6 Tips to Leverage Reciprocity in Marketing

6 Tips to Leverage Reciprocity in Marketing

Several years ago, a popular movie titled, “Pay It Forward” had a predictable outcome. The young hero in the movie had an idea that he could start a movement by doing something nice for someone and then asking them to pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else (and telling that person to pay it forward too). Ultimately, his movement was successful and received national attention. This movie is a great example of the principle of reciprocity. And you can effectively adapt it to your marketing.

Just What is Reciprocity in Marketing?

The basic idea in marketing reciprocity is that a customer or a lead is offered something of value with no strings attached. Physiologically, most of us will be inclined to return the favor in one way or another. That’s exactly what savvy marketers capitalize on to drive more conversions.

Of course, this sounds quite simple, but there is another principle at play – the principle of authenticity. Most consumers today are prone to traditional advertising pitches and are seven times more likely to trust content shared by peers. So, if marketers are too bold and too “pushy” in asking for reciprocal action, they won’t get it. Any gift or offer made must seem to be genuine, or authentic and not look like simply a way to get a conversion, whether that is an email address or a purchase.

The Main Types of Reciprocity

When you give a loyal customer a coupon for 15% off, just to say thank you, and you do not include a CTA to make a purchase, that is a material gift. If that customer does indeed make a purchase, that is material reciprocity. Another type of material gift might be a free ebook download or access to a podcast. If the offer is seen as valuable by a potential customer, they will provide an email address for that download or registration. This is a bit more transparent, of course, because that target knows that they will be hearing from you again, via their inbox.

Social/emotional gifts follow the same principles of reciprocity and authenticity, but reciprocation will not be in the form of an immediate sale, at least not at first. Here are some examples of social/emotional gifts and reciprocal actions by a target audience.

  • You have a presence on a few social media platforms. To attract followers you’ve decided to offer something entertaining or inspirational every day – either a joke of the day, a humorous anecdote or GIF or a quote for the day. You are providing a social/emotional gift. Your followers enjoy these posts and keep coming back every day. What’s more, they like and share your posts with their friends. Your following grows. They are giving back in a social way.
  • You also have a blog, and you provide valuable information and education. Your readers are impressed and also come back for more. You also invite questions and comments and try to be as helpful as possible. These are social/emotional gifts. At the same time, you can always “upsell” with a comment such as, “If you like what you are reading here, sign up for my newsletter and get these posts delivered right to your inbox.”

Once you have established a relationship through your social/emotional gifts, you can move onto more ‘obvious’ marketing. Below are several strategies just for that.

How to Use Reciprocity in Marketing: 6 Tactics

All of these reciprocal marketing tips are immediately actionable. While you may be using some of them, you may also find that that you have never used that can boost your relationships and conversions.

1. Dole Out Freebies and Host Giveaways

While some business owners think that this will “cheapen” their products or services, nothing could be further from the truth. Your target audience (current and potential customers) will love the gesture and feel all “warm and fuzzy” about you, especially if you do not ask for anything in return. But when they are in need of your product or service, guess who they will think of first?

Suppose you sell clothing accessories, for example. How about offering a gift certificate for one of your less expensive items? Or better yet, how about a gift certificate for a cash amount that they can spend on anything you offer? Chances are, they will spend more than the certificate’s worth. A First Data’s 2018 survey states that on average customers end up overspending $59 above the certificate value.

Here are a few other examples of different companies playing the ‘freebie’ card:

  • HubSpot offers a free trial of its keyword research tool.
  • Amazon offers a free trial of its Prime membership.
  • GrubHub offers a few free meals as an “opener” to its meal service.
  • And we here offer a bunch of free certificate templates.

As for giveaways, we wrote a separate post explaining all the ‘nuts and bolts’ of organizing one.

2. Offer Personalized Discounts

Loyal customers are valuable assets, and you don’t want to lose them. Offering personalized discounts based on how long they have been a customer or how much they have spent on purchases, keeps that loyalty intact, and they will purchase from you when they need or want what you offer.

And no, you won’t be stripping your business of some revenues. On the contrary, a BIA/Kelsey research suggests that for an average small business 17.7% of total sales are generated by customer acquisition promotions such as coupons, discounted deals, daily deals or pitches alike.

Also, here’s another interesting bit of data. According to a 2018 global survey by RetailMeNot, two-thirds of shoppers admit that they made unplanned purchases solely because they found a coupon or discount.

3. Provide Free Resources

Offer e-books, podcasts, and webinars for free. Many businesses gate this content with the requirement of an email address for access. But you don’t have to do that. You can make these offers with no strings attached. You will be establishing genuine relationships based on no reciprocal requirement at first. But, within those e-books or podcasts, you can always “upsell” to additional valuable content in exchange for an email address.

The key here is to give with no “demand” for a reciprocal action at first. This is what establishes trusted relationships with your audience. They will want to reciprocate eventually, so give them the time to do that.

Copyblogger, for instance, provides a ton of valuable educational materials for free on their blog, as well as access to additional content – webinars, eBooks, templates, etc. – with a free membership. They do, however, later pitch you with their premium training, but you don’t get that feeling that it’s being ‘pushed down your throat’ unjustifiably.

4. Invest in a Great Customer Experience

Did you know that 80% of B2B customers state that CX is a major influence factor for them when it comes to choosing their next vendor? In the B2C segment, great CX is also a big deal. So how can you create one without a lavish budget and an army of staff? Here’s a quick idea.

Suppose you have customers who have purchased products. Contact those customers and ask for photos/videos of the use of your product. Then, give “shout-outs” to those customers by publishing their photos on your website and/or social media platforms. They will become even more loyal and, what’s more, share their newfound “fame” with their friends. ModCloth is a master at this tactic. Check out their website and social media posts to get an idea of how they use this tactic. Reciprocity may not be immediate, but it will come.

5. Run Contests

This may not seem to be a function of reciprocity but consider this. If you hold contests, you will get participation. The key will be to offer more than one prize so that your audience sees a greater opportunity to win. And make those prizes valuable – gift certificates, products that may not even be a part of your inventory. The chance for multiple ways to win will be a big incentive.

And here’s some data showing just how effective contests can be for your marketing:

6. Play on the Need to Do Good

Most of us want to feel that we are supportive of good causes. But we do not necessarily seek out ways to support those. When a business can show that it stands for a certain value, customers will be more inclined to purchase from it.

Consider Toms Shoes as a great example of this reciprocity arrangement. When customers make purchases, there is a giving program that provides shoes for underprivileged children, eye care for the poor, clean water initiatives, prenatal care, and more. People can know that they are “doing good” just by purchasing a product, and that’s a huge incentive of reciprocity.

To Conclude

You may not be an Amazon, a HubSpot, or a Red Bull. But you are a business that has the same opportunities to engage in reciprocal marketing as these “big boys” do. Take a look at these six tactics. There is no reason why you cannot implement them right now and use the principles of reciprocity and authenticity to increase your revenue.

Photo by Javier Molina

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