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Seven Steps on How to Successfully Implement a Referral Marketing Program

Referrals are one of the best ways to increase business. People trust word-of-mouth marketing more than any other form of marketing. That is why implementing a successful referral marketing program is so important for fitness companies to implement. In this blog post, we will outline seven steps that you can take to make sure your referral marketing program is a success!
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The first step is to come up with an incentive that will encourage your current clients to refer new members to you. We suggest a tiered format for your campaign which is pretty simple and relatively easy on the budget. Take a look:

Level 1: $5 – $10 reward in club bucks for every 5 leads given.

Level 2: For every lead that joins, the referring member gets a free month of membership or club bucks equal to that amount.

Level 3: Grand Prize. This can be anything from a full-service club package to a bicycle or a vacation. (Seek barters for non-club prizes. Better still, I’ll bet you have members that own businesses and will be most enthusiastic to contribute).

Finish with a social event for everyone who participated as a thank you. You can improve event turnout by announcing that the grand prize will be awarded and that you must be present to win.


The second step is to fully develop your marketing strategy. This will involve creating marketing materials, such as flyers and posters, to promote your referral campaign. This is an internal focus and to maintain high energy throughout, your campaign should run for no more than 30 days. A successful marketing strategy includes a mix of marketing vehicles that are layered throughout the promotion to introduce the campaign, reinforce it, remind members of what’s at stake and give them a last-chance call to action.


Introduce the campaign with a member mailer that matches internal signage. This is your opportunity to set the tone and include all pertinent details. The creative should be well branded and exciting with messaging that compels members to act. The mailer should include a free pass or two for members to share with friends. Take a look at these samples to see some effective campaigns.


This is the “buzz” stage where you really start to see things take off. Reinforce the message with staff-member interaction via announcements, create special class passes that match internal signage and use social media posts to inform and encourage dialogue and finally, give staff buttons or tees to wear as they go about their day-to-day tasks. The more involved, and excited, that your team is, the more successful your campaign will be.


Remind members the campaign is ongoing by creating an active display and putting it in a high-traf

fic area of your club. Use counter cards, posters and window clings to drive home the message that there is still time to participate. Send an e-blast reminding members of the campaign and include a mention of the grand prize, to keep the level of excitement up. Set up last-chance to participate announcements by staff, add a small banner over the front of your internal signage that shows how much time is left to get in on the action and amp up your social media posts.


Social events are a great way for everyone to get together and celebrate. Include a group workout featuring a program or equipment you want more members to use. Be sure to offer refreshments and light snacks post workout to keep everyone around for the grand prize award.


It’s always a good idea to recap the campaign and results to your entire membership. You can use e-mail, newsletters, social media and staff to spread the word of your success. Post the results on the active display in the lobby for all to see.

For best results remember to:

• Make sure staff knows what the campaign goals are before and during the month. You may decide to add a staff reward layer to the campaign, as well.

• Have an attractive offer in place for the prospects that come in. The campaign will generate leads. How you treat them once they’re in the club will turn them into your new members. Be warm, friendly and inviting. The hard sell is no longer effective and prospects should be given the opportunity, via your offer, to try before they buy.

• Put a tracking system in place tracking referral leads. This is important because you need to be able to track how many leads each person refers. We recommend using a simple spreadsheet that includes the following information:

– Referrer’s name

– Contact information for the lead

– Notes about the lead

This system will help you keep track of who is referring the most leads and help you follow up with them accordingly.

• What was the campaign ROI? Compare the campaign expenses with the new memberships sold to determine the acquisition cost of these memberships.

• Express your appreciation by sending thank you cards to all the participating members and newly generated leads and members. Consider giving all of them a small ($5 – $10) gift in club bucks, just because!

You’ll want to keep the referral marketing momentum going so consider running your campaign three times a year. Once during high traffic times of fall and New Years, and once during the quieter summer months. You can use the same marketing materials and mix it up with new staff tees, different grand prizes and unique class programs. A marketing plan keeps your energy and focus on execution rather than creating something new every month, which ultimately translates to forward movement and bottom line growth. Be sure to keep the energy high and the messaging fresh.

Now that you know how to successfully implement a referral marketing program, put these steps into action and watch your membership grow! Good luck!

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