Use the Power of Reciprocity in Your Business

Human beings are naturally oriented towards exchange and commerce.

Reciprocal exchange reinforces the bonds of community and connection that were essential for survival in the ancestral environment.

Exchange comes in many forms. Modern capitalism is just the latest example. Gift-giving, an ancient custom among countless tribal societies, is another one.

We are programmed by our evolution to respond to this exchange dynamic. When someone does something for us, it is typical to feel indebted to them.

In his classic book Influence, Robert Cialdini explains the power of reciprocity as a tool of persuasion:

“… human societies derive a truly significant competitive advantage from the reciprocity rule, and consequently they make sure their members are trained to comply with and believe in it. Each of us has been taught to live up to the rule, and each of us knows about the social sanctions and derision applied to anyone who violates it. The labels we assign to such a person are loaded with negativity–moocher, ingrate, welsher. Because there is general distaste for those who take and make no effort to give in return, we will often go to great lengths to avoid being considered one of their number.”

Not only has evolution programmed us to feel indebted by favors, but society and culture conditions us even further in that direction through this social pressure.

We can make use of this natural tendency by creating value for our audience with no expectation of anything in return.

Over time, with enough entertaining or informative content, favors, free advice, free products or services, the audience naturally develops a sense of “indebtedness” towards us.

This opens up the possibility for asking for a purchase.

And even better: freely giving value to your audience, in whatever form works for you or your business, is not just a useful psychological strategy for building trust and commitment from them.

It also continuously increases your own authority and status in their eyes. This alone makes them more likely to buy from you in the future.

Multiplied over 100s or 1000s of followers and fans, the reciprocity rule can lead to massive revenue and growth potential.

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