The Power of Reciprocity

Header image: Isn’t it amazing how a simple note can really change your mood? We featured this one on our Instagram because we have have a weakness for print – but there are literally thousands of ways to give back to the people you value.



Noun – the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.

We’ve all had that friend – or perhaps occasionally been that friend – who always takes more from the relationship than they give.

They call you up late at night asking you to solve their problems for them but then can’t seem to make time for you when you need them. They drink all the beer in your fridge but never seem to have anything to offer when you go to their house. They call themselves a friend but you’re left wondering if they even know the first thing about you.

Sooner or later, the friendship suffers because no one wants to feel like they’re constantly being drained by the people around them. Eventually, you just get tired of giving so much and receiving so little.

As with most things, I find that this lesson can also be applied to the business world.

Clients and partners come to you looking for a service and expecting to receive something worth their time, capital, and energy in return. You – of course – deliver an exemplary product and then go about your merry way. For most of us, that’s the end of the interaction.

But, doesn’t this sound very similar to our part-time friendships? The real trouble with many of these false friends is that they are both reactive instead of proactive and they lose themselves in the security of a relationship that they never bother to properly maintain.

And, as with these uneven friendships, when your business is reactive to the needs of its clients and you allow the relationship to suffer, your clients end up feeling rather like you’ve only come by to drink all of their Bud Light.

So how do we ensure that our clients know how much we value them? Well, as with any human interaction, there are thousands of ways to go about it but – because that would be one hell of a blog post – I’ve decided to just bump that number down to my top 5. So here it is, my top 5 ways of reciprocating the faithfulness and attention that my clients give me.

Be proactive

There’s nothing that makes you feel valued like receiving a random text from a friend who is just checking in on you. Knowing that someone is thinking about you even when you’re not staring them in the face is such a nice feeling – so why should the business world be any different?

Ok, maybe don’t text your clients to tell them that you’re thinking about them – a little too much – but occasionally send an email asking how their quarter is going, make sure their new offices are working out for them, or checking on the latest contract they acquired.

You don’t even need to try to sell them anything in these messages – just putting yourself in front of them and humanizing your company is a great way of subtly saying that you value them.

Find excuses to tell others how awesome your clients are

I love talking about my clients. Design is, at its center, a very intimate endeavor because you need to get to know the core of a client’s vision and dreams for their business. Because of this, I develop a very sincere passion for each company I work with – their success becomes my success.

Because of this bond I feel with them, I cannot stop myself from praising their works and proudly shouting about their accomplishments in face-to-face conversations and social media.

Sometimes, word of my enthusiastic rantings will get back to my client who appreciates the hype and my loyalty – but most times, I’m happy to talk about them just because I know that I can only do what I love to do because of their faith in me. If you’re not excited about your friendships, then you’re friends with the wrong people.

Send them something ‘real’ just because

In spite of what all modern media seemingly wants us to believe, print and paper still have a very real impact in our lives each and every day.

Say what you want about the digital age but aren’t you just tired of receiving so many emails? Don’t you secretly (or, in my case, very obviously) love getting something permanent that you can hold and be proud of?

Send your clients something meaningful with a note inside that just reminds them of your gratitude. Thank you notes or Christmas cards are great ways of giving something special, something that took a little bit of extra time on your part, to show your gratitude.

Offer them something special for their loyalty

Everybody loves a discount and your clients are no exception.

I personally offer a referral discount for my clients – you refer someone to me, they get a nice discount on their first project and you get a discount as well. My clients can refer as many folks as they like and continue to accrue discounts because I think this is a system that benefits everyone.

You can offer a discount for every tenth project, send them a free gift after their first purchase, or do a punch-card discount when they accumulate rewards for loyalty. Whatever route you take, it gives people an incentive to keep coming back.

Always reciprocate

Give your clients as much (or more!) as they give you. They trust you with their brand, their company, and their passion. In return, trust them to be an ambassador for you, to do the right thing for you, and to come through on their promises.

You won’t always be rewarded for your faith – that’s simply the nature of the world we live in. Sometimes you will spend all of your energy on a client that will give you almost nothing in return. Sometimes, you end up with a false friend that doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

But, as a business, you can never be that friend. When a client needs you, give them your full attention. Commit to the people you choose to do business with and remember that each of us is looking for someone to treat us fairly and kindly. If someone is good to you,  be even better to them. Always reciprocate kindness.

And buy your own beer.

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