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Referral Program: The Keys to Success

Referral Program

Susanne Nauseda, the client relations manager at Twin Oaks Software, shares why you need a referral program now more than ever before.

Many people are working from home, possibly starting a career in a new location or even opening their own business as a result of changes due to COVID-19. This means the location where they shop, get their gas, buy groceries, visit restaurants and workout have all most likely changed. So how do you get these people interested in your club and not the competition?

It’s simple: Have your current members do it for you. An easy-to-explain referral program can make all the difference in attracting new members. You can tailor your program to attract new virtual and in-club members. To accomplish this, be sure to map out your referral program in advance. Will you offer an incentive to current members for their referrals? Do you have a way to promote the program in club, digitally and externally? Do you have a way to track and report on all referrals? Lastly make sure all your staff — including maintenance, instructors and anyone with interaction with members — knows what the program is and how to use it. 

Successful referral programs offer members something of value for promoting your club to new members. The best rewards are instantly gratifying and enticing to members. Only you will know what your members find value in. Make sure the value is high, but the cost to your club is low. You might have to get creative and think of options like a “head of the line ticket” that allows the member to register for a class before others. Or a special parking place for a day.

Promoting a referral program can be quite simple. First, make sure every new joining member — whether joining in person or online — knows about the program. Second, make sure your existing members are reminded of the program often, especially when you have membership specials, open houses or launch something new. Since COVID-19 has changed the culture of advertising, look for ways you can communicate all the information about your program to members electronically. 

If you have a club app, see if you can show notifications to alert members of any promotions they can share with friends or simply as a reminder about the program. Relay updates or changes to the program, especially if they include new incentives. In addition, an easy refer-a-friend feature in an app can allow current members to Tweet, share on Facebook or even just copy and paste a link to invite their friends to take advantage of a guest pass or special membership offers. Check with your club management software or app provider to see what’s available. Posters and signs are not a thing of the past and can still be effective, low-technology vehicles to get the word out about your program.

Referral tracking shouldn’t take a lot of time or effort. This includes easy reporting to evaluate the success of the program and award incentives to your referring members. Make sure the same new member cannot be claimed by more than one existing member. Most club management software providers provide a referral tracking program that can help with this. Inquire with them so you can formulate or enhance your program using some of the tools they provide. Be prepared you might have to give extra to get these features; however, some may include them.

Don’t set it and forget it. Make your program unique by giving it a catchy name, and add a super target incentive once in a while. Talk to local vendors and see if you can barter something of value for a membership and use it as an incentive. No matter what, keep it fun and easy. 

Implement or update your referral program now to capitalize on the “new normal” and new market of potential members.

Susanne Nauseda

Susanne Nauseda has an exercise science degree she put to use in the industry for 10 years prior to joining Twin Oaks Software, where she has worked for the last 17 years. Contact her at 860.829.6000 x 269 or snauseda@tosd.com.

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