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How to Market a Gym Referral Program


According to Nielsen, 92% of customers trust referrals from people they know. The research also shows that 85% of fans on Facebook recommend brands to other people. Think about it; if you’re looking for a new restaurant to try out or maybe a new yoga class, you might ask your friends for recommendations. Are you more likely to go because you’ve been referred by a person you trust? The answer is probably yes.  

A referral program can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. But, you can’t just wait for the referrals to come to you. You need to actively market and promote your referral program to see results. Given the opportunity, your members can become your business cheerleaders. In this article, we will walk you through the basics of referral marketing and how to market your gym’s referral program. Skip ahead to:

What is a Referral Program? 

A referral program is a method of introducing new customers to a service or product through referrals. The idea is that when a friend refers someone, they are much more likely to buy a product or try out a new service. A referral program tends to include an incentive for both the referrer and referee; the offer should benefit both parties. By leveraging your current customers, you have the potential to reach a new audience in a much more authentic way. 

Fitness expert Marco Borges created the meal delivery service 22 Days Nutrition. It aims to promote healthy nutrition through plant-based living. Their referral program gives brand advocates 15% off their friends’ purchase back in cash while giving friends 10% off their first purchase. Word of mouth marketing is a vital part of the business, so a refer-a-friend program fits perfectly within its customer acquisition plans. 

If you’re interested in starting a referral program, you’ll need to decide on your incentive or promotion and promote the program. Keep it simple to use, monitor all referrals, and always deliver on your promise. To get you started, we’ve put together a quick guide to creating an effective referral program

3 Reasons to Use Referral Marketing  

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, every day in the United States, there are approximately 2.4 billion conversations about brands. Referral marketing presents a huge opportunity to get in on the conversation and get people talking about your business naturally and organically.  

Increase Customer Loyalty 

Over 65% of marketers say that referral marketing attracts loyal and profitable customers. Referral schemes are a great way to foster customer loyalty and increase customer lifetime value. The more referrals they make, the better the reward, and the more motivated they will feel to promote your brand. 

Targeted Marketing 

Online targeted ads are as effective as the information you supply them with. When it comes to people, no one knows your members’ friends and family as much as they do. This allows your brand message to spread more effectively than other marketing channels. Referred customers are already likely to have a favorable view of your business, making them incredibly valuable.  

Build Trust 

These days, trust is a critical factor for success. A lack of trust can have a significant impact on your business. Think about it; if you don’t trust someone, you’re not going to listen to what they have to say. With referral marketing, the sales pitch is coming from a trusted friend rather than a salesperson. 

11 Steps to Market a Referral Program 

To run a successful referral marketing program, your members need to know about it. You need to entice your members and encourage them to spread the word about your brand. A solid referral marketing strategy is essential for a successful referral program. Let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to market a referral program. 

Do Your Research 

The first stage for any marketing strategy is research. Find out what your customers actually want. With referral marketing, you’re looking to discover an incentive or reward that your members would love. You can research this in a few different ways. One way is to monitor the buying habits of your members. If you sell products, look at what products and services are the most popular. 

Another way to carry out research is by carrying out member surveys. Get your marketing team together and come up with a list of potential rewards. Send out member surveys to find out what reward they would love most. Remember to leave a gap for members to fill out their own alternatives. After all, no one knows your members better than they know themselves.  

Offer Worthwhile Incentives 

Once you have carried out your initial research, you need to decide on a worthwhile incentive that’s valuable and attractive to your members. Combined rewards for both the referrer and referee tend to result in a higher rate of referral as it leads to a shared experience. Give your members a great reason to bring a friend with them so they can try out your gym before signing up for a membership. Ideas for referral incentives include class passes, membership discounts, free branded t-shirt, recovery gear, and other gym merchandise. 

Implement a Referral Program 

Now that you’ve done your research and picked the best incentive, it’s time to implement your referral program. Ensure that it’s easy to use and follow. If it’s complicated to sign up, it may deter members from using it. It should be easy to refer a friend and collect the incentive on offer. Set up your tracking, so you can monitor all referrals and capture contact information for potential customers. 

