Marketing Psychology: How to Apply Reciprocity to Your Apartment Marketing Strategies

by Jun 9, 2019Apartment Marketing, Blog

“The brain holds the keys to the pocketbook.” This expression touches on the marriage between psychology and marketing. After all, marketing is about discovering and pushing the right buttons in your customer’s brain to convince them to buy from you.

Savvy marketers use concepts rooted in psychology – sometimes without even realizing it. This is particularly true for marketers focused on aligning their strategies with real, trackable customer behavior.  

Multifamily professionals can also apply behavioral psychology principles to the leasing process, research, training, and resident retention.

In his book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini identified six principles of persuasion. In this post, we’re going to focus on the first universal principle of influence highlighted by Dr. Cialdini: reciprocity. First, we’ll define reciprocity, and then share ways reciprocity can influence apartment marketing tactics.

What is reciprocity, and how does it influence marketing strategy?

People feel compelled to give back to others who have given to them. For example, if a friend invites you to their wedding, you feel obligated to invite them to your wedding. People are also more likely to say yes to those they feel they owe.

As humans, we respond to or reward positive behavior with more positive behavior. That’s how reciprocity is defined in behavioral psychology.

So, how does this influence marketing strategy? Regardless of the investment associated with the product, marketers who are the first to give, or add perceived value to their offering, are more likely to get a positive reaction from their customers.

Think about this: do you feel a stronger connection to people who do something good for you? Does that same feeling translate to brands who add value?

Within the context of apartment marketing, applying reciprocity doesn’t mean automatically giving away free rent to prospective residents.

Marketers can inspire prospects to take action without providing concessions. On the 30 Lines Blog, we shared 10 marketing messages that have increased engagement – none of which offer free rent.

Applying the concept of reciprocity to marketing doesn’t have to include an elaborate gesture. Even simple actions can prompt customers to establish a stronger connection with a brand.

Case Study: Take a Mint, Leave a Tip

One of the primary studies psychologists reference when discussing reciprocity involves a simple gesture practiced in many restaurants.

Does receiving a mint at the end of the meal influence how much money you’re planning to leave as a tip?

In the study, diners who received a single mint at the end of their meal increased tips by 3%. That percentage increased to 14% when two mints were provided.

The fascinating stat from this study, however, is the tip increase that took place when waiters adjusted their delivery of the mints. Instead of leaving both mints right away, the waiter came back to the table and said, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint.” In that instance, tips jumped by 23%.

From this example of reciprocity, we can interpret that a personalized, unexpected approach for initiating an offer can have a significant impact on customer behavior.

4 Tips for Applying Reciprocity in Apartment Marketing

Are you interested in applying reciprocity to your apartment marketing practices? Here are four tips marketers can use to convince apartment shoppers to reciprocate positively and get a step closer to signing a lease:

1. Create a value that impacts their relationship with your community outside of the signed lease agreement.

This tip brings up a previously mentioned point: marketers can inspire prospects to take action without providing concessions. However, consider what other gifts are valuable to your customer.

Without a clear connection to the customer’s situation, your offer may be ignored. Think about receiving a mint after your meal. The gift connects to your experience but doesn’t have a direct influence on your bill.

One way to apply this tactic in apartment marketing is by offering a $25 Netflix gift card if a prospect schedules a tour. It’s a simple gesture that can pay dividends for your community if the customer decides to take action and sign a lease.

Your advice is also a gift you can give, and it doesn’t cost your community $25. After being prompted by the following message, customers can opt-in to receive advice from your leasing team via email. With an email autoresponder set up, this tactic requires no additional effort from your team. 

2. Be the first to give.

The sooner marketers can get their offer in front of a prospect, the better.

Most apartment shoppers are just browsing in the early stages of their search. They land on your website – whether they’re checking out floor plan options or reviewing pricing and availability. Then, they’ll leave your site and repeat this process with competing communities. 

Website pop-ups sometimes get a bad rap, but when used properly (optimized for mobile and meeting all Google guidelines), they can help marketers get their message in front of prospects first.

3. Test your strategy like a psychologist.  

Just like a psychologist tests different behaviors, marketers should test different messages, offers, and strategies. In marketing, this practice is referred to as A/B testing. It can reveal how small differences in your campaign impact performance. A/B testing can be used to test offers in ads, landing pages, pop-ups, emails, and more.

4. Keep building the relationship.

After a customer responds to an offer, marketers should continue nurturing the relationship with follow-up messaging.

However, this follow-up shouldn’t take time away from your leasing team. Consider using the customer’s response to trigger an email drip sequence. Those campaigns can be personalized and continue sharing value-added information automatically.

You can also share additional offers with customers you’ve already established a relationship with. The Franklin Johnston Group prompts prospects and residents to get notified about new offers through their Facebook page.


How does customer behavior influence your apartment marketing strategy? We’d love to hear how blending marketing and behavioral psychology has impacted your bottom line.

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