This is for you, Mommy, the toddler said, thrusting a flower into her hands before running away to play with his friends. The mother was delighted with the unexpected gesture. The next day at the mall, with the the sweet spontaneous action of the child still fresh in her memory, she gave in easily to the child’s demands for a toy.
The child had just demonstrated how the principle of persuasion worked.
Of the six principles of Persuasion defined by Marketing guru Dr.Robert Cialdini, the first is reciprocation.
According to Cialdini, receiving free, unexpected gifts makes the receivers feel indebted to the giver. The giver’s behavior towards the giver changes to become more receptive, positive and agreeable towards the giver.
For the savvy marketer, awareness of this is a powerful tool. He/she can apply it by initiating the engagement with prospects with an unexpected gift. It could be useful content, free samples, or even a positive experience. It need not be expensive. The key however, is to be the first to give.
The outcome of such an action would be similar to the mother’s response; reduced resistance, a greater willingness to listen, and a heightened possibility of a positive response.
Provided it is not misused, Cialdini encourages marketers to use this knowledge to influence prospect behavior. He suggests that marketers use the natural response of a recipient to want to give you something in return, to get an audience with them or to effect a favorable response to their offer.
Reciprocation thus becomes an instrument of persuasion and influence – who better to learn this from, than a child?