Done-for-You Referral Generator

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One of my favorite ways of getting new clients is by giving my clients a reason to refer us to their friends, family, and co-workers. It costs us nothing and the marketing is very simple and straight forward. However, what most fitness professionals fail to realize is that you still need a BIG reason why your clients should refer you to the network and “what’s in it for them.” In this exclusive S3 member’s Post I’m going to reveal to you how we routinely add an additional 12-20 paying clients (not leads) at no cost!

Hi S3 Members!

Launching a referral contest is one of the fastest, easiest, and least expensive ways to get new personal training clients.

The other great part is that these referrals that will be coming in are all pre-qualified since they are coming from current clients.

The 3rd reason why I love referral contests is because we are attracting other like-minded individuals who are a part of our target market. So instead of weeding out good and bad clients or leads we are getting the cream of the crop.

Now in order to do this you need a well conceived referral contest that breeds an environment of referring. This S3 Member Post will provide you with the program and contests I run whenever we need a surge of new clients (and it works every time!).

How to Plug this Referral Generator into Your Business

This is a special post dedicated to anyone who needs anywhere from a few new clients to a few dozen new clients in less than a month.

The 1st thing to keep in mind is that the more clients you currently have, the more referrals you will get. This is of course because you have more bodies asking friends, family, and coworkers if they’re interested in signing up for training, or to meet with you.

You could offer bootcamps, 1-on-1, small group, semi-private, etc.

The key to a great referral contest is making it simple and straight forward.

You don’t want your current clients to have to guess what they need to do in order to refer.

We give each client a referral gift certificate sheet in their welcome folder, but for referral contests what we do is give each client 5 business cards (or VIP or Plastic Gift Cards).

Our business cards have a coupon for a complimentary fitness consultation on the back, which their referral can redeem by a specific date (by the end of the contest).

Also, we post our “referral posters” around the studio so that everyone knows the contest dates, rules, and who is in the lead.

Referral Contest Posters

You should post an 8.5×11 or 11×17 contest poster in these places:

1. In your waiting area or on a table at your bootcamp
2. Above your water cooler
3. One other conspicuous place like on your studio door, beside the coffee/tea station, or some other place where people can stop and read it

>>> Download the Word Doc Poster

The reason you want it posted 3x is because you always want to keep the 4-8 week contest at the top of their mind. Every time your client walks in they should be thinking about whom they could refer (or working on getting their referrals to actually make the call).

We also have our website address and “Get Started” page on the back of the business card that referrals can fill out online (which is what we prefer since they will then be categorized as a higher quality lead for taking the time to fill out that 5-minute questionnaire). Plus, there is a place for the referral to fill out how they heard about us on the online PARQ.

So now let’s get into how you should launch your contest:

Preferably, I like running a formal contest 2x per year.

When we do run them they are typically during these months: January, September, and another potentially in May.

We also run our big Body Transformation Contest in January and that’s the reason we  may not do one then. Don’t let the time of the year (except December and August) stop you from holding a referral contest at anytime.

Now, let’s talk about what prizes to offer.

If you think about what the lifetime value (LTV) of a client is worth and how much it typically takes you to acquire a client through advertising you will soon find out you can offer some pretty amazing gifts for the top 3 winners.

Since the LTV of one of our studio clients is well over $3,000 and it typically costs about $100 to acquire a new 1-on-1 client we like to go big with our gifts (Plus, cool prizes will make people want to work harder to win, and thus, refer more new clients…).

Contest Prize Give-Aways

We’ll give away a Mountain Bike, iPod, iPad, Spa Package, Supplements, etc to the top winners.

Our last prize give-away looked like this:
1st Place: iPad2 + 1 Year of Online Personal Training (videos, meal plans, etc) + 1 Month of Supplements (protein powder, multi-vitamin, fish oil, and a box of bars)

2nd Place: 1 Hour Massage + 6 Month of Online Personal Training + 1 Month of Supplements (protein powder, multi-vitamin, fish oil, and a box of bars)

3rd Place: 3 Months of Online Personal Training + 1 Month of Supplements (protein powder, multi-vitamin, fish oil, and a box of bars)

In total I purchase and iPad, 3 month’s supply of nutritional supplements (whey protein, fish oil, and multi), and a spa gift certificate for a 1 hour massage.

