By Gail Kent
When my brother and I were kids, we begged our mother to buy us Cracker Jacks. Neither of us liked the caramel covered popcorn. We liked the peanuts. And we LOVED the free prize inside.
Even if it was a worthless trinket, and even if it wasn’t really free, we LOVED the free prize inside. I still love to get free things. Buy one, get one free. Yeah! We all do. Seth Godin even wrote a book about it.
One day it dawned on me that giving away free stuff was more than a clever marketing idea. I realized that if you took that principle just a little further, giving away stuff before the sale without the promise of any money changing hands, that you are tapping into a spiritual law.
The law of reciprocity
It’s called the law of reciprocity. It’s trusting that the Universe … God … whatever you choose to call the Divine Mystery … will respond to your best intentions. It’s giving something away first before you get something – not knowing whether you will get something in return. But time and time again, I’ve found that I get back much more than I ever give.
It’s the same principle that’s behind the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, in which 11-year-old Adam starts a movement by doing three favors for strangers that they, in turn, repay to others. In the end, (spoiler alert) when Adam is killed while helping his friend stand up to a bully, you’re shown how many lives Adam touched by the hundreds of people who show up at his vigil.
So, how does the law of reciprocity work in marketing? Certainly you aren’t looking to get knifed to death like Adam! The point is that you must first give something of yourself to engender trust, admiration and a sense of connection with others. You want people to feel that you have given them value before you attempt to enter into a business relationship with them. If you have impressed them with what you know and the service you provide for them for free, they will trust that you have much more to offer that is worthy of the price tag.
It’s important that you do these things without expectation of a return. You must genuinely give out of a pure intention to be helpful to others and because you sincerely believe in what you do.
Give yourself away.
The secret of the law of reciprocity is that the more committed you are to giving yourself away in service to others, the more successful you will be. The more you give to others without expectation of return, the more you receive back. If you give halfheartedly, your reward will be meager. If you open your heart and give all that you have, you will be blessed beyond measure.
Let’s examine some of the ways you might give something of value when you are marketing your business and living your life according to this spiritual principle.
Give to your customers and potential customers. This is planting seeds, and it is what content marketing is all about. It is providing free, valuable information online, before any sale has been made, in anticipation of forming a trusting relationship with a customer or client.
The Internet has made publishing a democratic, affordable process that nearly anyone can afford. Now people worldwide can distribute their ideas, and the only limitation is an individual’s determination and the quality of their efforts.
When you share your know-how and specialty knowledge with others online through blogs, social media, webinars, articles and other information forms, you are establishing yourself as a thought leader and expert in your field. And consumers pay attention:
- The use of research reports has risen from 25% in 2011, to 44% in 2012. (Source: Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs)
- 20% of users’ time is spent surfing the Internet on content-led websites. (Source: The CMA)
- 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
- 60% of consumers are more likely to be on the lookout for products when looking at content marketing. (Source: The CMA)
- 68% of consumers are likely to spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. (Source: The CMA)
- 37% of consumers visit content marketing websites at least once a month.(Source: The CMA)
- 57% of consumers read content marketing titles at least once a month. (Source: The CMA)
- 82% of consumers like reading content from brands when it’s relevant. (Source: The CMA)
- 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (Source: Content Plus)
- 70% of consumers say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
- 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site. (Source: Content Plus)
- 90% of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations behind the content are interested in building good relationships. (Source: TMG Custom Media)
Give in your community. Many businesses form partnerships with non-profits that they feel passionate about and support their efforts. Some allow their employees to volunteer time on the company clock, while others write big checks. Some do it for the PR benefit; others do it quietly.
I know a very successful production company that does all the promotional work for a famous charity hospital, and they never say a word about it to anyone. Bottom line, giving to your community is important, regardless if you ever get a dime’s worth of recognition for it. It still works in your favor from a spiritual perspective because it changes the world and it changes you.
Give to your employees. Gone are the days when you can treat your employees like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and feed them BS). You have to treat your employees like your most valuable asset, because they are. Pay them better than you have to – before they ask for a raise. Reward them with incentives. The same businessman that I mentioned above always pays his employees above scale, and they are incredibly loyal to him. His turnover rate is practically nil.
Ask your employees for their ideas, and they will help you solve problems. When employees are valued as a team rather than “managed,” they will always out-perform the stifled, micro-managed staff.
These are just a few ways that the law of reciprocity can be applied to marketing and business. Once you become attuned to the law and begin practicing it, you will find more and more ways to apply it. It will become a natural way to live, and will provide joy in your everyday life. Something as simple as holding the door for a harried mom or speaking kindly to a store clerk who is having a bad day become a source of meaning and purpose.