Human nature and psychology is the basis for all marketing principles. After all, the name of the game is to convince people to buy a product or service, and the best way to do this is by appealing to their emotions and predispositions.
In 1974 the well-known sociologist Philip Kunz conducted a now well-known experiment. He decided to mail 600 random strangers a Christmas card that included a handwritten note along with a picture of his family. Within a short amount of time, Kunz received about 200 replies, which made him think. Why would people respond to a card from complete strangers? This result helped him formulate the reciprocity principle, which states that people are compelled to return gestures of kindness that were extended to them.
This concept was developed even further by psychologist and marketer Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Psychology: The Psychology Of Persuasion. Here, Cialdini developed what he called The Six Rules Of Persuasion, which can be used to persuade a customer to make a purchase. As some might have guessed, number one on his list was The Reciprocity Principle was number one and often involved rewarding a customer before they even made a purchase.
Throughout the remainder of this article, we will examine how businesses and entrepreneurs can effectively use the concept of Reciprocity in their marketing campaigns and strategies.
1. Offer Customers Something First
The standard marketing procedure is to place an ad somewhere that reaches the target audience for a product or service. Of course, this is a necessary part of marketing, and by no means is it being suggested to do something else. However, one way to improve this basic strategy is by offering something for free, a technique that has been used extensively by businesses and startups for many years.
Aside from the fact that not many people will pass up the allure of something free, it also plays on the reciprocity principle and will motivate people to buy something. This strategy only works if the item or service being offered for free is considerably less than the product or service being sold.
Not only does offering something free get people in the door or on to the website, but it can also be the first step in building repeat customers.
2. Ensure Customers Feel Valued
Reciprocity can be broken down into two distinct groups; physical and emotional. Physical Reciprocity refers to the giving back nature one feels when they have received something tangible, such as an item or service, which thus compels them to give back in some way.
On the other hand, emotional Reciprocity refers to the giving back nature one feels when they have been given some form of emotional support and feel like buying a product or service as a token of appreciation.
The best way to take advantage of emotional Reciprocity is by making the customer feel valued. How one does this depends on the situation and product or service being sold, and there is no shortage of ways to accomplish this.
3. Offer Customers Something Free After
Much like offering customers something free first, the reciprocity principle can also be used once the customer has already purchased a product or service, especially if they are willing to sign up to an online mailing list that may detail future product launches or promotions. Doing this in reverse is another excellent way to have customers feel valued and motivate them to make a follow-up purchase. How this is done can look many ways, but a simple example may be as follows.
Say a customer purchases a shirt or sweater from a store and signs up for a mailing list on the offer of a free t-shirt at some point in the future. Once signed up, the business owner may time the release of a new product or promotions with the giving out of a free t-shirt, baseball hat, or other small piece of merchandise. Not only does this act remind customers of the business, but it also makes use of the rule of Reciprocity at a very well timed moment.
4. Provide Top-Notch Customer Service
Top-quality customer service can also make use of the reciprocity principle in a straightforward way. When customers see that a business owner or employee is going above and beyond to make their customer experience an extremely positive one, they are much more likely to feel compelled to make a purchase.
It should be noted that this only works if the customer feels the individual with whom they are interacting with is being genuine and sincere. If not, they may see it as a transparent ploy to get them to make further purchases. No one likes insincerity, and humans are trained to pick up on it relatively easily. For this reason, it is imperative that all gestures of kindness and good faith be done with sincerity.