Profiting From Member Referrals

We all know that the most effective way to get new members is through our existing members. That's no secret. Over the last 25 years, I have tried more than 100 different ways to get our members to bring in their friends to join. Some worked well; some were disasters. If experience is the name we give to our mistakes, I am one of the most experienced people in the club industry.

I won't waste your time with all the things that don't work. After studying those that have worked well, we've developed some specific principles we now use for our member referral campaigns.

* You don't ask, you don't get. We must ask our members to bring in their friends. You can ask through posters, mailers, certificates, staff buttons and by walking up to a member and saying, "Mary, do you know anyone who should be exercising who isn't?"

* Get leads the day they join. The new member is by far the most enthusiastic member you will ever have, and he knows a lot of nonmembers. So just say, "John, if you'll write down the names of two of your friends who might like to exercise on this VIP guest sheet, I'll make sure there is a guest pass waiting for them at the front desk."

* The three most important things we can do with referral leads: Follow up, follow up, follow up.

* The referring member gets something impressive if his friend joins. Forget a free month's dues or a club shirt. Give referring members something that will grab their attention and entice them to take action, such as their name on a special wall at the club; their picture on a bulletin board for bringing in a friend; or a prize such as $100, a mountain bike, new shoes, a club pullover or a club bathrobe.

* New members should also get something when they join. Not as costly as the incentive for the referring member, but everyone brought in by an existing member should get something whether it's a free fitness assessment, a reduced joining fee, a club T-shirt or a gym bag.

* The same incentive for each campaign. Don't give the members a choice. Everyone gets exactly the same incentive.

* Rotate incentives. Each campaign should have a different incentive than the previous campaign. If you use the same incentives all the time, members get tired of them.

* Use the most effective incentives during your busi-est time of the year. If you do this, you'll find that your sales will soar.

* Give deadlines; they really work. This way your members know they have to act by a certain date to get the incentive. For example, "Offer expires Dec. 24 or when 100 bathrobes have been given away, whichever occurs first."

* Use the principle of scarcity. This way, your members will know they have to act quickly if they want the incentive. For example, "We have 100 mountain bikes available. When they're gone, they're gone." Cross through the 100 each day and post the number remaining.

* Short campaigns are very effective. I suggest three to four weeks.

* End the campaign on a day everyone can join. A lot of people wait until the last day to take action. I suggest ending on a Saturday or Sunday.

* Simple campaigns work very well. Don't use a point system, a sliding scale or a big prize for the member who brings in the most new members. If you can't explain the program in 20 words or less, it's too complicated. "Bring a friend to join by Sunday, Sept. 15, and you'll get $100 cash."

Success is finding the right things to do and then doing them right. The above principles should give you the right things to do. Now it's up to you to do them right.


For Women Only

Recent studies have shown that a variety of barriers are preventing women from exercising.

In a survey of 2,000 British women, two-third of the respondents said that they want to exercise, but they are too busy. The survey also revealed that 40 percent of the women rely on alcohol and "comfort food" to get by. Furthermore, 15 percent claimed that they are so tired, they feel suicidal.

Similar claims were made in another recent survey, this one involving nearly 3,000 U.S. women, aged 40 or older. Published in the July issue of Health Psychology, the study revealed that only 9 percent of the women were regularly active. When asked why they didn't exercise, most women said that caregiving duties kept them too busy. They also cited fatigue as a frequent factor.

Combined, these studies show that a large segment of middle-aged and older women feel tired, depressed and out of shape. Our industry has a real opportunity to help these women. If you offer childcare, let mothers know that they can leave their kids in safe hands while they exercise. In your marketing, tell women that your club is open a variety of hours to fit their busy schedules. Most importantly, stress that exercise gives people more energy and can combat depression.