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How to Start a Gym Referral Program

Picture of Marko Zivanovic
Marko Zivanovic

Content Manager

Learn how to start a referral program for your gym

You may have spent a lot of money on Facebook and Instagram ads, PPC (pay-per-click) ads, or printed flyers to get new members to your gym. However, you’re missing out on a tremendous chance to attract new members if your fitness studio doesn’t have a referral program. Using a referral program can save a lot of money, because it requires very little advertising, or none at all.

Starting a gym membership referral program means you are effectively asking your members to do all of your marketing for you. Your gym members are your best advocates, and referral marketing continues to be one of the best ways to increase membership.

What is a Gym Referral Program?

Gym referral marketing is a marketing technique that uses word of mouth and recommendations to increase the number of customers through the network of existing customers of your gym.

Referring new gym members is cost-effective. The member would serve as a channel to promote and talk about your gym without having to use extra marketing dollars. Members would only suggest your gym to other friends and family in the local area, giving you more potential members.

Research has shown again and again that people still trust the recommendations of people they know. Although many brands compete in the same marketing arenas such as social media and Google ads, people are still inclined to trust recommendations from their friends and family. In fact, potential gym members are four times more likely to sign up for a gym membership if their friends or family recommend it to them.

Why a Referral Program Works for Gyms

A gym member may influence their immediate family and friends to come to the gym just by sharing their physical results. A potential member may experience an internal response when they come to see these results firsthand. They may feel motivated to achieve the same results and feel good about themselves.

Not all gym members like to work out by themselves. Over 44% of gymgoers prefer to exercise accompanied by at least one friend. Friends and family can also be great motivators for gym members to maintain their fitness goals, so they are more likely to stay motivated and to keep exercising as long as they can.

Maintaining a friendly and welcoming atmosphere in your gym is critical to keeping members happy and encouraging them to refer to their family and friends. Your gym members can show your classes and programs to friends and family when they bring them over, taking all the work off your shoulders and seeing your gym membership numbers grow.

What are the Best Referral Programs for Gyms

Before you create a referral program, your current gym members need to have some incentive to spread the word and refer your gym to friends and family. Incentives that appeal to your gym members are critical to the success of your program.

The incentives don’t have to just be cash incentives. According to University of Chicago researchers, non-cash incentives helped boost performance significantly more than cash ones. You need to identify what incentives would appeal to your gym members and what incentives fit your budget so that your gym can offer the best referral rewards.

There are a number of ways you could reward them:

Buddy Passes

When they are referred by a friend, new members usually feel excited and possibly embarrassed at first when they join a new gym or program. Their embarrassment might be a result of seeing different machines, learning new exercise techniques, and passing by physically fit gym members. If new gym members are offered a buddy pass for a referral, they may be more motivated and excited to start their fitness journey with a trusted friend or family member.

Gift Cards

Each referral your gym members provide will help them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Give your gym members gift certificates for supplements, nutrition bars, and athletic apparel. You can network with local restaurants and stores to offer gift cards for gym members.

Discounted Membership

You can never go wrong with offering a discounted gym membership when they refer friends and family. For every referring gym member who refers to someone, take out a small dollar amount or percentage from their monthly membership dues.

Free Gym Merchandise

If you’d like to add a competitive element to the referral program, you can give members free gym merchandise in the form of exclusively branded gym t-shirts. Your referral program may attract other members who want to win the t-shirts, so you have more members joining in the fun of referring to their friends and family.

Referral Challenge

Challenges might be a fantastic way to engage gym members and motivate them to work hard for a prize such as a free week of personal training with their favorite instructor or a spa treatment package in partnership with a local spa. For every successful referral, they earn a number of points. The member with the most points at the end of the referral challenge will win the prize.

How to Create My Own Referral Program

Although selecting an incentive may seem easy, you should consider which steps your gym members have to take to refer others as well as how you plan to track referrals at your gym. You can consider these referral program ideas.

Referral Forms

Providing a referral form that can be found at the front desk of the gym will allow members to fill out their own name and the contact information of the person they are referring to. It would require training for your gym staff members to have members fill out the hardcopy referral form. You can also put a referral page on your gym’s website for members to fill out, but this would take commitment on the part of your members.

Referral Cards

Members can receive referral cards to present to friends and family so that they can tell them about the gym. As a result, if the referral comes back to redeem it, you’ll know whom to thank. However, this can be expensive since printing cards is an additional expense.

Referral Program Software

Rather than using paper forms or cards, a referral program is your best bet to a well-run referral program. Creating a referral program isn’t complicated at all when you use referral program software that allows you to track your gym members’ referrals and analyze your numbers. You can organize all your referrals and gym members’ information so you know whom to reward and who became loyal gym members.

Working with the Best Referral Software

Referrizer Referral marketing tool allows you to track rewards and points to find out who to refer to, since you also do not want to give away more freebies than you planned. You can reach out to the referring member to give them the rewards they deserve after referring to their friends and family.

Schedule a demo now to see why more than 350 gyms love our referral marketing tool.

Lots of software programs can overwhelm anyone, especially those who want software made for local gym owners. The referral program software can take the key learnings from each gym’s membership retention rates and the local market and create regular and successful referral marketing campaigns which align with your business goals.

Create a Great First Experience for Your Referral Marketing

The frequency with which you run a referral marketing program is determined by the size of your gym, your membership, and your needs for new members. Experiment with a few different referral marketing campaigns to see what works best for your gym. If you have chosen an incentive that will greatly appeal to your gym members, it’s time to put your gym referral program to work to motivate more new members to join your gym.

Marko Zivanovic

Content Manager

I use engaging words and strategic approaches to create content that converts.

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Marko Zivanovic

Content Manager

I use engaging words and strategic approaches to create content that converts.

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