How to Generate Referrals for Your Nutrition Business: 5 Quick Tips

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Are you trying to generate referrals for your nutrition coaching business but can’t quite figure out where to start?

Or, does the question “how do I generate referrals for nutrition coaching” keep you up at night? If so, you’re not alone. Asking current clients to refer their friends, family and gym partners could be the business game-changer you’re missing.

My wife, Adee, started WAG in 2016. She went from 0-1000 clients in under a year and this was driven almost exclusively by referrals.

In fact, the only other marketing we did for the first 2-3 years was on Instagram. People had such great experiences that they started to put #teamWAG in their IG bios. Think about that for a second:

They put their nutrition coach or company in their IG bio for the world to see. 

Our coaches also tag Working Against Gravity in their bios.

We never asked anyone to do this, but they did because they got amazing results, love what they do and felt like they were a part of a community. A tribe.

I love referrals because they are a clear indication that you are doing a good job. When someone refers your nutrition coaching program to a friend, they are putting their neck on the line. They won’t do that unless they LOVE working with you and are fully confident that you will give the same experience to others. 

Generating referrals is also wayyyyy cheaper than other forms of marketing. Actually, it's often free.

In this article I'm sharing the psychology of why people refer and how to generate more referrals in your nutrition coaching business.

As an added bonus, I will even include copy and paste templates you can use to ask for referrals to make this BEYOND easy.

Let’s dive in...

Why Do People Refer?

I learned a lot about referrals from Joe Stumph who founded By Referral Only, a highly successful real estate education business. 

Understanding why people refer products and/or services to their friends and family members is essential and contrary to popular belief, it's not for a 10% discount or other monetary incentives (those don't hurt though).

Here is a little-known fact: People don't make referrals for YOU, the business owner. They make referrals for themselves and for the person they are referring to your nutrition coaching business. You're often an afterthought.

When someone gets amazing results with #teamWAG they often become our biggest fans and super referrers. They start telling their friends, family members and everyone in their gym about us. They have seen firsthand the results that Working Against Gravity can help people get, and they feel confident that it will work for all of the people they talk to. 

Here's why they refer:

1. Making a Referral to Become Someone’s “Hero”

First and foremost people refer because they want it to improve their social capital. They want to do something valuable for others, to be seen as having expert information, of being generous and of being associated with cool brands.

They want to be seen as cool and valuable.

When I learned this I saw the way I gifted books a lot differently. I realized that while there was certainly a part of me that wanted the person to get the same insights I did from a favorite read, there was a bigger part of me that wanted to be seen as someone who reads great content, is wise and who has good taste.

When you refer a product or service to someone and that person gets great results from your referral it makes you look good, right? There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the hero! And that’s both normal and natural.

2. They Genuinely Care

Social standing aside, maybe they just care and want what’s best for the person they’re referring your nutrition coaching business to! 

Need an example? I refer my dad to ROMWOD and Headspace regularly (I think it is finally sticking) because I feel strongly that his body and mind would benefit greatly if he started using them. I care deeply about my father and just wanted him to have great inner peace and flexibility in his body.

3. They Want to Feel Like They’re Contributing to Their Tribe

The human brain has evolved to crave belonging to a tribe. We all have a deep desire to belong to a community. One way to feel this sense of belonging is to attract more people to the community. 

Back to the people putting #teamWAG in their IG bios: our members want to contribute to the community as a whole and make it known that they belong to this group of awesome people.

4. They Like Rewards

Or, maybe they like doing things that are easy and have some sort of material benefit - such as getting $25 for every referral. Who doesn't?

When I considered asking for referrals in my early career, I assumed I would have to be a sleazy salesman and pressure people to refer a friend. I wasn’t about that. 

Once I understood why people actually refer, I felt more motivated to ask for these referrals in an authentic way and generate more of them. 

Let’s chat about what I learned through that process.

How to Easily Create More Referrals

Aka, how to create a “referral engine”.

When it comes to answering the question, “how can I generate more referrals” the most important takeaway is that you NEED to have an awesome product or service. 

It might sound obvious, but it is so important. You have to live up to the promises you make to people when they sign up or there is no way they’ll want to share your coaching program with others.

Here are some thoughts on creating an amazing nutrition coaching program that people will want to refer:

1. At WAG, we created a list of core values and constantly use them to make decisions.

Our #1 core value is "Client transformation." And, rather than just writing down a list of values that sit in a Google Doc doing nothing, we reference this list regularly. 

For instance, there have been many times when we want to create a new feature in our software, Seismic, and we have a choice to make. We can either make a feature that helps us to attract NEW customers or create a feature that allows us to serve our CURRENT clients even better. 

We prioritize our CURRENT clients almost without fail. This is one of the main factors helping us create and maintain such a great reputation with our members over time.

