Reciprocity and the psychology of free

Reciprocity and the psychology of free

It’s innate among us to give back whenever we receive something that is of high value. Often, I use this psychology principle in marketing. In one of my clients, I gave several recommendations on how she could improve on her marketing strategies. Specifically, I pointed out the things that need some housekeeping from their website. I started enumerating things like cookie banner, pop-ups, testimonials — among others. In other words, I did a FREE site audit for them. Im essence, this is what reciprocity is about.

Have you ever had a FREE taste at one of the product stand at the mall? Later did you realize that you were contributing to #ViralMarketing; that is, you were subconsciously helping in marketing through word of mouth. Perhaps, you could have said, “Hey! You better try product X because it tastes so good!”

This has reference to what Dr. Robert Cialdini introduced in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In this book, the concept of reciprocity os simple — if someone does something for you, you’ll naturally want to do something for them.

Particularly here in Davao city, I have observed that most service providers get a tip from clients when they offer freebies. Not only do they attract more customers — but they also stir the culture of giving back. Personally, I got to receive a tip from my hosting clients (especially wedding clients) when I would tell them that I’m giving them a certain type of service for FREE.

It’s a cliché — but let me say it still: “do unto others what you want others do unto you”. 

Reciprocity in marketing

In marketing, there are a number of ways to take advantage of reciprocity. Before asking something of your visitor, provide them with a “gift” first— something for free. You don’t have to spend a fortune to give something away; it can be anything from a branded sweatshirt, to a downloadable cheat sheet, to a free social media post template, to your expertise on a difficult subject matter. Even something as simple as a hand-written note
can go a long way in establishing reciprocity.

Hubspot suggests that you have to be sure you’re giving away the free thing before you ask for something in return. Actually, this depends on which principle you adhere to as in my case, I ask first for their contact information. Nonetheless, giving your free first not only will make people be more willing to follow through with your request, but you’ll be portraying your brand in a positive light, establishing brand loyalty, and building a community of brand evangelists.

Types of free

1) Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO)

This is probably the most popular type of free. If you’re a fan of AVON products, this must not be new to you anymore. This is when you buy one product and receive the same product or a product priced lower, free of cost. Consumers love the idea of getting something at getting more for half the price, and end up buying a lot more than they originally planned to. This gives sales a positive boost, and also brings in new and potential customers for your business.

When I was still young, my mom used to bring me at the Supermarket whenever she does the shopping. She was always hooked on adding to cart almost anything that has BOGO offers.

2) FREE Trials

Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer you a month of free trial with the option to quit whenever you choose. Consumers like this offer because they can enjoy streaming movies and shows for free without any commitment to pay for their account. However, by the end of the free trial, most customers end up paying for their account to continue streaming shows and movies.

Be careful with this type of FREE as it might incur you without you noticing it. Remember when the free trial ends. Make sure to cancel before it expires.

3) Free* (*Terms & Conditions Apply)

I often use this strategy. I give away something valuable to my prospects and leads in exchange of their contact detail. Technically, we call this gated offer.

In this case, when a product is offered to you free of cost, it usually comes with a catch that is so attractive that the customer cannot refuse. This type of ‘free’ works on the principle of commitment. Once customers are enticed by the ‘free’ gift, they are usually more willing to spend money and buy things that they don’t necessarily need to acquire the product.

4) Freemium

Freemium is an internet-based business model where basic services are provided free of charge, but charges are levied on additional premium features that can enhance the users’ experience considerably. This type of free is implemented widely across digital marketing platforms where basic features are accessible to everyone but certain features can be purchased for a better experience. such of the platforms that have this offer are GrooveFunnels, Brizy.Cloud, Bitrix24, etc.

5) Giveaways

Giveaways also are very advantageous for a business. Giveaways entice customers with free products in return for subscription and customers comply, knowing that they’ll be rewarded in return. The subscription itself is a great strategy to get potential customers to engage with the business, and thereby also to increase the reach of business. This technique is often implemented by influencers on their social media channels to widen their audience and encourage engagement in their content.

In conclusion, always bear in mind, while it may be a cliché, but truly, “what comes around, comes back around”. Anything you give for free sure has something in return. Make the most of such offer.

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