This what the cost breakdown looks like:

iPad: $500 (Value $500+)
3 month supply of supplements: $120 (Value $250+)
Massage gift certificate: $80 ( Value $120)
Online Training: $0 (Value $299 + $180 + $89)

*If you do not have an online aspect to your business just skip that part and go with prizes, which is simpler anyway…Keep in mind though, that for me to offer online training it cost me nothing since it’s all downloadable, so if you have an eBook, etc you could do the same. This type of prize does however significantly raise the value of your prizes without costing you anything (pretty sweet right?)

Also, do you see how the cost to me of the prizes are significantly less than what the value is?

This is because I can buy everything except the iPad at a discount. However, the true value is what the client sees – not the discounted price which is what allows me to give away prizes at almost double what I pay for them.

Here’s another little trick.

I will often go to a massage therapist or studio and let them know about the contest I am running. I say to them that I am looking to promote one therapist or studio in the contest and if you’re willing to offer me a discount on just one massage gift certificate than I would be happy to promote you…

Who in their right mind would turn this down!

(by the way, pretty much every spa uses Groupon or a service like that and gives discounts anyway to first time buyers, which is why asking for a discount to promote them is no big deal…)

So now let’s say you don’t have a big budget for prizes, here’s what you can do:

1st Place Prize: Massage Gift Certificate

2nd Place: iPod Shuffle (or another fitness based gadget)

3rd Place: 1 Month’s Supply of Supplements (Whey or Vegan protein and a multi-vitamin)

This is what I would do for prizes when I was first starting out and had just opened my studio…

Okay, now here’s another little trick I think you’ll like:

Don’t buy any of the prizes until after the contest ends!

You may have already figured this out, but if you wait until the contest ends you have more than enough income from new sign-ups to pay for the prizes.

Great stuff, right?

I mean, 1-2 new sign-ups should pay for all those prizes listed above…

And remember, if you know the LTV of your clients then don’t look at this as a 1-time sign-up either… keep in mind that the majority of your clients resign after their first package is up. So, if they paid $197 a month for 3 months and then typically resign for at least another package, that means each new client is really worth about $1,200 – not $600.

This means that for most of us who are working hard on client retention we can pay for most out our marketing and referral contest prizes with just ONE sign-up!

All of the rest is pure gold – or whatever currency you accept at your fitness business.


Now using my formula, which worked great last Fall, let me take you through exactly what I did and how you can use it this year:

On September 8th:

(Replace this date with the 1st or any particular date of the month you choose)

Send out an email to your current clients announcing that you will be holding a referral contest beginning on September 13th (a Monday – always start on a Monday). In this email you will also disclose the bonuses and contest rules for the top 3 winners.

Before September 13th:

(date of when contest begins):

You will want to post your flyers or posters around your studio. If you have a bootcamp you should announce it before the camp and at the end. You will also want to set up a simple folding table with the poster standing up in an inexpensive plastic stand.

1st Referral Email Template

You’ll want to send out this email the week before the contest gets under way to give everyone a heads up – including your own team of fitness professionals, which you should explain the contest to as well…
<begin email>

Subject: BIG Contest Announcement

Hi Studio Members!

I wanted to share with you the details of a fun contest we will be holding at the studio for the next 6 weeks beginning on September 13th.

We’ll be giving away a brand new iPad2, online training packages, a spa massage gift certificate, and a month’s supply of nutritional supplements – In total we have over $1,000 worth of gifts we’ll be giving away to the winners!

Here’s how the contest works:

Since we value our clients and their dedication to their training we’re looking to see if you know of any other family, friends, or co-workers like yourself who may be interested in training with us here at the studio. Since we’re a small business and don’t have a big budget for advertising we rely heavily on word-of-mouth advertising.

Plus, we feel community is important to us and we’d love to have other individuals join our studio community who have the same health & fitness values and interests that you do.

With that said we’ll be awarding the top 3 clients who refer the most new clients over a 6 week period spanning from September 13th to October 31st.

The rules are simple, any client that signs up for 12 or more sessions during the next 6 weeks counts as one referral. The top 3 clients with the most referrals win the contest!

Keep an eye out for contest posters and details in the studio over the next week. Also, please feel free to ask your fitness professional at the studio for details about the contest.

We appreciate your business and we’re happy to have you as a client of our studio!

Thank you in advance for any referrals you may generously send to us and please let me know if you have any questions.

Committed to your success,

Coach Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Owner of Stephen Cabral Studio

<end email>


Here is the template for the 2nd email:

On September 13th:

You will send out your 2nd email announcing the start of the contest and restate the bonuses. Get your clients fired up!

