How to apply reciprocity in marketing and get results

Reciprocity refers to a norm in social psychology that a person feels obligated to respond positively to another positive action taken towards them.

When I was working as a door knocker salesman doing fundraising for different charities in Sydney about 11 years ago. We used to persuade donors to sign a form to donate to charities on a monthly basis, but when we tried asking for donations from donors who will receive Coles petrol vouchers, the sales became so easy.

Why is that? The reason is obvious. Signing a contract for monthly donation only makes people feeling good about helping people. Also, the tax benefits are all intangible.

But for the who people receive the voucher which is a tangible item, they feel more obligated to donate money to that charity.

Also, they can use the voucher to exchange products in Coles petrol station. They were sort of buying some gift voucher(s), but also helping lots of people that the charity is helping.

This is where and when reciprocity came into play.

So the question we want to ask here is: How can we apply reciprocity in marketing to get results?

  1. Create valuable content consistently for a group of people who are your niche

Nowadays the competition on online attention is so stiff and lots of FMCG companies are burning millions of dollars just to create brand awareness.

But if we can create useful and valuable content all the time and get them delivered to the right type of audience at the right time. They will start to like the content more and more.

What will happen next?

People will remember blogger’s name and the domain name. If they don’t buy any products or services from you (most of them eventually will if they love your content), when they need to talk about something on their own website or blogs or social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram, most likely they will give you some credits, which results in brand name mentions, social shares or SEO backlinks.

Why is that?

It is because they have read so much of your content for free and they are so valuable. They not only trust you but also feel obligated to give you some credit in return. That is how reciprocity works.

  1. Use reciprocity when trying to collect emails address on the website

Nowdays, email marketing is still playing a vital role in digital marketing .

One of the tasks that must be handled by every digital marketer is to build an email list of the target audience for email marketing. They are either customers or leads (potential customers). The options are usually some email opt-in forms listed on the website or have some pop-ups triggered on the website.

If we can apply reciprocity to increase the opt-in rate, then we can build a much larger database with more success in email marketing.

So how to do it properly?

The answer is to provide something valuable in return. Below are some options:

(1) Provide free ebook in exchange for an email address
(2) Provide a valuable checklist in exchange for an email address
(3) Provide discount coupon in exchange for an email address
(4) Provide a free guide on certain topics that are helpful to the audience
(5) Offer a free demo on the products or a free short course if provide training or consultation service
(6) Send them to a relevant, email-gated landing page
(7) Try to reuse shopping cart abandonment

The list can go on and on.

So above are the 2 examples of how reciprocity can be used in (digital) marketing.

What are your thoughts on how reciprocity can be applied in other areas in marketing? Please share below.

Aaron Chen

Digital Marketer, SEOer, Inbound and Content Marketer, Daily blogger, Bootstrapper

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