On a trip to NYC for Toy Fair a few years ago I met a family that came to the city just to go to Broadway shows. That sounded like a dream trip to me. I love musical theater. I wish Netflix had more “live Broadway” shows than they currently do. In spite of what the critics say about them, I even love movies based on Broadway shows (yes, including Evita!) One of my favorites is Chicago. There are a few songs I could watch over and over.
One is Queen Latifah singing “When You’re Good to Momma” about the Law of Reciprocity.
Last night I had my own Law of Reciprocity moment. I received an act of great generosity from someone because of the generosity this person received many decades ago from my grandfather. I will have to pay it forward as she did.
That’s how it works. You do something good for me and I feel the urge to do something good for you. If I can’t do something good for you, I pay it forward.
Bob Negen gives the example of walking through a set of doors. If two guys approach at the same time and one offers to hold the door open for the other, at the next set of doors the the other guy will hold them open for the first. It is a social contract.
Liberty Mutual did a whole commercial campaign around the idea of paying it forward (here is the full video, grab your tissue.)
It also works in reverse. If you’re rude or disrespectful to me, I may fire back in kind. We’ve certainly seen a lot of that in the past several years.
As a business owner, however, you have one choice that works long term—Generosity.
Be generous in your offerings. Be generous in your kindness, your helpfulness, and your time. Be as generous for the customer spending $2.50 as you are for the customer spending $2,500. It pays in the long run.
Generosity helps your business in many ways.
- First, it leads to more word-of-mouth. When your generosity is genuine, unexpected, and sincere, people talk about that to their friends.
- Second, it leads to reciprocity. Generosity more often leads to trust, which leads to more sales. Yet even if your customers are not generous directly back to you, they may pay it forward, and that helps out everyone.
- Third, you feel better. An eye-for-an-eye leaves the whole world blind.
- Fourth, your customers are watching and judging you by your actions. In fact, unfair as it is, they are judging all small businesses by your actions.
The little things you do that you don’t have to do are big things in your customers’ eyes.
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” -James D. Miles
You have the choice of the reciprocity you wish to receive and the reciprocity you wish to foist upon the world. Generosity is the winning formula for small businesses.
Be good to Momma.
PS Calling another store to see if they have something you don’t carry is generous. Carrying heavy packages out to your customer’s car is generous. Offering free valet parking in a downtown setting is generous. Making the customer look like a hero to her family or friends is generous. Adding an unexpected gift-with-purchase is generous. Spending time to get to know the customer, talk to her kids, and be interested in her life is generous. Treating the customers “just looking” with kindness, respect, and helpfulness is generous. Ask your staff at your next meeting. I am sure they can come up with some more ideas of ways to be generous.