When done right, the principle of reciprocity is a powerful tool in the acquisition of new clients as well as in the development of existing customers. It can facilitate stronger, deeper, and longer lasting relationships with clients and advocates alike.
The principle of reciprocity speaks to the human need to want to give something back when something is received. People feel a sense of obligation to do something for you when you’ve done something for them.
Have you ever: Invited someone to your wedding because they invited you to theirs?; bought a Christmas gift for someone because they bought one for you?
When clients/prospects are singled out and made to feel that they’re special, the likelihood is that they’ll respond more favorably increases dramatically.
Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion shares a case study in which a waiter’s tips increased by 3% when diners are given a mint, and 14% when they’re given two mints. When the waiter left one mint with the bill but quickly returned to offer a second mint, the tips increased by 23%.
The principle of reciprocity, when implemented correctly, can be a commanding aid for businesses in driving not just referrals but personal warm introductions and revenue. It can also backfire when executed poorly.
The principle of authenticity must go hand-in-hand with the principle of reciprocity. What marketers need to understand about our tendency to want to give back is that it’s often strongest when the recipient feels that the gesture is sincere in its attempt to thank or serve, and that there’s no expectation of a return gesture.
5 Reciprocity Tips For Businesses
1. Make clients/prospects feel special and unique. Give them something for free.
“What!?!? This is madness!! I can’t just give my product/ service away for free!” If you are thinking like that, you have failed to understand the rule. Giving something away for free is your way of “investing” in a new client/prospect. If you are already engaging in marketing of any sorts, you are spending good amounts of money/time to acquire new clients. This means that you are already “investing” in them. Why not try a new tactic? Giving something to them can serve many purposes. It can be a sign of goodwill, it can them to try out your product/service when they otherwise may not have been inclined to, and, of course, it initiates the reciprocation rule.
2. Give them a gift of value that benefits their lives
Gifts like time, expertise or conversation can sometimes be just as valuable for generating goodwill with clients/prospects as physical gifts
3. Suggest ways that client/prospects may reciprocate.
4. Be the first to give.
5. Don’t let the circle end; keep the relationship going.
(An edited summary from Sam Fiorella “The Principal of Reciprocity and Influence Marketing”)