Your Clients Like You More When They Can Help You

We already know gratitude is valuable currency.

But there’s more to it than being thankful for what people do for us — we’re more likely to appreciate people that we can help ourselves.

This is the Ben Franklin Effect.

That’s right: “What’s in it for me?” is not exclusively how people think of our relationships, clients included.

Make no mistake; folks are seeking value from their purchases. You’ve got to deliver satisfaction with your product. But when people really start to form favorable opinions about you is the moment they realize they themselves have been of service.

Ben Franklin threw it out there that people who help us are more likely to view us favorably when he asked to borrow a book from a frenemy:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. He said it immediately, in I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we become great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Look, it kind of sounds like Ben initially was doing some psych-hacking to get what he wanted, but the thought, as a real technique for relationship-building, isn’t without merit. When you ask a favor of someone, you’re intimating to them a few things:

  • To some extent, you value them
  • You view them as uniquely suited to help you
  • Because you need their help, you have a degree of vulnerability (people like that!)

Psychologists tested the theory in 1969 and found that, yep, it holds up. The basic explanation is somewhere between cynical and practical: In our minds, we have a picture of who we are as people, and almost everybody thinks of themselves as “good,” regardless of how we view others. We reinforce our self-images through helpful actions, even for people we may not like. The study tells us that the Ben Franklin Effect is real: We like people more after we help them.

That’s the power of sharing your clients’ stories. Yes, you get to show them how much they mean to you by featuring them and their experiences. But you also create the opportunity for the customer to see how much they’ve helped you. Bolstering that powerful self-image for them perpetuates gratitude and strengthens their bond to you.