Give and Grow Rich:
The Power of Focused Generosity

image of boy giving flowers

There are two kinds of people on the Internet: the greedy and the generous.

The greedy want you to pay for everything. Every link is an affiliate link. Every recommendation has a profit motive. The really good content is locked away until you fork over some money.

The generous want to give you everything free.

It never occurs to them that their time or expertise has value. They’re kind, selfless, giving, and (too often) dirt poor.

But there’s a third kind of person on the Internet. And yes, they belong to the Third Tribe you’ve been reading about.

This person understands that you can’t be greedy and build a following. But you also can’t just throw all your treasure to the wind. This is the person who understands the power of focused generosity.

To help understand this and get a little perspective, let’s look at how this works in the real (non blogging) world. It’s an idea that has been used by savvy marketers forever. Here are just two examples.

Example 1

The first act of generosity happened one December. I had recently ordered holiday gifts from Amazon. A package arrived in the mail from them, with a letter inside signed by Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and CEO:

Dear Friend,

With the holidays approaching, I wanted to thank you for making this year such an exciting time for Amazon.com. We really couldn’t have done it without you.

As a small token of our appreciation, we’d like you to have our special coffee tumbler (I’m particularly fond of this year’s quotes). May you use it in good health.

Thank you again for all your support, and best wishes for a holiday season filled with family, friends, and happiness!

I don’t drink coffee very often, but this little thank you struck me as particularly effective. You’ll notice that nowhere is there a solicitation for more business, but I felt so good about Amazon, I wanted to immediately log on and order a book . . . or anything.

Example 2

The second act of generosity came in the form of unexpected customer service from Current, a printer online that specializes in bank checks.

For some time I had been struggling with an ancient, plastic checkbook cover which was slowly deteriorating from hard use and age. (My wife is responsible for most of the “hard use,” but that’s another subject.)

It was a small thing, but I didn’t know how to go about getting a new one. So I wrote a note to Current explaining my problem.

To my surprise, a brand new checkbook cover arrived a few weeks later with this note, signed by the customer service manager:

Dear Check Buyer,

Thank you for your recent inquiry about Current Check Products. Enclosed are the materials you requested.

Current offers a full line of check products including checkbook covers, address labels and stampers. We also have a complete line of business checks — 3-on-a-page, laser/ink jet, continuous checks, and more. Call us for information.

If you have any questions or would like to place your order by phone, please call us TOLL FREE at 1-800-204-2244, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Once again, thank you for your interest in Current Check Products. We look forward to serving you in the future!

Cool! I had expected them to send me a web address or catalog so I could order a new checkbook cover. The fact that they just sent me one — placing my problem above their profits — impressed me greatly.

The note was clearly written for general inquiries. That suggests that sending my checkbook cover wasn’t part of their corporate policy, but instead a judgment call, a pure act of generosity for a loyal customer. A personal letter would have been a smart addition, but the gesture on its own works pretty well.

The power of focused generosity

You might shrug off these two small acts of generosity. But there’s something important going on here. And it’s related to the principle of reciprocity. Someone does something for you. Then you feel obligated to do something in return.

It might or might not translate immediately into a purchase. Instead, it could be tweeting your content, recommending your email newsletter, linking to one of your blog posts, or otherwise getting the word out about what you have to offer.

Researchers — and yes there is an entire field of study dedicated to such matters — have referred to this idea of doing for others and getting something back in return as a “web of indebtedness,” a form of social interaction that is “central to the human experience, responsible for the division of labor, all forms of commerce, and how society is organized into interdependent units.”

In other words, being generous is a very big deal indeed. It’s the ultimate in guerrilla marketing. Much more than simply being nice, it’s a central, essential, and incredibly potent way to do business.

You might say that there is a “payback” urge hardwired into our brains. And it’s very difficult to resist. Remember the last time a friend insisted on paying for lunch? (No? Maybe you need new friends.) When it happens you immediately swear you’ll pay for the next one, don’t you?

Which is why you should spend more time thinking about how you can be generous on your blog or other online ventures, and a little less time thinking about how to bludgeon people to death with requests to buy, buy, buy.

Those who get the most tend to be those who give the most, while also keeping a few desirable items that they aren’t afraid to sell.

Making generosity work for you

Okay, so how does this work as a business strategy online? Here are a few pointers.

