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Why Not Using Reciprocity Should Be 1 Of The 7 Deadly Sins


Reciprocity can be a fantastic way to give your marketing plans an extra kick, and yet many people don’t use it as a technique which leaves them missing out. As a mobile app developer we have to understand the concept of reciprocity because what is an app other than give and take? That is why today we want to share with you why not using reciprocity should be 1 of the 7 deadly sins that people are supposed to avoid.

To be fair, there are plenty of sins involving marketing. Our seven deadliest include things like marketing without metrics, not segmenting your leads, using spray and pray techniques, and of course not using reciprocity.

Today we will focus on the latter item because reciprocity is such a useful concept that it should have a home in every marketer’s bag of techniques whether you are building an app, promoting a newsletter or selling coffee.

What is Reciprocity?

At a base level the concept of reciprocity is fairly simple – it is the practice of exchanging things with others for a mutual benefit. We see this every day in the business world; I give you money in exchange for a product or service.

However, underlying that base idea is a deeper concept that is more embedded in our psychology that we often refer to as an aspect of our ‘social psychology’. In this case the idea of reciprocity is more of a social rule that people often feel compelled to follow and repay in kind, i.e. people give back the same type of treatment they have received from a person.

A smile is the easiest example to use as there have been numerous studies on the effect of giving a person a simple smile and how it can change an interaction. Smiling, in itself, is often contagious. When you genuinely smile at people you are viewed as being more attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. This often makes people relax themselves and more prone to smiling. Then when you smile it activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness including releasing dopamine in your body.

Think of how a simple act of kindness, from buying the person behind you in line a cup of coffee to offering your seat on a crowded train, can change the mood not only with the person who received said act, but also the people that watched that interaction. The social psychology of the interaction pushes people towards wanting to reciprocate in a positive manner.

Of course the same thing can be said from a negative interaction in that most people respond to anger with anger or irritation with irritation.

Understanding the idea of reciprocity in regards to social psychology is important in marketing because you can utilize the concept within your campaigns for a more positive effect.

Using social psychology in Marketing

Many of us regularly use the reciprocity concept in business without really thinking about it. We regularly exchange money for goods or services. When the consumer feels that this is a fair trade with an equal level of value they often respond in a neutral (expected result) or positive (exceeded expectations) manner. This can lead to future business, positive feedback, and more.

When the consumer feels that it is not a fair trade, such as getting a product that doesn’t meet the promise or of lower quality than expected, then they respond in a negative manner because they don’t feel the transaction was fair.

You can take the idea of reciprocity further by influencing others in a subtle manner that is not just a straight transaction. For example, if you want users to subscribe to your newsletter you might offer them access to your whole catalog of white papers and an eBook or two. This is a straight transaction: if you do this then you get that.

Or, you could let someone download the eBook for free and then suggest that they subscribe to the newsletter. In essence the consumer still receives the same thing, but in the second scenario you are driving the behavior by offering something of value to the consumer for free without strings opening the door to them to decide if they wish to reciprocate.

One popular method of using the social psychology of reciprocity in marketing is with product launches that use videos as the primary vehicle for information. The first few videos are purely informative and might even have links or useful information for the consumer. For example, a product for helping manage finance might start with some basic budgeting information and simple worksheets to help people understand where they are financially.

Then a few videos into the series, after you have shown value and freely given to the consumers, they shift more into a sales pitch, which people are then more receptive to because they naturally want to respond in kind and give back since you gave freely from the onset.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that understanding the idea of reciprocity in regards to social psychology is important because you can use that to better shape marketing plans for any type of scenario, from the launch of a new app to selling donuts. Giving something before you get something can help with both your influence and persuasiveness which is why not using reciprocity is 1 of the 7 deadly sins of marketing.

Be sure to check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for great new Lounge Lizard blog articles.

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