Parking meter.

I walked into a jewelry store near my office last week to buy a watch band.

As I waited for them to replace the old one, I noticed quarters, dimes and nickels neatly lined up on the counter. There was a sign next to the coins that said, “For parking meters if you need it.”

The array of coins was eye-catching. You don’t typically see coins lined up that way on a counter.

The sign was eye-catching because it was hand-written.

It made an impact on me because it was one of those little things that makes life a bit easier.

Don’t have a coin for the parking meter? Don’t worry about it! We have you covered!

The total amount of change on the counter was less than two dollars. And I had walked to the store from my office, so it had no practical or immediate impact on me.

Even though I didn’t need the change, though, it DID make me feel like the jewelry store owners had offered me something for nothing. Like they cared about me and wanted to do something nice.

And whether they were doing this for a specific purpose other than assuring that people didn’t leave the store to put coins in a meter and never come back or for some other reason, it follows the science of persuasion and influence.

Giving something away follows the concept of “reciprocity.” When we receive, we want to give back.

Reciprocity is the idea that when we give something to someone else, it creates the desire or urge in them to return the favor. You can read more about reciprocity in this brief article about Robert Cialdini’s 6 persuasion approaches.

Persuasion often happens unconsciously, so I’m not suggesting that people who see or use the coins in the jewelry store are consciously going to buy more or even to buy anything.

(It’s more likely that when a bartender gives a customer a free drink, they are doing so because that is often followed by a tip and another order.)

What I am suggesting is that even the OFFER of something for nothing created a sense of reciprocity for me, because I thought it was such a nice gesture.

According to Cialdini’s research, what you offer does not have to be tangible to be effective. It could be your time, your opinion, your help or something else.

Here are some things jewelry makers can offer customers:

  • Cleaning jewelry.
  • Tightening a stone or doing another small repair.
  • Offering to hand deliver a piece to a local customer.
  • Providing a free jewelry cleaning cloth with a purchase.
  • Giving jewelry care advice.
  • Giving gift-buying advice.
  • Referring a prospect to another jewelry maker if your style is not a good fit for that prospect.

Being aware of reciprocity will help you identify more ways to offer something nice and unexpected to clients.

And whether or not it creates the impulse in them to give you something back may not matter. The good will it creates will matter quite a bit.

Question: What do you do now to create a sense of reciprocity with your customers and prospects? Leave a comment below!