Episode 332

Why You Aren’t Getting Enough Referrals with Ben Pickard

In this episode, Ben Pickard joins me to talk about why you aren’t getting enough referrals.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m talking with fellow BFU coach, Ben Pickard, and we are talking about why you are not getting enough referral leads. And we walk you through our specific playbook for generating new leads for your gym using your existing clients. So this, this episode is all about referrals, all of the many ways you can generate referrals to help grow your gym.

So if you want to level up in your ability to generate most number of referrals your gym. This is a great episode for you. My friends keep on listening.

Welcome to the Business for Unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock your potential.

And become a real unicorn in the fitness industry. Let’s [00:01:00] begin.

Hello, fitness, business nerds. What’s up. Welcome to another episode of the business for unicorns podcast. I’m back again today with my good friend, Ben. What’s up my friend. Hello. Hello. Good to see you as always, before we jump into today’s topic, which I’m stoked about, we’re talking about client referrals.

I want to make a really big announcement, which I think you all are going to be so stoked about because we’re working on this for a while, but I’m announcing today a new program we’re launching. It’s called the gym. Growth blast off. And we called it that because that’s our focus in this program, which will run 12 weeks is to grow your monthly reoccurring revenue.

That’s our only focus on this program. We’re going to give you everything you need to make that happen over the course of those weeks. And we’re not going to give you anything that you don’t. That’s all we’re giving you. The only thing you need to crush this program, the only tools you need are a phone and a computer.

And so that’s, we’re promising that you are going to increase your monthly recurring revenue in this 12 week program. It [00:02:00] starts May 13th. We have options for a payment plan or pay in full. If you click the link in the show notes, you can go learn more and sign off if you’re the right fit. I know, Ben, you’ve been involved in helping get this program off the ground.

Anything you want to share about it? Yeah, I think it’s a testament to, obviously I’ve been seen behind the scenes, so I’m enrolled, take it with a grain of salt. We don’t launch new programs very often. And that’s a testament to the fact that when we launch something, we’re fucking launching it and it’s going to be great.

So again, take it with a grain of salt because I’m staff, but this is something that I’ve been really excited for the development for us. We’ve been watching this, the progress we’ve made on this for the last year, putting it together. And I think it’s going to be unbelievably impactful for a lot of GM owners.

Yeah, we hear all the time. The number one thing people want is just get more reoccurring monthly revenue, more leads in the door, more revenue. And this program is focused on that and nothing else. So if that fits you, my friend, and that’s the number one goal you’re working on right now, click link in the show [00:03:00] notes and, and join us.

It’s going to be a blast. All right, let’s switch gears. Let’s talk about today’s topic, which is actually one of my favorites because it’s a big part of how Mark Fisher fitness has grown and certainly how business unicorns has grown. It’s about referrals. It’s about the importance of generating referrals as probably one of your primary lead generation sources as a gym owner.

So Ben, just big picture. Can you talk about like why this matters so much, why this strategy is so critical to growing a gym? Why referrals? Why, why it matters. Yeah, I love it. Relatively obvious one. If you’re, if you’ve got a gym and you serve people who are a good fit and they fit your avatar, it’s very likely they know other people who are a good fit and fit your avatar.

And the beauty of it is you’re using your existing clientele to fill spots for future clientele of people who are already like, they’re always going to be your warmest lead. Yeah. And yeah, you can run paid ads and do other stuff, but your systems have to grow exponentially to handle that. Having a really, if you [00:04:00] really nail fulfillment, you’ve got other people like, Holy crap, I want to share this with others.

It’s fantastic. And it’s, it’s the best, in my opinion, it’s the best way to get the best type of clients. Yeah, 100%. I think you nailed it. You said if you’re great at what you do, and I think most of you listening would say you’re probably pretty great at delivering the service that you sell your clients.

And that’s one reason for them to talk about you. But I think the number one reason, because this is a no brainer strategy, and I still see people out there. You’re welcome. Not paying enough to energy or attention to getting driving referrals. And I still people see people getting it wrong. And I’ll just start this by saying, I think the number one reason people are fucking this up and not turning off leads with referrals is they don’t have a system.

