How To Start Generating A Flood Of Fitness Referrals

Referrals are easily the most preferred source of new business for fitness professionals for a number of reasons ranging from the ease of moving a referred prospect through the sales process into becoming a client to the basic fact that referrals become better quality clients.  They stay longer, are more profitable and, as referred clients, embrace the referral culture in your business.

So with that in mind, what follows is your blueprint for generating a never ending supply of high quality referrals in your business.


Why Fitness Referrals?

There are a few reasons that referrals are the #1 lead source for fitness professionals.

First off, fitness referrals are one of the most effective and lucrative strategies for creating steady streams of prospects and clients. Referrals are more valuable than typical prospects because:

  • Referral-generated clients are the most cost-efficient, profitable, and the most loyal source of new business you could ever dream of acquiring.
  • Referral-generated clients are pre-sold so they commit quicker and for larger programs, negotiate less, stay longer, and refer more business to you.
  • Referrals are generally better clients. People typically surround themselves with similar people – so if you have great clients referring prospects to you, you’ll typically end up with more great clients.
  • They save you time. If your clients are feeding you a steady diet of new prospects, you can spend less time on other lead generation tactics.
  • You can easily set up referral systems that are fool-proof strategies for dramatically increasing your client base and your income!


When you focus on fitness referral marketing, you’re creating massive leverage because you’re getting people who are advocates for your business to share their love for what you do and what you offer to the people that they are close to.

This is relationship marketing at it’s best…and it’s the most effective approach to lead generation you have at your disposal.

Now I’m not suggesting that your business should move to being a 100% referral-generated enterprise – although that’s a great goal over time.

What I am suggesting is that you employ 3-5 easy to use fitness referral tactics that will each generate a steady flow of highly qualified prospects to you.


So what are the keys to developing a referral driven business and why do so few fitness professionals get the number and quality of referrals they could?


Read on and by the end of this post you’ll not only have the answers but you’ll know exactly how to turn your client base and personal network into a highly successful referral machine for you and your business.


Why Should People Refer To You?

If you want to start generating a flood of fitness referrals, then you need to understand a simple 5 letter acronym…WIIFM.




This means that when you ask your clients or members of your network to give you referrals, they are silently thinking “What’s In It For Me?” You need to start communicating to your clients and friends in a way that makes it plainly obvious, to them, exactly how they will benefit by giving you referrals.

Your clients and your network are silently asking:


“How will I benefit by referring people to you?”


No benefit to them = No referral for you.

Most fitness professionals have unsuccessful approaches to generating referrals because they ignore WIIFM. In other words, they don’t give their clients or network a compelling enough, self-serving set of reasons to give referrals.


So, you need to specifically tell people what THEY will get out of helping YOU.


So prior to asking for referrals, decide how you to ensure the referrer will benefit from sending business your way.

And it doesn’t necessarily need to cost you anything.

Here are some examples of What Should Be In It For Your Clients When They Refer

  • They should be getting a sense of satisfaction for sharing something they feel is valuable to the people that are important to them.
  • They should feel that they have a gain in status by belonging to and being in a position to share something special to their network.
  • They should feel a stronger connection to you and your business by spreading the work about what you have to offer.
  • They should get recognition from you for sending you prospective clients.
  • They should be rewarded for helping you to grow your business.


There are other tangible and intangible benefits that a referring client or friend could get by sending you a prospective client, but this is a pretty good starting point for how you need to think about how you can inspire people to send you business when you’re asking for referrals.


The Process For Creating Your Fitness Referral Machine

If you want to generate a consistent stream of referrals, them you need to employ this 4 step process:

  1. Earn
  2. Ask
  3. Recognize
  4. Reward


1. Earn The Referral


One thing is for certain…Satisfied Clients Do Not Refer!


It’s not enough to have satisfied clients. You need to go well beyond that. To receive a flood of referrals you must have…

Raving Fans!

