Tools for Creating Great Guarantees

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Hammers, saws, drills, wrenches, chisels - a craftsman's toolbox is packed with all manner of tools. There's a special tool for every job. And the same should be true for you. You should have a marketing toolbox overflowing with all the tools you need to sell your products and services.

One of your jobs is to assure prospects that you are credible and that there is no risk in dealing with you. One of the best tools for that job is the guarantee.

In the first three installments of this series, we've examined general ideas related to dealing with customers, creating direct mail and making compelling offers. Now we turn to tips for creating and using a guarantee in direct mail.

We've covered 27 marketing tools so far, and we pick up with No. 28.

28. Always guarantee your product or service. If you have a good product, stand behind it. A guarantee isn't a burden, it's a boon. It's a powerful marketing tool. A solid guarantee is tangible proof that you're reputable. And it helps lower the perceived risk your prospects feel when considering your offer.

29. Include the basic elements of a solid guarantee. Your guarantee should assure customers of your product quality, spell out your terms clearly and specify a generous time period for evaluation. Stronger guarantees mean stronger sales.

30. Make your guarantee legal. Never, ever use a guarantee that hasn't passed muster in your legal department. Ensure you're not promising something you don't intend to deliver. Ensure what you do promise is legal. And ensure your guarantee will stand up in court if you have any customer complaints down the road.

31. Back up your guarantee fully. If you say it, mean it. And ensure that everyone in your organization understands the guarantee fully, especially telephone operators, complaint handlers, management and anyone else who deals directly with customers.

32. 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, 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.

33. Avoid legal-looking teeny type. Yes, your guarantee should protect you from unscrupulous customers. However, it shouldn't look like a legal document, or you'll alienate all your honest customers. Avoid asterisks and barely legible small type. If you must go into detail, follow the lead of most financial direct marketers and bury it elsewhere in the package. Just don't hide anything your customers should know.

34. Keep your guarantee short and simple. Don't write a novel. Just say it and shut up. Here's the classic guarantee: "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 even offer double their money back. Just keep it short and sweet and readable at a glance.

35. Keep conditions to a minimum. Don't beat up your customers with conditions. Treat them like honest people. Most of them will act that way.

36. Extend your guarantee for as long as possible. Short guarantee periods can help prevent returns, but the reverse logic often works better. Give 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. Instead of 30 or 60 days, how about a one-year guarantee? Or a lifetime guarantee?

37. Make your guarantee a benefit for your customer. No one has to buy from you. Your customers are doing you a favor by making a purchase, not the other way around. So offer your guarantee as just one more solid benefit of dealing with your business. Make it strong enough to persuade the fence sitters to act.

How do these ideas translate into actual guarantees? Let's look at a simple, elegant guarantee from an L.L. Bean 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."

And 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."

Your toolbox should be getting pretty heavy by now. But I assure you it will be far heavier by the time we're finished. Next time, we move on to the envelope and an armload of tools for getting your direct mail package opened. Stay tuned.

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