Offer something free. It can be an ebook, a blog tool, a product sample, a subscription to a genuinely terrific newsletter, or any form of valuable information. It can be anything really, as long as it’s free and relates to your core product or service.

One newsletter I subscribe to used to barrage me with products to buy. I was just about to unsubscribe when suddenly the publisher started being generous, sending occasional emails with valuable information and tips with no hard sales pitch. That made the other more product-focused emails a lot easier to swallow, and I remain a loyal subscriber to this day.

Give something beneficial. Of course you have reasons for being generous, but don’t make people feel manipulated. Do something for the recipient’s benefit. No conditions. No self-serving verbiage.

Allow the “payback,” if and when it happens, to come naturally.

Not only does this make you more likable, it can actually change the way you think about people. They stop being “marks” or even “prospects,” and start being real people you honestly care about. And that will come through in your content.

Give something of value. What you give should have real value for the person on the receiving end. If you run a blog on financial planning and want to “upsell” your readers to a paid online seminar, don’t just give them a self-serving “tease” that piles on the sales patter . Offer an informative sample of the course with solid value even for those who don’t sign up.

Put a personal face on your gift. Take off the corporate suit and tie. Don’t have the gift coming from your “business.” It should come from you personally. It is much easier to feel indebted to a person than to a faceless, formal company. And people are more likely to be loyal to you as a person than to your business empire.

Nice guys finish first

Here’s another classic example from the offline world, and this one may be revealing my age.

Ever heard of Amway? Years ago, some bright business person got the idea to have distributors go door-to-door and give homeowners a package stuffed with cleaners, deodorizers, and other product samples.

They called this package the “BUG.” The distributor would leave a BUG with a homeowner for up to three days with no cost or obligation. They only asked that the homeowner try out the products.

Later, the distributor would come back to pick up the BUG and, of course, to ask for orders. By this time, having used the products for free for so long, the homeowner felt obligated to buy something from this generous distributor who seemed almost naive in his trust and generosity.

Just how successful was this nice guy approach? As one Amway distributor put it, the response was “Unbelievable! We’ve never seen such excitement. Product is moving at an unbelievable rate . . . .”

The point is that you should consider what people really care about. Instead of always asking yourself, “How can I squeeze more money from people?” occasionally ask yourself, “How can I help people?” In most cases, focused generosity ends up being more profitable in the long run.

About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top freelance copywriters and publisher of Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for smart copywriters.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Twitter or LinkedIn to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. I was at a meeting a couple of days ago, and the organisor of that meeting said to me: ‘Hey, you are writer from lifehacking right? Here a preset (two copies of the book Upgrade Your Life), one for yourself and one to give away.’

    I was stunished, loved it. And I know the person I’m going to give the book to will love it!

  2. Great post – and I couldn’t agree more. It’s nice to hear stories about other companies treating focused generosity as a business plan. For me, it works wonders, and fosters an enthusiastic and symbiotic community.

  3. Excellent points made here!

    Isn’t that why we all blog, to give something of value, if we didn’t think it was valuable why would we share it?

    Although it seems obvious, it’s still easy to forget.

  4. The two examples that you provided are exactly the kinds of actions that breed loyalty. Good service, and generosity are sure ways to get me to patronize a business in the future.

    Great post!

  5. I really liked your post, and the title alone captured my attention. I learned a lot of what I know on influencing through Cialdini’s “Influence” but I really like how you nailed the 3rd tribe faction and where the “middle ground” of new marketing is.

    I believe it’s something lots of people struggle with (finding the middle) and you’ve provided some great tips on firmly planting ourselves in that area and why.

    Great work!

  6. I just read something similar in Tara Hunt’s “The Whuffie Factor.” The thing that really stuck with me is that when you do favors, it’s almost better to never call them in. It’s like doing good gives you power even if you never ask for a favor in return. I guess you could relate it to the Godfather doing favors for people and gaining power in return.

  7. Sometimes, simply giving your time or being flexible is enough to cause that “payback urge.” A couple of weeks ago, I met several local people I’d been talking to on Twitter for coffee. One of them is a salon owner. A few days later, I need a haircut and, of course, contacted her. She went out of her way to accomodate my schedule, which left me feeling warm, fuzzy and special.

    I ended up paying for more services than originally planned and as we talked I learned she’d had a disasterous experience with trying to market through email newsletters. She said, “I’m a hair-doer, not a writer.” Since I’m a writer who specializes in newsletters…she is now a client.

