One of Dr. Robert Cialdini's six principles of persuasion is reciprocity -- when you do someone a favor, they tend to feel obliged to return the favor. I've heard this plenty of times before, but I recently read an article that got me thinking about it again.

A few days ago, Dr. Cialdini tweeted a link to an article by Douglas Vermeeren about how reciprocity and the power to persuade increases sales. Vermeeren says:

Often you see sales agents attempting a form of reciprocity ... when they spring to buy a coffee for the prospect. While this is a gesture of reciprocity, research ... indicates that most prospects remain more or less unaffected by this gesture. In many [cases,] they even expected that the person who ... was doing the selling was kind of expected to take care of those things.

Speaking of the little gifts companies hand out at trade shows, he continues:

The problem why they no longer work as gifts of reciprocity, and rarely work as tools of marketing, is that these gifts at this level of value given are too common and they really make very little impact on us.

Does the same apply to the freebies internet marketers give out to get people on their mailing lists? I think so.

So what can internet marketers do now to capitalize on the power of reciprocity? Here are a few thoughts:

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