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How to Use Client Referrals to Bring in Lots of New Students

Learn how to dramatically boost new student visits to your fitness or yoga studio with a client referral program.

February 20, 2020

One of the most effective ways fitness and yoga studios generate new business is by incentivizing current customers to bring in friends, family and co-workers. Sure, you know if you deliver results, your best clients will talk about it. But by implementing a specific client referral program, you can dramatically boost new student visits, and reward your most loyal clients.

Plus, friends and family referred to your studio are more likely to stick around for the long term because they’re working out and having fun with people they know. This dynamic can exponentially build energy, community and another all important business metric: retention.

Client referral is one of the most effective – and inexpensive – ways to market your gym, yoga or dance studio. Why? It doesn’t have to cost anything, aside from print costs for cards or posters, and, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report:

  • Consumers are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend
  • Eighty percent say they trust referrals from people they know.

And in similar research conducted by Heinz Marketing:

  • Companies with formalized referral programs experience 86 percent more revenue growth over the past two years when compared to the rest.

Sean Clancy, SEO Director for Edge Marketing in Australia, used a client referral program to help a gym stand out in a highly competitive market. This gym competes with more than ten other fitness centers within a five mile radius, and need an edge.

“We introduced a refer-a-friend scheme. They just entered the name and number in the app, and if/when the referral converted to a member, they would be rewarded with a free months membership,” said Clancy. “Referrals for the first 3 months went up by 30 percent, and have now skewed down to a more organic, but still impressive 18 percent, year on year.”

Those are numbers that no fitness business should ignore. With the right studio management software, launching a tracking client referrals is simple and easy. So let’s get started!

Here a few proven ways to get your best customers bringing in new business using Punchpass:

Discount Codes: 

One of the marketing features inside Punchpass, is the ability to create discount codes. This works great for customer referrals because, once you’ve set up the code, and the product it will apply to, you can provide the code to your current members and instructors to start sharing with friends and family through multiple channels (read on to find out how.) There’s two primary ways to use discount codes to generate referrals:

  • Give a free class or complimentary intro offer to students referred in by your existing students and teachers. Get the word out by sending your current students an email (you can do this right in Punchpass) with the discount code, and a link to your online pass store, for their friends. Your customers simply forward the email to share the gift.
  • Reward your current customers with a free month, or a 20% discount off their next class pass, or $10 off their next month of membership – you know your pricing best – for every new student they bring in. One way to track this is by printing up “Refer A Friend” cards with a place for the current student and their friend to print their names. You can collect them as you sign in students for class.
  • Give both your current customers, and the friends they refer, discounts. If you’re feeling tech-savvy, you can create a refer-a-friend page on your website, and use a form to collect friends’ and members’ information. Then email everyone the discount codes for their special deals.

Autopay Membership Rewards:

A great way to share some love with your best customers, and generate the highest return on word-of-mouth marketing, is by giving your monthly members complimentary guest passes to hand out to friends. It’s a good idea to limit the number of passes, and consider setting rules for how many times a friend can use a guest pass. 

To generate excitement, choose one or two times a year to distribute the member buddy passes. You can even print out business-sized cards with your fitness or yoga studio’s branding, bundle them, and have them in a basket or box at your front desk, or as you sign in students for class. Hand out the cards so that your most loyal members feel special, and students who aren’t yet members get curious, and see that there are perks to being a member.

Special, Limited Time Promotions

Consider launching a “bring a friend to class” or “share the love” month. Get creative with the theme of love and friendship! Print up fliers and posters to promote your special. You can make it as simple as allowing your students to bring a friend to class for free, for 30 days. Be sure to track class attendance for the “free friends” by setting up a special “buddy pass” or “free friend” drop in rate in Punchpass. This way you’ll capture their names and information for future marketing, and you’ll know exactly how many students were referred during your program. Be sure to note who the referring member is in the “notes” section of each client.

Consider offering a prize – like a yoga mat, a water bottle, or sweat-wicking towel – to the existing student who brings the most friends to class during the promotion month.

Client referrals are such a win-win because everyone gets to share about the positive impact their health, wellness and strength program is making in their lives, while truly helping the people they care about most, get healthy too. And, the more people working out together who know each other outside the gym or studio, the more motivated they all are to keep coming back, which boosts everyone’s results and happiness levels.

Do you have a tried and true program for generating client referrals? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at!