How to write a powerful, response-boosting guarantee

June 10, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: How-to Guides 

satisfaction guaranteedEvery copywriter should know how to write a guarantee. It’s a powerful marketing tool.

A solid guarantee provides tangible proof that a business is reputable and helps lower the perceived risk prospects feel when considering the offer. It boosts response to nearly any sales message.

You can even use a guarantee in fundraising to assure that funds are used as promised. Don’t be afraid of a guarantee — ever. It will almost certainly create more profit than will be lost through the few people who take advantage of it.

Here are the basics of writing a guarantee

If there’s anything like a guarantee template, it’s this:

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. Just keep it short and sweet and readable at a glance.

Include the elements of a solid guarantee. Your guarantee should assure the prospective buyer of the quality of the product, clearly spell out terms and conditions, and specify a generous time period for evaluation. It should also state clearly what the company will do should the customer be dissatisfied.

Make limitations clear. Sometimes you must have 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.”

Don’t use limits unless you must. But when you do, make the limit clear.

Make your guarantee legal. Never, ever use a guarantee that hasn’t passed muster in the legal department. Make sure you’re not promising something you don’t intend to. And make sure the guarantee will stand up in court if you have any customer complaints down the road.

Backup your guarantee fully. If you say it, mean it. And make sure everyone in the organization understands the guarantee, especially phone operators, complaint handlers, management, and anyone else who deals directly with customers.

Avoid legal-looking teeny type. No one wants to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous customers. And, yes, your guarantee is legally binding. However, a guarantee shouldn’t look like a legal document, or you’ll alienate honest customers. Never use asterisks. Never list lots of exceptions to the guarantee. And never use big blocks of teeny type.

If the legal beagles force you to do these things, follow the lead of most financial direct marketers and bury the type elsewhere in the package. (Just don’t hide anything your customers should know.)

Keep conditions to a minimum. Don’t beat up people with conditions. Treat people as if they’re honest and most of them will act that way.

Tips for getting the most from your guarantee

A guarantee should speak for itself, but there are some tricks of the trade to make a guarantee work harder.

Make the guarantee visible. It should be one of the key elements of your promotion. If it’s a direct mail package, it can appear in the letter (especially near the end), the brochure, the order form or order form stub (for the customer to keep), or featured as a stand-alone insert that looks valuable. If it’s a print ad, highlight it in a box. In broadcast, say it and show it on screen along with the main offer.

Use guarantee copy to sell. The whole point of the guarantee is to help stimulate a response, so whenever possible, I like to include sell copy in the guarantee. For example, I might add a line such as “Fill out the order form and mail it today. Try your gizmo for 60 days. If you’re not completely satisfied …” and so on.

Opt for unconditional guarantees. They’re stronger than conditional guarantees and easier to administer. However, if you have to use a conditional guarantee, a longer term is better — a 60 day free examination is better than 30 days, for example. (Often people don’t think that a month is long enough to avoid payment if they change their mind.)

Use strong language. Unconditionally Guaranteed. No-Risk Guarantee. 100 Percent Satisfaction Guarantee. No-Questions-Asked Guarantee. As long as it’s believable, the stronger your guarantee the better.

Go beyond money back. Try “Double Your Money Back” or “115% Credit” for another purchase. Or maybe “We won’t cash your check for 30 days” or “We’ll return your own check to you” to assure that the customer will never have money at risk. To really assure your prospect, put yourself on the line with a super powerful guarantee that appears to carry some risk for you.

Dramatize your guarantee. You don’t have to promise to run naked through Grand Central Station if your customer isn’t satisfied, but you can certainly make your guarantee dramatic in other ways. For example, “Clip this coupon and bring it to our store. If we can’t match the lowest price in town, we’ll pay for the gas you used to drive here.”

Make your guarantee look official. Certificate borders, certificate paper, watermarks, icons like eagles and flags, dollar values in the corners, and other touches can help your guarantee look official. You can even ask the designer to create a seal or stamp with your basic guarantee copy in it.

A little guarantee inspiration

Here’s a simple, elegant guarantee from L. L. Bean in their 1993 Christmas catalog:

Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us if it proves otherwise. We will replace it, refund your purchase price, or credit your credit card, as you wish. We do not want you to have anything from L. L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.

Here’s a classic guarantee from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog from 1902:

We accept your order and your money, guaranteeing the goods to reach you in due time and in perfect condition, and if they are not perfectly satisfactory to you when received, you can return them to us at our expense of freight or express charges both ways and we will immediately return your money.

Related posts:

  1. How do you guarantee something that’s free?
  2. How to write a direct response TV commercial that sells
  3. How to write a postcard for maximum response

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Smart Comments

12 Comments on How to write a powerful, response-boosting guarantee

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  1. Gary Smith on Jun 15th, 2010 1:50 pm
  2. Strong guarantees DO work. I’ve been selling a downloadable product for more than 10 years. Often, our guarantee — 100% money back, no questions asked, anytime — helps make the sale of our $100 product, when the free evaluation copy doesn’t close the sale. I don’t put time limits on the guarantee, and never had to do a refund past a week or two.

    Most of our refunds go to those for whom the product just doesn’t “fit”, and they appreciate the courtesy of a guarantee without any hassles. And most are surprised when I refund instantly upon request, subject only to the delay their CC processor imposes.

    Although this particular product is a “one-off,” the strong guarantee sets the stage for a good relationship for other products I offer.

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  3. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire on Jun 16th, 2010 10:19 am
  4. Dean,

    As usual a very infomative post. Offering additional money on top of the purchase price can be a real boost to sales that totally offsets the risk.

    Most people will not take you up on it, but it’s so powerful that you can grab a lot of new customers in the process.

    L.L. Bean has always had an amazing return policy.

  5. Lian on Jun 18th, 2010 10:03 am
  6. Hi Dean,

    I totally agree with the guarantee concept, but.. (there’s a “but”), I do wonder –
    If the product I’m offering are ‘words’ (i.e. copy) – which are non-returnable, devised by my mind and based on research, creativity and objective judgment, how can I offer a guarantee? How can I let my potential customers know that they are taking no risk, relying on my MIND?
    After all, words are Not refundable…

    I’d very much appreciate your answer.


  7. Dean Rieck on Jun 18th, 2010 10:35 am
  8. Lian,
    You guarantee whatever you want. Some writers guarantee results. Others guarantee top quality work or time of delivery or whatever. Decide what concerns your clients and come up with a guarantee that reassures them. You may also want to think about whether your product is “words” or something else.

  9. Lian on Jun 18th, 2010 10:47 am
  10. Thanks


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  11. Nayasha Shah on May 22nd, 2012 8:21 am
  12. Very informative …. THANK YOU.