They have no system to consistently. Be generating referrals are always winging it. And I say that with love, dear listeners, if you’re the ones just lovingly winging it and asking her for referrals, sometimes when you think about it, when it feels obvious or convenient, I’m not mad at you, but hopefully this podcast can be a turning point for you where you start to build a [00:05:00] repetitive, repeatable, effective system at generating consistent.

Client referrals. So that being said, we think of this in kind of three parts. Do you want to have a walk through kind of the three ways that we think about driving client referrals, Ben? Yeah. So those three parts, just to get an idea of what we’re going to talk about today, or the first one is your standing evergreen referral offer.

The second part is having a well timed referral ask. And then the third part is running referral campaigns, which we’ll talk more about in a few minutes. Do you want to start with part one? Yeah, let’s just jump into the first one. So what’s an evergreen referral offer? What does that mean and how do you do it?

Yeah, it’s your standing offer. It’s the one that if I’m a member at your gym and I refer my wife, I get some sort of bonus is generally how it is. But I think to your point, and it’s the thing that everyone talks about, Oh, do you give two weeks free or a week free or 50 bucks or gift cards to whatever?

There’s lots of ways to execute this, but to your point of how people consistently fuck it up, it needs to be communicated. It can’t just [00:06:00] be, yes, internally we as a team know that if Ben refers Michael Keeler to that gym, Ben gets 50 bucks. Yep. Does Ben know that? Has he been reminded of that? Is it an incentive that I give a shit about?

Now obviously like I care deeply for the people that I would refer and I want them to experience the positive thing that I experienced. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be referring them. Dear listeners, you own a business. Most people on the planet do not. They’re not thinking on a regular basis about how powerful Google reviews are.

And how powerful referrals are and all the things that you’re thinking about and it needs to be communicated in a number of different ways a number of different times in order to be effective. Yeah. Yeah. Give us a few examples, Ben. So if you have an evergreen referral offer, some carrot you want to put on the stick that rewards people for bringing in clients to you, what are all the ways you could, or maybe some of the ways you could refer, communicate that evergreen offer?

Or right off the bat is when you’re onboarding a new member, I think it should be communicated a couple different times. Ideally, you would actually ask them [00:07:00] in the consultation as soon as they signed your paperwork or digital paperwork. Hey Michael, I can tell you’re really excited about this. Is there anyone else, you know, that would love to take advantage of this same?

Insert, whatever your LBO offer is called. It’s the big boxes do this exceptionally well. Give us three people’s phone numbers and you get a free gym bag. They fucking, they nail it. We don’t have, probably aren’t going to use gym bags. People are almost never as excited for the thing they’re buying as they are when they just bought it.

If you got a new car, when do you tell people about it? Like the first few weeks. Yep, that’s it. And some people could even go as far as to say, Hey, your first workout scheduled for next Tuesday. Who do you want to bring with you? Beautiful. Yeah. Just making it part of your onboarding and sales process to say, we want you to bring friends here.

We want this to be a community space where you bring people you love to come work out and we’ll give them the same deals we’re giving you and I think that. Setting expectations in the very beginning of the relationship is, uh, is really valuable. What are some other just [00:08:00] quick kind of bullet pointed ideas about where else do we make this evergreen offer clear?

Yeah, well, we strongly recommend having some signage in your gym for this it could be It doesn’t need to be plastered all over every squat rack But in the change rooms in the bathrooms in the warm up area You could have some signs to remind people of how to do it Not only what they get, but how to refer a friend.

That’s also very important. And then you should definitely be using it in your email marketing. If you’re segmenting your list and are sending emails to members specifically, like you can quite easily have a PS, Hey, do you have a friend who would be benefit who would benefit from this as well, click here to fill out the referral form, get in touch, whatever you want to handle it.

That’s less of a, that’s not deal breaker. Yeah, that makes sense. I think those are great ideas. What about just before we move on from this idea, maybe let’s just give them a few examples. Like what exactly would an Evergreen offer sound like? What are some good ones that we’ve used and seen Unicorns members use in the past?

