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"Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now.” So sang the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their rather cheekily titled Blood Sugar Sex Magik record in 1991.* But can giving things away persuade others to feel more responsive to you and your business?
It’s a long held maxim that giving – and not necessarily receiving – makes you feel good. But the cogs underpinning human behaviour (in this case, reciprocation) are so powerful that the very act of giving compels others to return the favour.
This tendency can help your business, as long as you play by the rules.
Many scientific and academic studies have shown that reciprocation has effects far beyond the associated warm glow of giving. For example (and thanks to Prof Robert Cialdini):
When the desperately poor and famine-ravaged Ethiopia sent relief aid to Mexico in 1985 after a series of earthquakes, many were mystified why such a needy country would do so. But after a little digging, a journalist uncovered that in 1935 Mexico had sent aid to Ethiopia when it needed help. This sense of obligation was so profound, that many years later, even when it couldn’t afford it, Ethiopia felt compelled to somehow return the goodwill.
So this overpowering feeling of indebtedness can also be put to use if you (always fairly) want to take advantage of this behavioural trait.
And so on.
The golden rule with reciprocation, if you want it to work in your favour, is that whatever you offer must have some value. Whether this helps to save people money, gives them useful information or rewards them for their custom.
And there must be no strings.
*Apologies for channeling "Alan Partridge”, but sometimes on a dreary winter day we can all do with a little cheer.