    It’s hard to overestimate the power of simply being nice to people, even if it’s a little inconvenient.

  8. Hi

    These examples are great – i love been a loyal customer to those that treat me properly and you have really provided this in this post.

    kind regards

    sam
    X

  9. I think your checkbook example is the only really killer example in this list.

    The Amazon mug has the veneer of a payback for loyalty.

    Free newsletters etc. cannot escape the “content marketing” perception (it’s all about me showing you what I can do as an expert, impressing you as much as giving you value).

    The Amway example makes me cringe quite a bit. I am sure there are nice Amway people out there, but the ones I’ve met tend to fake friendship overtures and by the time you realize they’re selling, you can’t politely run. After the first 1-2, I could tell an “Amway” overture in 3 seconds, as can most people. The “free trial” thing is NOT a gift. It is a mix of guilt and leveraging of momentum.

    I think your message is right on, but the true gifts, the ones that absolutely nail and win fierce loyalty, are the ones where the receiver sees the act as something the giver did because HE (or she) enjoyed the pure act of giving. Not gifting as a thank you, not gifting as a demonstration of prowess/value, not gifting as a free sampler, or a quid pro quo guilt-inducer but gifting as a fun act.

    Nobody believes in anybody else projecting a “saint” persona (i.e. I will never believe you are nobly giving stuff with no expectation of return, unless you are the Dalai Lama). But most people are willing to believe that others have fun giving, and enjoy giving stuff.

    That’s why the checkbook cover works. It comes as a surprise, and even though there is a pitch attached, they clearly weren’t heavy-handed about it (“yours to keep free, even if you don’t respond to this call to action to buy more stuff…”).

    Only humans can project (or, to be cynical for a moment, “fake”) this “I enjoy giving” perception. Corporations cannot easily do so because they are abstractions that don’t “enjoy” (or “not enjoy”) anything. When somebody simply enjoys giving to you, you feel good about yourself. Being thanked isn’t as much fun. Forget giving ME gifts, I don’t even find myself thinking of those “we give 10% of profits to charity” as true gifts. Some companies come close though. Midwest airlines’ cookies for example.

    Bezos as the giver is a synecdoche for Amazon the corporation, and is not very believable (though it is a nice loyalty gesture). If Amazon had given its front-line reps a small gift budget each, and they used it purely to have creative “giving fun”… that would probably lead to various incidents of gifting nirvana.

    I don’t have any very great ideas on how to do this, but my ideal of a gift is a nice admin at work who keeps a bowl of M&Ms on her desk for no reason other than that she enjoys seeing people have fun with candy. I try to keep that in mind when I am trying to think “marketing.”

    Venkat

  10. Focused generosity: an interesting and catchy wording. Your article gives great examples to support your recommendations. Nice. Thanks!

  11. Greetings, Thank you for validating my FREE online course…333~Discovering Your Greater Self which is being held in the virtual village of Can-Do. For three years (beginning on 3/3/07) I began to evolve this course to be launched today-3/3/2010—when you add up the year 2010, the number is 3. For years, it happily tugged at my sleeves and so today, I am a proud parent and albeit hostess of this lovely virtaul re*sort. Its entire premise is based on the Generosity of Self and it is founded on the Universal Law of Serving. Your blog is yet another validation of the truth “Through Serving, We Discover Our Greater Selves.” My course ties in environmental enhancements to support the student’s journey. I love this stuff! When we step out and give, we are making the world a much better place to dwell. Indeed, Focused Generosity is more than a title, it is a lifestyle.

    Be Inspired,
    Sharyn
    The Home Whisperer

  12. You state

    “The really good content is locked away until you fork over some money.”

    Sometimes, I wonder if the stuff they want you to pay for is almost the same as you get for free, just worded a tad different to get a new and refreshing feel. Also, if they do charge I feel it should be respectful such as a conservative amount so you don’t break the bank on everyone.

  13. Good post with perfect examples!

  14. Sonia Simone :

    @Venkat, you may not respond to newsletters because you sense an ulterior motive, but I can tell you from my own experience & the experience of others that they work tremendously well. Maybe you’re just more cynical than most. :)

    If there was one “secret” that I’d recommend people pursue, it would be this one.

