Offer a Guarantee to Boost Response

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When you create a direct mail package, do you just add a guarantee at the last minute as a legal requirement? That's a mistake. A guarantee can be one of your most powerful selling tools. It's proof that you're reputable. It helps lower your customer's perceived risk. And it almost always boosts your response if used properly.


Here are some tips to make a guarantee work for you:


Keep it simple. There are many ways to enhance your guarantee, but your basic copy should be clear and strong, leaving no questions unanswered, for example: "If you are not completely satisfied for any reason, just return your widget to XYZ Co. within 30 days for a full refund of your purchase price."


Make it visible. Add the guarantee to your sales letter call to action. Highlight it as a box in your brochure. Feature it on the order form. Separate it out as a stand-alone insert.


Use the guarantee to help sell. For example, you 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. Unconditional guarantees are stronger than conditional guarantees and are easier to administrate. However, if you use a conditional guarantee, a longer term is better -- a 60-day free examination is better than 30 days. Or, make your guarantee last a full year. After awhile, most people forget about it or feel too guilty to return items they've used a long time.


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. 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 assure that the customer will never have their money at risk?


Match your offer. Provide a money-back guarantee for purchases, a buyback for collectibles, cancellation privileges and a refund for subscriptions. Think of the characteristics of your offer and the perceived risk involved, then formulate your guarantee to match. Then add your signature. Nothing shows your commitment to a product like signing your name to the guarantee. The person of highest authority, or the person who wrote the letter, should sign it.


Make it 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 even can create a seal or stamp with your basic guarantee copy in it. You also can power up your guarantee if you add third-party approval, such as a Good Housekeeping seal of approval or an endorsement from an organization.


Offer a valuable bonus. 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."


Try extreme specificity. State your guarantee, then provide a telephone number to call if the customer has a complaint. You could give the name of the person to talk to. This costs nothing and raises the believability of your guarantee to its highest possible level.


Spend time with your guarantee. Think about it as a central element in your direct mail. How can you make it stronger? More dramatic? A benefit for customers? Your options are unlimited.


Dean Rieck is president of DRC, Columbus, OH. His e-mail address is dean_rieck@ compuserve.com.
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