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Capture Referrals with Smart Direct Mail


Generating high-quality sales leads in the fitness industry does take work. Any industry consultant will still say buddy referrals are the best sources, and word-of-mouth from an existing member is critical. Getting the leads while they’re hot is key.

Within one week to a month after a new member joins, your club should send a marketing piece (direct mail) out encouraging them to bring in their friends. Most club management software programs have a marketing piece already established for just this purpose. The piece typically has built-in “guest passes” for member friends or other individuals of their choice.

The keys to making this “Bring a Buddy” system work are:

  • Make sure there’s a reward in it for the existing member (i.e. a free month for each referred guests that decides to join).
  • An enticing offer for the guest (i.e. two weeks of club usage at no charge).
  • Must be a turnkey solution. The file is easily created, ideally automatically from the software and the mailing goes out without a hitch (i.e. every two weeks no matter what).
  • The marketing piece is professionally created, printed and looks good.

Offering a significant reward such as a free month whenever someone refers a new member may seem like a lot to give away. Although, overall it’s actually a small investment compared to the dollars spent on other advertising options, and will carry a lot more meaning with a member. It is money well spent.

Following up with phone calls and e-mails is essential with new members, reminding them to keep an eye out for guest passes. Having a sample of the piece they will receive right in the sales area is a helpful tool so that it will be recognizable when it’s received. It can even be promoted as something they should expect to receive.

Offers can vary from free weeks to the number of visits allowed, all of which should be tracked in your software. When using a professional piece, the passes can be coded with a bar code or date, like most membership cards, and then activated when brought into the club. Track your guest user information using your check-in capabilities or contact management tracking software for prospects. Use your software program to communicate with the referred prospects via e-mail to welcome them, tell them about club activities and encourage their use of the facility.

Capturing the prospect’s photo when a pass is redeemed will allow the desk staff to learn and use first names. This shows friendliness and promotes membership.

Typical expenses for this type of marketing piece will include the printing, envelope, postage and administrative labor. Average cost should be no more than $1.60 per piece. Your club management software should perform the tracking and file creation, a cost you’re probably already absorbing and accustomed to paying. A professional-looking piece, generated automatically, should be printed with the member’s name on each guest pass. It will have a spot to put the guest’s name and the date the pass expires. Pay only by the piece — no setup fees.

Another option to reward members for referrals is to discount their dues on an ongoing basis per month, as long as the referred person remains a member. Your computer software should easily allow you to do this. If a typical member pays $50 per month and they’ve referred two people who join, and you discount their dues $5 per month for each new member, that’s equivalent to $120 savings per year for the member, but also $1,200 more in dues to the club per year. That’s a profit margin of $1,080.

Your software can be set up to track and indicate if a referred person cancels or expires, thus changing the original member’s dues accordingly.

If using a piece for new members doesn’t interest you, consider using it once a year for all members as a “thank you.” Good times to send it out would be early June to beef up summer traffic, or in January to help make the new year kickoff even stronger.


Carole Oat is the national sales manager for Twin Oaks Software. She can be reached at coat@tosd.com, or 866.278.6750.

Carole Oat

Carole Oat is a national sales manager at Twin Oaks Software and a former club owner and operator for 15 years. She can be reached at coat@tosd.com or 860.829.6000 x 281.

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