  15. Hey there. I really love that you are using the Amway as an example in online world.

    Really love this post! :)

  16. Sonia:

    Oh I am sure newsletters work. But I am saying they are not viewed as a gift. That’s the basic content-based permission marketing contract everyone understands.

    I merely think it is useful to distinguish true “gifts” and their benefits from other sorts of effective marketing. Otherwise you go down the slippery slope of calling all marketing “gifts.” (TV can be viewed as a free “gift” of industry, with the added “bonus” of cute gekko commercials…)

  17. Wow, this is fantastic! Just this morning I had a session with my coach to discuss my blog and how I can be more focused and intentional. The more I talked, the more I realized that I am providing an incredibly valuable service–helping people tap into the things that bring them joy by living more purposefully.

    You are reminding me to continue to be focused and now provide some additional customer service or ‘giveaway’ that matches what my readers would be interested in. I want to stand out, to be different, to light up the world with my blog…and I know that will keep readers coming back and telling their friends. I can’t think of a better gift to receive in return. Thanks!

  18. Love it! Thanks writing about giving. We can’t predict how we’ll be repaid (in money) for generosity, but do immediately gain the benefits of feeling good about ourselves and the person we’re giving to.

  19. Some people are naturally giving. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify how you know this about people, but you do.

    Online, I’d say the term “third tribers” quantifies this natural ability quite well.

  20. Huh. Where’s my Amazon mug? Maybe you spent more than me :)

    I’m currently veering slightly away from the “giving everything away”. I write fiction on my blog, and about once a quarter, compile the stories into a PDF, along with a much longer story. I have always given these away to regular readers (while hiding their existence from others).

    Starting April 1, I will be giving away the most current PDF, as well as a discounted price for older ones. I felt kind of bad doing this, but I did grandfather people a bit by allowing them to snap up all of the existing volumes for free right now, and also allowing them to add the newer volumes for free as they are released. But if someone new becomes a loyal reader 2 years down the road, they wouldn’t have access to the older versions for free.

  21. What’s important about the role social media plays in focused generosity is that now (more than ever) businesses have the ability to give something that is truly relevant and memorable to their customers/clients/public.

    I also like that you mentioned reciprocity. Aside from being one of my favorite words, key to success in any endeavor is the element of reciprocity. It’s hardwired to us as humans.

    When respect is added to the mix, reciprocity and generosity are powerful forces for good. Great post. Thanks so much. Best, M.

  22. Thank you! This made me feel good this morning–just reading it. That’s how I KNOW it’s right-on.

  23. Awesome post! I had a similar positive experience with Amazon (they resolved a double account issue), and it did make me want to log on and order something else from them. Thanks for the post, and all of the great advice you all give away right here on Copyblogger.

  24. Sonia Simone :

    @Venkat, I see where you’re coming from, but I also have 50 emails I could send you from my own in-box from people saying, ‘Thank you so much for this newsletter, I can’t believe how generous you are, this is amazing.”

    At the end of the day, I think that I (and the folks I teach) have a tendency to think, “If I’m selling something, my generosity doesn’t count.” And that’s not a useful way to look at things if you want to run a business.

    Similarly, the Bezos and Amway examples are, of course and obviously, techniques those companies use because they know they’ll get a return on their investment. Maybe you don’t like those companies. But if I threw out every technique used by someone I dislike, I literally don’t think I could do any marketing or selling at all. Instead, I try to ask, “How could I use that in a way that I think is cool and builds relationships, and take out the part I don’t like.”

    That’s a big technique for me in coming up with content ideas, actually. Taking something I don’t much like, figuring out what I don’t like about it, then talking about how I think it could be done better. You could use it for nearly any field, I think, not just marketing.

  25. Sonia Simone :

    @kosmo, I’m laughing, because if Dean spends more with Amazon than I do, I will truly be astonished, and I didn’t get a danged mug. :)

  26. Dean,
    I really like this article of yours.
    This mindset is such a powerful, profitable while being good karma and common sense at at once.
    Some people get it very well but others, while trying to embrace generosity marketing miss the mark and do more damage than good.
    I made you a video where I try to explain the specific elements of a successful generosity marketing campaign and describe one big pitfall to avoid.
    if the embed code works you can see it here:

    otherwise the you-tube link is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH48vONuYuY
    thanks and take care,
    Bryan Bliss
    twitter.com/@blissfulfun

  27. That’s the basic content-based permission marketing contract everyone understands.

    Venkat, outside of our relatively small online marketing space, no one has heard of Seth Godin, much less read Permission Marketing. Unless you plan to market to online marketers, you need to be careful about thinking that “normal” people think the way you think.

