How to Use ‘the Law of Reciprocity’ to Build Better Business Relationships
How many times have you heard the “there are two kinds of people” expression? Well, it never gets dull! There really are two kinds of people…
One kind includes those who are able to do the job themselves, want to do it, or just can’t spare the money to hire a professional.
The other kind includes those who are willing to pay for an extra pair of hands out of lack of time or any other reason.
As for the first group, no matter how good and efficient, your partner services will never get them interested in buying.
However, if they’re convinced that your company is worth the trust, they’ll spread the word!
Remember that not every person is a potential customer, but if they get to like you, it’s a gain.
Having them spread your information with their audience, friends or family is always a good opportunity for your business growth.
And speaking of the others, they either have or will find a way to collect the money to pay for a professional’s service.
Before they make a final choice, make sure to enter their shortlist of experts by offering your best knowledge possible.
Both of these two types of business relationships are healthy for your company’s progress and should be built consistently.
By maintaining these relationships stable, there are higher chances that you’ll make sales and profit, and survive in the marketplace.
WHAT IS THE LAW OF RECIPROCITY AND HOW DOES IT WORK
Building stronger business relationships often mean building a better business. The competitive marketplace of today requires strong relationships as a key to staying afloat.
It is getting harder and harder to keep yourself on the top.
It is up to the customers whether they will spread a good word about your business, say nothing or complain about it.
Clearly, it depends on them how many people your brand will reach, but will the outcome be positive depends on how they are treated.
Now we see that the main reason for losing customers is that they start feeling as the company no longer cares about them and their needs or interests.
Some research data had shown that two out of three customers who filled the survey felt that the company they were working with had an interest in nothing else but profit.
From the customers’ vantage point, good quality products and services mean nothing if their feedback and requests are ignored.
Businesses often tend to think that if customers are not complaining, it means they are probably satisfied with the company’s services.
But recent research has proven this idea wrong by revealing the truth: most unhappy customers (96% precisely) don’t complain, they just move on to another business that could satisfy their needs.
Also, if you don’t hear them criticizing, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing it. Most of the questioned customers confessed that they complained to their friends and family.
And speaking of that unhappy 4 % that do complain, almost all of them decide to remain as customers if the company answers and resolves their issue quickly.
They can even be impressed if their problems get solved better than expected and probably tell some of their friends. Comparing with the 96% we previously mentioned these give better results.
A lesson to remember from this research is that problems shouldn’t be ignored and left behind since they provide you an opportunity to fix the relationship and prove yourself trustworthy again. You can win your client over by coming to his rescue.
It takes some amount of time to establish a strong and lasting business relationship, but they are an integral part of the company’s success so you should put in the work.
On a daily basis, there are dozens of relationships to manage, starting with the suppliers who provide you with what you need and ending with your customers.
Establishing and maintaining quality and lasting relationships with these groups is a recipe for business success.
Probably the best way to make sure you’re keeping the relationships strong is by following the law of reciprocity.
It is considered to be one of the most powerful laws of human nature. If someone does something nice for you, you feel obligated to return the same way. Do you know why?
It happens that we feel compelled to do something for people who have helped us in the past, even if they don’t ask for it.
This powerful phenomenon has been studied by social psychologists for quite a long time.
They claim that we might even respond to the kindness much more generous than expected. This mostly happens when we receive a gift or a favor with no expectation of return.
It’s called gift economy. Look it up.
In most cases when we answer with “thank you” out of the need of giving something in return, we get another phrase “you are welcome” because people prefer not to feel indebted to others.
This explains why the strongest and longest-lasting relationships all are based on the law of reciprocity.
However, this can go the other way as well. When people do something harmful to us, our instinct drives us to do the same in return.
Remember the unsatisfied customers we previously spoke about? Now their actions seem pretty clear.
This principle is applicable to almost all daily human interactions, including business interactions as well.
But don’t expect to be instantly rewarded for your act – these things sometimes need time to process, especially when it comes to company-clients relationships.
These are not transactions. You shouldn’t move on with the unreal expectation that everyone returns the kindness. Some people will appreciate your efforts, while others will see it as your liability and obligation to the customers.
However, reciprocity gets a bad reputation these days because it’s being seen as a mercenary act. It became some sort of manipulation when you make people believe they own you something.
Apart from that, reciprocation can be understood as an act of caring. It’s important to take care of business relationships the same way we take care of our personal relationships which matter to us.
Rewards are higher when we do something from a natural need to be of service.
Only when we learn how powerful the law of reciprocity can be, we’ll get an opportunity to grow our businesses’ sales and profit.
In networking, this law means that by offering benefits to others, you’re creating great network relationships which will bring benefits over time, mostly not directly from those you benefit.
