A strong guarantee reverses risk.
It removes the risk from the customer and places it squarely on you.
If the product doesn’t satisfy, the customer doesn’t lose. You do.
People know you’ll only be willing to do that if you’re absolutely sure your product is good.
Your guarantee, then, is a statement of confidence. And when you ooze confidence, your customers feel it too. In short, there’s no better way to build trust than with a bold guarantee.
4 elements of a power-house guarantee
In Bob Bly’s book, How to Create Irresistible Offers, he lists four key elements of a strong guarantee. Get these right and you’ll have a guarantee that builds trust and increases sales.
Let’s take a look at each…
This is the time period of the guarantee. Ten days is the shortest you should go. Lifetime is the longest. The most common are 30, 60 or 90 days, or a year.
As you might guess, the longer the time period, the stronger the guarantee. But beware. A lifetime guarantee is compelling, but it’s not always the best idea.
Let’s say you sell an information product and, after a few years, the information becomes outdated. Your customers could use the product for decades (and get every benefit you promised) then suddenly decide it isn’t relevant and ask for their money back.
I’ve also heard of people getting into financial distress, then seeing your product and remembering the lifetime guarantee. They return it simply to pay the rent that month.
Your best bet is a guarantee period that gives customers time to use the product and be certain it works for them, plus a little extra.
Shoot for a year or less as the length of your guarantee.
Guarantees may or may not be unconditional. You can place any conditions you feel are appropriate, as long as you communicate them clearly.
For instance, the Glazer-Kenney Insider’s Circle Guarantee isn’t as no-hassle as you’d expect. They call it a “12-month 100% satisfaction guarantee.” But they include a few conditions:
- You have to have purchased the product from the GKIC resource center.
- You must return all parts of the product, including forms, bonus materials and original packaging.
- Returns must be in “like new” condition.
- Failure to comply will result in a 10% restocking fee.
It sounds like they’ve had some abusers and needed to find a way to protect themselves. But pit this guarantee against other 100% guarantees, and you probably agree it’s not as powerful.
When buyers see lots of conditions or hoops they have to jump through to qualify for a guarantee, they get nervous. The more conditions, the lower their trust levels. In short, this type of guarantee can hurt, not help, conversions.
That being the case, if you don’t place conditions on your returns, say so. Call it an “unconditional, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.” Create a seal that makes it stand out. Then place it where everyone can see it.
Here’s an example from The Laura MacDonald Team.
As you might guess, fewer conditions yield better results. So limit them as much as possible.
What exactly is being guaranteed? Does your money-back guarantee cover shipping and handling or other fees? Or does it only cover the product. Be careful that you’re clear about what’s covered and what’s not.
Here’s where you can get creative with your guarantee. For example, a free trial often incentivizes action better than an offer to buy now, especially for first-time customers. Add a few premiums or gifts, and people are even more likely to buy. Then wipe out any residual resistance with a gutsy guarantee.
Here’s how Prevention does it:
You get 21 days to review the book before deciding to buy. You get a free pedometer and three reports, which you can keep whether you buy or not. And after buying, you still have this guarantee:
Here’s why it works:
- It’s long: one year.
- The book can be in any condition.
- No questions will be asked.
If you think about it, by stacking a free trial with an unconditional guarantee, Prevention has removed every trace of risk. Customers get to see and touch the book before making their final decision. And even if they fail to return the book within the trial period, they still have 11+ months to decide if the purchase was right for them.
You can offer other types of guarantees as well. For example, a price guarantee. This one comes from Best Buy:
If you sell a product that people must buy in advance of a project, you can reduce risk by guaranteeing they won’t be stuck with leftovers. U-Haul does that with moving boxes:
What are other guarantees you could offer?
- Guarantee the quality of your product.
- Guarantee that your product has fewer problems.
- Guarantee that it lasts longer.
Here’s an odd-ball guarantee: Dan Kennedy has actually guaranteed his sales letters (I don’t know if he’s tried this online). In a direct mail piece, he offers a “reward” if you read the entire promotion and feel it was a waste of your time.
The letter begins like this:
“How can something sent to you free be guaranteed? Here’s my promise: if you read the attached, admittedly lengthy letter about your speaking business and listen to the enclosed audio cassettes and watch the enclosed video, and you honestly feel I’ve wasted your time, just jot me a note to that effect on the back of this certificate and I’ll either pay you $25.00 or donate $50.00 to Habitat For Humanity, your choice.” (Source: The Ultimate Sales Letter.)
Craft a guarantee that covers as much as possible and removes as much risk as possible. Your best bet is to determine why people resist purchasing (or purchasing more), then create a guarantee that covers that situation.
When does the guarantee period begin? And what do customers have to do to get their guarantee?
With products, this may seem obvious. The guarantee begins as soon as you take ownership: when you purchase, when the product arrives in the mail or after you download it. But what about events?
Most businesses turn the first few hours or the first day as a trial period. Here’s how AWAI does it:
The key is to clearly communicate, not only the conditions of the guarantee, but how to collect. Which brings up another good point: Be very clear about what people can expect.
Rite Aid does this by letting people know how long it will take for their return to be processed:
Where do you place your guarantee?
If it’s a gutsy guarantee that no one else in your industry is offering, test it in your headline. Hyundai made news when they introduced their 10-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty. Now, their Assurance Promise has its own tab on their website.
If you’re writing a traditional sales page, place it in the offer, just below the price presentation. This example comes from Ted Nicholas:
It’s also a good idea to repeat your guarantee on the purchase page. That way you can calm those last-minute buyer jitters.
The bottom line
If trust is the new currency—and it is—a strong guarantee is your key to profits.
People aren’t comfortable with risk, so even if they’re drooling over your product, if they feel there’s any risk of loss, they’ll resist taking action.
On the other hand, if you remove risk by taking the full brunt of any misunderstandings or dissatisfaction, you’ll significantly improve your chances of closing the sale.
So your task is simple:
- Come up with the strongest guarantee you can afford to make.
- Make it bigger than any other guarantee in your industry, as proof that you believe your product is better.
- Be creative. Look for anything that creates buyer resistance and craft a guarantee that removes risk.
- Stand behind your promises.
If you truly believe in your product, this shouldn’t be hard.
Communicate your confidence clearly, and you’ll be rewarded with higher sales.