  28. Hello Dean,

    Wow! What a great post. I have to admit I’m so guilty of this.
    I am, by nature a giving person. However, having been unemployed for months makes you a greedy horder! I’m afraid my web site may reflect this selfishness.
    I want to change. My site is a gift shop and the products are not mine they are from well known and trusted merchants. I do give away the newsletter, but so does everyone else. I don’t think that’s a substantial contribution. So what can I do? What can I give? I can’t give away a gift, the products are not mine to give.
    I have changed the tone on my home page a few days ago after the blog on “Mr. Rogers”. I do offer to help people find what they’re looking for as a free service.
    Thanks for the gift of unloading a guilty consience. I am so glad I belong to this blog.
    Deborah

  29. Deborah,

    1. You didn’t ask me, but you can give away ideas. Most of us under-value our own perspective, because we assume that everyone else thinks as we do.

    For your “free” element, under each gift item, you could give examples of how it could be used or by whom.

    Silly example (bc there is no link to your site, so I’m winging it):

    ITEM: Tea cozy – This charming textile from years gone by still adds value today. A wonderful gift to your babysitter, housekeeper – really anyone who loves a cuppa, but doesn’t want it to catch a chill. Made in (NAME OF STATE/COUNTRY) by hand, you’ll enjoy the novelty and utility every time you pour a cup of piping hot tea.

    ###

    2. Your idea “jogging” gift may help a puzzled online shopper, or make their day a bit easier.

    Just a thought. Take what works; leave the rest.

    Enjoy your day!

    Best, M.

  30. Those who get the most tend to be those who give the most

    great article. The only problem we all face is not to forget at least one rule what we read about blogging almost everyday. I put notes from every good advice and revisit it few times during week. Helps my blogging.

    wish you all the best

  31. Hi McKra1g,
    Thanks for those very helpful tips. I do give ideas also, but I think I can expand on that. I really like how you simplified this for me.
    BTW, my name is my link.
    Thanks again,
    Deborah

  32. Thank you for sharing this. Everyone in sales and marketing should STUDY this.

  33. Sonia Simone :

    @Deborah, thanks for making that point, so often when we encounter a downturn, the first casualty is our generosity. And that’s dangerous.

    One thing I’ve done in the past is to immediately make something like a Kiva loan when I’m feeling cramped up financially, or obsessing about cash flow. It helps me feel the difference between being broke and being poor. Broke is a temporary state. :) And if I can spend $25 to help someone else go from broke to growing their business, I get a better perspective on my own thing.

  34. Great post Dean. I agree that when we understand how to be nice to others and find ways to help others, usually people will want to help us back too. But we shouldn’t give just because we want to get something back. We should do it because it genuinely feels good to do so. I think if you do it long enough though, eventually you’ll become recognized by others and they will spread the word about your kindness.

  35. What can i say? you sir have nailed it. As i confession i would like to add that i use the power of reciprocity almost on a daily basis, when you give you get, it’s much easier than expecting to always be at the receiving end. Great work!

  36. This model seems to be used everywhere expect when it comes to actually providing value.

    We took our best selling paid product and just gave it away. It made a tremendous difference.

  37. Thanks for the wonderful post. It was a good reminder that i should make an effort to find a balance in giving away free stuff and offering things for payment. You helped me to understand though why it is i give so much away and that happily it was a good idea all along!

  38. Deborah,
    after taking a peek at your website I have some ideas to share that you can try
    The real service/strength that you can amplify for your prospect is how easy and personal you can make their buying experience.
    I would script out a 25 second welcome,
    “thank you for coming to my site. I’d like to offer to help make this easy for you. if you would just share your thoughts in this secure comment box below, I can offer some ideas to help you. Just tell me a little about your …”

    overlay this audio into a cool snappy slideshow video you could make up from a site like animoto.com where you just drag and drop about 15 cool pictures of the products ( its cheap, you can create commercially licensed videos, they do the snappy editing and you embed the file in your site)
    The custom service you offer, presented in a homey/personable casual way will FEEL much more valuable that way.
    Share your personality. dont worry about your voiceover being perfect, just talk to your visitor like they are your friend and neighbor.
    p.s your “submit your contribution” form is kinda impersonal, maybe even confusing. people could think you’re looking for a paypal donation. I would just embed a google docs form with your questions and options onto the site and make the questions more thought provoking.
    thanks and take care and
    good luck
    Hope this empowers you to do it
    bryan