This is all about providing…

  • The Benefits & Results That Your Clients Sought You Out For.
  • An Extraordinary Experience That Can’t Be Found Elsewhere.
  • The Client With A Connection With Your Business That Inspires Them To Talk About It.


Basically, you need to ask yourself a question that one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Walt Disney, used to ask himself all the time which helped make Disneyland so successful, was…


“How Can We Do What We Do So Well, That Our Customers Can’t Help But Tell Their Friends About Us?”


You want to make the process of doing business with you… so enjoyable… so different than what they’re used to…so much of a joy; that clients can’t help but tell their friends.


2.  To Ask For Referrals

I know this sounds simplistic, and it is. But it’s amazing how many fitness professionals simply do not ask for referrals.

Maybe they’re uncomfortable asking for help.

Maybe they’re embarrassed.

Maybe they feel as if they don’t deserve them.


But if you’re not asking for referrals on a consistent basis, you’re literally losing out on tens of thousands of dollars.


So if you deserve referrals, then ask.

Later I’ll share specific tactics that you can use to begin asking for referrals, both directly and indirectly. Not everyone will respond to the same approach and frankly, you’ll be more comfortable with some tactics than you are with others.


3.  Recognize

People are motivated by recognition. In fact some research suggests that people are as motivated by recognition as they are by monetary gain.


So, in short, when someone shares what you have to offer with someone in their network, you recognize them.


See, it’s not someone else’s job to close the sale for you. All you can really ask of someone is to introduce your business to the people they know in a positive way. And when they do…

…Recognize Them.

You can do this publicly in your newsletter or through social media. You can do it during a training session. You can do it privately by pulling them aside and thanking them or by sending them a personal note or card.


In fact, I’d suggest that you recognize when someone sends you a referred prospect both publicly and privately.


You want to reinforce that referral culture throughout your business, but you also want the person who referred to you to feel that you’re giving them personal attention.

Once you begin recognizing those who refer you’ll start to see that behavior increase…and then to complete the process and create your referral machine, the final step is to…


4. Reward Referrals

We often take referrals for granted. We say things like ‘they got great results so they should refer.’ That’s not how it works. They paid for results. They went over and above their responsibility as a client to refer…and for that you want to reward them.


In fact, you want to reward them generously. Think about what a new client is worth to you…


Let’s do some quick math:

Let’s say that your average client is worth $150 per month to your business and on average they are with you for 12 months.

That’s $1800 in business that someone just referred to you.

That sort of thing merits a reward. A gift.

A couple of common questions are:

‘What kind of gift?’

‘How much should I invest in the gift?’


Let’s start with the first one…’What kind of gift?’

I think the gift should be something tangible that the client will appreciate and that will ideally reinforce that referring behavior. It could be…

  • A gift card to a local store that you know they like to shop at.
  • A cool, high end sweatshirt or fleece with your logo on it that isn’t available elsewhere.
  • Cash.
  • A personal gift based on their interests.
  • A service that you don’t provide like a massage.


I’m sure you can get more creative…especially the more you know about your clients. But don’t give them free session or anything like that. Focus on giving them something different.


As for question #2…‘How much should I invest in the gift?’

I don’t know that there’s a perfect formula, but remember that in the example we used the client was worth $1800 to your business. So in that case, would $50 be fair? $100?

There are a few things to consider like your current cashflow and if you’re paying commission on sales when someone joins, but ideally I’d recommend that you be willing to invest at least 3% of someone’s contract value in your referral reward if you want to build a strong referral culture. So if someone joins for 12 months at $150 per month, their contract value is $1800. 3% of that is $54.

I think you’d pay $54 to get $1800 in contract value as many times as you could…right? And the best part? You’re only paying $54 when you get a client rather than traditional marketing where you’re paying in hopes of gaining clients.

Now I’m not saying that you should limit your referral rewards to 3%. I’d think that 3-6% is a good range to start and for someone who refers frequently you might even go beyond that on occasion.


