Curtis Mock is the host of the health club industry’s only TV show at www.FitBiz.TV . He currently assists fitness businesses of all sizes as executive director of GymSuccess.com, speaks at Club Industry events and maintains a following of more than 3,000 health club owners subscribed to his Gym Goldmine newsletter. You can reach Mock at admin@curtismock.com.

Referral programs are a powerful way to generate new memberships. You’re probably quite familiar with a variety of methods to generate these referrals. However, referrals can also generate more personal training business.

Think about your current personal training referral strategy. If you think that it’s pretty weak, you’re not alone. Nearly all health clubs have overlooked the importance of a systematic referral program to increase personal training revenue.

The referral strategy I'd like to present here is simply to give to the referring client the same number of free personal training sessions that are purchased by the person they refer.

How will it benefit you to give away the same number of sessions you sell? Consider this: a current personal training client refers a friend who purchases 12 sessions. You’ll give the referring member their next 12 sessions for free. So yes, you break even for those 12 sessions. But think about after those 12 sessions are used. Now you have two clients paying you full price, and you didn’t spend a dime on marketing.

This program provides a great word-of-mouth marketing opportunity as well, simply because every new client knows that their friend received free sessions and they also want to refer a friend so that they can get free sessions. Referring a member only gets them a free month, but referring a friend to personal training could save them several hundred dollars. (Side note: This referral strategy works for personal training package sales, not personal training EFT sales.)

Here is a quick look at how to get started with this strategy:

1. Discuss the program with your trainers. They may not be thrilled with the idea of trading dollar for dollar while doubling their initial workload. You have to be prepared to show them the revenue potential of this program in terms of increased clients with less effort. Within a month after someone is referred, the trainer’s compensation will increase.

2. Do a big launch to introduce the program to your members. Don’t passively promote this or leave it solely up to your trainers. Everyone on your staff needs to be involved in the marketing. In addition to promoting the program heavily to existing personal training clients, be sure to promote it to all of your current members as well. If they have considered investing in personal training, this might be the impetus they need to get started.

3. Present the program initially as limited time only. You can always decide to continue the program indefinitely, but to get the buzz going initially, make it for a “limited time only” to get people referring faster. People tend to respond better when availability is limited.

4. Ask for referrals at the point of sale. When your trainers close a sale, make sure they are informing the new client about the referral program and asking for contact information for referrals. Clients are more likely to provide this information for a few hundred dollars of personal training credit versus a free month of membership.

5. Decide whether to continue the program indefinitely. If you notice that the results of the program taper off, you might consider ending the program and reintroduce it a few months later. This will allow you to promote a “grand re-opening” of the program several times a year. Or if you find it is working well consistently, offer it year round.

Implement this personal training referral program immediately so that you can capitalize on all of the new business during the first quarter of the year.