We are hard-wired to return a favour. This time, in our series on persuasion, we’re looking at the power of reciprocation. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
The idea that if you give then you’ll receive is fundamental to our success as a species. It has been a driving force for increasingly sophisticated levels of collaboration and cooperation between humans. Put simply, those groups that use reciprocation gain a distinct competitive advantage over those that don’t.
The force of reciprocation is incredibly powerful. And for good reason. Whoever needs help can call on their group for that help. The other group members feel free to offer their time and resources because they know they are not giving away this value for nothing – there is an obligation for some future payment.
And it’s an obligation that exerts an enormous pressure on us. If you sent out 30 Christmas cards this year to complete strangers, picked at random from the phone book, you will be astounded at how many replies you get. We don’t have to be asked to return a favour, we feel compelled to.
So it’s not: I’ll scratch your back, IF you’ll scratch mine.
Rather: I’ll scratch your back, BECAUSE you’ll scratch mine.
Give to your customers and you shall receive
You want your customers to buy from you and to be loyal to you. So it’s key that you’re the one that initiates this reciprocal relationship. That means giving them something before they give you anything.
It doesn’t matter what your business is: whether you’re a plumber or a dentist, a solicitor or a landscape gardener, there is information that visitors to your website are looking for.
If you want to create a website that is influential, you should not be thinking: how can I get the most money from my customers? It should be: how can I best genuinely advantage my customers? What information can you give them that will make their lives better or easier?
Begin the reciprocal relationship by giving such valuable content that the user of your site feels compelled to return the favour; that is, spend their money with you and not your competitors. Remember: people say ‘yes’ to people they owe.
Not sure what would be valuable content to your customers?
Why don’t you ask them?
Next time, we’ll be exploring the persuasive force of scarcity. Hurry now, this post will not be around for long.