Referrals can be a really powerful tool to grow your business. Probably one of the most important and especially I feel for in-person personal training which is a bit more engaged and almost always higher ticket.
Let’s look at it from a potential client's point of view.
There are a ton of personal trainers out there in almost every corner of the world. And if you are a person looking to start training and make some changes to your body or lifestyle you are going to spend a lot of time and effort to really make sure you choose the right trainer to work with.
And let’s face it, hiring a trainer isn’t cheap and no one wants to waste their money.
With so many options on trainers and the type of training they will give and also the ways training can be delivered. It can be a real headache and a big risk trying to decide on what’s best and who is best for you.
So instead, if you have a friend, family member or colleague that is already working with a trainer and is loving the experience and getting results, then that person recommending their trainer to you is going to be a big relief!
At the very least you will have saved a load of time researching and trying out trainers.
By the way, a quick side note, a great reason for you to have an online presence and website is for the people that don’t have the benefit of a recommendation.
These potential clients will research all of this and will first, be able to find you, and second, feel more comfortable when they make the initial contact. Go and check out session number seven Do Personal Trainers Really Need a Website?
But today we are talking about the people that do have a recommendation.
So once you get that trainer recommendation from your friend or whoever it was, if it is from a person you trust, then in your mind, you're probably already fixed on hiring that person so long a few things fall into place like price and timings.
Essentially, the trainer will have to make a huge cock up to lose your business. So that is a great situation for this person, but also the trainer.
Because now, if we look at this from a trainer's point of view, you now have a person coming to you that 99% has already made up their mind to hire you.
How amazing is that?
Your current client that made the recommendation has done almost all the hard work for you!
Now, some of the other benefits to referrals for trainers are that you are more likely to find more great clients just like the one that referred you.
They will generally be more committed to the process, respect your time more, and be more consistent.
They will also be less likely to ask for discounts and extensions on their packages.
Your current client won't want to refer trash clients to you as they won’t want to look bad in that context.
In the same way, your newly referred client will be more likely to be onboard with your processes, systems and methods because they don't want their friend that referred them to look bad either.
So you get more really high quality clients which is less of a headache for you too.
For freelance trainers especially, it can be hard work finding good clients, and guess what? Referred clients tend to stay much longer with a client than any other type of client. So with them staying longer you can fill up your calendar easier.
This really is a win-win for everyone!
So now you know why referrals can be so important to your personal training business, how do you get them?
Well, first off, you need 2 things.
The first is you need to provide a great experience to your current clients. Second is that you need to get them results!
This is a one-two punch that will help you create superfans that will talk about you all day long.
Now, keep in mind that the results side of this are not just for your client to be so excited that they go off and talk to other people about you and what you do.
Although this is an awesome thing.
But it is also so that your client’s friends and family see the changes they have made and ASK THEM about what they did to make such a difference.
That way you will naturally come up in their conversation and now these new people will already be itching to work with you.
You can’t go wrong.
I have known trainers and even business owners in other industries run their entire business only on referrals.
And once you reach a certain level with this, referrals is all you will need.
You see, once you have a bunch of superfans and only work on referrals, you suddenly become very exclusive. People that maybe want to work with you can only do so if they have a referral from someone already working with you.
Trainers like this have a long waiting list of people wanting to hire them. And because it is exclusive and hard to get a spot, people will pay a lot once they are in!
And once they are in they will stay with you for a longer period of time as they won't want to lose their slot. They won't know when the next time a slot might be open again so your retention will go through the roof!
These clients are ideal. They will do everything needed, you now have a calendar full of high end clients that are fun and easy to work with.
Now, that all sounds nice enough and pretty simple. But it isn’t easy.
Like I said before. You need to deliver!
You need the time to build your calendar in the early days and build your reputation.
You also need a solid referral program to draw people in.
So how do you actually set up a systematised referral program?
Again, there is no ‘one way’.
But the people that have had the most success with building this type of referral based business build into their business.
It is made a condition of doing business with you while you are starting off and trying to fill your calendar.
Every new person that registers with you will need to give you 2 or 3 names…you decide. of people that would benefit from working with you.
Now, I know some people don't like to refer in case the trainer screws things up with their family member and they come off looking bad because of it. But that is what completes the trifecta of each person being held accountable with how they conduct themselves and perform.
But you should make it a condition of doing business.
But also…don’t just leave things there.
Don’t just ask for a referral at the beginning and then never ask again.
But pick your times. Asking when a client has just had a particularly good session. Or when they have just had some really good measurements or maybe broken a PB.
These are great times to ask, but still…in the right way.
Another opportunity is when you do a review with your client either once a month or at the end of each training cycle. If you use a form of some kind you can ask your client to again give a couple of numbers of people that might benefit from working with you.
The more you have these moments, the more referrals will become a part of the culture of your business.
Moving on, you’ll also need some way of incentivising your clients to make referrals.
Typical rewards used by most trainers include things like free sessions or discounts. But I don’t think this is such a great idea for an individual trainer as your time is so precious.
Discounts are one way to go and you can easily do that. But it becomes more powerful and makes more sense if you know the lifetime value of each client. That will then let you know how much you can comfortably give away whilst making it worthwhile and still growing your business.
In his book The Wealthy Fit Pro's Guide to Getting Clients and Referrals, Jon Goodman gives a couple of examples of bonuses that was used by a guy Mike Doehla.
As clients would lose weight they would obviously need new clothes. So a gift card to help out with buying new clothes helps to celebrate and shout about the success. Again, you will come up in those conversations.
So they recommend, and I agree, that a gift with a personal touch goes a long way to reward, but also strengthen the rapport between you and your client.
If you can, try and choose something that is used often, lasts a long time and can be used regularly. Even better if it stands out in some way.
In a more basic sense to help show this, think of all the cliche corporate gifts that people get.
The branded mugs and pens given out in the thousands are there for a reason. Mugs and pens fit this profile of things that are used often, regularly and last a long time.
All of this helps to keep you top of mind for your client and regularly in the conversation.
Now, you don't need to brand everything. A client will always remember that it was you that gave them this really nice clothing without the need for your name or business to be plastered all over it.
That most of the time this will be more cost effective than free sessions or massive discounts.
Make it personal and make it meaningful and build the bond, rapport, trust and reciprocity with your awesome client to get more and more clients just like them.
So what amazing referral systems are you using right now in your personal training business?
Let me know of some of the clever ways you are using them to grow your business.