Principle of Reciprocity in Landing Page Design With Examples

Principle of Reciprocity

Yep, another one of those Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion blog posts – BUT – this one has a BUNCH of examples!

If you don’t know the book and the author, add it to your reading/listening list right now. It’s a seminal book in the field of marketing. 

This blog post will not focus on the definitions and explanations of the principle. It should be stored in the memory of everyone in the field of digital marketing anyway, together with all the other principles. We will focus on the examples and try to create a post which could serve as a warm-up material before an ideation session. 


The principle of reciprocity states that people have a deep compulsion to return favors. People do not want to stay indebted to anyone.

The strength of this urge stems from the fact that humans are social beings. This characteristic is solely responsible for the rise of our species and no wonder we are ‘designed’ in a way to preserve the mechanisms which makes it possible. 

The rule is overpowering. It makes people fall for cheap con artist tricks. But it could also serve as a great relationship creation strategy. Especially if you are an online business, there is almost certainly something you can offer for free. A trial, a valuable piece of content, a free service. 

This is also an obvious lead generation strategy. Getting your prospect’s email in exchange for something of value is usually quite easy, if the value is there and it’s communicated clearly.

Free Content 

Example: Brian Dean’s Backlinko

This guy gives out exclusive SEO tips for free. His goal is to develop relationships and eventually convert people into signing up for his paid training courses or to hire him as a consultant, a great approach to reciprocity as you’ll make valuable connections with the people in your industry.

example of a landing page which offers free content following the reciprocity principle


Free Service

If you have the funds and a realizable idea you can offer your prospects a free service that will inevitably lead to reciprocity amongst a number of your visitors. 

Example 1: Neil Patel

Neil Patel offers a nicely designed entry-level SEO tool.

example of a landing page which offers free service following the reciprocity principle


Example 2: Answer the Public

This website offers insights into long-form search queries on your chosen query (it’s great for research on your next blog topic). They provide 2 free searches every day and incentivize you on buying a plan, if you want to search more. They do this by checking and filtering IP traffic. An interesting model and a great website, seriously check this one out!


example of a landing page which offers free service following the reciprocity principle


… and when the limit is reached you get this:


example of a landing page which offers free service following the reciprocity principle


Free Product

Some companies with suitable product or service type decide to give it to you for free the first time and achieve customer reciprocity this way. 

Example: Audible

Audible offers a free book for the first month. Since this strategy could be exploited by users cheating and creating multiple accounts to get multiple products, it can only work with the free trial model. Hard to counterfeit personal information has to be collected to have control over which users have already collected their free product/service.

example of a landing page which offers free product following the reciprocity principle

Free Consultation

The problem with free consultation is the mental image it creates in the visitor. The first thought of many visitors is being nagged by a non-technical sales person for half an hour. 

So not giving this feel should be your #1 priority when designing this kind of offer. That can be done by using the rest of the principles, e.g. authority, liking, social proof.

Some ideas:

  • Be meticulous with the design and copy. The page should give a consistent and trustworthy feel.
  • A clear picture of the benefits a visitor would get by booking a consultation. Answer ‘what’s in it for me?’
  • Be clear about the duration of the consultation. Try to make it short!
  • Build your authority. Work on presenting yourself as an authority in the field. If the consultations are handled by a team, present them as product specialists, not as business consultants.
  • Add social proof. Authentic and evocative testimonials by authorities (well known companies, people with prominent job positions … ) work best. Try to induce a feeling of ‘you don’t wanna miss this’.


Think about a secondary CTA

In our agency we often work on webpages where the CTA with an offer of free consultation is not performing well. Usually because the page and its offer is presented to the prospect too early in the process. One has to be pretty interested in a product or service to be willing to reserve half an hour and talk to somebody. Especially if the objections are not well addressed. 

A secondary CTA could help here. It enables visitors to choose their own tempo. Maybe downloading a pdf before maling a call would be much more attractive to some of the visitors who would otherwise not decide for a consultation. 

Since a secondary CTA will draw some focus away from the primary one you should always test this hypothesis. 

Example: Nourished to Healthy

This page emphasizes the benefits gained during a call. Its design is calm and reassuring, the image goes perfectly with the feel of the page. The wording is chosen to have a high emotional resonance with people looking for this kind of service.


example of a landing page which offers free consultation following the reciprocity principle


Free Trial

The well known and a cornerstone strategy of almost all modern SaaS services. What makes it compelling for companies is the fact that the prospect must enter billing information soon in the buying process. Be as supportive as you can if using this model. 

Example 1: Salesforce


example of a landing page which offers free trial following the reciprocity principle


Example 2: CXL institute

CXL offers a 7-day access to their content for $1. The price is symbolic and represents almost no friction to somebody interested in CXL’s courses. What’s special about this is that the visitor is forced into making a purchase already at the start of the ‘free’ trial and has to go through the checkout process. 

Why is this important? When it comes to the tipping point, when the prospect is deciding whether to pay the full price, this familiarity with the purchase on CXL’s website greatly reduces the perceived trouble.


example of a landing page which offers free trial following the reciprocity principle


We hope that you got some lovely inspiration on Reciprocity in Landing Page Design. Make sure to also read out article on Landing Page Tracking In Google Tag Manager to achieve the best results.

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