Leveraging the Law of Reciprocity

by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA


It’s hard to overstate the value of relationships in business. And, while it’s true for companies of any size, this can be especially crucial for success among small and midsized businesses (SMBs) as well as in the B2B world generally. “As an entrepreneur, you have countless relationships you need to manage on a daily basis,” writes Jennifer Spencer in an article for Entrepreneur. “There are your employees. There are the vendors who provide needed support services to help you run your business. And, of course, there are also your customers.”


Spencer writes that the key to maintaining these strong relationships is the “law of reciprocity.” The law is simple. Basically, if you do something nice for me, I’ll feel obligated to do something nice for you. Spencer offers some tips on how to put this simple principle to work in real life.

Start by Building Trust

Trust is key for any relationship. But, when it comes to generating trust by showing an investment in the relationship, Spencer suggests that few things work better than offering something for free. For example, this could be free content on your website or a free trial of your subscription service. Not only does this show interest in establishing a relationship, it lets potential customers learn to trust your product or service before having to pay for it.

Continually Show Appreciation

Spencer cites data from the U.S. Small Business Association stating that 68 percent of customers end a business relationship because they don’t feel appreciated or cared about. That’s significantly higher than the 14 percent who leave because they don’t like the product.

Incentivize Your Audience

“Reciprocity” might conjure up images of shady quid-pro-quo dealings sealed with a wink and a nod. But you don’t necessarily need to hide your desire for your relationship partners to help you out in return for your help. “Sometimes, you can be up-front with how you use the law of reciprocity and still go a long way toward strengthening your brand,” says Spencer. “Your current customers are often willing to do something that helps that brand when they know they will receive something of value in return.”

Give Before You Receive

With that being said, there’s still a lot of goodwill to be gained by giving something without the expectation of receiving something in return (at least not the obvious expectation to receive something in return immediately).  “Whether you choose to use words of affirmation with a top employee, offer meaningful gifts to a loyal client or demonstrate added trust with a business partner, you will strengthen the relationships that matter most for your business’s growth and build a positive brand image,” says Spencer.


Sometimes strong business relationships simply develop organically, and that’s great. But sometimes it helps to have a few strategies on hand to help encourage the development of those relationships. The law of reciprocity is one such strategy. How could you leverage the law of reciprocity to build business and cement strong relationships with your target audience? 


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