Your Fitness Referral Tactics

Once you’ve embraced that referrals should be a cornerstone of your marketing efforts, there are really only 2 more things that you need to do:

  1. Teach your clients how to talk about your business.
  2. Implement 2-3 Referral Tactics.


Now #1 is something that fitness pros tend to struggle with so I’ll try to help simplify it for you…here’s what you do:

Make sure your clients know who you help, how you help them and the most significant results your clients receive…and do it in terms that your perfect prospects will understand.

Once you do this, you’re ready to put 203 Referral Tactics into action. Here are some of my favorites:


Fitness Referral Tactic: Ask For Advice

Asking for advice is a form of networking that can result in referrals—and many additional positives for your business—without asking for them directly.

Here’s how it works.

Ask a client to meet for 5-10 minutes to ask them for their advice.

Sample Script

“Mrs. Jones, I’d love to get your advice on something. Can we carve out 15 minutes after your next training session to chat? Or, if you’re free, I’d love to take you out for a cup of coffee or buy you lunch to talk.”


Compliment the Client

Lead with a compliment. You’ll make the client feel good to start the meeting and you’ll be helping to prime them to assist you with the advice you’re asking for.

Remember, you are essentially asking them to help connect you with someone they know; this might put some people in an uncomfortable position, so be kind and grateful when talking with them.

Sample Script

“Mrs. Jones, I really enjoy working with you as a client. You’re motivated, you’re driven, you’ve gotten great results, and you’re exactly what we’re looking for in clients. As I grow my business and expand my impact on the community, I’d certainly love to work with more people like you.

I’d love to get your advice on how I can connect with more people like you.”


95% of the time the client will either offer to connect you or at least make suggestions as to who you should connect with. Follow up and keep them engaged in the process and you’ve now got an ambassador for your business.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Point of Sale Request

The point-of-sale referral is among the easiest – and most effective – of all referral tactics as new clients are eager and motivated.

When you enroll a new client, you want them to help spread the word by either providing them with a tool to bring a guest in or some means of sharing what you do with others.

Here’s an example script:

“I truly appreciate you choosing [Business Name] to help you reach your goals.

Now that you are a member of the [Business Name] family, I’d like to provide you the opportunity to share our program with a guest. Here’s a $100 gift card for any of our programs. If you have a friend, family member or co-worker who is motivated like you and who you feel would be a good fit for what we offer like you are, feel free to share this with them as a gift from you.”


So obviously you can give out a gift card to new clients as illustrated in the script. But you could also simply offer a free report, cookbook or video series that new clients could share via email as a way to capture leads.

The key with Point of Sale offers is to pick one and do it with all new clients.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Charity Fundraisers

 Charity workouts are one of my two favorite approaches to generating referrals (asking for advice is the other).

This is a fun way to both connect with your current clients and get an influx of new prospects into your business.

Here’s the process:

  • Go to your current clients and find a charity they care about that you can support.
  • Schedule a workout to raise money for the charity.
  • Begin marketing the workout. Your goal is to get as many new leads as possible in to the event. Send a press release, try to connect directly with the charity and announce that you will donate $5-10 for each new person that comes to the workout.


At the workout, create a fun atmosphere and celebrate that you’re supporting a good cause. Capture the contact information of all the new participants and invite them back for a trial of what you offer.


For those who don’t take you up on the spot, follow up with them after the event and invite them back.


Then send a press release announcing the results of the event and your donation. You’ll gain more local attention and strengthen your business community as well as generating a number of new prospects.


Fitness Referral Tactic: “Bring a Friend” Sessions

If you run a group training based business, this is the most simple referral tactic you can put in place.

Just announce a “Bring A Friend Day” in which all of your clients can bring a guest free of charge to participate in a session. Announce the even about a week prior to the actual day and continue to promote it leading up to the event. You can combine this with another referral tactic and offer incentives for any guest that becomes a client or offer the guests an incentive. Have a way to capture the contact information of each guest and continue to market to them via email, phone and direct mail.

