more likely to join the gym a friend works out at, but they’ll probably stick around for awhile too.
  3. People love rewards and free stuff. It’s a kind of gamification that makes customers feel they are getting more out of their membership without paying more money.
  4. If a member really loves your business and your brand, they’ll want to tell people. It’s satisfying to share good deals, and products or services that they enjoy. Create raving fans and drive gym member referrals.

Benefits Of Creating A Referral Program.

Taking the time to design a gym member member referral program at a gym will yield a variety of benefits:

  • Reach potential members that may not have heard of your gym otherwise.
  • Substantially increase conversion rate for referred friends, compared to those from “normal” marketing strategies.
  • Increase retention rates for current members and their referrals. Both parties will benefit from getting to work out with friends, which makes them stick around longer.
  • Build brand loyalty when members see this opportunity to “win” rewards at your gym. Not only do they get to work out with friends but they get rewarded for spreading the word. This is seen as another perk in providing gym membership value.
Provide perks and build value in gym membership

Examples Of Successful Referral Programs.

Here are a few examples of how gyms have successfully executed a referral program. From ease-of-use to high reward, these strategies have proven to be highly effective.

  • 24-Hour Fitness runs an ongoing program that rewards referrals with a gift. First, the referred friend gets a free three-day pass to the gym. If they sign up, the member chooses either a $20 merch gift card or a complimentary personal training session.
  • Gold’s Gym has an actual “wheel of fortune” in every one of their locations. When a referred friend joins, the member gets to spin the wheel for a prize. The brilliance comes from keeping the wheel in constant view, reminding members to keep spreading the word.
  • One YMCA location runs a program where both parties get a 20% membership discount. The program is simple and highly effective because the current member and their referred friend both benefit equally.

A Step-By-Step Guide for How To Start a Gym Referral Program

Now is the time to kickstart a gym member referral program and start enjoying the benefits. Here are six steps to get it rolling:

1. Determine The Rewards.

Rewards will be an important part of the program but note that it won’t be the primary difference-maker. The American Marketing Association found that the promise of a reward an efficient motivator but the actual size hardly moves the needle. In addition, a University of Chicago study reported that non-cash incentives are 24% more effective than cash.

In accordance with these findings, you’ll benefit most from offering small, non-cash rewards that aren’t profit-prohibitive.

2. Outline The Process.

This is one of those “keep it simple” reminders. In order to get referrals, you need to make sure it’s easily achievable for your members. For instance, it’s not realistic to ask members to fill out a lengthy form online in order to bring a friend. You don’t need the friends’ full biography in order for them to take a class.

Whether you’re handing out guest passes for members to distribute or creating a quick online form, outline the directions. A quick rule of thumb is it should take less than one minute for members to complete the process.

3. Write The Copy.

Now that you’ve determined how your gym member referral program will work, it’s time to create the marketing materials.

Aim to position it as something other than your typical marketing campaign. Portray the program as a way for clients to get more out of their membership. Remember to sell the benefits, not the program itself. For example, talk about how fun it will be for members to work out with friends and get rewards.

4. Get The Word Out.

When introducing a new program - especially one with a high potential impact on revenue - share it on as many platforms as possible. Think of all the ways your members consume your content. From printed flyers on the walls to your gym social media posts, use all of your tools. Your goal here is to get the referral program in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Spread the marketing message to gym members

5. Follow Up With Leads.

Some of your members’ referrals will join immediately and others will need some follow-up. The simplest way to do this is by leveraging technology. Start the entire process online, collecting basic contact info for each referral.

If they don’t join immediately, that doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Proper follow-up significantly increases the chances of conversion down the road. Get them into an automated workflow on your gym CRM and let technology do the rest!

Pro Tip: Want to learn how PushPress Grow can automate your lead follow-up to save you time? Book a demo with our team today!

6. Give ‘Em The Goods.

This is the simplest step, and the most fun for everyone involved. First, it’s a great feeling to reward people for bringing new people to the gym. And second, the fact that you’re rewarding them means you’ve gained new revenue.

Add an extra layer to the fun by taking a picture of the moment they get their gift. Ask your member to share the picture on their social media. This could help to encourage more of their friends and family to inquire as well!

In Summary:

A gym member referral program is one of the most effective marketing campaigns for a fitness business. Since word-of-mouth is such a powerful tool, gyms can harness the power of personalized recommendations. Setting up a strong program is as simple as determining the rewards and outlining the details. Then when you spread the word and follow up with leads, you can enjoy the fun part: Handing out the rewards! Follow these simple steps to drive revenue and retention at your gym.

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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