Once more, with feeling. Blogging is just about the best way to influence buyers and build loyalty. Here’s why.
In re-reading the book “Webs of Influence” by Nathalie Nahai lately, just to refresh on some principles of User Experience, I am once again appreciating the depth to which she lays out the basic human principles behind online influence. Side note: I really like that Ms. Nahai highlights a “Make This Work for You” segment in each book section (multiples in each chapter) where she outlines a real world use case, bringing her writings beyond the realm of theory and science and into the world of practical use for you and me.
Triggering Social Obligations
In her book, Ms. Nahai quotes social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s statement “There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay” in human society, explaining that the easiest way to initiate reciprocity is to begin by offering a gift. At any dance party, are you waiting for someone else to make that first move? Be that first mover. Your gift can, of course, be a blog article, where you offer free advice to your audience. Importantly, Ms. Nahai mentions that the gift you offer must actually be something of value. Upshot: skip the listicle theme and the pleas to “like” your content, and just offer authoritative, helpful content.
Gift Ideas that Build Reciprocity
If you’re not yet an active blogger, other gift ideas might include a free Skype session or Webinar, a free eBook or PDF, a special Subscriber benefit such as access to exclusive premium-value content, or a concession or compromise such as a discount on published prices in exchange for deeper insight or other value.
Online Presence Establishes Credibility
By now you probably know that diligent people check out your online presence (LinkedIn, website, social media accounts) before they decide to send work your way. By offering a free Resources page on this blog, as well as making blog articles searchable by topic, we establish credibility and facilitate the reference check process, building confidence in our clients’ decision to select us to help them.
All of this may sound obvious, but bear in mind that closing the loop of reciprocity begins and ends with you. It begins with acknowledging when a prospect or customer has visited your blog, downloaded free content or some such action. It continues when you thank them personally – not just an auto-reply. It continues in the dialogue toward helping them solve their challenge, whether or not they buy. If they buy, good; if they don’t, they still may become a referral source, a colleague, and perhaps even a friend.
Case in Point: Closing the Sale
We recently were hired by a financial services firm to help with a combined website content refresh, social channel buildout, and CRM transformation project. Closing the sale was easier because they acknowledged they had received substantial value just from our blog articles and from a handful of conversations where we discussed the practical application of our knowledge to their set of challenges. In essence, the Discovery phase of the engagement, for which we typically charge a fee, had already been substantially accomplished through that preliminary dialogue and resource exchange. When we pointed out this concession, the Prospect agreed about the value they had already received, as well as their comfort with the progress of that dialogue and their assurance that we present a wise choice. Reference check: done. Confidence: assured. Deal: done. Bam.
Accelerating Sales through Reciprocity
In preparing for the coming year, our team reviewed our own CRM reports, looking at the Sources of client revenue, analyzing the specific events that helped advance dealflow to successful sales. We found a high correspondence between deal closure and the Reciprocity loop that involved prospects accessing our online content, combined with our follow-through in highlighting value already delivered before asking for the sale. In situations where the reciprocity relationship was rather more tenuous, the client interactions seemed marked by more tentative, hard negotiations. In deals where the Reciprocity was high, we also saw a greater incidence of multi-year client relationships. This is the year we build on making Reciprocity a standard, repeatable process.
Over to You
As fellow humans, how can we build better reciprocity into relationships to help one another discover and solve challenges? Can we improve on the habit of acknowledging others’ contributions to our relationships? As sales professionals, can you use your online presence to establish credibility, begin the Reciprocity loop, and close it with your own follow-through? Love to hear your comments and stories.