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Motivation for Referrals


You understand the power and the importance of referrals, but what is it that really motivates your members to send the people they know and respect to your facility? That’s easy…Ask them! Based on their responses, try a variety of referral incentives and find out which one works best.

Let’s say you want to designate December as your “Member Appreciation Month “and you want to thank all your members with something special for spreading the word about your facility. During the month of November, make sure you ask what would motivate them to be more proactive in their recruiting efforts. Some people are attracted by complimentary months on their membership, others may just want the cash, some may want a personal trainer, while others want tangible items like gift certificates, computers and heart rate monitors.

Ask your members what would be the type of reward that would cause them to refer their friends. Once you find out, make that your offering … maybe even have a variety of offerings depending on your survey findings. Your survey doesn’t necessarily have to be formal either; simply asking members as they check in will give you a good idea of what will work and what will not.

The best part is that you won’t have to pay for the majority of prizes. Walk into every restaurant in your area and let them know you’re doing a “Member Appreciation Month” and wanted to see if they could donate a Gift Certificate for your event. Four out of Five restaurants will do this for you! Ask for a $25 gift certificate. If meals are typically $15, the restaurant manager can assume that at least two people will dine; the couple will likely spend more on drinks and dessert because they are saving money.

The restaurant also knows that they will still make a decent margin even after giving up $25. Not to mention it is a tax write-off for them, so they might even make more profit from your member than if they would have dined without the gift certificate. And they got free publicity because every one of your current and new members was told about the promotional prizes.

Don’t limit yourself to restaurants; you can go to electronic stores, tanning salons (if you do not have tanning in your facility), hair salons, spas, bike shops, dry cleaners, virtually every business in your community! They can all provide something of value for your “Member Appreciation Month.” You can also provide grand prizes, like one year of membership (added onto their existing term of course), free bottled water for a year (if they work out three times a week, your total cost on this is around $60), or one of a variety of prizes you received from the local merchants.

To sweeten the pot for area retailers, let them know that if they donate the “Grand Prize,” for example, a mountain bike or a computer, you will prominently display the prize with signage at your club, boldly announcing that it was donated by their business. And feel free to give them, and perhaps their management team, complimentary short-term memberships to your club as part of the deal. And don’t forget to remind them about the tax benefits!

Free publicity for a month to your members (all of whom have expendable income), a tax write off and complimentary memberships should cause someone to cough up a pretty decent Grand Prize. Who gets the Grand Prize? Good question. It can simply be a drawing at the end of the month-long event, or it could go to the person who referred the most new members.

This can actually be a lot of fun, because typically there are two or three members who champion the effort and begin competing with one another for the Grand Prize. You will be amazed at how competitive the event can become! And remember, the prizes you are giving away are prizes your members asked for, so now (theoretically) more members will get involved.

Before you run your next referral event, make sure you get member “buy in” by asking what it is that would motivate them. Once you discover their preferences, collect the prizes and run your successful referral campaign!

Curtis Mock is an author, speaker and consultant to health clubs worldwide. He is the Executive Director of GymSuccess.com.

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