Yeah. Some like simple ones. Hey, your first session is on [00:09:00] Tuesday. Who do you want to bring? That person gets a free class. That’s super off, super easy for them to bring somebody like, and if they come, you both get a few free workouts. giving a friend a free workout card and if they join you get 50 bucks or whatever the amount is off of your next month’s membership dues and your friend.

Also gets your LBO inviting a friend to join your LBO if they join you both get a hundred dollars I think one of the things here that I’m skirting around is nobody likes to feel like they’re selling you their loved ones So making it an incentive that is clearly a win for the referrer and the referee In my experience has been more impactful.

So it’s not just a Michael I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you get someone to sign up at my gym You’re going to be like, not like I was actually thinking about it, but now I’m thinking about quitting. It’s something that is, Hey, we’re trying to help everybody win. Totally. I think that’s a great reframe, Ben, because honestly, I think that’s part of the reason why a lot of our listeners and [00:10:00] Jiminers we work with hate doing referral asks.

They feel like they’re like asking people to like give up their friends, give up their family, turn them over like hostages in some way. And so one of the ways to reframe that is actually you want to think about making referral gives. And not just asks and offers, but referral gifts, right? Like you’re giving people an opportunity to save money, giving people an opportunity to bring a friend to some free workouts.

You’re giving people an opportunity to invite them to a work. We’ll get to this ideas later, but workshops or events, right? You’re giving them the opportunity to include people they love in something they love doing. And I think when you can reframe that, yeah. Both for yourselves and your team and reframe that in the actual way that you present the offer or the ask or the give, I think that can go a long way.

And actually it’s a really good transition to part number two. So we said part number one is having a really good evergreen referral offer and part number two is having a well timed ask. So dive into this one for us, Ben. Yeah. So the. [00:11:00] When you ask for referrals, it can’t come across to the person you’re asking that this was part of your checklist for the day or the week or the month.

It’s too robotic. It doesn’t vibe with most of the people who are probably listening to this podcast right now. So having a well time asked means there has to be a bit of a system in place to support this. So the first piece of it is having specific times that you do want to ask. And there’s, we’ve got a whole bunch of them, but as a kind of snapshot, it’s like at point of sale for an LBO at point of conversion from LBO to a membership.

When they rate you a 10 on a feedback survey during member nurture emails, when they hit a milestone, when they mentioned the people who might be a good fit here as a PS in some of your marketing emails, in your social media content, in a member’s Facebook group, there’s a lot of different places, but it’s about taking those.

All the places that you could ask and integrate them into systems that it’s feel like it’s happening naturally. It doesn’t feel like it’s an upsell or, Oh, it’s the end of the month. It looks [00:12:00] like Bobby’s getting in his referral asks. That’s not the vibe you want. I think that’s so critical, Ben. Cause I think, I love that you listed a whole bunch of options, listeners, you can go back and rewind and jot them all down if you want.

But the reason for identifying these opportunities in advance, cause when you know the right timing for the ask, then you and your team. Can practice when you’re going to do it, when someone hits a PR, when they’re going to do it, when someone’s onboarding, but you’re going to make the ask when someone gives you great feedback on a survey, or you get the idea, then, then your team can actually practice and role play doing those things.

And you can also integrate them more fully into some automations for those of you have email, texting, automations, et cetera. Like those things can happen automatically. Without you having to think about it, but they require you first doing exactly what Ben said, which is identify all the key kind of crucial moments where making a referral ask would be the most organic, the most obvious, really riding a wave of their excitement about being there.

Those are the moments you really want to flag for [00:13:00] yourself and your team to make sure you can ride those waves right into our referral ask. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, what else about this? I know that we also, we have a playbook for this for Unicorn Setting Members. It has all kinds of detail, including like best practices for making a script for, for how to do these referral asks.

And we probably don’t have time to dive into all of that explicitly. But when you, when you sit down with your team band and you And you do exactly this. You identify these moments and then try to create some role play and practice for how to make the referral asks. What have you seen work and not work when doing that?

