Last month we explored ways advertising firms market a product and reach the intended audience. These might include package design, good website development or social media management to showcase a product and reach audiences. Whether a company is a local business in Eugene, Oregon, or an online store reaching a global audience, marketing techniques can be used to get a product or service out there. Beyond the basics we explored last month, there are well-known psychological tricks used to sell an object. In 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote about six tools to persuade called, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” He did not invent these tricks; these are devices that have been used for years in order to persuade or sell.
One of the most powerful tools—and often easiest to implement—is the idea of reciprocity. This is to give something of value for free without an obligation to return the favor. This might be for a free month of service, a free trial, samples or a free product. The idea is that people will try the product and either like or build loyalty, so they will want to buy it.
The important key to this is that whatever is free must feel like it has a high value to the customer and it must cost little or nothing for the company to give away. Offering a free service like a one month trial of cable or internet is one example of this. Allowing someone to sign up for an account to try a program, game or website for free is also an example. Some companies offer small samples. Think about how many times you have gone to the grocery store and tried a food sample when they are offered. This feels like a much higher value when you are given a whole granola bar or whole juice box rather than a piece of one.
Reciprocity sounds easy in theory, but many companies do this incorrectly. Instead of offering samples that represent their products, they give away rejects or inferior copies that don’t represent their product accurately. Instead of offering something for free, the supposedly “free” service or product is dependent on buying something. For example, getting a discount of $10 on $100 of merchandise purchased, or getting a month of free service if a year’s package is purchased, are not reciprocity. These are dependent on doing something to get something. It isn’t that coupons and sales can’t work, but this isn’t the same technique and it isn’t nearly as effective.
Free information can be a great way to use reciprocity, especially if it is from a law firm, medical practice or a tech support company which provides specialty knowledge in that field. Having someone share about a specific trade, science or craft can draw in those wishing to learn about this knowledge and related information. This is why blogging and social media management work so well as a venue for reciprocity. On the other hand, when reciprocity isn’t done correctly, all that is reinforced is advertising being crammed down the readers throat—which can be a turn off and drive potential customers away. Techniques like reciprocity take time to develop and are only one aspect of marketing that an advertising agency like Ruby Porter Marketing + Design use.