5 Ways to Boost Member Referrals

member-referrals Climbing gyms in America typically don’t have much of a marketing budget, and even though they may not know it they rely almost exclusively on word of mouth marketing. For better or worse, your members are your sales force. Historically climbing gyms have relied on their first-mover advantage; being the only climbing gym in town has its benefits. But those benefits run out very fast when a second climbing gym moves into the area. When that happens a market disruption takes place and customers finally have a choice as to where they spend their time and money. Customers don’t just take their money with them when they switch to a new gym, they also take their friends. According to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm:
Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers are buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive, factors that tend to make people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than they otherwise would.
All gyms are local and people still talk to each other face to face; at school, at work and even in your gym. They’re going to talk whether you like it or not so you might as well give them something positive to talk about. Here are 5 ways to get your customer’s friends coming through the door.

1. Appreciation days

Your members are connected to a variety of communities that hold untapped customer potential. So let them be your ambassador! Offering an appreciation day for teachers, service workers, firefighters and military are just a few groups other gyms have targeted. By why not branch out? Creating special deals to members of different professions, hobbies or neighborhoods could give your members a good excuse to talk about your gym while they are at work, at the book club or their local market.

2. Free guest passes

This low tech approach is one of the best ways to get new customers signing up. Everybody knows somebody at the office that would “just love climbing”. But getting them to pay for a $12 – $20 day pass might be too big a hurdle for the first time customer who just wants to try it out. Offering free guest passes is a great way to allow your members to bring in their friends and get them hooked on your gym. Here’s how it works: Every month each of your members will have a guest pass directly added to their account that they can use to bring in a person that has never been to your facility.

3. Date night

For adventurous athletic people going to dinner and a movie just doesn’t cut it. They want a better way to show their date a good time. Offering a date night or singles night uses your current members to bring in fresh customers. Your members are the best speaker box for your gym and many members want to show off how cool, strong or athletic they are. Many of you may balk at turning your gym into a meat market, but let me assure you it already is. Now with “date night” you can use that to your advantage by harnessing the power of love! Just make sure to get them to sign the membership contract before they break up!

4. Throw a party!

Any excuse to throw a party is a good excuse. Hosting a party and offering half-price or even free day passes for new visitors is a great way to show off the gym and how hip it is. Having games such as crate stacking, bench bouldering, dyno games or slack lining comps are easy ways to get your members to have fun in a memorable way. Some members may not come to the party but like knowing they are part of a gym that does throw parties. Team up with a local brewery or restaurant to offer drinks and snacks.

5. Ladies night

We’re not sure what this says about women’s feelings about men at the gym, but many women feel more comfortable climbing with other women. Offering half-off day passes to women during specific nights or offering ladies only instruction may help to bring in those reluctant ladies that are interested in climbing but have been intimidated by the all those swaggering men showing off their campusing skills.