The Law of Reciprocity and Online Marketing

In this article, I’m going to discuss with you .

It is one of the laws of the psychological influence of persuasion.

It really is interesting because it can get people to do things that are in their best interest and actually increase their satisfaction based on scientific studies and motivate them to take action on your offers and purchase them




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I’ll tell you why you want to use with an example here.  I call this the Coke experiment.  This was a psychology experiment done in the 60s or 70s.

And basically it worked like this:

The subject had to rate the quality of the paintings.  So the subject came in — the test subject in this case — he thought he was rating art appreciation.  He thought he was part of an art appreciation study when really he didn’t understand, he was actually part of a study on , and how it affects people and their decisions they make.

And so the subject is told they come in to rate the quality of the paintings, which is inconsequential to the study.  Then there’s an assistant to the study of the professor performing the experiment, who’s posing as a fellow subject, so there are two subjects at a time.

One of them is the actual subject, and one is really the assistant, who’s trained to do certain things to see how the subject responds.

So these two people come in to evaluate paintings, and along the way, the assistant does a small favor for the subject.  In half the cases, they buy two bottles of Coke, and in the other half of the cases, they do absolutely nothing.

They return empty-handed.

What he does is he goes out and says, “Hey, I’m going to go get a Coke.  Excuse me for a second.  Is that okay?”  They’re like, “Yeah, that’s okay.”  So he goes out and he comes back half the time with two Cokes and gives one to the real subject and one for himself.

So that’s the .  He’s giving something at first with seemingly no strings attached, and he’s not going to ask for anything in the future.

And then the other half of the cases he just returns empty-handed.

But besides that, his behavior is identical, so we can control every other aspect of the experiment, except for the .

So the assistant behaves identically, and this is the real point of the study:  After the paintings have been rated, right at the end, before they’re leaving the assistant pulls out some raffle tickets and says, “Oh, by the way, will you do me a favor and buy some raffle tickets from me?

If I sell the most for (whatever organization he’s part of) I win a $50 gift certificate,” or something like that, or “I win $50.”  He goes, “You don’t have to buy a certain amount, but the more you buy the better,” — his little pitch.

And the result is of course, is the subject bought twice as many tickets than he did when the assistant returned empty-handed.   So that doubled his sales.

What’s interesting is, the rule of triggers of unfair exchanges is it would have cost the subject a dollar for a can of Coke, maybe even less, but they end up spending 5 or $10 on these raffle tickets simply because they feel indebted in some way.

It’s just a fundamental attribution there that we have, where we feel indebted so somebody because they have given us something seemingly with no strings attached, and so there’s that guilt that motivates us.  We’re kind of a guilt-based motivated society.

So that’s the thing.  That’s the trick here with the experiment of the law of reciprocity to use it to your advantage.

To sum it up, you give them something seemingly innocent in advance so then they feel in debt to return the favor to you.  And typically when you ask them for a favor it does not have to be of equal value.

It can be a greater favor than you’ve given.

Therefore, you can make the mathematics work.  You can give away something in the front end that costs you very little and in return get something that will give you a lot.  But the trick is you have to present it ideally in a situation where there are no strings attached.

And the result is you can double, triple, or in some cases, I’ve seen ten thousand times, multiply your results.

So when I want to use the law of reciprocity to boost my sales, I simply look at these five things.

The first and the most simplest one is the free sample.

But the free sample — a lot of people, I think they think about it in too close-minded terms.  Article marketing is a perfect example of a free sample.  Article marketing is a free sample of your expertise with seemingly no strings attached.  You’re just educating the consumer.

And that is why article marketing works, and video marketing.  And then on another end, you can give away part of your product.

So if you have an e-book you can give away the first two chapters.  You can give away one of the bonuses upfront, or you can give away the basics.

So you dumb it down.  You give them what you need to know, but the how to do that is in your book that they have to purchase.

And the better you can present this without seemingly having an angle you’re working, the more effective that it’s going to be.

The free sample can be a free trial version.  So you’re doing a free trial version of the software.  That’s a really great sample.  No strings attached, just try it out.  I want to make sure that you’re trying everything out.

And then when you ask for the offer you’re going to be more likely to get it in a lot of cases if you do it right.  And actually, there’s an advanced strategy, which I’ll tell you, that triggers the law of reciprocity that works really good, especially if you combine it with these three things.