To find out more about referral programs, listen to Active Growth’s Podcast on Free Traffic: The Refer A Friend Method. The episode discusses the benefits of using a referral program, the psychology and power of recommendation, and what makes a successful referral program.  

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Tell Your Members About Your Referral Program 

You must tell your members about your referral program. Promote it as much as possible across all of your marketing channels and in-person. Treat your referral program like a new product launch or news events, you want to spread the word as much as possible across social media, your website, email, push notifications, and any channels of communication you use. 

Use Targeted Email Marketing 

Email is one of the best ways to get in touch with members directly and quickly. Whether you have a new referral program or want to boost an existing one, it’s essential to get eyes on your message. Create an email to send to your current membership base that promotes the referral program. The process of referring a friend and claiming the reward should be easy, quick, and straightforward. 

To optimize your email strategy for your referral program, use a targeted email list rather than sending it to your whole customer base. Depending on the type of offer or incentive available, look at members who would appreciate the offer the most. For example, if you sell protein powder in your gym, and you have regulars who buy monthly, a referral program with a free protein powder giveaway is ideal for this type of member. 

Integrate Social Sharing into Your Referral Program 

It takes a lot of work to market and promote your referral program. Ideally, try to integrate social sharing into your referral program. Encourage your members to promote your referral program for you. This way, it has the potential to reach an even further audience within your members’ friendship circle and social media network. 

Give your members the option to share a referral link on whatever social site works best for them. Make it easy and quick to share the link straight to their own social media channels. This allows members to rack up rewards through multiple referrals from one link.  

Leverage Influencer Marketing 

Use influencer marketing to help spread the word about your referral program. Use influencers to get in front of as many people as possible. Start to get your audience excited about your offer before sharing the referral program. 

It’s not enough to partner with just any influencer. The influencer and their audience also need to fit with your audience and brand. Choose influencers who use the same social media platform as your audience and ensure there’s a fit between the influencer and your services. For example, a yoga studio would partner well with a yoga Instagram influencer in the same city. We’ve pulled together a guide on how to use Instagram influencer marketing for your fitness business to explain this topic further. 

Reminder in Social Media Bio’s 

To promote your referral program, you want to place it in as many places as you can. One of the most straightforward best practices in a referral campaign is to add information about your program into your social media bios. This is an easy thing you can do that maximizes the reach of your referral program. Your audience is already visiting your social media channels; use it to your advantage. 

Paid Ads Campaign 

Run a paid social media campaign with targeted ads to promote your referral program. Whether it’s paid Facebook Ads or Promoted Tweets, paid ads are a great way to promote services, content, and even referral programs. As paid ads can be extremely targeted, you can target existing members by uploading an email list.  

To help get you started with paid ads, read our ultimate guide to Facebook Ads. We talk you through how to advertise on Facebook and tips for running a successful Facebook Ad. 

Automate Referral Program Marketing 

Automation can be crucial to the success of your referral program. It can also help you to manage the process and get in front of more customers at the right time. Instead of manually emailing your list, set up an automated referral system. For example, when someone pays for a class or gym membership, they might receive an automated message that encourages them to share your brand with a friend. 

Automation is also beneficial to you as a business owner, as it takes on a lot of the process. An automated program can boost your referral system by promoting the referral program, syncing up with the sales team, and even deliver rewards and incentives automatically. This has the potential to boost your referral program’s success seriously. 

Use Content Marketing 

You can use your content in a few different ways to promote your referral program. If you have an active blog, maybe with fitness advice and inspiration, you can include call-to-actions on your blog posts. Every time someone reads a blog post, leave a gentle reminder to refer their friends. 

If you have any existing video content or plan on uploading future videos, add a line about your referral program at the end. Whether you incorporate the referral program into the video or add a line at the end, it’s another way to promote it. 

In Summary 

The bottom line is that you need to promote referral programs for them to be a success. Referral programs can be a very cost-effective way to bring in big business, increase customer loyalty, and build brand awareness. With a killer referral program and a gr offer, referral marketing can be a powerful word of mouth marketing tool to convert prospects into members. 

The Top 10 Barriers
Slowing Your Fitness
Business Growth

In this e-book, we will list the most common barriers that
slow fitness business growth and list some of the tips to
help overcome them.
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