By Ene Corral​, Special FBA Contributor

Sponsored by GymCatch

A referral program or people-based marketing is a powerful sales tactic to use for a fitness business. When colleagues or friends or family recommend a product or service there is an immediate foundation of trust, far more powerful than a business advertising itself. It is also cheaper to run and less time-consuming than any other channel and will guarantee you warm leads.

Referral marketing is a must-have for every business looking to grow sustainably. They combine two things customers love, trust and reward.

Ultimately, it creates a win-win situation for all. Your existing customers get rewarded, feel valued, and you get quality leads for new customers. The more customers you get to tell their friends about your classes or appointments the more opportunity for a new business you create. And with social media, word travels fast.

But what are the benefits of a referral program?

  • Promote customer loyalty
  • Attract new customers
  • Increase attendance
  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce paid marketing spend

If you havent used a referral program before there are a few things for you to consider to get it right:

1. Connect with your customers

Spend time chatting to them before a class or session. Get to know them better. The more engagement you build the more likely they are to become an ambassador in the future, and you will need tons of testimonials to drive your program.

2. Build positive experiences

Purchase decisions are based on emotion and experience. The onboarding and payment experience they have with you is as important as the class or session you deliver. Align all your processes to ensure you are leaving your customers glowing with satisfaction.

3. Easy to set up and track

You don’t want to spend endless hours tracking and calculating incentives manually. Instead, automate as much of this work as possible to save yourself valuable time.

4. You don’t need to spend any money

Incentives don’t necessarily need to mean a monetary reward, in fact, there is lots of evidence that non-monetary incentivization works just as well as cash. Keep this in mind! Be creative and design your incentives so they are personal.

The size of the reward or incentive you give is not what matters. What matters is that you stick to your word and reward your customer on time. There are many ways for you to get started:

1. Premium access

If your client refers someone, give them access to your premium content such as on-demand videos or other benefits such as priority booking and discount codes. Premium access can be turned on for a month or for longer.

2. Giveaways

Everyone loves a freebie and giveaways are a great way to get people involved and sharing your content quickly. Prizes can vary, for example, a set of weights or you can give away a fitness accessory. It could also be a free one-to-one session with you for 3 months, merchandise, or an Amazon gift voucher. Whatever the prize you offer get your loyal few to build momentum around it. Better still, if you have a range of merch, give away some free merch which not only acts as a reward but also gives you free advertising!

3. Celebrate milestones

This is the easiest way to get your customers to want to come back for more. From weight loss achievements, a personal best to even a birthday, celebrating milestones will bring your customers together proving a great retention tactic.

Take inspiration, there are many already running successful programs:

1. PureGym

This big UK chain gym 4 buddy passes a month for only an extra £4 a month. Those taking up Plus membership get access to another host of benefits such as local discount offers and free refillable flavored water.

2. Zumba

The Zumba affiliate program means you can get a 10% off the Zumba Wear purchase price bringing an additional income to group instructors as an incentive.

3. Bodies In Motion Pilates

Bodies In Motion Pilates gives customers’ a reward when they refer others by receiving a free private Pilates session for each of their referrals.

4. Get HIIT Box

This small gym gives customers $20 for each referral they make and make it super easy for customers to track their unique referral code.

5. Gymcatch

Here at Gymcatch, we have grown largely through our own referral scheme where businesses using Gymcatch and the incoming business get free months with a successful referral. Everyone wins.


Ene Corral is the Partnerships Manager at Gymcatch, where she's a marketing and business development professional with experience in delivering successful marketing strategies for client acquisition and retention. She has a passion for building engaged communities across different channels and working with partners to amplify messaging. Here focus at Gymcatch is on growing and maximizing strategic partnerships through business collaboration.

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