Yeah, well, what I’ve seen work the best is you didn’t just talk about it once, practice it once and say, here’s your script, go make it happen. Team members. It’s asked to be an ongoing topic of conversations. We know that doesn’t quite tidily fit into the nature of a playbook, but there is something about the ongoing nature of it and making people really feel comfortable.

I suspect most of our trainers are probably [00:14:00] in trainer roles for Many reasons. But one of those reasons might be that they don’t want to be doing sales. That’s why they’re not an independent trainer at a big box gym, having to build their own client roster within a larger organization that working for you in a trainer role, because like they don’t have to do consults and find leads.

And I think it’s fair to say that they probably feel a little bit icky or have some not super positive feelings about what the word sales and what they think sales means more accurately. So really making sure that. You’re roleplaying it, you’re making them feel comfortable, you’re giving them the clear scripts, but then making sure you practice that and maybe even hold them accountable to it a little bit so they can challenge their own limiting beliefs as they start to have success with the systems that you’ve built.

That’s one of the, that’s one of the first things that comes to mind. Anything else come to mind for you for what works and what doesn’t? No, I think you, you nailed it. I think what works is repeatedly practicing and role playing until everyone in your team is really comfortable getting it right. And they found that their own words and their own language, their own way of [00:15:00] making a referral ask that feels good to them.

And what doesn’t work is the thing that’s in, which is give them a script and say. Go for it. They’re just not going to be able to get enough reps in to feel natural. Like you have to get the reps in a team meeting or an in service where you can practice like 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 times because you’re not going to get those reps in by asking people on the floor because you’re not going to do it every day.

And so I think that practice really is the thing that makes progress. And without it, you’re Your trainer’s just going to be reciting some boring script or just not doing it all because they’re not comfortable. You’ve got to practice enough that they get past the discomfort into a place which feels like a thing that I do.

So at the end of the day, if you give them really good incentives, if you give them a really good reasons to make an offer to people, then it’ll get more exciting. Right. It’ll get more exciting. Hey, I would say we have this really amazing thing going on right now, that if you bring in your friends for this month, you get to enter it into a raffle.

To win a free bike, but we only want you to invite [00:16:00] people in who will love this. And we have these free community workouts on Sunday. Who do you want to bring into your community workout this Sunday? Cause I want you to win that bike, right? And that’s like a fun thing to talk about. It doesn’t always have to be a raffle, but as an example, like I’m more comfortable having that conversation because there’s something really fun and exciting about the gamification.

Of referrals. So I think, I think I’m skipping ahead a little bit, but let’s just move into the next. So let me just recap so far. We talked about the first most important thing is to have kind of an evergreen offer. That’s always available to reward people for doing this. The second thing which we covered is having a well timed referral asks.

So key moments in a client’s journey where they are asked to give a referral or you give them a gift of something that allows them to make a referral and that has to be practiced and role played, which brings us to our third kind of final kind of pillar of client referrals. Take it away, Ben. What is it?

Yeah. It’s what we call having referral campaigns. And these would be. That like specific campaigns that would happen a few times a year. It’s not your evergreen that is always [00:17:00] happening. It’s Hey, for the month of April, that’s my example. If you have anyone you want to refer here to do insert LBO, you get entered into a raffle to win a free bike.

There’s a time sensitive. There’s an urgency element to it. There’s a scarcity element to it. It’s probably going to rotate on a regular basis, but it’s a thing that’s not always going that you can like really build hype and excitement about that. Honestly, I think if you do this well, people will be like looking forward to the next one that you do.

I’m already a customer here. I was already going to send my friends. And in April, if I send my friends, I get to win a potentially a free thing that I really wanted. Great. How can I send more people? Yup. I think that’s exactly it. And the important thing about this is that it doesn’t happen all the time.

When you run a campaign like this, it’s a thing that you’ll do once, right? And it might not ever happen the exact same way again. So it feels new. It feels different. It feels exciting. It’s a different thing to message than your evergreen offer. It’s a, maybe even the ask happens at a different time than [00:18:00] we talked about for part two of this conversation, but it feels new and exciting.

