Getting Consumers To Say Yes: Reciprocity

Dr. Robert Cialdini and his six principles of persuasion is constantly current for any marketer. I’ve published a fantastic Infographic about his principles before but as with all learning, repetition is essential.

Influence and persuade people are the core of marketing activities. How does it really work? Are we throwing things out into the universe and hoping that someone, somewhere will find our content influential and persuasive?

Cialdini, professor of psychology and marketing, was in many ways before his time when his book “Influence” was published 1984. He lays out six ways you can get people to say yes, without really asking any questions..

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of all these persuasion principles weakens significantly if the person being persuaded is aware of the technique being used. In other words, the principles operate primarily at the non-conscious level of forming impressions and determining meaning and value. When they’re exposed to the light of conscious deliberation, their impact on choice declines.

Read, contemplate and learn the following six triggers:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment & Consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Social Proof
  6. Scarcity

In six posts I’ll write about each principle and show examples. Let’s start!


The principle of reciprocity means that when someone gives us something we feel obligated to give something back. We feel like we are in debt. Have you ever gone to a grocery store and ended up with an unplanned purchase in your cart because you felt an obligation to buy because you tried a free sample? That’s reciprocity in action.

Online retailers can’t personally visit the house of each person who interacts with them to shove a sample in their hand.. But they’ve found another way.

Cialdini says: “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.”

Free Gift With Purchase

You might not be able to offer something in advance, but you can offer something that comes with a purchase.

“But 4 get 1 free”
“Free gift/shipping when purchase for $60 or more”

And of course not advertise a gift in advance but slipping samples of other products into your shipped package.

Gift Of Content

Content can be a good way for online retailers to provide value to potential customers. In effect, giving them a gift.
A Swedish brand called “SkinCity” helps you to find the best products for your skin through a skin test online. Their therapists will then send you a skin care routine completely customized to your skin’s unique needs. You will get answer within 48 hours directly to your email. For free. An ethical bribe that makes people grateful towards your business.


Do you have any other good examples of reciprocity?