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How to Drive Word of Mouth Marketing for your Fitness Business

By Nicole D'Andrea

May 22, 2024

Between digital ads, SEO, social media, open-houses, strategic partnerships, and automations, there are a million ways to generate leads for your studio.

Among these, according to a Spark Strategies analysis of boutique fitness business from January 2023 to April 2024, word of mouth referrals constitutes roughly half of all new business. In any industry, that’s a big deal.

It might seem like you as a business owner have no control over this, but leveraging strategy to drive these powerful referrals and get new clients through your front door is no accident.

Here are 7 tips for maximizing word of mouth referrals for your studio business. 

1. Build the KLT Factor

KLT stands for the Know, Like and Trust factor. For your customers to start sharing with their friends and family, they’ll need to know you exist, like what you do, and trust you enough to refer you out to the people they care about. 


It might sound simple but making sure your clients “know” you means that your business is top of mind when they recount the kinds of services you offer.

Use social media and a targeted email list to regularly engage with your audience and make sure that you’re giving as often as you're asking. Share tips, tricks, workouts, recipes, new finds: content that makes your audience excited to consume it. By teaching them something, demonstrating something, or making them think, you’ll keep them hungry for more.


Want your clients to like you? Call out their results! Notice and celebrate when someone nails their first handstand, or reaches their goal weight, or is finally free of that lingering low back pain. Results get people talking, so be the first to bring them to the top of your clients’ minds.


As far as trust, be sure that you’re humanizing every interaction. Modern customers want to see your face and truly know the people that they choose to do business with. As an owner or manager, use your name (and their names, too!) to be sure you’re recognizable and keeping connected.

2. Stay social

A fitness business is so much more than a place where people workout. It’s an outlet, a collaborative hub, and a social circle. Make sure that you’re not only allowing this in your space, but also fostering it! 

If you don’t have one already, create some room in your studio for students to chat before and after class. Comfortable seating, a few granola bars, and some infused water is all you need to give your clients a place to relax and connect.

If square footage isn’t on your side, build communication into your studio’s culture. Make sure that new clients get introduced to your regulars during your welcome tours and greet new members at every class.

When your studio becomes your customer’s “third place,” that is, the place they spend the most time in after work and home, it will become something they mention in most of their outside interactions. 

3. Celebrate your members

Memberships are the bread-and-butter of a healthy studio business, but   the moment a new client signs on the dotted line is just the beginning.

You’ve heard it before: it’s far less expensive to retain an existing customer than it is to capture a new one. It’s also less expensive to have your members bring their friends than it is to constantly run ads for new clients.

 Make every effort to keep your members engaged and coming to class by keeping your communication frequent and creating fresh programming. Remember to sprinkle in “surprise and delight” moments throughout their experience that really get them talking.

Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, milestone classes, or even that Sally’s daughter just graduated from pre-school will make a big difference in your customer’s perception of their experience (and their desire to discuss it with their friends). Use your marketing software to help you remember these details about your clients and send auto messages.

At my studio business, I always say that I want our clients to go home thinking, “I can’t believe they bothered to do that.” We use personalized videos to resolve tech and software challenges, make detailed notes about their WHY for coming to class, and make a big deal about using names during every interaction. All of these create a WOW factor worth talking about. 

4. Prioritize new clients

It may seem obvious, but new clients are more likely to make a referral when they’re the most excited about their new find (or maybe because they have a touch of the nerves and need a friend in class, too).

Make it easy for your trial clients to share their new favorite studio experience with friends and family by building a referral process into your intro client journey. Get that referral habit embedded from day one. You could add buddy passes to their welcome packet or send an offer via email or SMS, but whatever you do, be sure to frequently remind them of this benefit, so that every new referral becomes three or four more.

The most successful referral programs reward both giver and receiver, so be sure to incentivize everyone to keep the ball rolling.

5. Embrace ‘bring-a-friend’ days

In the spirit of referrals, why not build an entire event around them? You don't always need to lean into workout classes either. Get creative. Movie nights, book clubs, beginners’ series, potlucks, partner classes are all great ways to get your community involved and motivated to invite their friends out for a night. 

Pro tip: Offer light bites. When an event involves food or drink it encourages customers to linger, and lingering creates a great environment for buying! And you never know, the free cheese plate might just be what pushes the skeptical yogi over the edge toward their very first class.

Partner with other local businesses, too. -You could host a Sip & Shop event, a trunk show, a green juice tasting, a showcase of your wellness services, a meditation and facial collaboration - this way, you create a social atmosphere, a unique experience and you benefit from exposure to another business’ customer list. An all-around win! 

6. Stand out from the crowd

Build your unique selling proposition into the very fabric of your business. As you sit and think about your core values, which one of them is unique to you and the experience you give clients? At least one absolutely should be.

Maybe your classes are in the dark? Or there’s a great themed playlist on Friday nights? Maybe your teachers give an epic assist in Savasana with a signature essential oil towel? Perhaps your clients’ mats and weights are ready the moment they walk through the studio doors, and they don’t need to lift a finger to get things cleaned up.

 These differentiators are going to keep the conversation flowing, so don’t be afraid to go bold! At my studio, before our clients’ first class, we ask for their preferred essential oil towel scent. Then, we have it ready during the cool-down portion of class. It’s a simple thing that our clients just can’t get enough of, and our new clients are always excited to tell us which towel they want. 

7. Express gratitude

Say, “Thank you” not only with your words, but with your actions. A handwritten note, a free tank top on a birthday, or even a sincere high-five will amount to a memorable exchange for your client.

Be sure that your clients know how much you appreciate their willingness to bring their friends and family and you might be surprised by how often they come through for you.

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About the author:

nicole d'andrea spark strategies

Nicole D'Andrea

Mindbody-Certified Business Consultant

Founder, Spark Strategies

Nicole D’Andrea is a wellness practitioner, studio owner, business strategist, mindset coach, and the Founder of Spark Strategies—a business consultancy and creative agency with one goal: to help the women of the wellness world STOP undervaluing themselves and their businesses. With the help of her team, she empowers her clients to think bigger, work smarter and enjoy improved commercial success so they can live out their life dreams—whatever those dreams may be. To date, Spark Strategies has helped hundreds of boutique fitness studio owners grow their mindsets AND their bottom lines. Learn more at

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