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Psychology in B2B Marketing: Reciprocity

There’s no feeling quite like the one I had when a co-worker turned up to a holiday party with a present for me — and I hadn’t gotten her anything. I felt guilty, wished I had gotten her something in return and resolved to find her the perfect gift next year. Needless to say, the main reason I felt compelled to do this was the simple fact that she had done something nice for me.

There’s a psychological concept that explains why I have such a strong reaction to not returning the favor. It’s called reciprocity. If you incorporate just one psych concept into marketing — though I'd argue you should use as many as possible — this should be the one.

Reciprocity is especially important for B2B marketers to understand. B2B purchase decisions can take as long as a year, with as many as a dozen brand interactions along the way. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity for marketers to provide value to prospects, which in turn increases the prospects’ desire to reciprocate the favor.

Reciprocity helps keep users moving down the funnel. The more perceived value you can provide to your prospects, the more willing they are to make a large cash investment in your product.

When we share blog posts, tip sheets, e-books and other information that establishes Walker Sands as a thought leader in the B2B technology and professional services space, we also create an opportunity to ask our users for something in return. It’s important to remember that an ask should be dependent on the information or service you are providing.

For example, I probably wouldn’t use a blog post as an opportunity to sell a service or product. A large monetary request seems incongruent with the amount of information I am providing in a 500-word piece. Instead, I might include social sharing buttons, or ask users to follow a link to read about related services.

We often gate our longer, more intensive resources, like e-books, tip sheets or one-pagers. In these instances, prospects are generally willing to fill out a form with their basic information, including their name, email and company affiliation, in order to access the document. This method also works well on “Request a Demo” pages. Gating content works in your business’s favor in two key ways: First, you’re gathering information on your potential client that will allow you to continue to engage with them. And second, the piece of information that you’ve provided helps propel users down the funnel.

Thinking about reciprocity can also aid in setting goals for email marketing campaigns. Are you hoping to get more information from the client? Do you want them to demo your product? Or is this particular campaign targeted at your current product users in order to ensure they renew their contract? For each of these cases, you’ll want to include information and link to resources that match the magnitude of your company’s request. The more you can help users perceive the value of your product or service, the better your lead generation results.

Reciprocity as an idea is pretty simple. My co-worker got me a nice gift, and now I want to get her one, too. But incorporating it while selling technology to other businesses isn’t always quite so intuitive. When we’re trying to sell a product, it’s easy to see our relationships with other businesses as one sided. We know that our solutions will help our prospects, but we need to do some pretty significant “back-scratching” to prove it and ultimately convince a company to invest in us.

If you’re feeling a desire to reciprocate, get in touch with us or visit our services pages to learn how Walker Sands integrates reciprocity during every marketing campaign.