But the free sample is an awesome way to get people to — to get their attention and to make them feel indebted to you.  The trick is to give them so much good stuff upfront for no cost and no strings attached that they feel indebted to you and that they eventually are going to purchase from you, either using the basic law of reciprocity or the advanced strategy, which is called a retreat and then attack.

So that’s a good reciprocation tool.

BUT: On the internet, people give so much ‘free’ stuff away, this now impacts how much giving back a person may feel. Ouch. So, you must make it something pretty valuable – at least to them.

Here’s another one that I like to use.  I’ve used it a couple of times.

It’s called putting yourself on the line. 

Here’s an instance of this:

Basically what you do here is when you put yourself on the line, you’re reciprocating with them because you’re going out on a limb for them and you’re risking your own personal discomfort for them.

And people are very appreciative of that and they feel indebted to you so they’re going to reciprocate by doing something for you, ideally something that doesn’t take as much commitment seemingly on their part, which is to buy something from you.

That’s much easier than going back out on the line and putting themselves on the line for you by making a public statement.

So here’s the one I did, and typically internet marketers don’t do this because they’re scared.  But if I don’t like something from somebody, I have no problem burning a couple of bridges with them and their friends because I think it’s crap.

So, in this case, I sent out A, “Don’t buy Endless Optin software.  I’m dead serious.”  I had to put in the “dead serious” there because a lot of people think that it’s a trick.  You know, “Don’t buy Endless Optin software until you get my bonuses; until you hear about my bonuses.”

I’m like, “I am dead serious.  Don’t buy it.”

I’m saying right up front, “Hello, I received a promo from ____________,  this morning titled ‘a private message for my No. 1 affiliate.'”  So I’m giving them the details here, the story, of how this came to be.  “In it he pitched a product called BLA BLA BLA that supposedly allowed its creator,  to build a list of over 857,000 people.

I checked the page out and already was very hesitant since it was a bunch of sales fluff and no talk about what the product did.”  So I’m already putting myself out there.

But it was only $200 so I thought what the heck, and bought it, and guess what?  It’s nothing but crappy software to help you design your . It sucked.  I’m dead serious.

That’s it — clearly blatant mis-advertising.  If that’s your product then you shouldn’t make claims such as how to build a squeeze page with a couple clicks of a button and not promise a magic solution for instantly building a list.  I have only asked for a refund two times in my life.  Today will be my third.”

So I am putting myself on the line, and you should have seen the customer responses that I got from that.  They’re like, “Thanks.  I was thinking about this.  I’m not going to buy it now.  Thank you so much.  It’s reasons like this that I really look forward to your e-mails.”

And so they’re already like, “Wow, I’m in debt to him because he put himself on the line and he did something most people normally won’t do because they’re scared.

They’re scared to offend people.  And I’m not scared to offend people that I think are putting out crap.  And that makes people reciprocate to me, and I use it immediately.

This is how it is used — and this is all true by the way.  None of this is fake.

See, in this case, is a lot of times this is the problem you have if you’re in marketing and your market to marketers is they think everything’s a slick ploy to pitch something.

And I don’t blame them because typically, in a lot of cases for a lot of people it is, but I don’t want to lose all the credibility I just gained with my going out on a limb and putting myself on the line for them.

I have no qualms at alienating myself from people that are selling crap, but a lot of people are scared to do that.  I’m not.  I’m putting myself on the line, and that triggers reciprocity.

So that’s the trick here.  In that case, I immediately segued it into a pitch.  You don’t have to do that.  I might have compromised a little bit of it, but it was just a simple matter of practicality.  It was perfect timing for me.

So I put myself on the line and then I immediately invoked the law of reciprocity to be on the lookout for that.

Here’s another great way to use reciprocation to actually increase your sales.  This is an awesome example by John Carlton.  He uses this hook, and I online marketing people use this hook more often.  It’s very underutilized.

In this case, the plea, the whole ad is “I desperately need your help.”  And you’re supposed to personalize this.  It’s harder to do online, but you could personalize it just to your list.  “If you will grant me one simple favor I will let you in on the biggest breakthrough in bodybuilding in your life.”  In this case, he’s doing reverse law of reciprocity kind of.