How to start practicing the law of reciprocity in real-life situations? Keep reading for a short guide on how to use this advantage in your profession.
USE THE LAW OF RECIPROCITY TO BUILD TRUST
The law of reciprocity is powered by our need for a give and take in relationships.
Favors and gifts need to be offered genuinely, with no expectation of return; otherwise, it could have seemed like some sort of manipulation.
When it comes to business, be prepared to leave all of your expectations behind – business relationships must be built on trust by providing customers with incentives and rewards. But don’t forget the customer service or complaint resolution policy as well.
Focus on the customers who never interacted with your company before, as much as the existing and reliable ones.
To demonstrate your authority and will to consider customers’ interests, you can give them something valuable for free.
Mind you that it should be valuable, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s just a little fragment of what your business is able to offer.
Many companies are familiar with the concept of giving so you can see them offering free trials, demo versions of the original services, and even the original products in some cases.
They give potential customers a chance to become a part of the community, learn about the company, get dozens of benefits and see if they fit there at the end.
The chances are higher you’ll attract new customers by letting them know how important their interests are for the company. This is how you start building trust.
Studies had shown that around 40% of free-trial users moved on to paid versions right after their trial expired.
Some surveys are done for the more popular software creators to uplift this number to 60%.
They are able to see if the product or service meets their requirements by using it for a short period of time. They can get used to its functionality, design, and usability, becoming a regular customer.
Potential customers then know exactly what to expect from your brand. This trust-gaining strategy works for any type of business relationship, so you can offer for free whatever your business has.
It could be an e-book or video, expert advice, assistance, or anything similar.
If what you give the first time for free turns out to be helpful, customers feel indebted towards your company.
This indebtedness has a huge effect on your growth since they are much more likely to return a favor later.
By offering free samples and gifts, you basically create some kind of loyalty program – the difference is that the gift comes first.
Trust is the key. The more trust you build through your business relationships with customers, the more sales you are going to make.
Approach the co-workers, vendors, partners, and clients with kindness, honesty, and generosity and encourage them to behave the same way towards you.
Make sure you are maintaining open, healthy and positive relationships.
SHOW APPRECIATION TO BE APPRECIATED
We understood how vital is building trust at the very beginning of a customer-company relationship, but if you want to maintain this type of relationship for years, it is necessary to show appreciation.
U.S Small Business Administration claim that 70% of relationships ended when customers realized they aren’t being cared about enough.
Showing appreciation tells people that you know them and that they matter to you or your brand. By building loyalty on trust, you can get long-lasting customers and good recommendations.
But these customers will appreciate if they get some discounts and special offers for being loyal, especially when the gift is personalized and based on any previous purchase.
They are then more likely to make additional purchases or willing to invite their friends to join the community.
That same principle can be used to retain the most valued employees.
Positive words and affirmations work for some time until they become repetitive and then need a change.
You can claim greater loyalty from your workers by giving them raises, promotions, bonuses or any other tangible rewards.
GIVE BEFORE YOU RECEIVE
Have you ever heard of a Latin phrase do ut des?
It’s loosely translated as give in order to receive.
Whether you choose to reward a loyal customer, best employee or trustworthy business partner, you are strengthening the important relationships for your business and helping your company keep a positive brand image.
A good way to win over people’s trust is by giving them a gift or doing a favor right from the beginning of the partnership. The beginning of collaboration is a good occasion for you to show the willingness to give and motivate.
Such a gesture will ultimately encourage people to trust and open up to you.
The result is even better if there are no expectations from those people whatsoever.
An interesting fact about the law of reciprocity is that it’s the most effective when both sides can feel the appreciation of their contributions.
This is why they both need to demonstrate gratitude. Your gratitude and appreciation reflect your opinion on customer-company relationships, by letting people know you still care for their needs and interests now when you got what you’ve wanted.
What will make a huge difference and takes the least effort is expressing “real” interest in the customers’ lives.
Start by simply asking about the family, vacations, work or anything important to them at the moment.
Remember that you’re not just a seller, and a client is not just a customer; you’re both humans with feelings, emotions and whole different lives. There are urgent needs to be understood.
As a company leader, there are two ways to use reciprocity. Let’s focus on the right way.
To build trust and rapport there are many things you can establish with people you’re connecting with. To prove them you’re on their good side, show some empathy and credibility.
They’ll get a chance to feel comfortable with your brand if you’re honest with them, friendly and always accept to work on their issues. People will feel as they matter to you if you work harder to keep them on your side.
That’s the idea behind all those free samples, trials, gifts and other freebies that brands give away all the time.