Want to learn how to create and stick to core values in your nutrition coaching business? Check out THIS ARTICLE and THIS EPISODE of the WAG Podcast.

2. Soliciting, listening to, acknowledging and using critical feedback from customers is also key. Here's what that looks like:

Soliciting

We send surveys to all clients at specific times throughout their membership (ex: 3 months in, 6 months in, etc.).

Listening

We read ALL feedback once per month, summarize the findings and highlight consistent patterns, requests, complaints and/or praises.

Acknowledging

We acknowledge these patterns to our community whether it is through email or a post in our members-only Facebook group. 

Adee has said something for a long time that I love: “If one person is complaining, then there are probably 10 others that are experiencing the same thing but just not speaking up.” 

If multiple people bring up the same issue, it's likely that dozens or more are experiencing that same thing. This taps into something really important for human beings - feeling heard and understood. 

A lack of acknowledgment leads to disconnection while acknowledgment and ownership can turn a negative experience into MORE connection.

Using

While we don't blindly accept every single piece of critical feedback, we do take every piece seriously. We also consistently use that feedback to help us take action and improve our services.

3. My last piece of advice here comes from a friend of mine named Baya Voce, a master experience designer.

She taught me that there are three things that people remember about an experience. The beginning, the end and the peak.

Intentionality around all three of these stages in someone’s journey with you amplifies your impact and increases the likelihood that they will shout your name from the rooftops.

Let's break this down a little.

Providing A Strong Product or Service in Three Steps

Beginning

When someone signs up for something like one-on-one nutrition coaching, they are likely feeling excited and nervous. They made a big investment of money and they are committing to a pretty big investment of time and energy moving forward. 

What you do next really matters. 

At this point, your actions can either confirm that they made a great decision or lead them to doubt their decision.

Some ways to start with a bang and reassure that they made a great decision are:

  • Make initial expectations and next steps crystal clear ASAP. This could look like a video that pops up upon registration, an autoresponder thank you and next steps email or an invitation to a phone call so you can introduce yourself and tell them what comes next in your program.
  • Provide value as quickly as possible. They are probably beyond excited to get started and you can amplify that excitement by giving them something immediately. This could look like some free information and education or a surprise call with you. Here is one of our favorite resources to share with our clients.
  • Surprise and delight them. Find ways to make them smile. Like this hilarious email sent by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, with every CD purchase. Not big on email? Try a personalized audio message telling them how excited you are to work with them and some personal stuff about you so they see YOU as a real person, too.

End

What you do at the very end matters. 

People may undergo a radical mental and/or physical transformation initially but if they stick around for another 6 months and there aren’t many changes they may remember their experience with you as being lackluster and not really anything special if your closing communication is sparse.

Some ways that you could end on a high note are:

  • Give them a summary of what they've accomplished with you. This can be verbal or in the form of a visual.
  • A closing call to talk about what they've accomplished, what they've learned, what you loved about working with them, etc. Give them the chance to reflect on their journey to crystallize the things they learned and leave them thinking highly (and accurately) about the time they spent with you.
  • A surprise like a handwritten card delivered to their home, an invitation to an in-person event that you put on, etc.

Always make sure to reach out to members who have canceled with you to say goodbye. And, when appropriate, you could also ask if there is anything they’re missing from their experience and work to remedy that to encourage them to stay. 

Peak

In nutrition coaching, a “peak” occurs when your client reaches a significant PR related to their body (or strength!), achieves their initial goal or has another big realization or breakthrough while working with you.

Make a HUGE deal about this. 

Remind them how hard they've worked to make this happen and be specific about how they did it. Point out intentional choices they've made, things they've learned and their effort.

You can also add surprise and delight to this piece as well. Hand-written notes, a video sent to their phone, a little gift of some sort, etc.

Great, but What Comes Next?

If you run your business like this for long enough, you will get people great results and they will want to share their experience with others.

All of the things we've talked about so far are ways to put yourself in a position to generate referrals. To "tee them up" as they say. Many of these will happen organically at the gym, around the dinner table and at work.

The problem is, there are many people that may have had an incredible experience with you but either don't ever think to refer you or don't know how.

What can you do about it, you ask?

Why You Need to ASK for Referrals

It's not enough to just give people a great customer experience. You have to ask them for some help spreading the word.

Some people are super fans and natural super referrers. They’ll sing your praises without being asked. Even if they aren’t shouting your name from the rooftops, their physical and affective transformations speak for themselves and inspire those around them to “do what they’re doing”.

For everyone else, while your program may be life-changing for them, you may just be a small part of their lives that they spend minimal time thinking about outside of their weekly check-in and daily food logging.

They are busy in their careers, with their families, etc. They simply don’t think to refer you to others.

You need to be proactive and specific about what you’d like them to do. In other words, you need to ask for what you want. Then, they’ll begin to see the opportunity to be the hero and to help someone they care about.