That’s the ploy at least, to where it’s like “Hey, this is how it works.  If you do something simple for me, I’ll do something big for you in return.  I need a favor from you.”

So it’s reverse reciprocity, but this is how he uses it.  This is a great reason why, for a discount for giving somebody something special because usually, a discount means there’s some catch.

“So here’s what it’s all about.  We have discovered…” and then he talks about this great fantastic way to almost get all the benefits of steroids without any of the drawbacks, and it’s perfectly legal.

And then he goes, “Now here’s where I need your help.  You see, we are the only bodybuilders who have realized the importance of this discovery.

And with the help of some very savvy scientists and chemists, we have created a delivery system to get this pheromone to your system at exactly the right time you want it.

But it’s so new we can’t sell it yet to the general bodybuilding market.  We need testimonials from guys like you who are eager to be among the first to see just how massive you really can get using this amazing discovery.”

So basically here the premise of the law of reciprocity is “If you give me a simple little testimonial I’m going to lock you in at the bottom introductory price for this product.

When it goes live to the public we’re going to double the price.”  Really, though, I don’t think that they need the testimonials.

I think they just need a clever reason why to present something that is a supposed discount so it has a relative comparison of, “Oh, I’m getting such a good deal because I’m getting it for so cheap.”  So it kind of suspends people’s logic and gets them to respond; nothing wrong with that if you have a good product, by the way.

So it’s a great thing.  “Give me a testimonial and I’ll give you a really super good deal.  I’ll lock you in on a special deal,” and that’s going to get people to respond.

Online Marketing and The Law of Reciprocity

Here’s one that is used a lot:

The Law of Reciprocity and the Free Consultation.

In this case, people buy one of my products, and I throw in either a 30-minute consultation or a 15-minute consultation with absolutely no strings attached.  It’s true.  There are no strings attached.

I don’t even try to pitch you, but I have found that it’s been good business practice for me.

And why is that?  The fact is is that I’ve analyzed the people I’ve given free consultations to, and they typically read all of my e-mails that I send out or at least 90 per cent of it.

The readership of people I’ve given consultations to are extremely high, and the people that I’ve given consultations to, their purchasing behavior, the average value of them to me as a customer, is about three times what the other person is.

And the cool thing is it makes me good and it gives me ideas for products and I’ve actually created some profitable relationships from joint ventures.

So a free consultation with no strings attached is a great reciprocity tool, and it makes you better as a person, too.  It helps you learn how to deliver more value, and you get more ideas.

You get more entrenched in your marketplace so you can make more solutions.

So, at least do a free consultation on one of your products so you have that element in your business for reciprocity.”

And the final thing here is what I call free forced consumption, and it’s the timeshare theory.

Do you know how they get you to sell the timeshare?  They give you the free, “Here you go.  You only have to listen to a 30-minute pitch from us, and then we’ll let you have the timeshare for the weekend.”  It’s free, but they force you to consume their pitch in order to get it.

And in that case, it’s such a hard sell that it’s got a black eye so you’ve got to be kind of careful.

But if there are ways that you can give your product away for free and then force people to consume it, to where they have to actually use it first in some way.

If you can set that situation up, then the matter is — it’s like the puppy dog close.  “Oh yeah, yeah.  The dog’s great, but you don’t have to make the commitment to buy today.  Just have your kid take it home and play with it for the night and then you can decide tomorrow.”

Well by the time the kid consumes the product — in this case play with the puppy — you’re not going to be able to pry that kid’s fingers off that puppy.  They’ve fallen in love with it.

And so, in this case, you use the extra benefit of them falling in love with them, and feeling guilty like they got something for nothing, and that’s going to increase your sales with reciprocity.

And like I said, the rule triggers unfair exchanges.

Typically you can give them something of little value up front and in return get something from them that has a lot of value.

It’s a great tool to add to your arsenal.  I’m not saying you’re taking advantage of people because it’s so hard to sell something that’s very, very good because there’s so much competition.  So you have to use everything to your advantage to sell something to somebody.

So the question to ask yourself is “What little can I give upfront so I can get a larger, unfair exchange in return?”  And I should put “unfair” in quotes.

