Building a Referral Culture: The First Year

A word cloud featuring "referral marketing" and associated words and phrases.

Your newest clients are the most excited about your service. In his book, “Never Lose a Customer Again,” author Joey Coleman says evangelism is most likely to happen around the 90-day mark.

In the previous post in this series, I told you exactly what to say on Day 0 and what to say on Day 90. Two-Brain clients can pull out their client journey maps again because I’m going to share a referral strategy for the rest of the client’s first year.

To recap:

  • Day 0: Set the expectation of referrals.
  • Day 90: Get the client’s most likely referral.

Now, the rest of the year.

After Day 90

Book Goal Review Sessions every 90 days.

Day 180: Begin Affinity Marketing.

Grab our Cheat Sheet on Page 7 in our Affinity Marketing Guide, available here.

A few minutes before you meet with the client for a Goal Review Session, walk through the Affinity Marketing Cheat Sheet. Who does this client live with? Work with? Hang around with? You should have three opportunities for referrals right away.

Fill in actual names on the sheet. If you don’t know any names, you should use the Goal Review Session to learn about your client instead of asking for a referral. Solidify your relationship first before trying to expand it.

Looking at the client’s relationships, decide which person would be the most likely to need your service. Then practice “help first”: How can your service help this new lead get to their goals?

When you meet with the client, make an offer to help the connection. I wrote an entire book about this, with dozens of specific examples for gym owners. Here’s one:

“Mary, I know your husband Bill likes to golf. What does he do to stay in shape in the offseason?”

Then invite Bill in for a session with Mary. It’s not a free PT session; it’s just an explicit invitation to join Mary for her workout.

Day 270: Meet with the client for another Goal Review Session.

Even if your last meeting didn’t result in a referral, you should ask again—but try someone else in the client’s life. Remember: Even if only 30 percent of your referral requests result in a new client, that’s a 30 percent return on every client you have—exponential growth!

If you invested $100 in the market and earned a 5 percent return for 30 years, you’d have $433. Imagine if you had a 30 percent return on your current client headcount!

Day 360: Invite the client’s friends, family or coworkers in for an event.

Bring a Friend Friday, Wine + WOD, a corporate challenge, a ninja warrior challenge for kids, a birthday party or even an invitation to watch the client perform a workout—all of these can result in amazing referrals.

Try these approaches:

“Mary, we’re doing our quarterly Bring a Friend Friday next week. Who would you like to invite to do a partner workout with you?”

“Mary, we’re hosting a women-only workout on Friday. I’m going to bring some wine. Who would you like to invite from your friends list?”

“Mary, I know this time of year is stressful at work. What if we invited your team in on Friday night for a fun workout challenge to blow off steam? I’ll bring snacks!”

“Mary, I know your daughter’s baseball team is nearing the end of the season. What if we brought them in for a team party on Saturday? I’ll set up a little ninja warrior challenge, you can bring a snack, and we’ll just let them have fun for an hour. How about it?”

“Hey, Bill, I’m sure Mary’s been talking about the CrossFit Open at home. She’s nervous, but she’s going to do amazing. I’d love to have you join us—lots of spouses and families come in to watch. Make it a surprise if you want to. The event is Thursday at 6 p.m. and I’ll save you a seat. Can you make it?”

Of course, getting a body in the gym isn’t the same as signing the person up. But it’s a great way to start the conversation. While you’re chatting to the new lead, your goal is to get the person to book an intro appointment.

The key? Look for ways to meet the people who surround your clients.

Spin Your Web!

My first three clients were teen athletes. My next 30 clients were their friends and parents because I showed up at their events (sometimes I even set up a big banner and a tent!).

In the next post in this series, I’ll tell you how to set up a referral network in your town.

Other Media in This Series

“Building a Referral Culture”
“Building a Referral Network in Your Town”
“Building a Referral Web (That Might Be all the Marketing You Ever Need)”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.