When to Ask for a Referral

It is almost always best to ask for a referral for your nutrition coaching business when someone is in a good mood. When someone is excited about their new journey, inspired by their own progress and feels grateful for you as their coach, they’re more likely to say yes. 

If someone is afraid, ashamed of their body or skeptical if your program will work for them then it is best to focus solely on their journey and progress.

So, the following suggestions assume that your client has a big fat smile on their face!

1. Ask for a Referral Right When They Begin

People are most excited right when they sign up with you. They want to affirm their decision by having friends do it with them and often love the idea of an accountability partner. So although it may seem counterintuitive since they may not have hit their goal yet, the beginning of someone's journey is a great time to ask for a referral.

This could sound something like, “Accountability is such a game-changer to success and having someone to motivate you when needed can make all the difference to success. If you have any friends, family or training partners who would love working with me and joining you on your journey, give them my info! Then, you can take this on together!”

2. As for a Referral Immediately After Big Wins

Ask for referrals after big wins. When someone reaches a new milestone, undergoes a shift in perspective or expresses a significant positive emotion they are much more likely to refer your nutrition coaching program to others.

3. Ask for a Referral When You Hear These Statements

The following statements suggest that someone may be willing to give a referral:

  • “My training partner is working her butt off in the gym, but she’s struggling with her nutrition…”
  • “I’m so grateful for everything you’ve taught me…”
  • “I’m so proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. I’ve come so far…”
  • “My friend is getting married...” (people often want to get in better shape before a wedding)
  • “My brother is competing in his first CrossFit competition...” (nutrition is key for performance!)

4. Special Referral Promotions

Try creating occasional promotions to generate new referrals. Here’s an example: Give every member the chance to gift a training partner two free weeks of nutrition coaching with you.

You could also create a regular, recurring incentive for both your members and/or the people they refer. At WAG, we offer a financial incentive for both the referrer and referee. Our personalized software, Seismic, creates personalized referral codes and takes care of the behind-the-scenes number crunching for us. Members of the WAG Business Program can use this same software to keep this referral method quick and easy.

How to Ask for a Nutrition Coaching Referral

Here are a few templates that you can copy, paste and customize to fit your communication style with your nutrition clients. 

  1. One last thing {name} - I have a question to ask. Do you have any friends or training partners that you think would benefit from [Insert Name of Your Nutrition Program]? We love working with people like you so it’s only natural that we would love working with your friends or training partners. Plus, if you didn’t know this already, every person you refer gets $15 off their first month and you’ll get $25 off your own membership. So technically you could earn yourself a free membership if you refer enough people! Does anyone come to mind? Zero hard feelings if not!
  2. Also one more thing… We want to work with more people like you. 95% of our new members come from referrals from our most passionate clients. Do you have any training partners, friends, or family members that come to mind that could use our help? If not, it’s no big deal! But if so, you get to be the hero to that person and potentially transform their life without ever having to move a muscle, haha. Plus every person you refer will get $15 off their first month and you’ll get $25 off your own membership. Does anyone come to mind?
  3. We are running a special promotion! Because nearly all of our most successful clients come from a referral from current or former clients, we are giving $15 off their first month to every person you refer for the next week. Plus you get $25 off your own membership for every person you refer. If any of your training partners, friends or family members want to get leaner, gain some weight or just make a change in their nutrition we’d love to work with them. Does anyone come to mind? 

Want more templates and communication ideas to use with your clients? Check out the WAG Business Program where we teach you how to build a thriving nutrition coaching business and communicate with current and future clients effectively.

The Most Important Referral Step

When someone refers your program to others make sure to THANK THEM... And make a big deal out of it.

Reinforce the fact that they are being the hero to this person in their life. Praise them for caring about that individual and for supporting someone else on their path. If you can send a personalized video, note, letter or gift to thank them you could even turn them into super referrers.

Focusing on generating referrals in our business has been one of the most fulfilling and profitable things we've ever done at Working Against Gravity. It allows us to focus on serving people, creates a culture of support, is less expensive than other forms of marketing (win) and it just feels good.

If you focus on referrals as one of or the most important form of marketing, I believe you will create something truly worthy of talking about and feel that the work you are doing is meaningful.

Get WAG Certified

Take your nutrition knowledge to the next level and sign up for the WAG Coach Certification. Spots are limited and sell out fast! The certification digs into the science of nutrition, lifestyle change and habit building that you can use to reach your nutrition and body composition goals and help others do the same. Become a master teacher and use your knowledge to help clients get the results they want for their physical, mental and emotional health.

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Posted by Michael Cazayoux
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In 2018 Michael sold Brute Strength to his business partner and joined Team WAG full time as president. He currently focuses on marketing, general leadership and nutrition coaching.

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