Gym member referral programmes are a great way to unlock more value from your members and grow your membership base. 

They’re a great promotional strategy for gyms big and small, because people value recommendations from friends and family. They want suggestions on where to go and what to try, including the best local gyms. 

According to research by Nielsen Insights, 84% of people trust a recommendation when it comes from someone they know. 

To make sure your gym’s referral campaign is as successful as possible, you need to plan ahead. You need to create a simple, effective referral programme. 

1) Choose The Right Incentives For Your Existing Members

The first secret to a successful referral campaign is choosing the right incentives for your existing members. They’re the people who will be driving all your referrals, and you want to encourage them to talk to as many of their friends and family as possible.

And if you’re asking them to do something for you, you need to give your members something in return. An incentive that makes them want to refer your gym to others. 

Think about what your members will most like – consider reviewing the data you have available within your gym management software to identify relevant trends. What will help retain them and build their loyalty? The top referral incentives are: 

  • Free products from your gym (e.g. food or drink) 
  • Free paid-for activities (e.g. PT sessions)
  • Free membership months (e.g. one month free per new member referred) 

2) Pick A Good Reward For New Members 

You’ll also need to make sure a new membership at your gym is attractive to new prospects. There’s likely to be a lot of competition in your local area, and a referral from a friend likely won’t be enough on it’s own to convince someone to join. 

You’ll need to offer them a reward to sign up. It’s best to focus these on the barriers that prevent people from joining a new health and fitness club. 

  • Cost: Discount the joining fee if they’re referred by a friend or offer a free month to get started 
  • Lack of equipment: Offer free gym gear – like bags, trainers, towels or workout clothes
  • Lack of knowledge: Give free inductions and free introductory PT sessions to help those unsure about the gym ease into a training programme 

3) Bring All Your Team Up To Speed  

One other often overlooked secret to a successful membership referral campaign is making sure your whole team knows about it.

They shouldn’t just be aware of it. They should know every detail, inside out, so it’s second nature to them. 

Ideally, every member of your team should understand all the terms of your referral campaign, including information on the rewards and incentives, and exactly how it works. 

They should be encouraging your members to refer their friends and family at every opportunity, and there shouldn’t be any issues with tracking those referrals. 

4) Promote Your Gym Member Referral Programme

The next step is to spread the word about your membership referral programme. You’ve put the effort into planning all the details, so now you need to make sure everyone knows about it. 

The secret here is making sure you don’t miss an opportunity or a marketing channel. Focus on: 

  • Email & text message – cost-effectively send a blast out to opted-in members with a clear call to action
  • Printed marketing materials – distribute to members and put up throughout your clubs
  • Social media – shout about your referral campaign on all your social channels to attract interest 
  • On your website – advertise your refer-a-friend offers online, so existing members see them whenever they’re booking a class or managing their membership

5) Keep It Simple And Streamlined 

Finally, you’ll always want to make sure your referral campaign is as simple and streamlined as possible. If you bring in multiple membership rewards, a range of incentives and several strategies, you’ll overcomplicate the process. It’ll be confusing to existing members, new prospects, and your team. And as a result, referrals will fall. 

No-one wants to spend time and effort on a complicated referral process. It’s too much hard work. 

That’s why you need to keep your referral campaign as streamlined as possible, minimising the hoops members have to jump through and the details they need to fill in. 

It’s why:

The biggest secret to running a successful referral campaign is efficient automation

The most successful referral campaigns are those which run themselves. Where your team don’t need to constantly think about encouraging members to refer-a-friend and where it’s super simple for your members to make those referrals. 

Those campaigns are built on automation, on efficient gym membership management software that can automatically email or text members to remind them to refer their friends and family. 

It makes for an easy, hassle-free process for everyone. No difficulties for members. No confusion for your team. No barriers to joining for new prospects. 

Just a highly effective and successful referral campaign, all year round. 

Article by Xplor Gym

First published: 15 November 2021

Last updated: 02 February 2024