  39. Dean

    That’s a great post. Its about the synergy of providing value and making a contribution. One thing to remember is that reciprocity is very context-specific. It does not work everywhere (think most high-security prison inmates!), but if you want to spend time with generous folks, its the way to go!

  40. Terrific, sound advice. Easy enough to follow and makes you feel better as a person, as well. I’m enjoying this blog everyday and looking for ways to put it all to work on my own. Thanks for a good one!

  41. Wow – go Bryan! :)

    The go-give in action within the comments is awesome.

    Now I gotta write copy. Fare thee well, everyone!

  42. Great post, Hits home for me since I was given a gift, a Kidney Transplant. Ever since I have focused alot time energy in helping and kinda giving back.

    True genrosity comes without thought, like the lil things you do daily in your relationship. what matters more? lil things You do daily without thought, or doing one big thing on say valentines day knowing that you have to or expecting something in return.

    To me daily generosity means more.

  43. wow, this is almost taken from the BNI manual and their philosophy of ‘Givers Gain’.

    I know it isn’t but the writer’s sentiments are spot on. Excellent article.

  44. @ Sonia – maybe Dean buys coffee?

    I’m scared to estimate how much we spend on Amazon in a year. A decent percentage of Christmas shopping is done at Amazon.

  45. Just what the doctor ordered, Dean! I bet I’ve used the word, “RECIPROCITY”, in the last three to four blog comments I’ve posted. Thank goodness you came along to cleverly, clearly, concisely, and creatively put your spin on this topic.

    Two thumbs up!

  46. @ Dean – Thank you so much for including Amway in this post. To be transparent, I work at Amway World Headquarters. That approach was an early precursor to our sampling efforts, but with all of our hearts, we believe that good companies do give without expectation of the return. (We call that our One by One Campaign for Children, and if any one is interested, they can read more: http://onebyone.opportunityzone.com/)

    @John Paul – Love your comment. In essence, it’s doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. I also agree with @Violette that striking the proper balance is something we should all assess on a regular basis and make sure we do!

    Great conversation. I have been a fan of this blog for a long time, and hope to engage with it more.

  47. That’s really true! A generous mind would obviously offer things with happy mood! I like the tip being personal apart from presenting gifts from Official brand! Also, this kind of free valuable offer generates great credibility which could eventually gain huge in return! :)

  48. Dean,

    Give until it hurts…..then keep giving. Share value – your knowledge or expertise in a certain area – over and over and over. When you’ve given enough you’ll receive in a big way. Chris Brogan talks about giving away free stuff, namely his knowledge, for years on his blog. Add value, receive value.

  49. I excited about this post, because it is the entire basis of my blog an my on-line business. I even wrote a small book on the Rule of Reciprocity that I give to people when they sign up for my list.

    There is so much power in giving first, without expecting anything else in return. In fact Zig Ziglar says this many times “if you want something in life, first you have to help someone else get what they want.”

    There is no point in giving away the farm and trying to run a business at the same time, but if you hammer your customers with sales pitches only, and not worhwhile content to back it up, then you will lose them in droves.

    Third tribe is where it’s at, for the benefit of everyone.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  50. As always great content…if you have a solution to your niche’s burning problem at any point and time, they will beat a path to eliminate the pain.

    Sooo…solve a problem and there will never be a question by your followers (notice I did not say prospects), if you are attempting to sell them.

    Thanks…Mark

  51. Brian and Sonia:

    Fine, fine, I’ll back down :D

    BTW, wasn’t suggesting that everybody knows Godin/permission marketing formally. Was suggesting that they know it instinctively. Just as most people understand that there is something underlying their understanding of ‘citizenship’ even if they don’t talk about social contract theory.

    But fine, maybe there’s a lot of people out there who would view a newsletter as a gift. My anecdotal data set is much smaller than you guys’.

    Re: companies, I love Amazon, and thoroughly dislike Amway… but that’s neither here nor there.

