Pay it forward is more than just an old adage. In marketing, it could be the difference between an uninterested prospect and a converted customer.

Psychologists are familiar with the reciprocity principle, which states that we feel subconsciously obligated to return favors we receive from others. This principle finds a variety of applications in sales, especially in the form of product samples and point-of-purchase displays.

However, its potential applications in marketing can reach far beyond little blocks of cheese in a grocery store. Done right, you can use incentives to leverage audience goodwill into lead and customer conversions. To get you started, here are 5 creative ways to incentivize your inbound marketing efforts.

1) Drive Initial Interest Through Giveaways

Giveaways have long been a popular way to attract audience interest. If you can draw in your potential customers with free promotional products and samples, they will experience your brand first-hand and become more likely to convert.

In inbound marketing, the general concept doesn’t have to go away. Consider, for example, promoting your giveaways as part of a lead nurturing strategy. If you have swag to give to your audience, tie it to a sign up at a physical event or online.

2) Leverage User-Generated Content

User-generated content may just be the single most effective messaging tactic online. Simply put, your audience finds their peers more credible than branded communication. When you get your current and future to post relevant content about you on social media, you’re halfway to a conversion.

How is user-generated content tied to incentivized marketing? Simple: offer your platform as an incentive. For instance, invite your social media followers to share their pictures and stories with your products or services. Those who are most creative with it get a featured spot atop your Facebook page or Twitter account for a week. Especially if you already have an established social media following, the publicity your audience gets from getting to that point may be enough to get them to work.

3) Build Inbound Leads with Gated Content

At the core of inbound marketing is gated content, which is in itself a form of incentive marketing. If you offer relevant webinars, whitepapers, or other content behind a signup page, your web visitors will be more than happy to give you their contact information and become leads.

The key to success here is not just throwing content behind a landing page, but making sure that your audience will actually appreciate that piece of content enough to consider it a relevant incentives. Some examples of this include:

  • Comprehensive how-to guides that are relevant to your industry
  • Credible product comparison guides to help in the buying process
  • Webinars that cover relevant industry trends and news
  • Content produced by guests that your audience considers experts
  • and much more.

4) Provide Tangible Benefits of Personalization

Another creative opportunity to combine incentivization and inbound techniques an extension of marketing personalization. Rather than simply substituting your audience’s first name into an email message (an important step in its own right, try to make that personalization tangible enough to actually show its benefits to your audience.

To stay with the above examples, you can send out personalized giveaways or gated content to your existing leads. Another opportunity is showing customized pricing tiers, based on what you already know about your existing audience. The more tangible the benefits in your audience’s eyes, the more likely they will be to actually give you the personal data you need to accomplish that personalization.

5) Reward Loyalty of Existing Customers

Finally, don’t underestimate loyalty campaigns as part of your incentivized marketing strategy. By offering your existing customers reasons to keep buying from you, you increase the likelihood that they will do exactly that and become loyal over time.

Traditionally, loyalty campaigns consist of coupons, “buy X get Y”, and similar offers. But you can also accomplish the same type of response by offering customer-exclusive content, from intensive trainings to webinars and whitepapers. Over time, these types of value-added incentives can play a vital role in retaining your customers.

Marketing incentives are everywhere, and they don’t have to be limited to in-person marketing. Through the above tactics, you can infuse your inbound strategy with the same types of tactics, creatively leveraging your content and giveaway to create, nurture, and convert your leads. Just as you incentivize your audience to move through the sales funnel, you will be incentivized to deeply incorporate these types of tactics into your strategy.