Currently, I am re-reading Robert B. Cialdini’s 1984 masterpiece, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. His book has sold over 2 million copies world-wide, and is widely considered an essential read in business and sales communications. In it, he discusses what he calls the “6 Principles of Persuasion,” listing these as reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. Since his ideas are so powerful and helpful, let’s take a few weeks in this blog to look at these principles individually and apply them to small business ownership.
Today, let’s start with reciprocity. Put bluntly, this is the art of giving away in order to gain
something in return. People feel indebted, in this case to do business with, people or companies who do something for them or give them a gift. Cialdini says: “You have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.”
This is why a free trial period, free samples, bogos (buy one, get one), and even gifts unrelated to the product or service work. These don’t have to be expensive or elaborate: a pen with your company’s name on it, candy or a pound of coffee, or a memo pad are pleasant surprises to your clients, and the presence of presents in their work spaces keep them thinking about you long after the office visit it over. Offering new services or products for free starts the relationship between you and your customer and makes them inclined to do more business with you.
Here at Emerald Coast Answerphone, for example, we advertise that new clients can try our services free for the first 28 days. Not only does this risk-free offer draw them in, but they sign on for long-term contracts afterwards for two reasons. First, they like our services. But second, after a 28-day gift, most of them feel loyal to us. It would be just wrong to go out and sign with another answering service after using us for free for 28 days.
Reciprocity does not have to be in services or products, either. You monthly newsletter, full of tips and information, sent by mail or email, is a freebie which encourages the principle of reciprocity. Sponsoring a community team or event, either financially or with people power, are great ways to get your name known in the community and help people want to give back. Be creative! Give a little and see what happens.
Challenge: How are we currently using the principle of reciprocity in our company? Where can we give to gain the confidence and loyalty or clients and potential customers?