But today’s new generation of bloggers and entrepreneurs have discovered that this age-old offline technique can be one of the most powerful routes to more sales.
They know that online buyers are plagued by fears and doubts. And there’s nothing that will kill a sale faster than doubt.
So what makes a good guarantee?
The Teaching Company offers a brilliant example of a guarantee that leads directly to sales.
They sell CDs, DVDs, and digital downloads of prominent professors lecturing on philosophy, physics, economics, astronomy, literature, history, and other academic subjects.
Many of these lectures command a hefty price tag, often reaching as much as several hundred dollars. These aren’t little MP3s with 30 minutes of fluff. They’re lengthy, in-depth lectures from some of the best minds in the country.
One is “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” by Professor Robert Greenberg of The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. You get 48 lectures at 45 minutes each. That’s 36 hours! The DVD is $699.95. An audio CD is $499.95. The audio download is $349.95. That’s a substantial chunk of change.
I loved the idea of these lectures. Many of them talked about subjects both my wife and I are fascinated by. We could get hours of enjoyment out of them. But still … $500? Was it really worth it?
Then I saw their guarantee:
LIFETIME SATISFACTION GUARANTEE: If you are not completely satisfied with the purchase you have paid for, you may return it with a note describing why you are disappointed and we will issue a full refund or credit your charge card for what you paid for the course or courses.
That guarantee sold me.
I immediately thought,
I have to buy something for myself, maybe ‘The History of Ancient Rome’ or ‘The Great Principles of Science.’ And I can get ‘The History of the United States’ for my wife, the history buff. Where’s my credit card. I gotta order something now!
After all, with a guarantee that strong, the company really must believe that they have the best lectures ever, right? I was absolutely convinced, even before I heard a single word of the audio.
That’s the power of a guarantee.
Reducing perceived risk with a guarantee
Too many people think that selling is about talking people into buying things, as if you can wear people down with an avalanche of words.
You can write all the selling copy you want about how you’re the best, offer great quality, and include lots of great content. However, it’s all for nothing if your potential buyers have any doubts.
Doubt creates hesitation. Hesitation kills sales.
The answer? You have to reduce the perceived risk people feel so there is no hesitation to take you up on your offer.
And that’s the key — risk reduction.
Remember that if you’re selling online, people can’t experience the thing you’re selling before they part with their money. They can’t see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it. So there’s always a level of uncertainty and risk. A guarantee helps you lower the feeling of risk by answering questions such as “Is it all you say it is? What if it isn’t? Can I return it if I want to? Is there a catch?”
With a guarantee, they feel confident that they won’t be stuck with their purchase. And the very act of offering a strong guarantee lets buyers know you really believe the product is worth its asking price.
But there’s another reason to use a guarantee — ethics.
Thomas Rollins, president of The Teaching Company, said his company values clients so much, he simply doesn’t want them to have any product they don’t absolutely love. In a phone conversation with me, he said, “We call our lectures The Great Courses. If we don’t deliver great courses, we don’t deserve the money.”
Wow! Most people think of customer loyalty as customers being loyal to a business. But how about a business being loyal to customers? This is a recipe for long-term success if I’ve ever seen one. And it all stems from their powerful guarantee.
How to write a risk-eliminating guarantee
A guarantee may be the most important copy you ever write, but it isn’t rocket science. Your guarantee should do four primary things:
- Assure your customer that you believe in the quality of your product.
- Spell out your terms and conditions clearly.
- Specify a generous time period for evaluation.
- State what you will do if the customer is dissatisfied.
Here’s the classic guarantee template:
We provide the finest widgets in the world. If you are not fully satisfied for any reason, just return your widget within 60 days for a full refund of your purchase price.
You can be more personal. Or stronger. Or more specific. Just keep it short and sweet.
But what about setting limits?
- You might have a time limit: “If you’re not satisfied, return within 30 days for a full refund.”
- You might have usage conditions: “With normal use …” or “When used according to directions …”
- You might have a liability limit: “Liability limited to the replacement cost of this item.”
- You might want to specify repair or replacement rather than return: “If it doesn’t work as promised, we’ll repair or replace it free.”
Avoid asterisks or teeny legal type. They just create the suspicion that you are a weasel.
Does a guarantee pose a risk for you?
This is a common misconception. The logic goes like this: “If I guarantee to refund money after someone receives the product, they’ll rip me off.” This is especially scary for people selling digital products.
The truth is, you may will get ripped off by a few people. But in the long run, what you gain from additional sales will far outweigh what you lose from those scant few cheats.
The only time you run a risk is when you offer crappy products. Offer great products, and your “returns” won’t amount to much.
Remember, your potential buyers feel a certain level of risk whenever you offer something to them. A guarantee is your best tool for lowering or eliminating that risk.
If you want more specifics, I just published a detailed post about how to write strong guarantees at Pro Copy Tips.
About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top direct marketing copywriters who shares his writing and freelancing know-how at Pro Copy Tips.