    Venkat

  52. Hey, it’s in the air, I swear. I wrote a blog post last week called, “Building A Better Business Through Reciprocity.”

    It is such an important concept. Glad you are thinking about it too.

  53. love your blog, that article was powerful & makes me want to b that person. i’m new to the blogging world & this blog has been a huge help on all fronts. thanks for such a great blog that empowers people to be amazing!

  54. Great post…there is a power of focused generosity of a simple thank you note. It is amazing what can be accomplished and communicated by simply writing a note, hand written. Something that shows gratitude, something unsolicited, one that comes straight from the heart. Thanks for writing this…made me think more!

  55. Dean, this is a great post. We’ve been offering a free journal called The Business Writer to clients and visitors to our site for the past eight years. We have many subscribers though I’m not sure how many have translated into clients. That’s never mattered – we enjoy doing it. But what has mattered is the lack of feedback to what was intended to be a forum for views on writing and communication. So, having watched from the sidelines for a while, we have finally set up a blog
    http://businesswritersanddesign.wordpress.com/. We look forward to many interesting conversations.

  56. Nice post. This is one very consistent thing all of you very successful people say!

    It kinda goes along with the recipricol (I cant spell it but you know), how if you give one small thing to someone, they’ll tend to give you bigger things in return. Crazy how life works like that.

  57. Yeah, but I wanna be a generous one and I always strive to find out generous people because I hate greedy.

  58. Great post Dean!

    This idea of focused generosity is central to our website. I think it is important to be able to give good quality content out for free and make sure everyone can have access to it. It is a way of building up a reputation for quality and developing a following.

    Also, if you offer good quality content for free it works almost like a free advert for your paid-for content. It shows that the stuff people have to pay for is likely to be REALLY good quality, so well worth the cost of a membership fee!

    Thanks again!

  59. Hi Dean,
    This is what I think of as an Amen to that! post. Thank you; I really enjoyed it and nodded in agreement throughout. Win/win marketing, reciprocity – call it what you will – is the only way to go.

  60. Yes, this is exactly what I do. The goal of my business is to help others… making money is on down the priority list. My business is new but it’s growing fast, and I give credit to my overall business goal of helping others. Always put others first.

  61. Yesterday I went thru the drive up of a nearby Chick-fil-a restaurant. These guys (at this location anyway) consistently go out of their way to stand out for their customer service. My wait in line was a little longer than normal, but not long enough that I felt any frustration. At the window, my ticket had been adjusted and I received my drink for free along with an apology for my wait AND an explanation for the delay. This was a first and it actually made me proud to be a regular customer.

    Besides the obvious benefits back to businesses who practice this kind of stellar customer service, there’s also an increased level of patience and tolerance from their regular customer base that can’t be gotten any other way. 

    It’s a powerful way for Internet marketers to build strong loyalty as well. I applaud the Third Tribe concept and efforts so far as I understand them. (I’m not a member yet and only know what I’ve read here and on some other favorite A-list blogs.)

    The worst customer service leaves a bitter taste that may never go away.

    I still feel angry and cheated from a bad experience I had with a “supposed” IM guru, beginning about 6 months ago. (This isn’t sour grapes and I’ll stick to the facts.) I attended a 3 day seminar and the format didn’t deliver about 75% of what was promised in writing. Instead we got a Saturday night sales pitch for yet another seminar (scheduled 3+ months out) to get the rest of what was promised.   

     After the seminar, I opened dialog with them (respectfully) and tried to get what I had paid for, but it was a waste of even more time. For me, it was a hard lesson and I will NEVER buy anything from that guy again. In a brick & mortar business at least you can get to a decision maker.      

    For some reason, I continued to get phone calls from them trying to sell me more of their products even though I never bought and consistently asked to be removed from their call list.  

    The last phone call I got lead to a refund although I would have preferred a free pass to attend the next seminar so I could get what was originally promised. In fact, that’s what I asked for. Not a refund. Even a recording or video or workbook from the upcoming seminar would have been more appreciated than a refund.

    Sorry for the length of my comment, but I hope it wasn’t a waste and that someone will find it useful. 

    BTW, I’ve never seen any cross promotion between you or copyblogger (or any other of my favorite A-list probloggers) and this particular IM’g guru. Maybe he’s just a legend in his own mind.

    Very good post, Dean.
    Thank you!  

