B2B lead generation using the principle of reciprocity


ChristmasWhat do you think would happen if you sent Christmas cards to a load of complete strangers? Nothing? Maybe a few confused visits to your LinkedIn profile? Actually, the likelihood is that you’d receive a whole bunch of cards in return – around 20%, (a university professor actually did this and was amazed by the results).


This can be explained by the principle of reciprocity: the human tendency to want to give something back when something is received. 

Now while it’s great to know that we’re not all just take-take-take, what would be more useful to understand is how exactly this principle applies to your B2B marketing activities and how it will help you generate leads for your business?

In fact, lots of marketers (maybe even you) use the principle of reciprocity all the time, probably without even knowing it. Ever received a free gift? Been given the opportunity to trial a product for free? Or been invited to lunch or an exciting event by a would-be supplier? These are all great ways to make prospects feel indebted to you, but they’re also quite expensive.

For more budget-conscious B2B marketers, one of the most invaluable, and perhaps most overlooked things your business can give away for free is information. It costs you nothing (except time) and for many of your prospects this would be more useful than an expensive gift. Furthermore, when it comes to making sales, it’s much easier to link your services to your expertise than to an unrelated gift or a free lunch. 

And because I’m feeling magnanimous today, I’ve outlined some cost effective ways you can apply the principle to your own online marketing activities. At TopLine, we have proven time and again that these will help you build your brand and generate leads.


You might have noticed that TopLiners tend to like blogging. Giving away free and valuable information on issues that are of interest to your target audience will not only improve the credibility of your business; it will also help you build a following of people who are more likely to return as loyal customers. Once they’ve got something useful from visiting your website, you’ll be front of mind (in a positive way) when they require your services.

Here at TopLine for example we run two company blogs (B2B PR blog and the B2B guide to social media). We are careful to produce useful and engaging content that serves to build our profile as thought leaders on digital marketing and PR. The blogs attract over 100,000 visitors a year, all of whom are people looking for information on PR, social media, video, animation, SEO and copywriting etc. Having read our blogs, they are more likely to remember us when they’re after digital marketing services.

Don’t be afraid to comment on other blogs too (without using them to blatantly advertise your own business). Invite other writers in your subject area (sometimes even competitors) to produce guest blogs. Tweet about subjects that are of interest to your target audience, rather than just being promotional.

Ebooks and whitepapers

GiftWe know that the third stage in the B2B buying cycle is research, so when prospects land on your website they are likely to be in research mode. Why not help them out with some in-depth information in the form of an ebook or a white paper? Most people in this research phase would be more than happy to part with their email address in return for something that helps them understand the solutions to the business problems they are facing. Once you’ve got their contact details, you can market to them in a much more targeted manner.

Let’s use the B2B PR Blog as an example again – we recently published an ebook on 31 PR tactics that make for memorable campaigns which received several hundred downloads within a few days. It’s still accessible on the website meaning we are capturing contact details of interested people on a daily basis, without having to do anything. Don’t worry, we’re not spamming these contacts with sales offers, but we now have a list of almost a thousand UK PR professionals who we can target with relevant content that will help them engage on a more meaningful level with us!

Be aware that this technique can backfire if you do not put the time into creating a well thought out and relevant ebook or whitepaper. If someone provides you with their contact details, only to find they are spammed with poor quality, irrelevant information, they’ll be annoyed and probably unsubscribe, unlikely ever to visit your site again (or worse, they’ll take to social media to warn their friends against you). Produce fresh, engaging and relevant material however, and you can’t go wrong.

Webinars and seminars

Let’s not forget the value of events as a great (and perhaps more obvious) way of giving away free information (and gifts too). A lot of marketers tend to shy away from this because of the cost, and time associated with hosting big corporate events. Thanks to the internet though, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Consider running monthly webinars or small online seminars; they can serve as a valuable way to increase your brand awareness, as well as to generate leads and inform existing customers. They’re convenient in the sense that they enable you to invite people from a global audience to attend a single event without them (or you) having to leave the office. By providing new or existing customers with access to you, and a whole wealth of useful information on a regular basis, they’re more likely to become loyal to your business.

While there are endless ways to apply the principle of reciprocity to your marketing activities, all of which are extremely worthwhile, giving away invaluable information on and via your website is a great, and cost effective place to start. Be creative and you’ll soon see the results!

Did you find this article useful? Feeling that burning desire to give something back in gratitude for the free advice? Why not show your love by following us on Twitter?  








Find TopLine Communications on Google Plus