*You can even open up the contest to non-clients and post it to your Facebook and Twitter account. You would offer the same prizes and just include non-clients in to the mix as well. This is a great thing to do if you have a small client base.

<begin email>

Subject: It’s Officially Started

Hi Studio Members!

It’s official.

The referral contest has begun and we really appreciate those of you that have already told us that you have a few friends, family, or co-workers in mind that would be a good fit for the studio.

Just a reminder that we’d be happy to provide you with as manay business cards, coupon cards, and gift certificates that would would need in order to give them to interested individuals.

Remember, you don’t have to sell them on anything. All we would like you to do is make the introduction and then we’ll invite your friends, family, or co-workers in for a no-obligation complimentary fitness consultation.

It cost them nothing and we’re only looking to work with new clients that would be a good fit for the studio so we would never “hard sell” someone on working with us.

We’ll leave some extra coupon rack cards outside our studio entrance if you would like to take any for those you may think would be a good candidate for the studio. Also, please feel free to grab any of the business cards that are on the ledge which also offer a coupon for a complimentary SCS Fitness Consultation on the back.

Thanks again for participating and we’ll see in the studio soon!

Committed to your success,

Coach Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Owner of Stephen Cabral Studio

<end email>

During September and October:

Since I would suggest a 6-8 week contest I would send bi-weekly email updates of how many referrals 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place have. This will get people to keep referring and the leaders will want to solidify their spot as a prize winner. In these emails I would continue to thank everyone for spreading the word – even if they haven’t made a referral yet.

I would also think about posting the leaders names (or initials, etc) on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper below the referral contest posters.

(keep in mind some clients may not want their name listed so you can just use an alias or their initials – of course, most will have no problem with you putting their name up. I would list the “Top 10” each week.)

>>> Download Contest Leader’s Sheet

I would place the above leader’s sheet right beside or near where you are currently hanging the posters in your studio or bootcamp. This will lead to more continuity and it will be more eye-catching…

Last Week of Contest Warning Email:

Send out an email the Thursday before the last week of the contest (end on a Friday – about 7-10 days from this email) announcing the end of the contest and who the leaders are and their numbers.

That email would look like this:

<begin email>

Hi Studio Members!

It’s hard to believe, but the last 5 weeks have flown by and we only have 1 week left in our Member Referral Contest!

The race is pretty tight with a 3 way tie for the lead!

Here are the Top 10 Referral Leaders:

1. Robert S – 3
2. Jane Q – 3
3. Sam W – 3
4. Courtney L – 2
5. Jennifer H – 2
6. Alfred S – 2
7. Anthony S – 1
8. Maximus D – 1
9. Obama B – 1
10. Gunnar R – 1

As you can see it’s a tight race with no clearly defined winner yet…

With a little over a week left we would really appreciate it if you reached out to any last people you know who you think would benefit from sitting down and talking with us about their exercise, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Thank you again for your support and let us know if there’s anything you need on our end.

Have a great day!

Committed to your success,

Coach Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Owner of Stephen Cabral Studio

<end email>

After the Contest is Over

Now after the contest is over you have to do a few critical things.

The reason is that you need to set everyone up for the NEXT contest you will be holding when you award fun prizes and gifts.

What you will want to do is put up a poster or sheet of paper with the names and ideally the photos of the 3 top winners. Next to each name you should place a photo of the prize they won, or better yet, a photo of them holding the prize!

This does 2 things:

1. It makes your contest seem real in the eyes of those who were skeptical and did not refer
2. It reinforces the fun of the contest and the great prizes you gave away

(We do this with all of our body transformation contests as well)

One Other Thing to Do

Also, don’t be “one of those guys” who only emails their clients when you have something to sell.

This is bad.

So, if you’re planning on holding a contest coming up soon start sending an email every other week or so to your entire list of studio members offering great tips, etc. without trying to sell anything…

This is a very important note and I hope you take it seriously.

This also applies after the contest is over.

You will want to continue emailing your studio or fitness business list every other week to at least once a month with “studio happening” and always plenty of free tips to reach their goals.

I hope this referral contest opened your eyes to how we rack up another dozen or so high-quality paying clients every time we run it. And of course, it is one of my favorite “no hard sales” techniques to generate clients that costs nothing except for the prizes we give away (which as you’ll remember are paid for by the new clients signing up!)

