How To Run A Referral Program For Your Fitness Business: 5 Simple Steps

How To Run A Referral Program For Your Fitness Business

There are plenty of answers for those wondering how to run a referral program for your fitness business. From increasing your income to providing an incentive for current members to stay, it’s important you put one in place!

To help you run your gym referral business, we’ve broken this process down into 5 steps: 

But before we get onto that, if you’re looking for people to recommend your fitness business, you’ll need to ensure you have plenty of qualifications to keep them coming back. Continue developing your skills and knowledge with our Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses!

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Why A Strong Fitness Business Referral Program Matters

how to run a referral program for your fitness business friend referrals

A fitness business referral program is a marketing tool that utilises word-of-mouth. The idea is to attract and incentivise current members to refer their friends and family to your service. 

The reason it’s an effective strategy is because both parties gain from the program. Current gym members receive a reward, while the fitness business owners gain new members. As the program should benefit everyone involved, these new members also receive something too.

These gym member referral programs are great for not only increasing the number of customers coming through your doors, but also by providing you with a passive income without weakening the quality of what you offer.

This leads to an increase of income without having to constantly put in more active work, especially if new members are simply coming to use your gym facilities. 

By offering additional incentives for current members, it also helps increase their loyalty and makes them less likely to leave.

how to run a referral program for your fitness business friend referrals for loyalty

When it comes to fitness businesses, most people are unlikely to commit to a service on a whim. According to the market measurement firm Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers around the world trust recommendations or word-of-mouth more than any other form of advertising. 

This is why word-of-mouth and member recommendations are so important for the success of your business. It increases the likelihood of people seeking it out, especially if they know they can be rewarded for doing so.

For example, Anytime Fitness has a ‘Refer A Friend’ program. Those who refer friends and family to this service save on their monthly membership:

fitness business referral program anytime fitness

This business has also had similar offers revolving around referring friends, such as one where if two friends joined the gym together, they’d both receive their first month of membership for free:

fitness business referral program anytime fitness

Incentives such as these are great as people often feel intimidated joining a gym, especially if it’s something they haven’t done before. Offering discounts or rewards for people who join with friends is a good business strategy to make people more likely to join.

How To Run A Referral Program For Your Fitness Business: 5 Simple Steps

Fitness business referral programs are a great way to increase gym revenue and the number of customers coming through your doors. As this is one of the most effective marketing strategies, it’s important to get this right and make your business grow!

Step 1 - Decide On What You Want Your Gym Referral Program To Incentivise

gym referral program incentives

The first thing you should do when thinking about gym referral program ideas is to decide what you want to incentivise. By laying these foundations and knowing exactly what you want to offer means you won’t run the risk of making a loss. 

For example, is your goal to put a business referral program in place to encourage people to bring their friends or family to your gym? 

Or are you simply looking for potential new leads, meaning you’ll just need a process to gain their phone number or email address?

You need to decide on this before going any further. While you don’t need to be limited to just one referral program, it’s better to have a single one that’s effective than various less successful ones, especially if you’re new to referrals.

gym referral program reward ideas

Once you’ve decided on what kind of gym referral program you want to run, it’s important you set the boundaries on how you measure this. While you want to incentivise members, you still need to ensure you won’t be losing money.

For example, Activ8 Fitness Club rewards members with one month of free membership if they refer friends or family to them. However, this is only if these new members join with a 12 month Privilege or 55+ membership:

gym referral program activ8

By specifying that new referrals need to sign up for their 12 month membership, Activ8 guarantees long-standing members and a steady stream of income.

By having new members receive a half price joining fee, as well as their friend gaining a free month, there's even more of an incentive for people to take out the longer membership.

These boundaries can also extend to ensuring the referred friends and family actually do become paying members. For instance, MonLife has requirements current and new members must meet for the reward to be given:

fitness business referral program monlife

Their terms and conditions state members will only receive a free month once their own membership is active and their referral has taken out either a Committed or Annual membership.

As MonLife offers a 5 day free membership trial, the referred members must also have joined the gym within 30 days of activating their 5 day free pass.

