Last week, I attended a seminar hosted by Denk Producties that featured Robert Cialdini as its main speaker. For a complete day, we learned about, and worked on, the psychology of persuasion. Great day, wonderful speakers, learned a lot. One of the six elements of persuasion is reciprocity. The act of giving. Those who give, will receive. Cialdini stretched this as one of the most important elements. As an introduction.

Last weekend, I needed to get a haircut. So, I went to the barbershop that I always go to. This is not a shiny, large, futuristic or fancy barbershop. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Two chairs, neighborhood audience only, ordinary black coffee and something sweet to eat if you want to. Upon entering, I was greeted like normal. But shortly after I sat down, something happened.

The owner of the shop walked to the backoffice and came back with a present. She congratulated me on the fact that I became a father recently and handed me the gift. I was baffled. Yes, we did sent them a birth card after them jokingly asking for it last time I was there. But I never meant to oblige them to buy us a present. And yet they did, while they honestly did not need to do so.

When Cialdini speaks about the element of reciprocity, in essence it comes down to three things. It needs to be meaningful, it needs to be unexpected and it needs to be personalized. This gift was just that. Not everybody in the shop was given this gift. It was a gift personalized for my son. In addition, I never expected them to give me this gift as you can read from my initial response. And finally, it was very meaningful. I’d travel to the moon and back for my son if I would be asked to do so. So receiving a gift for him from somebody I did not expect it from, meant a lot to me.

Does this make the barbershop more fancy? Not really. Are there better barbers in town? Most likely. Did I get a better price? Nope. In fact, we discussed some small business economics and her potentially rising prices in the near future. But did they just won a lifetime customer? I’m quite sure they did.

As a new week commences, I challenge you to take on this example and consider where you can take some extra steps so surprise and overwhelm your customers (or those around you). It doesn’t need to be very big or expensive. It needs to be meaningful, unexpected and personalized.