And the fact that it’s gamified, there’s maybe some real prizes. It doesn’t always have to be a prize, but I think anything you can do to get people excited. And, and playing a game of bringing their friends, it starts to change the conversation. Big time. Yeah. So maybe we can cover a couple examples of what these are rather than talking nebulously about them.

So I already said, you get every referral you get, you’re entered a raffle ticket in to win, insert the thing, bike, iPad, cruise, whatever fits your budget and incentivizes your avatar. Bring a friend week really fits into this. That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. Cause I put off doing bring a friend week for so long because I thought in a semi private model with custom programs, it’d be logistically a nightmare.

And then we eventually just ripped the bandaid off and did it. And now this is something we do every quarter. And I think this quarter we have like nine people registered for ours that happens next week. Like I’m incredibly effective. It can be something as simple as just doubling the referral bonus. So if you do 50 bucks or two weeks free for the month [00:19:00] of June, you get a hundred bucks or a whole month free.

That’s a pretty big incentive. And I’ve also seen some successful places where it’s like for this month, you can bring guests with you to work out. They get free workouts and things like that. I have heard of like bigger ones. I haven’t actually experienced it myself where. over the course of time, like somebody is going to win like a flat screen TV or a vacation or something like that.

Like it can be some pretty big prizes if you do the math accordingly, but they’re again, time sensitive, valuable to your avatar things that aren’t happening all the time. So it builds some hype and excitement around it. That’s the key here. Yeah, we did one, uh, MFF years ago where we did a raffle. I think that lasted a whole month, maybe even a little bit longer.

I can’t remember. It was years ago, but we did one where we gave away a trip for two to Mexico, which seems extravagant, but let’s be honest, a trip from New York to Mexico is really only a couple thousand bucks. It’s like not that much. And when you think about the fact that from that month long referral campaign, all we need is maybe one or two [00:20:00] people.

To join and become members long term and the lifetime value at that point of a member of MFF was thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime at MFF, we would have made thousands of dollars off of them. So we only need a few people to make up for the fact that. That trip, that prize itself costs a couple thousand dollars.

And we certainly got way more than one or two from a campaign like that. It’s big and splashy. It doesn’t always have to be big and splashy. Ben said there can be other things, but when you can, it’s a fun way to get people’s attention. Yeah. It’s really, really fun talking point. Drew, Drew Skaggs, hat tip to Drew.

You’re the man. Ran a really effective one that I can’t remember exactly the details of it, but it was like, you get to give as a member, if Michael’s a member, he gets to give away a free month of training to people that he. wants to share this experience with. And I think it was like, they got 27 people signed up for their LBO out of that, like incredible results.

And going back to an earlier point, it cause it’s framed as a gift. I can’t remember exactly what drew did. I’m sure there was a. And [00:21:00] if your friend joins, you get a thing as well aspect. So it’s prosperous for all, but it’ll, it happened in a set period of time that got members talking about it. Cause you can’t really, at the beginning of the session be like, Hey, everybody time for the announcements were closed for the long weekend on Friday.

And also who are you referring? That doesn’t work. Yeah. But when it’s, yeah. Hey, do you want to win a trip to Mexico? Trip to Mexico? Make sure you get that referral in by Friday. That can absolutely be announced at the beginning of the class. Yeah. Or I’m giving each of you three free passes to invite friends, family, and Coworks to come work out for free for a month is a really cool thing to get.

So I think that those are all really great examples of campaigns. Let’s do our final thing before we wrap things up here. There’s one more. Event inspired referral, uh, kind of activity we like, which is a kind of campaign, but it’s a little bit different and actually fits what we’re talking about here, which is the idea of invite your friends to this thing.

So, uh, walk us through, how do you do a referral event? Um, yeah, so the event would be a specific thing. Like [00:22:00] Pete’s done this, um, really well doing one night. I think it’s called night with the pros CSP where it’s pro athletes that come in and their clients can come, but they can also bring their friends.

But when you’re going to be running an event and obviously it’d be something that fits your avatar, which may or may not be baseball, Um, like it’s a predetermined date. It’s a predetermined time. It’s something that aligns with your avatar. You’re getting people to register in advance. It may or may not be free for everybody.

