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Part One: Six Principles Of Persuasion

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Part One: Six Principles Of Persuasion

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This is the first post in a six part series that looks at Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles Of Persuasion and identifies areas in which they can be used to increase a websites conversion rate. Want to know more about this series?Read the Introduction post.


What is the principle of reciprocity?

Robert Cialdini identified that our natural instinct as human beings is to return favors to others. This works on the basis that we want to treat people in the same manner in which they have treated us. Put simply it is the ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ principle.

The principle of reciprocity is all around us and we encounter it on a daily basis and in most cases we do not even notice. How often have you sent someone a Christmas card, only because they sent you one first. How about the times when you have been out for a drink with friends and someone buys you a drink, you feel obliged to buy one for them later in the evening.

By using the principle of reciprocity you can make people feel obliged to make a purchase from you or take a desired action of your choosing by first giving them something in advance.

How to execute the principle of reciprocity?

If you have been browsing the Internet for more than 10 minutes today then I am 90% certain that you have already seen this principle in action on a website that you have visited.

The most common practice used by website owners to trigger the reciprocity principle is to give away a free ebook/guide/software on their website. The free item needs to be closely matched to the goals of your website, so if you are in the niche of selling running shoes, then you could provide a free guide helping people to increase their running speed to beat their personal bests in their next race. Once the visitor has downloaded the guide, they will then have triggered the reciprocity principle meaning that this visitor is more likely to make a purchase from you now or in the future.

A good example of this in action is over at Conversion Rate Experts Blog, they have a clever CTA in their sidebar that offers visitors the chance to download a free conversion rate optimization toolkit:


In order to trigger the principle of reciprocity on your website you need to think about what you can do for the visitor before what the visitor can do for you. You need to look into ways of offering a product/service to the visitor for free so that once they have received this gesture from you, they will feel obliged to return the favour to you.

If you are struggling to come up with idea, here are some suggestions:

  • If you offer a software as a service, could you consider offering the visitor a 30 free trial, or the ability to download a limited version of the software for free.
  • If you are in the auto insurance niche, you could consider offering a free guide on how to reduce your fuel consumption to save money.
  • If you are in a service industry could you offer a free guide/whitepaper on the topic to expand your visitors knowledge of the key areas of that field.

These are just a few broad examples to help get you thinking about what you could offer your visitors, every niche is difference and every website is different but I am yet to come across a website where we have not been able to think up something to offer visitors for free to launch the reciprocity trigger.

I hope that you now have an understanding of the first principle of persuasion: Reciprocity. If you are still struggling to understand then feel free to post your questions in the comment section below. If you are already implementing this principle why not share the approach that you have taken below so that others can learn from it. And finally if you are struggling to come up with that killer idea on how you can implement this on your website then post your detail below and I will help you out.


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