Influence — The Power of Free

A few weeks ago we walked by a comic book store and noticed it was Free Comic Book Day, an event where comic book publishers provide… What else? Free comic books. My 3 year old daughter has expressed interest in learning about comics so we thought we’d check it out.

It was a great experience. Line wasn’t long. And they gave out 3 free books per person. Not a bad haul for Free.

I recognize the goal here. Give people a free taste and they’ll want more down the road.

Or maybe some will come for the freebies and buy something else out the door. But I didn’t see enough people buying anything as they left….


Dr. Robert Cialdini is the famous author of books on influence and persuasion. One interesting chapter in his book Influence is on the power of “reciprocation”.

Dr. Cialdini describes the Hare Krishnas, a religious organization that was having trouble in the 1970s raising money. Their original method of asking people for donations in busy places like airports and bus terminals wasn’t working.

Then they experimented with giving folks a simple free gift: a book, magazine, or even a flower. They wouldn’t accept you returning the gift either. As Cialdini reports, a Krishna would simply say, “No, it is our gift to you.”

The Krishna’s ability to raise donations skyrocketed.

People couldn’t resist the power of being indebted to someone else’s gift.


In 2013 I was looking for opportunities I should pursue with Draft, the writing software I developed. I saw that Tim Ferriss was holding a “contest” to invest in a single company as part of something he called Spearhead Capital. That single company would get a large amount of his attention and resources.

I thought Draft would be a good fit. If nothing else, it wouldn’t hurt to be on Tim’s radar.

I came up with an idea to message the free users of Draft to let them know I could use their help Tweeting @ Tim about me and Draft.

They did. A lot.


Now, I don’t really recommend creating a Tweetstorm like this. It’s a good way to upset someone who actively uses their @ mentions for communication.

But, this effort resulted in a long and super helpful phone call with Tim and an acquaintanceship with Tim that’s lasted since.

The real lesson though to take from this was how powerful it was to ask my free users for help with something. They instantly gave me this huge gift.


Back at that comic book store I noticed that the employees there might have been overlooking reciprocation. As people walked out the door with their free comic books, no one asked if they needed anything else. Even a simple “could I help you find something else” would have probably gotten me to purchase a new Batman or Spider-Man.

This lesson isn’t lost on me. Here at Highrise we have quite a few people who use our Free plan. There’s probably at least a simple ask we could make of them to help spread the word about Highrise.

And I bet there’s something simple you’ve done for folks or could easily implement to help get the power of reciprocity working for you.

P.S. Please help spread this by clicking the below.

You should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a no-hassle system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.


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