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Registered: ‎04-02-2015

How marketers can use the “rule of reciprocity” to their advantage

It’s a psychological fact that if you do something nice for someone, they’ll want to do something nice back for you. It’s known as the “rule of reciprocity” and it has some very practical applications for marketers.

Psychology expert and educator Kendra Cherry related in an About.com article, “In 1974, sociologist Phillip Kunz . . . mailed out handwritten Christmas cards with a note and photograph of him and his family to approximately 600 randomly selected people.” He didn’t know a single one of them. The result? “All total, Kunz received nearly 200 replies.” These people hadn’t the faintest idea who he was, but because he’d sent them a thoughtful note during the holidays, they felt a need to reciprocate.

Offer value without expectation of return

Marketers can elicit the same response by offering value to customers without expecting anything in return. This is separate from the service or product being advertised. It often takes the form of a favor—either by offering a better deal, a free service, or better customer service.

Steve Olenski, a Forbes.com contributor and member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, suggested a few ways  of applying this to digital marketing.

Give free estimates

If it applies to your business, for example, offer a free estimate. “Who doesn’t like a free estimate?” asked Olenski. “It’s a great way for you to introduce your product or service to prospective clients without them suspecting you are actually marketing to them.” Similarly, customers love to see the words “free shipping,” as they know depending on their order, it can be prohibitively expensive.

Set up a live chat

Another free service is to offer a live chat dialogue box. It takes the pressure off a customer that a direct phone call can have and it’s often a quicker way of getting the information they need. They feel catered to and cared for because they are getting personal attention from a real person.

Create apps and ebooks free for download

If you’ve developed a mobile app or your business could offer information in the form of an ebook, consider turning these into free downloads, perhaps asking only for an email address and name in return. Customers interested enough in what you’re offering won’t feel an email address and name are too much to ask for in return, and you’ll get more prospects to add to your email advert list. Plus, the app or ebook themselves, if well-written and informative, could lead to future purchases.

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Tags: rule of reciprocity, marketers, free estimate, live chat, free mobile app, free ebook, offer value, free service