How many businesses would you say you’ve supported over the years by being a loyal customer? Think about it, you could have been solely responsible for the new wing your veterinarian added to her office last year, just from all the money you’ve invested in your pet’s care over the last ten years. For some businesses, not only may you have been a customer–you may also have recommended them to other people. When was the last time those businesses returned the favor and helped your business succeed? There’s a strategy I like to call “following the money trail” which shows you how to leverage the law of reciprocity with the businesses you have financially supported.
Before you read on and get deep into this strategy, go find your checkbooks–both personal and business. I’ll wait . . . There, now that you have your checkbook(s) in front of you, it’s time to follow the money trail. Scan your checkbooks for local businesses that you have paid. You may notice regular expenditures, such as your hair stylist, veterinarian, physician, lawn care service, housecleaning service, dry cleaners, day care, pet resort, or grocery store.
First, let’s put this money trail into perspective. Start by analyzing just how much you have invested in these businesses. Get out a piece of paper and draw a table like the one shown below.
The law of reciprocity states that if I help you, you will, in time, help me in return. I would venture to guess that most of these establishments have never been approached by their customers with a request of reciprocity. What would you say to them? How would they react? Why bother? You might wonder: What could a hairstylist do for me–or for a financial planner–other than style hair?
Seeking reciprocity begins with your willingness to ask the question. Your request needs to be specific and needs to be supported by how much you have invested in their business over the last year or so. Are you willing to approach your favorite businesses and ask them to support your business in some way? If yes, let’s start with the example below and then consider what you could do for your business.
Example: Financial Planner Seeks Reciprocity from Hairstylist
First, the financial planner needs to take the hairstylist–let’s call her Joan–to lunch or coffee and engage her in conversation.
Financial planner: Thank you for joining me for lunch. I wanted to get some time with you away from the salon so I could talk with you about your business–and to ask for some help with my own business. I’ve enjoyed being your client for the last five years, and I’m glad I was able to refer four other people to your salon who have become clients. I wanted to ask if you might be willing to help support my business as well.
Joan: I have very much enjoyed you as a client, and I really do appreciate your referrals. What do you have in mind?
F.P.: As a client, I receive your quarterly newsletter. I see that you often have advertisements from community businesses. Would you give me space in your newsletter for an ad for one year?
J: Sure, but that would cost about $500 for the year.
F.P.: I was hoping that you would give me the space for no charge in return for my past referrals and for being such a loyal customer, even after moving twenty miles away.
J: I see your point. No one has ever asked me to do anything like this before. But it makes sense to me since you are actively supporting my business. The least I could do is give you ad space. Sure. I’d be happy to help you. Is there anything else you’d like me to do?
F.P.: As a matter of fact, there is. Could you leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area for your patrons to read while they wait?
J: Of course–that would be no problem.
In this example, Joan was willing and able to help the financial planner expand her visibility. Most people, once it’s pointed out to them, understand that the law of reciprocity goes both ways. If they seem reluctant to help you, it’s time to reconsider your loyalty. Should you continue to support someone else’s business when he or she flatly refuses to help your business in return?
As a client, you’re giving a lot to someone else’s business. It’s not unreasonable to ask for something that supports your business in return. Now think about your business and the businesses you support. What can you ask of them? Can you contribute to their newsletter? Will they display your pamphlet? Will they post your business announcements? Can you leave a stack of business cards on their coffee table? Will they pass out your business’ coupons to their customers at the register? Will they sponsor your next event?
Make it a point this week to approach at least one establishment for help with promoting your business. After all, when you follow the money you’ve spent on other people’s establishments, isn’t it about time some of it came back around to you? Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this so please come back and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below. Thanks!