It’s important to place these limits on your referral program so you can be sure you’ll be benefiting from it too. 

Having this clearly established on your website like the businesses above means members will know exactly what they and their friends or family need to do to gain these rewards.

Step 2 - Choose How You'll Reward Members As Part Of Your Fitness Referral Scheme

gym referral program rewards

As discussed earlier, the point of a gym member referral program is to provide current members with enough of a reason to recommend your services and facilities to their friends and family. 

This means they will either become a member, or it will at least generate a new lead for the future.

The incentive also needs to be something appealing enough for them to want to recommend your business. Potential members also need something to gain from it, making them more inclined to make a commitment.

Examples of ways you could reward members include:

  • Discounted memberships
  • Free classes
  • Cash incentives and gift cards
  • Free PT sessions
  • Merchandise

We’ll explore these in more detail below!

#1 - Reward Members Of Your Gym Business Referral Program With Free Membership

gym referral program free membership

As mentioned earlier, one of the most appealing ways to get new customers through your doors is to advertise ‘refer a friend’ programs. Most people find it intimidating starting a gym alone, so offering a reward scheme that all parties benefit from is a great way to gain new members.

One of the simplest ways to attract people to invite their friends or relatives to use your services is by offering a period of additional free membership after the referred member has joined.

For example, Volair has a ‘Refer a Friend’ referral offer where upon them joining, members who referred their friends will receive a free month on their membership:

gym member referral program volair

This means current members receive additional months for no extra cost. Although it may seem like giving away a full month of membership for free can result in a loss, this does the opposite.

Members only receive the additional free month of membership once the friend has made their first month of payment. This means while one member will receive a month free, the friend will make up for this potential ‘loss’ by signing up and paying for a membership.

While Volair has a limit of 5 referrals per member, this is still great for business. For members who want nearly half a year of additional free membership, they can recommend your business to friends and family.

gym member referral program

This is why a gym member referral program such as this is so effective as it’s based on a model of growth. A current member will join, who then gets their friend to sign up, who then asks their own friend or relative to join and so on.

This program essentially creates a near endless flow of new members, if the current member knows plenty of like minded people.


#2 - Provide Discounted Memberships As Part Of Your Gym Referral Program

gym referral program ideas for discounted membership

Similar to the gym member referral program above, offering discounted memberships or passes is a great way to incentivise current members to refer their friends and family. This is another simple way to reward loyal members without running the risk of making a loss.

For instance, Hussle has a ‘Refer a Friend’ program that allows members to get £10 off a pass for them and a friend:

hussle referral program

While this isn’t a membership, it allows referred people to try the service for a discounted price. 

This makes it a great way to generate potential members as, while they may not want to commit to a full membership, they can at least have a gym session and decide whether they want to commit further.

Most people react positively to discounts, even those as little as £10 off. Just the offer of getting something for slightly cheaper than the usual price can be appealing enough to incentivise current members.

#3 - Offer Free PT Sessions With Your Gym Membership Referral Program

gym membership referral pt sessions

Instead of providing members with discounted memberships, you may offer something else appealing that can help them continue to hit their fitness goals. This could be in the form of free personal training sessions to keep them using as well as recommending this service to others.

For example, Fitribe had an offer rewarding 6 personal training sessions to members who bring a friend to the gym:

refer a friend fitribe

This is a great offer to encourage people who may be reluctant to try a personal trainer. Having them be rewarded with free sessions allows them to trial the service. 

If they enjoy it, this can change their attitude and they may end up committing to a PT, which in turn brings in additional gym revenue.

On the surface, this may not seem like a form of marketing. However, by having members in your gym use a service they otherwise may not use, this means they can recommend your PTs to people they know.

This is one of the most effective ways to get members to encourage their friends to join the gym as you’re providing them with something new they may not have tried before. 

It’s a great way to ensure you keep members as they may not want to add an extra month onto their membership, even if it’s for free.