It also matters what you give though. You should get familiar with customers’ or employees’ interests.
Apart from giving away something of their interest, it should also be of high quality. That way you’re representing yourself as a person of credibility.
And when it comes to empathy, people will need to know you understand what answers they are looking for.
They want to rely on you when needed. If they need help, you should be the one willing to give it. It’s better they think your intent isn’t just getting into people’s wallets.
With the right use of the law of reciprocity, you’re making it a lot easier for people to use your service or buy something you offer.
You are establishing yourself as a giving person.
At this point where they’ve already found they’re comfortable with you, they trust your brand. This is what makes it easier for them to choose your brand among all others.
However, since we mentioned the right way, there must be the wrong one too. And it all starts when people feel exploited and manipulated.
It’s not like they meet this principle for the first time. We all know how it functions.
If they feel you’re exploiting this law tactically (and they will) at the very beginning of the collaboration, it won’t work for you or at least it won’t work in a long term.
By exploiting we mean using it by being sincere for some time and help customers only to make them feel a sense of obligation to the company.
If you’re using reciprocity as a pressure tactic, people will recognize the trap and won’t fall for it.
It’s pretty obvious when someone is desperately trying to make sales.
Besides being a businessman, you’re also a consumer.
You must have met dozens of people trying too hard to be nice and not forcing you to buy a product.
Some of them were doing positive things for you, but your instinct told you not to trust them.
Their intentions were not sincere and honest and that’s easy to sense.
By using the law of reciprocity people can trick each other from time to time, but most likely it will end up repulsing customers once they feel forced to do something for the company they didn’t want to.
This way, you’re far from getting higher sales, recommendations, and long-lasting customers.
Pressured clients often disappear quietly, so it happens that you won’t even notice how fast they’ve gone.
The only right way to use the reciprocity is by being honestly helpful and sincere for the right reason. Set your goal to help others and by helping to grow the relationships.
HOW TO USE THE LAW OF RECIPROCITY IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Before we start to discuss the use of reciprocity in social media, we need to explain how it should look like.
It’s a huge mistake to treat the reciprocity as a tactic or a marketing ploy.
To be effective, it must be authentic. Understand that you should show a desire to dive into social relationships and help customers feel comfortable around you.
To build a strong relationship, you need an ongoing give-and-take relation with your community.
Real relationships can only be built with repeated and constant care for the people you’re connecting with. The goal is to make them feel important.
When it comes to social media, you can invite users to contribute with updates on their wishes and needs, or they can simply click the “like” button to enter your community.
Also, what you post on your page is not just informational text that most of them can and will skip – on the contrary, there is an option to send feedback and contact the company in the comment section.
They are allowed to respond and give their personal opinions on what you do, so they already feel their ideas matter to your business. Moreover, you are able to write on someone’s wall and look for a response.
But to make sure you’re doing it the right way start with social listening and understanding what people you want to connect with are interested in.
You want to get to know those who’ll once be a part of your audience. Discover their desires; understand the gestures and language they use on social media.
You need to engage in a manner similar to theirs if you want to reach them more and not get labeled as a spammer.
Learning how the community works before you reach out to them will give you vital information on how to keep conversations with those people I order for them to become a part of your community.
One important thing to remember is that most social media users are probably sick of spamming accounts, inauthentic posts and the lack of transparency in influencer marketing. This could kill your brand reputation.
Even if your gestures are genuine and sincere, make sure they are also appropriate.
Not everyone will understand them and not everyone could accept them. Inappropriate gestures are disrespectful and annoying for most people.
The main question here is what invokes reciprocity. They can vary. These are common gestures for engagement you can add to your social media marketing strategies:
- Liking and supporting other people’s pages
- Subscribing to their Youtube channels
- Reacting on someone’s posts
- Reacting to people’s comments
- Sharing other people’s posts and helping them reach the targeted audience
- Introducing to each other people who can benefit from one another, etc.
Another thing to add to your strategy (which is very obvious) is sharing your best knowledge with the community.
This gesture definitely creates reciprocity and creates trust, because you’re giving something to the people you don’t know.
RECIPROCITY IN PUBLIC SPEAKING
If you want to see reciprocity in action, try public speaking.
The audience is more interested in listening if you offer them an engaging presentation.
You’re putting a lot of effort in designing and presenting, they will probably feel as they need to return a favor.
Be sure to prepare well for speeches and public events – you don’t want the audience to lose interest in your brand or never even get it. People need to feel that you’ve given as much as you could to them.
Good examples are travel agencies. Some agencies only provide good service.
While it’s recommendable, others give the same but with an extra gift in your room with a personalized note. It’s a small difference between keeping and losing customers.
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