Is The Member Referral System Dead?

From the outset, we need to get something straight: in a fitness business the number one source of enquiries and new members, has always been and will always be referrals and word-of-mouth.

But I would suggest the old referral system is done and dead. In fact, I would go so far as to say the old system was illogical and therefore always destined to eventually meet its end.

It never made sense to me that as an industry, at the point of joining– before we’d even shown them results or provided anything to them – we asked for the names and contact details of their friends.

Nevertheless, the system worked for years and in some locations may still be successful today.

I believe though, that today’s modern consumer will tell people about us when we have earned that right. In other words, only when we deliver everything that we’ve promised them, will we have a good chance to gain referral business. At this point, they will be a proud member of our tribe and be eager to share their experience both online and face-to-face with their peers.

I believe in this modern-day, three-step referral system:

  1. When the new member joins pre-frame them that you will ask for referrals in 30 days, once they have enjoyed the club and once “we are delivering what I have promised you.”
  2. The salesperson follows the new member through their first 30 days, touching base with them at least five times. This should be a combination of a phone call, email, snail mail, text and face-to-face chat. These catch-ups are about building and strengthening the relationship between the salesperson and the new member.
  3. Around the 30 day mark, the salesperson sets up a face-to-face catch-up and follows through on the offer to provide passes for friends and family to come and try the club out.

In my experience, this system works brilliantly for new members, so what about the hundreds of members you already have? How can they effectively refer new members to you? Great question! Personally, I think this is a weakness in our traditional business model, because often, we have no proactive way for our members to invite new people to the club. Some may use their own initiative and enquire or just bring a guest along, but others may simply not know what to do and therefore do nothing.

To acquire ongoing referrals we need to make it super easy for people to bring a friend into the club or studio.

As such, there should be forms located around the club for members to complete, and there should be consistent reminders of the club’s ongoing referral system. The reminder should be full of WIIFM’s – “what’s in it for the member” and “what’s in it for the guest”? Change the imagery up every two months, and always be reminding your current members that can refer a friend at any time.

Another thing that I’ve found to be effective is the three trial passes system. Here’s how that works:

  • Trial Pass #1 – This is ONLY available from a new member to a prospect when they join. It is a longer time period and is an exclusive benefit for new members. For example, this may be a two-week pass. There are a limited number of these that you can give out.
  • Trial Pass #2 – This is ONLY available from members and may be seven days in length. They can be given to a friend at any time.
  • Trial pass #3 – This is given out through marketing channels and would be shorter in duration than the other two passes – perhaps three days.

These options show that you are focused on the privileges and advantages of being a member. With all of the information I’ve provided, the bottom line is you cannot just ask for referrals, you need to earn them.

Article written by Justin Tamsett for the What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Summer 2015 Edition.

Scroll to Top