In social psychology, reciprocity refers to the natural human tendency to want to return a favor — to give back after someone has shown generosity to you. You’ve no doubt experienced such times in your own life, when you’ve felt such a sense of appreciation for a kindness done that you felt inclined to respond in kind. That’s what reciprocity is all about.
Giving to Give — and Build Relationships
Of course, there is another type of reciprocity — one born more from a sense of obligation than appreciation. But that first type (the one inspired by an act of generosity) offers a far more valuable return on the good deed done. Why? By inspiring feelings of goodwill, this type of reciprocity makes the recipient much more likely to return the favor willingly, rather than through a sense of duty. Why is this important to your overall business success? Because the person who reciprocates willingly will be much more likely to stick around to continue the relationship long-term.
Giving to Get — and Build the “Bottom Line”
The reciprocity that’s based on duty and obligation is less effective because it creates feelings of unease in the recipient — the same sort of feelings you get from owing a debt. This type of reciprocity makes people feel as if they are being pressured, or even coerced, into reciprocating.
When you give to get, it’s like tying a string to the gift and continually pulling it back toward you, rather than releasing your hold on it and giving it away free and clear. This type of reciprocity isn’t true reciprocity at all, since it doesn’t inspire the other person to want to return the favor. As a result, it will only create resistance in your prospect, a situation that’s usually counterproductive to your marketing efforts and your long-term business goals.
5 Ways to Use Reciprocity to Advance Your Business
Here are five suggestions for creating genuine, positive reciprocity in your prospects, customers, or clients:
1. Offer something for free — with no strings attached. Giving a small gift every now and then can be a great way to say thanks to your customers for their business and their loyalty. If you do this without asking for anything in return, you may be surprised at the goodwill you build over time. Gestures like these are never wasted, even though they may not seem to be making a difference. Sincere generosity increases your customers’ esteem for your business, which makes them eager to return.
2. Go the extra mile for your customer. Spend a little extra time helping a customer solve a problem. Take a moment to pass along some helpful information you come across that relates to your client’s business (B2B) or your customer’s interest, need, or profession (B2C). Doing something unexpectedly nice shows your customers you value them as individuals and not just as your key to profits.
3. Make things right whenever a customer is dissatisfied. This is another way to demonstrate how much you value your customers, making them enthusiastic about buying from you again despite their initial dissatisfaction. Their respect for you will grow in direct proportion to the amount of empathy, patience, professionalism, and generosity you show when such sensitive issues occur — particularly when they are upset and reacting with impatience themselves.
4. Treat both customers and prospects as if they matter. Courtesy, friendliness, and respect will go a long way toward creating loyal long-term customers who will become the best advertisement for your brand. By making your service as personalized as you can, you tell your customer, “You are important.”
5. Offer your website visitors helpful information at no charge. By attracting people to your website with the promise of value-added content, you’ll soon become the go-to source for the answers they need, and they’ll value you, as well.
Try the above five tips to start laying the groundwork for the reciprocity that’s sure to follow.