The Second Greatest Offer in the World

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When I think of guarantees, I think of a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."

Too many businesses waste time merely talking about their honor, saying "We're the best" or "Quality, service, selection." Without something to back it up, it's all hot air. If you really have a good product or service, stand behind it. A guarantee proves that you're reputable, and it helps lower the perceived risk your prospects feel. A guarantee is so powerful, I consider it the Second Greatest Offer in the World.

And remember, with few exceptions, most guarantees offer money back in one form or another. It is specifically this "money-back" guarantee that I call the second greatest offer. As for the greatest, I'll get to that shortly. But first let's consider how to get the most from your guarantee.

· Make your guarantee visible. 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), even separated as a standalone insert that looks valuable - the more places, the better. 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 your guarantee copy to sell. The whole point of the guarantee is to stimulate a response, so, whenever possible, include sell copy in the guarantee. For example, you might say, "Fill out the order form and mail it today. Try your gizmo for 60 days. If you're not completely satisfied ..." and so on.

· State your guarantee in the strongest possible terms. Unconditionally Guaranteed. No-Risk Guarantee. 100 Percent Satisfaction Guarantee. No-Questions-Asked Guarantee. As long as it's believable and you can back it up, the stronger your words, the better.

· Go beyond money back. How about "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 ensure that the customer will never have money at risk?

· Offer a competitive guarantee. If you have direct competition, meet it head on: "Try Time for three months without cost. If you don't like it, we'll ask Newsweek to send you their best offer."

· Dramatize your guarantee. You don't have to promise to run naked through Grand Central Terminal if your customer isn't satisfied, but you certainly can 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."

· Strengthen your guarantee with a signature. One of my favorite brochures was a piece I designed with the guarantee right on the front cover. I spelled out the guarantee clearly, included a picture of the company president and surrounded the guarantee with a certificate border. Then I had the president sign his name to it. The headline even referred to the personally guaranteed offer.

· Extend your guarantee for as long as possible. Instead of 30 or 60 days, how about a one-year guarantee? Or a lifetime guarantee? Short guarantee periods can help prevent returns, but the reverse logic often works better. Give your customers loads of time and most will never make a return. First, there's no rush to return. Second, after awhile, most people forget about the guarantee or feel too guilty to return used items.

· Make your guarantee look official. Certificate borders, special paper, watermarks, icons like eagles and flags, dollar values in the corners and other touches strengthen the look of your guarantee. You can even create a seal or stamp with your basic guarantee copy in it.

· Offer a valuable bonus or keeper. For example, "If you don't like TaxSaver Software, send it back at our expense, get a full refund and keep the Day Planner and mouse pad as our gift to you."

· Be specific about return procedures. You can give 1-2-3 type instructions or include a phone number and the name of a contact person for customers who have complaints. This costs you nothing and raises the believability of your guarantee to its highest possible level.

OK, so if a guarantee is the Second Greatest Offer in the World, what's the greatest? The only offer better than promising to give your customer's money back is to never ask for money in the first place. So the free trial offer is THE Greatest Offer in the World. But we'll save that for another time.

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