Cooperation and reciprocity are evolutionarily hard-wired into human beings. These values allowed us as early humans to thrive in our harsh surroundings.

The principle of reciprocity builds on that evolutionary imperative in a powerful way. When used correctly this marketing psychology strategy sets your business apart.

We’re going to go over what exactly the reciprocity principle is, and how you can use it to retain and impress customers.

The Ultimate Guide to Making the Principle of Reciprocity Work for Your Business

What is Reciprocity?

The principle of reciprocity is basically you scratch my back, I scratch yours. When you give someone something, they want to give you something back.

When applied to business and sales this concept has different forms. Anytime a business offers a free keychain or a custom badge they are creating the thought in a customer’s head that they owe the business or salesperson.

Making the customer feel indebted makes them not only spend more money but feel better about spending that money because you gave them something in return.

In a study, it was shown that a waiter could increase their tips by 23% by employing a simple gamut. The waiter would bring the patrons their check with a mint. Then the waiter would “rush” to grab the second mint, making the customer think they were being done a favor.

This illustrates that surprising a customer with a freebie makes them feel special, and in turn give back.

How to Use Reciprocity

Pre-Purchase to Entice New Customers

If you’ve been to a parade recently you’ve probably come away with hundreds of free lanyards and stubby coolers. These free gifts that are given at parades and street festivals are an example of reciprocity in action.

A lot of customers don’t actually throw away those free gifts. Especially if that free gift is usable like a flashlight or a doggie bag holder your customer will use that product. Then when they are looking to shop your logo is already emblazoned in their minds.

keyringSurprise Freebie with Purchase

This is a good strategy to use when your business has an online storefront. It’s not always possible to give your customer a freebie upfront, but you can almost always give a free gift with purchase.

Giving your customers a free gift that is branded with your company’s information encourages them to come back and patronize your business.

Engage Customers

If there is one thing that Buzzfeed has proven, it is that people love to do online quizzes on their phones.

You can apply this to reciprocity by offering your customers an interactive experience where they can “earn” a freebie. This can be accomplished simply in person by spinning a prize wheel, or online by creating a quiz related to your product.

Give Before You Get and Get More!

Next time you want a unique promotion consider using the principle of reciprocity.

For ideas about what you can offer your customers read more here.