Depending on your age, you may remember the days when you’d pass a group of Hare Krishna at a street corner and get a worn-out daisy shoved into your hand.
You try to avoid it. You try to say no.
But despite your protests, they swiftly force that tired daisy in your hand saying it’s a gift of love.
In your head, you shout, “I don’t want this “gift!” Because you know once that daisy hits your hand, something in your brain snaps. Without warning, BAM! The dynamics dramatically change.
Now you owe them something.
As that faded daisy lies begrudgingly in your hand, you automatically feel you need to reciprocate. Even though every cell in your body screams, “Take your daisy and run!”
While you stand there paralyzed by moral flux, the Hare Krishna gently asks you for a donation.
Before you know it, you empty the change jingling in your pocket or pull out a buck. Then you hurry away, immediately tossing that daisy into the nearest garbage can.
So what happened?
You just experienced a powerful marketing tool called The Principal of Reciprocity. It’s one of the many principals explained in Robert Cialdini’s brilliant book, Influence.
In short, here’s how Principal of Reciprocity works…
When you give something (an item or a favor), the other person naturally feels indebted to you – especially if the gift is unexpected.
But people don’t like feeling indebted. So we’re hard-wired to balance the scales again as soon as possible. Eager to regain balance, you instinctively give something back. This helps you feel better about yourself and the situation.
That’s why when you see that bruised, limp daisy forced into your hand, your left brain tells you it isn’t worth the wadded up gum wrapper in your pocket. But another part of your brain says now you owe the guy. And you better pay up soon because you feel very uncomfortable.
So you reciprocate. In this case, you make a donation.
Before you scream it’s manipulative, let’s take a look at how businesses do this all of the time. And how you may want to do it too.
Think about how many free address labels, notepads and stickers you get from charities. They’re not sending them to kindly fill your junk drawer. They’re strategically giving you a gift first.
And because of The Principal of Reciprocity, many people donate to the charity offering the gift. Even if they promptly toss the freebie right after they write that check.
Studies prove charities not only get a higher response rate when they include free gifts, they also receive a higher dollar amount per person too.
Here’s another example:
There’s a certain coffee chain that adds a new drink item seasonally. When they do, they mail loyal customers a free drink coupon to try the new item for free. That’s smart because most of us couldn’t just walk in, grab our 16 ounce free drink and leave. We’d feel guilty for accepting their generosity. So what do we do to feel better? We buy a $3.00 pastry to go with that “free” drink.
Cha ching! Another sale. They got you in, they got a purchase. And hopefully, you liked their drink enough to pay for it next time.
Pretty easy, eh? Ok, your turn.
Look at the subtle and obvious ways you encounter the Principal of Reciprocity in your daily life. Brainstorm how you can apply this principal to increase repeat sales, build customer loyalty, encourage referrals, or increase the average sale amount per customer.
You can start by copying other businesses. Or do something completely out of the norm. Be creative. And have fun with it.
In your next issue, you’ll see how to use the Principal of Reciprocity in building customer loyalty and referrals. Until then…
**Share your ideas or success stories from applying The Principal of Reciprocity. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.