Reciprocation is a powerful tool in the psychology of marketing that businesses should implement into their sales strategy. This principle is so powerful as we have an inbuilt, natural obligation to give back to those who gave to us. Our subconscious thinking, driven by the limbic system part of our brains create a desire to repay or return favours.

We don’t like owing people. Let me demonstrate a few examples…

  • When Christmas comes, you may proudly send and deliver all of your Christmas cards in good time of the big date. Then you hear a noise at the door and the postman has made a delivery. You open a Christmas card from an ex-work colleague, old neighbour or distant family member who you forgot to send a card to. What do you do? You will likely buy another card and send them one back in return.
  • If you are married, when you were selecting who to invite for the whole day and for the evening, you likely considered weddings you had been to in the past including which elements you had been invited to.
  • If you have been out for dinner and someone kindly takes care of the bill, when you next meet up this is likely in your mind and you will at least offer to return the favour.

These are just a few examples of how reciprocation influences our thinking and thought patterns. Let’s apply the principle of reciprocation to business now… A brilliant and very powerful experiment was conducted in America and detailed in ‘The Psychology of Persuasion’, a brilliant read from Robert B. Cialdini. The diner conducted a serious of experiments with the objective of increasing the levels of tips. In the first experiment, the waiter gave a free mint with the receipt and this increased the value of tips left by 3%. In the second experiment, the waiter gave two free mints with the receipt and this increased the value of tips by 14%! In the third experiment, however, was when the real magic happened! The waiter left one mint with the receipt, walked away and then returned with a second mint leaving it because the waiter ‘liked you’, the value of tips increased by 23%!

So how can we apply this to business? Should we all import a bulk order of mints?! Well, there are many ways that we can apply the principle of reciprocation into our business to achieve increased leads, sales and conversion rates. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Networking – Whether in person or using the powerful B2B tool of LinkedIn, introducing and connecting people within your network is a brilliant way of achieving reciprocation. If your introduction leads to a business benefit or a sale, this will heighten the emotion of reciprocation from your contact. It is a very positive thing to do and something I conduct regularly for those within my network I value.
  • Invoices – Do you list EVERYTHING you give clients on your invoices? I am sure if you dig deeper into your offering there are likely elements included that you do not. If you provide a monthly report or any other service without charging, list it as an item on your invoice with a zero cost. This demonstrates the added value you are delivering to your customers.
  • Referring Business – I work with a number of specialists and am able to refer business their way regularly. With the correct partners and a clearly defined niche service, referring business is a surefire way of achieving reciprocation and gaining business referrals back in return.
  • Sharing Knowledge – Creating whitepapers, advice, helpful articles, blog, videos… these are all ways of providing useful information that benefits a wider audience of people. If you are providing this information for free and recipients benefit from it, then reciprocation through enquiries will happen over time.

These are a few ways reciprocation can be achieved from your business. I would be interested to learn about any examples you have and ways you have successfully achieved reciprocation in your business. If you would like to discuss further or if I can help you improve leads, sales and conversion rates by applying psychological principles into your marketing please email me directly at

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