The Numbers

Lastly, please don’t fall for non-fitness fitness gurus who claim to get hundreds of referrals within a month’s time period. You know this is BS right?

It is, and it’s despicable that they market it like that.

When they claim to get 100 referrals they are talking about people contacting them. Most of these leads are bogus and just eat up your time… and if you’re building a business, you don’t have a lot of time.

Also, only bootcamps can garner a hundred leads a month because they can give away free classes since there are no space constraints.

But, in general, when you hear a non-fitness fitness guru claiming to have a program that can get you 100 referrals a month scroll your mouse up to that little “X” in your internet window and close it quickly… and then close their pop-up telling you that if you act now they can get you 200 LEADS!

If this was really the case, why aren’t these non-fitness fitness gurus running studio or bootcamps and making millions every year?

Are you confused by that? Me too…

Anyway, here’s why a dozen high-quality new clients is better:

12 Client Referrals = $42,768

If you sell a 12 week package for $297 a month for 3 months and each new client signs up for that (of course you will sell some higher and some lower priced packages, but this will be the average price), then you will make $891 per client every 3 months.

When you multiply that by 12 new clients then you just added $10,692 a quarter.

This equals $42,768 if you retain all of them – which you should!

Truthfully, way too many fitness pros don’t think they should be retaining ALL of their clients every month and this is a shame. Your clients came to you for a reason. They knew that without the motivation and accountability and programming of a professional trainer that they wouldn’t be able to reach their goals on their own.

Your clients need you.

They need you to continue maintaining the progress they made as well as making new progress.

Plan on retaining at least 90% of your clients each month.

If you’re not above 80% then you have a sinking ship…

Work on that fast.

So, using the 90% retention we can adjust your yearly NEW REVENUE to $38,492.

Basically, you just gave your business a $40K cash infusion.

That’s nice.

PLUS, I haven’t even shard with you the best part…

At least 2 out of every 10 new clients will refer you AT LEAST 1 new client each. (just 20% of your clients)

This means you’ll add another $7,128 ($891 every 3 months for 2 new clients)

And, of course, the cycle continues with each new client you begin to work with. This is why if you read my article on “Why You Can’t Fail” you’ll see why it’s only a matter of time before you’re running a business that nets AT LEAST $100,000 a year.

In my opinion, if you’re a great fitness professional and you don’t make $100,000 a year then your business systems and retention is broken. Notice, I didn’t even mention marketing… because as I’ve stated in the past all you need is 17 clients to make over $100K a year and you can easily find 2 clients a month without any fancy marketing…

You need the marketing when you want to explode your business and take it to the next level.

So we got a bit off track here, but my goal is to provide you with the BEST fitness education you can receive and to give you all the tidbits I never had coming up as a young buck in the industry when dumbbells were still filled with sand…

I hope today’s complete Automated Referral Generator Program provided you with everything you need to add AT LEAST $10K to your business this year

Committed to your success,

Coach Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Voted “2011 Personal Trainer of the Year”
Health consultant for MTV, Men’s Health, NutritionData, SELF, Maxim, Dietcom




Comment on this Content

  • Sheila Townsend

    HI Steve,
    Thanks for this post! I am trying to download the poster but it is saying that there is an error. Is it possible to email this to me? Or is there another link I could try?

    Any help would be great,

    • Hi Sheila,

      I just tried to download the Word doc poster and it was fine?

      Try it again or right clicking and “saving as” in order to get it onto your computer.

      If that doesn’t work just email and I’ll have Rachel find it for you.

  • Ruston Webb

    What happens if someone ties for first place or you have more than 2 people who tie for first place? Do you buy 2 or more ipad’s? That’s a lot of money to spend.

    • Hi Ruston,

      This wasn’t an issue for us when we had less clientss, but for those with bootcamps or small group it can be a big issue. Plus, we don’t give away prizes until they hit 2-3 referrals for the iPad. We’re willing to pay $100 per referral anyway, since we know our LTV…

      However, It’s a great question and now that we have A LOT more clients what we do is give everyone 1 entry per referral into our awards raffle.

      So, if someone gets 3 referrals they get 3 entries into a drawing were we pull names for 1st through 3rd prizes.

      Hope this helps and I’ll make sure to update the S3 Post with this information!

  • I hope you enjoyed this massive S3 post… It is really an entire product I’m giving you as part of your Smart Studio Systems Membership, since I think it is an unbelievable way to add at least another $10K to your business in just about 6 weeks time!