Unfair by how the typical person looks at it.  In any reality, it’s always fair.  It’s actually always unfair to you if you run your business model like I do, where you try to give ten times as much value for the price paid, but the fact is it’s so hard to sell that because everybody’s taking a risk.

They don’t know you from Jack.  They don’t know what you’re going to deliver so there has to be that leap of faith, and that’s why you need these persuasion tools to help people make that leap of faith.

Now here’s the advanced strategy of the law of reciprocity.

When you get good here’s what you can do.

What you first do is you give something to somebody and then you ask for a really big commitment from them up front.  And they will probably deny you from that because most people are scared to make big commitments.

So then you retreat and simply ask for a tiny, smaller commitment.  So this is where you show them the suit when they first walk into the clothier store and they say, “This suit is only $3,000.  It’s super awesome.  You’ll be the star of the show.”

And you’re like, “Man, I can’t afford $3,000.  Hell no.”  And you’re like, “Oh, okay.”  Then you kind of get sad that you’ve been rejected.

You say, “Okay, fine.  At least please look at this $200 model.  Will you do me that favor?”  “Okay, yeah.  Yeah, I’ll look at the $200 model.”  And now it looks a lot better compared to 3,000.

At the same time, you feel guilty for having made somebody feel bad.  So then you’re going to be more likely to purchase that smaller commitment.

So this is perfect on the down-sell.  People come to your offer on your sales page, and they don’t buy.

You say, “I’m very sorry I wasn’t able to get you what you want today.  I try my best, but will you at least look at this tiny little offer?  A stripped-down version of the same thing.

Maybe this will be more within your price range.  Can you please just do me the favor and just look at it at least?”

Okay, bam.

So then it’s easier to engage them.  “Okay, I’m glad you did.  This is going to be so great for you.”  Now all of a sudden you’re happy again, and they’re going to be more likely to purchase if you do everything else right.

This works with referrals.

People, sometimes, they want to just get the hell out of there, but they feel bad.  They say, “Okay, I understand you didn’t purchase from me today, and I feel really, really bad about it.

But could you at least please maybe refer somebody that you know that would be interested in this?  It would really mean a lot to me.  I’d be very, very happy if you did.”

So, in this case, you feel bad.  You feel a little guilty because you told them no, and they made you feel guilty because you could tell that they got sad because of it.

And you’re just asking them for this tiny little favor to make you not feel bad again, and that’s just to refer somebody else or a couple of people.

So this is a great way for the down-sell, in this case, is a referral, not selling the product.  Or the final down-sell that you can use is “Okay, I understand.  You couldn’t make the commitment today, and I feel really bad about it because I thought this would be perfect for you.

But will you please at least just do me the favor and just accept this free gift?  It’s just a free report I typed up.

I put a lot of work into it.  It would mean the world to me if you accepted it.”

And people are like, “Okay, I just denied this guy and made him feel really bad because I wouldn’t purchase his product.  Okay, fine.  I’ll make just a tiny, tiny, little commitment then; a tiny, tiny little favor and I’ll accept his free gift.  I’m such a nice guy.  It’s in my heart that I’ll do this to make this guy’s day.  It’s something simple for me to make this guy’s day.  I’ll sign up for his mailing list.

And then once you get on the mailing list, boom.  He knows his numbers, and he knows that a certain percentage of you people who felt bad is going to end up purchasing the product eventually or purchasing other products from him in the future.

So that’s it,   That’s the law of reciprocity.  Remember, you give something little upfront, that costs you very little.  In return, you get a lot on the back end.

Now it’s a gamble sometimes.

Sometimes it takes some tooling around and some testing to get it right because the trick is it has to look like it has no strings attached.

Or it has to be where the person eventually makes a small commitment upfront, which usually leads to them making more commitments in the future when you use your other persuasion elements because this is one of the six major techniques that are used in online marketing.

Because honestly, people are going to feel guilty.  That’s just human nature.  Most people are going to feel guilty.

And so the fact of the matter is you want use that to your advantage because if you’re delivering something that is ten times of value that you know that’s going to improve their life, if, they get their hands on it and use it, you’ve really got to punch it up in this day and age to make sure that they get their hands on it.  And this is one of the techniques that are used in online marketing

Thank you for reading this article on the law of reciprocity, now go put it to work.

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