One of the most important (but time-consuming) aspects of being a personal trainer is finding new clients so that your business can grow and thrive. An often-overlooked marketing resource is existing clients! You’ve already put in a lot of hard work with this group so now it’s time to put them to use as your own cheer squad and sales team.


Read our 5 simple tips for creating a successful referral program that’s easy to use and manageable for both you and your clients.

#1 Give them something to talk about

Let’s be honest, your clients aren’t likely to sing your praises just because they like you. It’s probably not even enough that they’re satisfied with your services. 

Motivate your clients to become passionate advocates for your business. Provide exceptional service that they can’t help but rave about. Think about a time you received outstanding service or achieved fantastic results – you probably couldn’t help recommending that business to everyone you know. 

Action point: Prioritize each of your clients’ goals and needs so you can create personalized training programs for them. This will lead to them feeling valued and special, and when they see results they’ll be keen to spread the word about your amazing services.

#2 Get the timing right

Emotion plays a huge part in referrals so it’s crucial that you pick optimal moments to ask your clients to promote your services. Avoid any periods where they may be experiencing a plateau or setback with their results. It’s when on an emotional ‘high’ that people are most likely to agree to spread the word about the positivity they’re feeling.

Aim for that moment when they’ve hit a significant milestone such as losing weight, achieving more reps or lifting heavier weights. Or perhaps they’ve just showered you with positive feedback about their experience so far. Harness that good energy!

Action point: Easily identify those referral-worthy moments by setting up a system that lets you know when to initiate the referral conversation. You might carefully track client progress against their individual training plans so you don’t miss achievements. Or use client satisfaction surveys to instantly see when a client is feeling happy and engaged.

#3 Make it worth their while

Sure, most happy clients will be willing to recommend your business based on their positive experience, but a little incentive can go a long way to ensuring they take the time to do it.

People are taking a slight social risk when they recommend a business or service – what if someone they know has a negative experience? It can sometimes be tricky putting our opinions out there for the world to scrutinise. If you can offer referral incentives that benefit both parties, such as a free training session for the existing and potential client, then your clients are more likely to feel they’ve been helpful to others (while receiving a little reward themselves).

Action point: Identify what motivates each of your clients and personalize the incentives you offer. If a client frequently attends your fitness workshops, offer them a free pass when they successfully refer a friend. If a client goes gaga for your merch, offer them a free item or access to exclusive loot.

#4 Make it easy

People are time-poor. If they have to choose between writing their own descriptions of your services or getting on with the rest of their tasks then you’re probably not getting that referral. 

Provide engaging and informative content that they can easily share online with their social circles. This means that you can control the message and it will be seen by a wider audience of potential new clients.

Action point: Identify points of interest that potential clients may be interested in. This could include workout videos, nutrition advice or eye-catching infographics that provide a quick burst of helpful tips or information.

#5 Respect the review process

Never underestimate the power of online reviews. Many people check out customer reviews before taking a chance on a business, and having zero reviews can be just as detrimental to your reputation as having a few imperfect ones. 

Encourage your clients to share their experience with your services online (keeping in mind tip #2 about timing). This could take the form of reviews on search engines or social media, or testimonials on your own website. By building up a lot of these reviews you’ll establish trust and credibility with potential clients.

Action point: Offer an incentive for each time a client leaves a review or testimonial. Ideas include a small discount on their next training session or perhaps a point system they can use to redeem merchandise or additional services.

For more tips on taking control of your reviews download our ebook: A Guide to Review Management for Personal Trainers

Follow the tips above and start utilizing the relationships you’ve built with your client base to create your own referral program. It’s a cost-effective way to spread the word to new clients and create extra goodwill with exisitng ones. 

For more information on referral selling, download our ebook
The Ultimate Guide to Referral Marketing for Personal Trainers

Does it feel a little awkward asking for referrals? Check out this article on how to ask without the awkwardness.

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Article by TrueCoach

First published: July 14 2023

Last updated: January 11 2024