Rest Easy and Count up Your New Members!

Referral Programs - In today’s clubs, the process is the same but the motivation is different.  The motivation is for members to be around their friends and to perpetuate social cohesion.

Further, stimulation should come from club management in the form of reward programs for those who help your club grow. This has brought about the creation of “Bring a Friend” or “Buddy Referral” or “Fitness + Friends” programs and contests. These contests or programs are based on the extrinsic reward system: Bring in a member and get a reward. The difference between a referral program and a referral contest is that in a referral program, most people receive some type of participation premium, but the winners receive the grand prize.


1. Cash prize.
2. Free month’s dues for each member brought in.
3. Free t-shirt or sweatshirt for 2 or 3 members brought in.
4. Pro Shop Gift Certificate.

Assign a prize dependent on the number of members brought in over a 30-day period:

1. A ticket to the ball game. 
2. 2 tickets to the ball game.
3. 2 tickets plus dinner.
4. 2 tickets, dinner, and a team-autographed ball.
5. Weekend vacation.

Another example:

1. A ski lift ticket for one.
2. Lift tickets for two.
3. Lift tickets plus a ski sweater.
4. Lift tickets, ski sweater, and a paid-for condominium in the mountains.

Create competition among the members. Give a large Grand Prize such as a trip to Hawaii, Mazatlán, Las Vegas, the Super Bowl, etc. Include smaller prizes for 2nd and 3rd places. Also give premiums to those that bring in just one or two.

One such referral program gave each participant a beautifully- engraved marble plaque and had special functions for the group on an ongoing basis. They also gave them special discounts throughout the club. Free dues, free guest passes, free food and beverage cards.

How to Make It Successful:

The referral program is most effective when run in conjunction with a membership special in the fall or winter (the external program). Make sure the member only needs to refer the prospect. Your staff should do all the selling. This necessitates the personal attention and supervision of a sales director, manager or assistant manager who has constant personal contact with the members. It further needs to be backed up with solid and aggressive in-house marketing with posters, flyers, newsletters, emails and most of all, phone calls. Accurate recordkeeping is a must and members should always know where they stand, as well as given constant positive feedback and thanks.

To Start a Referral Program in Your Club:

1. Pick a period of about 30 to 45 days during which to run the program.
2. Try to run it with a membership special. (The external program).
3. Create the back-up administration.
4. Choose the prizes.
5. Write out a set of rules by which the program or contest will run.
6. Put a staff person in charge of the program.
7. Advertise and promote your program.
8. End the program on Open House Day or a Special Event.

The strategies you learn and practice now, when the economy is on the move, will serve you now and in the future.

For more information on this subject, give us a call at 925-672-4800 and we will gladly do our best to answer your questions. You can also visit our website at for more information.