                    

      

     

  62. It is nice to hear these kinds of stories. Although, I feel like it doesn’t happen enough. But, if it ever happened to me, I would be a lot more apt to support the company.

  63. Loved the post and I’m right here with you!
    My favorite word?
    Reciprocity – use it often and will never let it go!

  64. No mug for me from Amazon either. Sniff.

    Dee, I can’t help thinking that the 3-day seminar would have promised you’d get what you needed only if you went to the 5-day retreat, and through two or three more steps until you got to the 25-day luxury cruise to Tahiti.

    You’re probably better off reading Copyblogger, Chris Brogan, and Seth Godin!

  65. Jodi – You’re right! And I’m better off buying from them, too. At least I know their advertising is true. :)

    There were about 80 attendees at that seminar and about half were angry about the bait n switch. I’d be surprised if someone didn’t forward the emails they’d received leading up to the seminar to the FTC after that. I went back and read them to confirm in my mind that what we thought we read was indeed the case, but never pulled the trigger myself on forwarding anything to the authorities. I’m not interested in burning bridges and I’ve never been a tattletale. Besides that, I have some disagreement with the new FTC rules. My understanding of them may be limited or flawed, but if internet marketers have to include disclaimers why not TV and radio too? It’s just silly. (But that’s just my humble opinion.)

  66. Dee, it does sound like the people running that seminar were pulling a fast one. I’m not a lawyer though.

    The FTC guidelines apply to any ad with a testimonial or endorsement. If the results are unusual the ad must say so and also explain what IS typical.

    Also, if a celebrity, a company, or a blogger gets cash or gifts (like an affiliate payment) in return for a review or endorsement, they have to disclose that.

    You can get it straight from the horse’s mouth here:

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

  67. It’s right cause in our time you don’t need money for to do money.The rich dad said if you want something you must give it and you will get more than you gave

  68. Jodi – Thanks for the clarity concerning those new FTC guidelines. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time. :)

    For me, the main takeaway here is the surprising amount of anger I still feel about that whole thing even though I thought I had moved on. I obviously need to let it go.

    Still, I can’t imagine ever buying anything from that marketer again. I even find myself reacting negatively when emails show up in my box from people who have JV’d with that company. My apologies for the negativity – just being honest. I’m generally an upbeat, positive individual. Unfortunately I’m slow to forgive when someone takes advantage of my trust.

    Am I so different from the average consumer?

    Cheers

  69. Nice one, Dean. This post really got me and kept me. We’ve just had a debate about mutual reciprocity on our Small Business Owner blog, so I’m off to add a link to this piece there. With best regards and many thanks, P. :)

  70. Dear DeeMarieF,
    I agree with you. We treat those merchants the same way we react to people who hurt us. Time heals all wounds, I think. Be patient with yourself.
    Deborah

  71. Sonia Simone :

    @Dee, I think you’re just like most of us. It really does make us mad when we feel a promise has been betrayed.

    I think one of the dumbest phrases ever uttered is “it’s just business, it’s not personal.” We’re persons. Everything is personal.

  72. @Deborah – Thanks for sharing your perspective.   

    I took a look at your website to see if I could come up with any ideas for what you could give away. I’m still pretty new in the Internet marketing world so this is a good exercise for me, too. :)

    I like the name of your site. The word “creative” drew me in right away. I think one or more “happy people gifting” pics would have enhanced those initial moments even more. 

    As for a give away, maybe a list or ebook of creative ways and places for giving that special gift. Lots of people have trouble thinking creatively about how to make their gift giving moments even more special and memorable. Maybe you’d also like to include funny or warm & fuzzy stories of what other customers have done. And what if, as an added bonus to the people who submit a story that gets used in your giveaway, you include a link to their website? 

    Thanks for the opportunity to get my creative juices flowing this morning. That was fun! :D

    Warmest regards

  73. @Sonia – I so agree with you! Thanks. :)

  74. Dean,

    I agree on your comments and advices. Building relationships and networking on a Win-Win basis with customers, suppliers and business contacts will only add value and create goodwill to your business.

    Customer service and more than that, what they experience when going to a business is what make them loyal to it.

    So the biggest advice here is to Care!

    There is a lot more to say about these topics so I invite you Dean and all the readers on Copyblogger to join the conversations on Startups.com Q&A.

    Good luck!