#4 - Give Gift Cards To Members As Part Of Your Gym Business Referral Program

gym referral program gift card

When thinking about gym referral program ideas, you may find some members prefer to have a physical reward they can use once the referred member has signed up to the gym. 

This could be something like a voucher or gift card that can be given to a member when the referral has been processed.

For instance, 24/7 Fitness has a ‘Refer A Friend’ program where those who get their friends to join receive a £10 Amazon gift card by email once their first payment has been made:

24/7 fitness gym member referral

Although this may seem like a materialistic approach to a fitness business referral program, some members may respond better to this reward as they may want something that’s not centred just around health and fitness. 

Village Gym also incentivises members by rewarding both parties with a £10 gift card, available to use in places such as Currys or M&S:

village gym membership referral program reward

This is a good way to keep you in control of your own gym referral program as this can immediately be given to members. You don’t need to wait for them to attend free sessions or claim their reward within a limited amount of time.

The bottom line is, while this may not be a reward encouraging the use of your services such as a free month of membership, you’re still receiving new members but just rewarding them differently.

#5 - Use Your Gym Membership Referral Program To Reward Members With Merchandise

gym membership referral program merchandise

We understand that suggesting you provide current and new members with gift cards may seem ambitious, especially for those starting out. 

However, you can still provide members with thoughtful rewards that also show their loyalty to your gym.

As both an incentive and gym marketing strategy to get your brand name out there, you could provide new and current members with merchandise related to your business. 

This could include items such as:

  • Fitness journals and planners
  • Hoodies and t-shirts
  • Water bottles

For example, Mainway Fitness has a ‘Refer a Friend’ offer where all current members receive a free Mainway hoodie after referring a friend to their gym:

gym member referral program mainway merchandise

This fitness business also goes a step further by stating the new member saves money by paying just £25 and also receives their first month for free.

It’s important to keep in mind it doesn’t need to be expensive to reward clients for their loyalty. You simply need to provide them with something to show you value your members and want them to spread the word.

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For those wondering how to run a referral program for your fitness business, take a look at these articles to ensure your gym has continued success:

Step 3 - Use CRM Software To Automate Your Gym Member Referral Program

gym referral program software

Let us begin by saying it’s completely possible to conduct referral schemes without the use of CRM software. However, it can be very time consuming and difficult to do this without software.

If you have a successful gym membership referral program, this could result in referrers missing out on rewards if you can’t adequately keep track of your system. 

Having software in place that keeps track of those who have been referred and those who have made the referrals will ensure the right people are rewarded. This also allows you to see how successful your gym referral program is and what may need improving.

Software such as TeamUp is great for allowing you to keep track of referrals, with their full suite of onboarding tools:

gym referral program team up

The features on TeamUp allows you to see exactly who has been referred, and which member they were referred by. This makes it much easier to keep track of whether the program is working effectively or needs to be made simpler:

gym member referral program software

TeamUp does offer a free trial and free subscription option, but these will have limited features. If you don’t want to pay for software, you can use a spreadsheet to keep a record of your referral program.

However, you will need to insert all information manually, meaning you will need to take extra care when recording this to ensure the right people are given the reward. This is opposed to software like TeamUp, which does most of this for you.

Step 4 - Effectively Market Your New Fitness Business Referral Program

market gym member referral program

Once you’ve settled on the kind of gym membership referral program you want to offer, it’s time to get the word out to the public. As referral programs can only work mainly through members, there’s no point having one if no one knows about it.

With effective tools such as the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to market your gym member referral program. However, while business owners no longer have to hand out flyers or pay for billboards to advertise offers and sales, it’s still important you know how to market a service successfully.

Let’s break some of these marketing strategies down!

#1 - Use Social Media To Market Your Gym Referral Program

gym referral program ideas for marketing

One of the most effective ways you can advertise your fitness business referral program is through social media. 

This is the easiest way to advertise your referral program, especially if plenty of people follow your gym. Most people who follow your gym or fitness centre are also likely to be loyal members so will be more willing to engage in the referral program and your gym social media posts.