This works almost as well with standard one-on-one or semi-private training, it just takes a little more preparation for the actual sessions. You can develop a standardized entry-level program for the guests to follow for the session.


Fitness Referral Tactic: $100 Club

This referral strategy involves publicly recognizing and rewarding your clients that have referred someone. The reward is ideally a $100 bill but could easily be a $50 bill if the numbers don’t work (yet) to offer $100.

To maximize the impact of this strategy, you need to recognize, reward and recycle.


Public recognition is key. At the end of a training session, bring the group together and recognize a client who has recently referred a new person with a referral reward of a new, $100 bill.

When your other clients see you rewarding the referring client you’re reinforcing a referral culture in your business. Plus, for many the recognition is actually more meaningful than the reward so you’re really providing a significant show of appreciation.


Rewarding your clients with cash is a powerful motivator. Furthermore, $100 is a bigger reward than your clients are used to receiving. With an average client value being typically over $1000, this is at least a 10x return on your investment.


Make each client reward a big event and share it in your newsletter, on social media and even on a wall of fame in your facility. This will reinforce the recognition for that client and again help develop that referral culture in your business.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Gift Cards

After a meaningful moment during a client’s time with you – perhaps after they’ve met a goal or finished a 6 week program – hand them a gift card and tell them:


“Here’s a gift card that you can give to a friend, co-worker or family member that would like to enjoy the same results that you have. It entitles them to get $100 off any of our programs.”


If you make the gift cards seem valuable and only distribute them at select times, your clients will treat them with great respect and be more likely to share them with good prospects.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Run a Contest

We’ve all heard about Referral Contests and many of us have even run them. To get the most out of yours:

Run it for 21 days. Longer and you lose steam.

Reward everyone who introduces someone to your business. Everyone wins.

Enter everyone who refers into a bigger drawing for 1 or 2 big prizes. Every lead they provide gets one entry. Every lead they refer who actually joins gets 5 entries. This approach will keep more people engaged and interested.


Make it an event. Talk about it, makes the prizes something that many of your clients would really want and create a buzz.


You can do this once or twice a year at most – so really celebrate it.

The last two aren’t really what you might think of as referral tactics – but I think that any way that someone is helping to share your business with others qualifies as a referral tactic.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the most valuable marketing tools you can have – yet most fitness professionals don’t take full advantage of them.

When you help a client get results, get a testimonial. While this isn’t a direct referral, because most of your clients live in the same communities, shop in the same stores and often know one another – this can be an indirect referral as the fact that someone a prospect knows has worked with you and received results helps the prospect feel comfortable doing the same.

You can also go a step further and do a direct mail to the client’s neighborhood using the testimonial as the foundation for the letter. Don’t forget to get before and after photos if at all possible.


Fitness Referral Tactic: Facebook Check Ins

Every time a client visits your facility there is an opportunity to let their network know quickly and easily with a Facebook Check In. My buddy Sam Bakhtiar even incentivizes his clients by offering a free t-shirt when they reach 25 check-ins.

Super simple and super smart.


Putting Your Referral Machine Into Action

There you have it. You now know how to start generating a flood of fitness referrals and you’ve got 9 of my favorite referral tactics to help make it happen.

Like any other journey that you could embark on to improve your business or your life – the real key is taking action!

Here’s what you should do TODAY:

  1. Look through the referral tactics one more time, making notes about how you could implement each into your business. Don’t make excuses; don’t dwell on why a particular system won’t work. Find solutions. This exercise will open you up to creating and fitting the right tactics to your unique situation.
  2. Get a rough estimate of your average client value so you can decide what to invest in acquiring each new client.
  3. Choose what you perceive to be the 2-3 best tactics for your business.
  4. Develop an implementation strategy. If you want to use cards, order them. If you want to do run a Charity Workout, schedule it. Start putting the wheels in motion today.

So that’s it. It sounds simple because it is. A steady stream of highly-qualified, pre-disposed prospects are just a couple of weeks away so get started today!


By Pat Rigsby


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