Club Insider

No & Low-Cost Marketing

Does It Still Exist?

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Casey ConradCasey Conrad

I belong to a local, "boutique" functional fitness facility that's less than five minutes from my home. Although it is not a CrossFit, it has the same type of workouts, just safer. I call it, "CrossFit for the joint conscious." At 53 years of age (how did that happen!?), I am right in the middle of the pack for a member profile. I don't know exact numbers, but the facility probably has about 250 members with the prime-time classes almost always full or close to capacity. The owner has run a very occasional Facebook ad, and once in the three years in which I have been a member, he ran a referral promotion with internal signage advertising a free T-shirt when you bring a friend who joins. Five years in existence, doing a bang-up business and has barely spent a dime on marketing... Hmmmm. The physical location is "B" at best. It's drafty, there are no locker rooms and one small shower... You get the picture.

A few months back, I was with a bunch of girlfriends enjoying a night away from kids, husbands and any other familial responsibilities. One of the women began sharing her recent experience with having her full horoscope done and explained with great detail the incredible accuracy of what it told about her life, and in particular, her current "transitional" situation. We were glued to our seats, and without any mention of a referral (or even that the person would be available for others), four out of the five of us asked for the horoscope reader's contact details. We each gladly paid $300 for a 90-minute phone session and printout. The woman was taking appointments three and four weeks out! (By the way, it was fascinating and accurate.)

Albeit the second example isn't fitness-related, what both these experiences display is that "No or Low-Cost Marketing" does still exist; it's called PRO-ACTIVE referrals. I'll circle back to these two examples later when we discuss the components of what drives a product or service to succeed in easily getting referrals, but before we go there, an important question must first be addressed. Why are so many club operators struggling with obtaining pro-active referrals? By "pro-active," I mean asking for and receiving referrals. Over the past several years, I've noticed more and more operators moving away from referral programs but increasingly asking me, "What are others doing to drive traffic into their facility?" So, I became intrigued with the question, "What has happened to 'The Referral?'" and began polling clients and attendees at my seminars.

Most recently, I was giving a marketing seminar with about 20 independent operators. The majority had been in the business 10+ years and would be considered successful. When we began discussing referral programs, I asked who is having success with pro-active referrals (both point-of-sale and on-going campaigns). The response shocked me. Out of 20 operators, only two raised their hands! In shock, I began asking more detailed questions:

  • Do you have a structured new member referral program that offers an incentive?
  • Do you offer some kind of gift just for providing names at the point of sale?
  • Do you have a referral form that is filled out by the new member and turned in by each salesperson to management?
  • Do you track the average number of referrals obtained at the point of sale by each salesperson?
  • Do you run one or more structured club referral programs throughout the year?
  • Do you track the conversion rate of referrals to appointments and subsequent sales?

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