Affiliate programs… offline? Yes!

business and consumers, marketing and advertising

In the previous entry, I mentioned the hard-sell tactics that my gym uses when trying to strong arm potential members into becoming paying members.

I’d like to suggest that my gym — and many other “non-online” entities — could greatly benefit by replacing traditional (and often annoying) selling techniques with affiliate programs.

Yes, I’m talking about that system popularized by Amazon.com in which current members are incented to recruit new or additional business for a company in exchange for commissions. Amazon was, of course, far from the first to offer such incentives, but it has done so successfully on such a mind-boggling scale –engaging literally millions of affiliates — that it should be apparent to other companies that this strategy is worth trying out.

After all, who is better qualified to get my friends interested in a gym membership: some slickster who lies about “last day!” opportunities (every month) and uses arguments unsurprisingly ill-received by my friends… or me — a three-year-member who enthusiastically attends gym classes at multiple locations and gets greeted like “Norm!” on Cheers… and who *gasp* knows my friends.

In case you weren’t absolutely certain, the correct answer to the above mini-quiz is ME. Yes, yours truly. And in a larger sense, any long-time or otherwise loyal member.

Yet, I’m given no incentives to sign up friends at my gym. 24 Hour Fitness instead turns my visiting friends off by often making them endure hard-sell “orientation” sessions when my friends and I simply want to make it on time to a particular kickboxing class.

Believe me, if the gym just left them alone and let the gym sell itself, they’d piss off fewer people (members AND their friends) and they’d likely get more members.

* * *

How about this for a poster in my gym?

You love this gym. Spread the love, get up to $500 in FitnessCash.

That’s right. We appreciate your enthusiasm and loyalty of our valued members and know that it’s people like you who help make 24 Hour Fitness welcoming and successful. Therefore, we’d like to offer you five free day passes to give to any of your friends that live in the Bay Area. No hard-sell, only a short liability form for them to sign. We’re confident that after you show them around, they’ll love this gym as much as you do.

And when one of your friends signs up for a two year contract, we’ll give you $50 to spend on anything at 24 Hour Fitness that you’d like. Massages, supplements, any service or product sold here. You can get up to $500 per year!.

Our members make the difference. So share in the rewards — you’ve earned it!

Two year memberships cost at least $500. That’s a 10% or smaller acquisition cost (actually much less, since the money’s getting plugged back into the gym). And probably considerably less than what the member acquisition cost is when paying the in-house sales folks. 😉

4 comments… add one
  • john Jan 16, 2008

    Yes you are quite right.
    The best advertising any one can have is word of mouth the absolute best form of affiliate marketing.
    Like the old saying “If you like our service tell your friends if you don’t pleas tell US”
    Regards john

  • Mark Feb 27, 2008

    Hey nice post,
    Right now it’s time to have affiliate marketing online.
    one need to wait for an opportunity to do better in off line.

  • Kymaro Apr 12, 2010

    Incentive referral programs aren’t unheard of at gyms. I know many locally that offer programs, although they aren’t to the extent that you are recommending.

  • BJ Fazeli Apr 15, 2010

    Affiliate programs are incredibly hard to successfully institute and maintain.

What do you think?