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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reciprocity in construction marketing

One of the basic marketing principals is the reciprocity concept. If you give something to someone, there is a natural human tendency to return the favour. In fact, the right form of generosity results in a return far greater than the original investment.

Matt Handal outlines the way reciprocity works in his excellent posting in Help Everybody Every Day. This blog, of course, also is succeeding in part because of the reciprocity principal. I share marketing insights, ideas and concepts freely here (and increasingly valuable back-links to other blogs) and have started to reap the rewards.

Reciprocity works really well in any situation where you can combine your solid work ethic, quality, and trust, and so the value of the concept is magnified when you are communicating with previous/current clients and relevant associations and community groups.

Clients are tuned in -- expect -- add-on selling and marketing efforts. If you turn the table and give stuff away free (handyman services, a free dinner, gift coupons, or the like) you win allies for life (and much repeat and referral business).

The same principal applies with community groups and organizations. If you are seen as a leader, a helper, and a voluntary contributor within your community, your reputation rises, as does your networking effectiveness. When your work catches the attention of the group's leaders, then your relationship and reciprocity effects are multiplied.

As Handal notes in his posting, the give and take do not necessarily have to be in economic proportion -- you can spend a few minutes/hours of time and virtually no money and reap thousands of dollars in business, if you think things through and create the right marketing message.

To successfully apply the principal, consider these guidelines:

Your generosity must be sincere, respectful, and non-conditional

If you give without worrying about return and give sincerely, you will achieve the best results. Of course you don't need to go overboard; there are freeloaders out there and you sometimes need to draw the line.

You need to focus your generosity within communities/markets you wish to serve.

Top priority, always, should be your existing and previous clients. You can share time rather than money, but free add-on services, sports game tickets, meals and the like work wonders. Use some of your marketing budget for a planned giving program to your existing and previous clients and your marketing return on investment will exceed any new-client advertising.

For maximum power, consider structuring your reciprocity so that you don't want or need to take any return from the people you share with: Just keep giving.

This results in turbo-charged reciprocity. For example, you share your observations and services with someone who is a leader in the community, and he/she says: "Can I do something for you in return". When you respond: "Just being of service is all I need now" you enhance the implicit obligation and can, in the right circumstances, the other person will almost beg you for the opportunity to return the favour. In other words, while reciprocity can work immediately, it can be even more effective if you think long term and truly are patient with your expectations and results.

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