Building a Referral Culture

A bright blue keyboard button with the words "refer a friend."

The key to exponential growth is to have your clients bring you more clients.

This isn’t a passive process: You can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. Your clients aren’t salespeople or evangelists. They probably love you, but unless someone asks “who’s your coach?” they probably won’t talk about you.

In this series, I’m going to tell you how we’ve built a referral system at my gym, Catalyst, and hundreds of other gyms worldwide. While we occasionally run ads (around once every quarter), most of our clients have come from direct referrals.

Yes, we do a good job. Yes, we get people results. But that’s not why we get referrals. We get referrals because we’ve built a “culture of referral” instead of a culture of secrecy.

In the first 90 days, a client is very likely to refer a friend. So that’s where we’ll start. If you’re in the Two-Brain Family, pull out your Client Journey and add a couple of notes.

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Prepare the client to refer.

At your first meeting, say this: “If I do a great job and you’re happy with your progress in 90 days, I’m going to ask you for the name of one other person who could benefit from this service. OK?”

Step 2. Do an excellent job and get the clients results.

You’re already great at this part.

Step 3: Ask for a referral.

At your 90-day goal review, measure the client’s progress, record the client’s story and then say: “You’ve made amazing progress. You’ve probably noticed how warm and friendly everyone is here. We curate our membership by working only with amazing people. Who, in your life, would fit into this group?”

Then make sure you get a name and contact information.

Ask: “How would you feel about calling them right now, while I’ve got you here?” (This is 50-50; some clients won’t feel comfortable, and that’s fine.) If the client agrees, call the new lead and say, “Hey, Alen, I’m sitting here with Joan and we were just talking about you! She’d like to invite you in to work out with her. What do you say?”

If the client would rather not have you cold-call a friend, you can email instead. CC your client on the email for credibility.

Subject line: [Your client’s name]

Text: Hey [lead name], I was just chatting with [client] and we agreed that we’d love to have you in for a partner workout. [Client’s] next appointment will be [exact date and time]. Can you make it?”

This type of direct referral works best with low-hanging fruit: your client’s best referral, who’s probably prequalified and ready to try something new.

Multiplying Clients

These conversations will result in a new client almost 40 percent of the time. Turn your next 10 clients into 14!

Other Media in This Series

“Building a Referral Culture: The First Year”
“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.