For example, Form & Fitness use their Instagram account to advertise their referral program: 

form and fitness gym referral program

As you can see, all it takes is a simple post telling followers what to do and how to get involved. By doing this, you can directly advertise to people who will be the most likely to act on it as it will appear directly in their feed.

It also allows you to see how people respond and engage with this content. This can give you an idea of how successful your posts are and if there’s anything you could do to improve them further.

You may also choose to take a different approach when it comes to marketing your gym membership referral program on social media. This could be through the use of highlighting members both as a group and individually.

For example, Form and Fitness use their Instagram to show off their members and their accomplishments, creating a sense of community many people would want to be a part of:

form and fitness gym member referral program

By posting this content, you’re showing both members and non-members how your services can positively impact their lives. People who want to refer their friends and family can then use these pictures as evidence of this when talking about the referral program and how it can help.


#2 - Take An In-Person Approach When Marketing Your Fitness Business Referral Program

gym member referral program in person

We’ll begin by saying that there isn’t a ‘right’ time to ask gym members to refer people to your services. Each member will respond differently to being asked this, regardless of the time you do it. 

You should only ask when you know members are most satisfied with your service. The last thing you want to do is ask a member to start referring their friends and family when they haven’t even been using the gym for long themselves.

It can be harder to know about a member’s goals if they’re just using the gym facilities. However, this is why it’s important to make yourself known around the gym and take notice of clients.

If there are faces you recognise after a while of them attending the gym, that’s when you should turn the subject onto referrals. Getting to know clients and talking to them when they’re at the gym will make this easier to do. 

gym member referral program in person

By not speaking to members and only approaching them to ask about referring people to your gym, you run the risk of treating them as only paying customers and not people. 

This can have the opposite effect, and make them less likely to refer your services to people if they’re aware of this.

When someone has been attending the gym for a while, this is when you should ask as it’s likely they’re satisfied with your service. You should begin by asking them how they’ve been finding the gym and how their training is going before introducing the topic.

An example conversation could go something like this:

Hi Jane, it looked like you had a great workout today. You’ve been coming here for a while now, haven’t you? … How have you been finding it?

By starting the conversation like this, it shows you’re taking an interest in the client and have taken notice of their attendance and training. Once you’ve spoken casually about how they’ve found your gym, you can then move on to the referral program:

We’ve actually got a referral program on at the minute. For every friend or family member you get to sign up to the gym, you’ll both receive an extra month on your gym membership at no extra cost.

The conversation should flow naturally, instead of jumping straight into trying to get new members. You could begin by asking how their friends and family are, then turn the conversation towards bringing them along to work out.

When approaching clients about your fitness business referral program, you should only do it when they appear to have had a positive session and will be more likely to act upon the referral program. 

#3 - Email Marketing Can Be Effective For Your Gym Membership Referral Program

gym referral program email

Email marketing is a direct form of marketing that uses email to promote new services and offers to customers. This is effective as it's less costly than sending traditional mail and people are more likely to check their inboxes a couple of times a day.

To make this seem more personal and done in a way that doesn’t look like spam or something that will end up in junk mail, you should introduce the referral with something meaningful. This could be done by reminding members when they have a class or haven’t been to the gym for a while.

An example may look something like this:

Subject: Your Exclusive Offers...

Hey (Member’s name),

We know how much you enjoy coming to the gym, and we love seeing your face around the place, so we've put together some special offers just for you.

We're offering you (and a select few others) the opportunity to bring along your bestie!

Refer a friend, and you'll receive an additional month of membership at no extra cost. The more friends you refer, the more free months you’ll receive on your membership!

Happy training!


As you can see, this is concise and personalised to the recipient. By mentioning how they haven’t been seen for a while is a great way to show they’re not just viewed as a paying customer.

This shows you’re both taking an interest in their situation as well as finding a way to encourage them back in order to continue their fitness journey. 

You can have multiple templates for different situations too when adapting your referral program for different times of the year.

#4 - Text Messages Can Help Market Your Gym Member Referral Program

gym referral program text messages

Another way to market your gym membership referral program is to use text messages. When people become members of your gym, you can have them provide their phone number as part of the signup process. You can then send them simple messages about your referral program.

