Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to get more clients without learning complicated marketing strategies, posting on social media everyday, or striking up conversations with random strangers in the gym?

Good news! There is such a thing, and it’s called a referral.

In marketing, referrals are king (or queen). That’s because potential clients that find you by referral have the best chance of signing up with you and often it requires little work on your part. 

How does that happen? Usually, it’s as simple as one of your current clients recommending you to a friend when having a conversation about weight loss or maybe someone messaging you on social media because they saw a picture of you training their family member on Facebook.

Referrals work so well for two reasons:

  1. Because of a phenomenon called social proof. This means that someone with personal experience said you’re good at what you do and now others who trust that person are more likely to feel confident in your abilities without even knowing you.
  2. Because people like to do what their friends do. Most humans prefer to be part of a tribe and share experiences with those that matter to them. By having a trainer in common that creates an opportunity to have more things to talk about, stories to share, and experiences to bond over.

People want to take the guesswork out of knowing what they are getting when it comes to working with a personal trainer and nothing is more impactful than hearing it from someone they know and trust. 

Since getting client referrals is such a powerful way to build a training business, it’s no surprise that the best trainers make it a key part of their marketing strategy. In fact, when done correctly, a trainer should be able to produce 1-2 referrals from each client on their roster.

But like anything else, if you want to maximize your referral opportunities then you’ve gotta have a good plan in place.

Read on to learn the Axiom “Make it” method, which is the best way to get solid, consistent referrals throughout your training career. By following these three steps, you’ll be able to remove any possible obstacles or inconveniences for your clients, make them feel compelled to help you get more business, and ensure that you get a steady stream of referrals that you can build a lasting career on.

Make It Matter

Let’s get something out of the way – if you want to increase the chances of someone helping you out, you’ve got to ask. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental keys to getting client referrals, and the one that most trainers drop the ball on. Maybe you don’t like asking for help or you don’t know how, (we’re going to cover that shortly) but if you don’t ask then you won’t receive. 

Many of your clients probably want to help you anyway, which is why they might send people your way without asking. In fact, if you’ve helped them reach their goals, then they probably already feel a desire to reciprocate. But you will also have clients who don’t even think about referring anyone your way and it’s your job to make it matter to them.

Much like you may feel silly or shy about asking clients for referrals, your clients may also be shy about prying into your business or may not actually understand how personal trainers get work. Or, maybe it just never crosses their mind that you’re looking for more business. So, the best thing you can do is communicate what you want them to know. 

Something as simple as saying “Hey John. I’m looking to take on just a couple more clients to fill my schedule and many of my best clients have come by recommendation from great clients like yourself. Do you know of any friends, family members, or co-workers that would be a great fit for working with me or are interested in stepping up their fitness goals?” will go a long way in creating awareness and getting the ball rolling.

While that may help create some interest and awareness to get your clients connecting you to their contacts, it’s also a good idea to sweeten the deal by offering some type of reward for sending clients your way. This could be some free or discounted sessions, a cash reward, a gift card to their favorite fitness gear store, or anything else you think they’d find valuable. Sure, this might not be a motivator for everyone, but many will appreciate the gesture. 

Make It Easy

If you’ve done a good job letting your clients know how valuable referrals are to your business and given them incentive to help, you’re going to find that you’ll have plenty of contacts suggested to you. The only problem is, your clients don’t know the best way to connect you with their friends and that could be a barrier. That means you need to have a process to handle these new leads and it needs to be simple.

There are dozens of ways you can go here, but the key is to minimize the number of steps as well as keep you in the driver’s seat when it comes to making first contact. With this in mind we recommend using any mixture of the following three methods:

Ask your clients to give you (or) share their contact information in the moment. If you have done a great job of letting clients know how valuable referrals are to you and that you’d like to take on a few new clients, then don’t hesitate to make it a one step process at the end of the session. There’s no need to complicate it with google forms and referral cards if you can make it fast and easy. This takes any and all responsibility off of their plate for making it happen. The only thing you should ask them to do is let their contact or friend know that you will be reaching out directly within the next 1-2 days.

*Pro Tip Preferred contact information would be phone number over email. Phone number is likely to be the most effective, but respect potential referrals’ preferences if they would rather communicate initially via email.

Ask your clients to connect you on a text message with the potential referral. This allows for your client to make a little bit of an “intro” to build you up and breaks the ice prior to an initial phone call or in-person meeting with the referral. After the intro, text them separately and let them know you’d love to find time to jump on a phone call and talk a little bit more. This can be a less stressful first digital meet for potential clients prior to diving into more depth about what they are looking for.

Use Social Media. Depending on your client age demographic, as well as the depth of your online presence, social media can be a powerful tool for solidifying you as a referral. The methods used above work the same here, but instead of clients sharing cell phone numbers and connecting you via text, they are sharing profiles and connecting you via DM and messenger. This may not be the right move for everyone, but Instagram has become a business card of sorts. So, if you have a strong digital presence and personal brand don’t be afraid to connect with referrals where you show up best. 

Any of these methods can work, but do what feels most natural for you. Whatever method has the least amount of friction for everyone involved is likely to yield the best results. 

Make It Consistent

So many trainers do a great job of putting together a solid referral program only to forget about it or let it fall to the wayside. Don’t let that be you. Your existing clients will forget a couple of days or weeks after you mention it to them and you’ll pick up new clients over time. So, you need to ask for referrals regularly and the best way is to create a plan to keep you on task and bake it right into service. 

First, choose how you’ll ask. Maybe you prefer to ask in person or perhaps you’d rather do it via email or social media. Either way, you shouldn’t rely on one single method but rather choose 2-3 ways that work well with your clients and rotate them. In the “make it easy” section above, we listed a couple ways that are working for trainers right now and might be appealing to you.

Second, you need to choose how frequently you’ll ask your clients for referrals. Of course you don’t want to make them feel bothered, but you do want to keep it top of mind. That said, asking someone once a quarter is probably a great place to start. Additionally, there are some moments that are better than others.

For example, when you sign up someone new, they are often at a peak level of excitement and motivation. So, encouraging them to bring a friend to a session or asking if they have anyone that would like to get started with them will often yield good results.

Another opportunity that lends itself to better outcomes is whenever a client accomplishes a significant fitness goal or reaches a milestone. Maybe they got their first pull up or maybe they officially lost all of their baby weight, these are impactful moments and asking for a referral tactfully can deliver a handful of new clients.

Finally, once you’re asking on a regular basis and the leads are starting to flow in, you need a tracking system that keeps everything in order. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or be as advanced as a color coded spreadsheet. Either way, it should allow you to record the referrals you’ve received, who they came from, and how/when to follow up with them. You’ll be more prepared to capitalize on your opportunities and not let anyone slip through the cracks.

*Pro tip: Technology can be a huge time saver and one of the best things you can do is automate many of your tasks. Whether it means setting up regular reminders in your calendar or setting up automated email campaigns that ask clients for referrals every 90 days, you’ll be better off if you can integrate your referral plans into your regular marketing campaign. And, you’ll be less likely to forget.

Marketing and growing a solid business can feel pretty complicated sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be. Without a doubt, getting client referrals is one of the easiest and most critical aspects to filling your client roster. However, you’ve got to get your clients onboard, make it easy for them to help, and do it consistently if you want to get the most benefit. By using the Axiom “Make It” method, you’ll be able to simplify the process and reap the rewards.