Reciprocity
5 min read

Reciprocity

Yo, yo, yo! Welcome to the next episode of The Content Strategy Reeder where marketers, sellers, and creators get better at content strategy and creation in 5 minutes or less.

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I'm currently in San Diego with the fam on our annual winter vacation.  Tomorrow we're taking Rumi to Disneyland for the first time — wish us luck!

I hope you're enjoying a fulfilled, relaxing holiday season too. Since folks are either mostly offline or chasing down EOY deals (I'm rooting for you!), this week's episode is a replay about reciprocity. Enjoy!


The Content Strategy Reeder is sponsored by Alyce.

The holiday season is the time to use gifting to connect with prospects and build pipeline before end of year. BUT you have to have a reason.

You can't "throw money at the problem" and mass blast eggnog to everyone on your account list and expect results.

That’s why Alyce made it easy to create thoughtful and relevant gift campaigns in their new post Holiday Gifting Campaigns for Businesses. It even has templates you can use right now.


Reciprocity is wired into our DNA.

It’s a built-in system designed to build relationships and community.

Put more literally, reciprocity is the act of responding to one positive action with another positive action, usually of near-equal value.

You buy me a birthday gift, I’ll feel compelled to do the same for you.

If I pick up the first round of tequila, you’ll be more motivated to buy the second.

You invite me to your wedding, I’ll feel obliged to invite you to mine — even if it’s years later.

Robert Cialdini made this a broadly known concept via his book, Influence, where he explained how reciprocity can be used as a persuasive tool.

He cites a study where people were 3x more likely to comply with a substantial request when the law of reciprocity was involved.

In other words, you can use reciprocity to get people to do what you want. But only if it’s done correctly.

(Disclaimer: I am not promoting reciprocity as a tool for manipulation. I'm simply sharing that it is objectively a potent device for gaining compliance.)

But in B2B, I see it done incorrectly all the time.

Here’s a real life example of a message that I received in the mail a few weeks ago attached to a box of brownies:

Imagine you received this... what would your response be?

A: Contact the sales rep and set up a meeting
B: Eat the brownies and ignore the note
C: Trash the whole package

My hunch is that you’d pick B.

I did. The Reed fam ate ‘em up.

Or maybe C if you listen to your mom's advice and don't take candy from strangers.

Here’s why: this isn’t reciprocity, it’s a transaction.

Transactions are an immediate exchange of goods worth the same perceived value.

For example, if you sell me a Steph Curry bobblehead for $20, it’s because we agreed that’s what it’s worth.

We make the exchange, and it’s a done deal.

The problem with the offer I received in the mail is that it's actually a trade because of the wording. The exchange of "goods" is immediate. Additionally, it's a miss because I don’t agree that 30 minutes of my time is worth a ~$15 box of treats and a sales pitch.

And for that reason, this sales tactic failed.

But let’s take a different approach. Say you gave me a Steph Curry bobblehead, without prompting or asking for something in return.

Then you’d have tapped into the power of reciprocity. Because should you ask for a favor in the future – like a sales meeting, perhaps – I’d be 3x more likely to comply.

Simply because you lead the engagement by giving first and without any expectation.

Similar versions of a transaction poorly masked as reciprocity plagues B2B sales and marketing teams.

You might have seen other versions in the form offering money, donations to charity, or gifts in exchange for sales meetings. Despite being used often, I’ve never actually heard of them being successful nor enjoyed by the receiver.

While I personally don't believe in this artificially created dynamic to sell a product, you can at least make it more effective with better messaging. Here’s what I would suggest trying instead:

Send brownies with a slightly altered message:

Hey Devin – Hoping this gift scores you some “brownie points” with your family (if you choose to share, I won’t tell!)

Talk soon, Name | Company Name

That’s it. Just give the gift and be clear who it's from.

Then two or three days later, follow up with an email/LI Inmail saying:

Hey Devin, Hope those brownies hit the spot. I have something even sweeter that you might be interested in. I know you’re focused on scaling Clari’s content strategy into new verticals, and that’s exactly how we help B2B marketing leaders. Want to see how we help grow brand awareness in new verts?

This might not be perfect, but it makes two improvements:

  1. Allows time to pass, lessening the transactional feel
  2. Creates a connection between my challenges and their offering

With this approach, I might take a call because they went above and beyond to get my attention, did it thoughtfully, and did their research.

Much more appealing than attempting to buy my time.

Remember, reciprocity is a way to connect and build lasting relationships — but it falls apart immediately when you try to scale it and make it transactional.

Don't try to buy you audience. Instead, win them over intentional and cohesive benefits and offers.

Holler at you next Saturday,
Devin

One more thing...

You probably won't meet a hundred new people next year. But thousands will see your LinkedIn profile.

Are you confident in what they'll see?

Most profiles are outdated "dead ends"— which is a huge miss because your LI profile is by far your most valuable digital resource for unlocking career-changing opportunities.

If you want to build an audience and create a LinkedIn presence that you're proud to show off to hiring managers, prospects, and peers, you might be ready for my video course Content Strategy for LinkedIn.

In one hour you'll have the fundamentals for creating a personal brand on LinkedIn that positions you as an expert.

PS: There's even a template you can use to get your work to pay for it (or you can expense it under your learning and development stipend). Reeders also get the only discount — just use "CSR" at check out.