An example of using text messages for offers and deals comes from Gymetc:

gymetc referral program

While the example above isn’t a text message about a referral program, it’s a good example of how to utilise this marketing strategy. 

It’s quick and simple, providing the direct link and promo code. This means those who are messaged don’t have to search for anything.

Gymetc. also gives the option for people to stop receiving text messages. This is a good way to avoid negative publicity as some people may feel they’re being spammed if they keep getting text messages with no clear option to stop them.

These messages can work as reminders for them as they will be stored on the person’s phone. 

Text messages also make people actually check their phone, meaning they’ll take more notice of your referral program. This is opposed to scrolling through your social media and seeing a post before forgetting about it later.

#5 - Use Printed Materials When Marketing Your Fitness Business Referral Program

gym referral program ideas printed materials

Another way to market your business is to use printed materials such as posters and leaflets that can be distributed around your gym or handed to members. These can simply be the posts you use for social media.

An example of what a poster about referring a friend to a gym might look like comes from SF Fitness

refer a friend gym promotion

As you can see, this is a simple poster done right. The reward is the largest piece of text which will easily catch the attention of the gym member. Underneath comes clear text about what the member needs to do to secure the award.

You should ensure these printed materials are concise and simple to follow as people will be unlikely to use your fitness business referral program if they don’t understand what they’re supposed to do. For posters, you should also make these eye-catching members actually take notice.

If you plan on using printed materials as a marketing strategy, this should influence the kind of gym referral program you’re advertising. People aren’t going to stop and take action after seeing a poster if the process is too long or complicated for them to gain their reward.

Step 5 - Review Your Gym Membership Referral Strategies To Continue Progressing

review refer a friend gym promotion

Although you may have found varying levels of success with your fitness business referral program, this doesn’t mean you should stop there. You should review your business strategies every few months, or earlier if they’re proving ineffective.

For example, if you’re using social media as a way to market your gym member referral program, you can use tools such as Facebook and Instagram insights to see the level of engagement and reach of your posts.

Instagram insights breaks down the age range of the accounts who see and interact with posts. It allows businesses to see how many accounts posts have reached and track the popularity of specific content:

gym referral program statistics

By using these analytics, you can see if the social media marketing for your gym membership referral program is effective or what areas you need to improve. This allows you to put more time into methods that are actually leading to referrals.

For instance, if you’re using both text messaging and social media to promote your fitness business referral program, and you find text messages aren’t effective for getting referrals but social media is, you can put all your energy into utilising social media.

If you find your referral program isn’t as effective as it could be, you can use these metrics to examine whether the rewards themselves are the issue. 

fitness business referral program review

For instance, if you’re only providing members with a 10 percent discount, they may not see this as enough of an incentive to refer their friends.

You could then adjust your rewards to see if this leads to an increase in referrals. This could be adjusting the discount from 10 to 20 percent and seeing if this results in more members coming to your gym.

Continually adjusting and adapting your gym member referral program should be a process you complete every so often as it will play a role in the success of your business by helping it continue to grow.


Before You Go!

While getting the right fitness business referral program can seem difficult, by using our steps you’ll be on your way to having plenty of fitness enthusiasts being referred to your gym!

But before you create your referral program, why not guarantee members will return by continuing to develop your skills and knowledge with our Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses

Find out exactly what we have to offer by downloading our course prospectus or leave your details below.


Become a Master Personal Trainer With OriGym

Continue to have people referring their friends and family to use your services with our Level 4 Nutrition qualification!

Written by James Brady

Fitness Writer & Enthusiast

James graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. His desire to find a place where he could combine his passion for writing and love of fitness is what brought him to OriGym. He believes his passion for daily exercise, especially running, is imperative in keeping him motivated and productive. As a result, he has a particular interest in the psychology of health and fitness and the relationship between physical and mental health. Outside of work, James enjoys reading, swimming, writing short stories, watching classic movies and has a keen interest in journalism and filmmaking.

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