Generally speaking, people don’t value free things, so they’re not going to come, but if you make them pay even a small amount of money, you’re not trying to make money off the event. You’re trying to make money when they sign up. You’re going to get a better show rate. And you, a piece that I think a lot of people screw up is there has to be well thought out follow up at the end of it.

Thanks for coming, Michael. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Like there’s more to it than that. You’re going to make an offer at the event, but you’re also going to then follow up with those people. Cause maybe they needed to sleep on it, or maybe they didn’t feel comfortable spending money in front of other people there, but there is a very clear follow up because you got [00:23:00] their information.

Yeah, I think you, you got it exactly. Ben. The idea here is to our referral event is really just an opportunity for your clients to invite their friends, family, coworkers to an event, right? They’re not giving you a name, phone number, email. They’re just actually sharing an invitation to some cool event. It can be a happy hour, wine tasting, whiskey, tasting, a low back pain workshop, a prenatal workshop, a post pregnancy workshop.

It, um, yeah, it could be anything that you think your avatar would enjoy coming to and want to bring friends and family to. And I think like Ben said, you have them register in advance. You build value for the workshop by quote, charging something for it. So you can say, Hey, this workshop is 50 bucks.

Members all come for free. And all of you as members get to invite two friends for free. I’ll give you two free passes, right? That way it anchors the event in like this thing costs money, but as a member, I can come for free and I have two free passes to bring friends. That’s pretty cool. And so now they’re literally driving referrals to you without you having to ask.

For a referral, you’re saying, [00:24:00] invite your friends and family and coworkers to this cool shit we’re doing, which they’ll want to do. If they think it’s a cool thing and you get to drive referrals from it. And as Ben said, hopefully follow up, make them an offer, at least get them, make them an offer to your low barrier offer at the event or following the event.

And you can convert a lot from cool events like that. Seriously, yeah, if you’re if your avatar wants to hear about the thing low back pain night with the pros It doesn’t even have to be fitness related It could be like a whiskey tasting or i have a friend who did like a cooking class with his members It’s very likely that Your members who fit your avatar are going to want to bring their friends who also fit your avatar.

And one of the things I really like about this too, is it’s not such a big ask saying, Hey, you have a thing to give a friend to get them a free month of training. That friend also has to show up like a few times a week for a month. And depending where they’re at in their life and schedule, that can sometimes be in a bit of an obstacle, but running an event, exactly.

Running an event. That’s like an hour and a half. [00:25:00] Like they can probably make that work if it sounds exciting. It’s a really low bar. Yes. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think it’s time to wrap things up. I think we covered a lot about referrals. He was going to maybe give a high level overview, Ben, of what are the core things people should be taking away from this episode.

Yes. First and foremost, if you don’t have an evergreen referral offer, make one. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, don’t overthink it, put the thing that your avatar would value, and it’s your always ongoing thing. Part two is make sure that you have well timed referral asks. Brainstorm all those times with your team, give them the appropriate scripts, train, roleplay, and continue to train them on how to do it effectively, so that you can maximize that with your team.

And then part three as a level up strategy is have referral campaigns and like we talked about the contest for a month or the events of things that happen at opportune times of the year that get your members excited to bring their friends. To get a taste of what it’s like at your facility. Amazing summary.

You crushed it, my [00:26:00] friend. That was a great summary. It’s like we have a playbook for this. Yeah. It’s almost like we have this written down as an instruction manual for people, and if you want all the details, you got to become a Unicorn Society member. So it’s a light plug for Unicorn Society. Awesome.

Thanks for a great episode. This is, I think, really useful. And in fact, we should probably share this with our members because I think it’s a great walkthrough of our suggestions here, but I’ll close with this as I say, thank you, Ben, and also. Will say, friends, don’t forget about the gym growth blast off.

Like I said, it starts May 13th. Information about that is in the show notes down below, so go click to find out more and we hope you’ll join us. Thanks, Ben. I’ll see you on the next one. Talk soon.