The 3-W’s of a Compelling Guarantee

A while back, I got direct mail selling software. Or rather, it was trying to. It didn’t do a very good job … all because of the guarantee.

I was half sold on buying, but I wasn’t convinced. I’ll be honest; I hadn’t read the letter thoroughly. I skimmed it as I often do at first. In skimming it, I didn’t see a guarantee.

On second skim, I missed it again. The third time — on a thorough reading — I found the guarantee. There it was at the bottom of the last page, 9-point type, in a footnote.

Simply by the guarantee’s placement, without even reading it, I knew one thing. This company didn’t want me to see it. They didn’t want me to return the software. They didn’t want to lose money on a return.

So, instead of losing money on a return, they lost my sale.

What’s wrong with these guys? Don’t they know? Don’t they understand what a guarantee really is?

A guarantee is NOT a promise to return the prospect’s money

Learn from these marketing numbskulls. If you think your guarantee is simply a promise to give your prospect back his money, you’re missing the guarantee’s true power.

So, why offer a guarantee? It’s the right thing to do. It’s honorable. It’s fair.

But most important, your guarantee gives the final push that cements your sale. I’ve seen this crucial part of a promotion treated like a forgotten stepchild so many times it’s obvious many experienced copywriters — B- and C-level copywriters, that is — don’t know the 3-W’s of the guarantee: WHY … WHAT … and WHERE.

WHY: It’s all about credibility and trust

The guarantee provides one of your last chances to establish credibility with your prospect. It gives you one more opportunity to build a strong sense of trust — right at the point where doubts are starting to creep in.

By the time the prospect gets to the end of your letter, he’s almost ready to buy (or he would have tossed the letter). He needs just a bit more convincing. More important, his fears of being ripped off and ridiculed need to be put to rest. He needs it done smoothly and honestly.

When he reads a well-written guarantee, your prospect tells himself, “Well, if I don’t like the product, I can always get my money back.” This eases some of his fears of being cheated. But, he goes a bit further.

“And,” he continues, “if they didn’t think the product worked, they wouldn’t be offering my money back. They must really think it’s good.” And, the stronger the guarantee, the stronger this feeling grows.

At this stage, he’s put his fears of being cheated aside. He senses he’s now in control. And, it’s strengthened his trust in you.

Finally, he says, “And, if my wife gives me any grief about spending $69, I’ll tell her that I can always get my money back. That should satisfy her long enough so she’ll forget about it.” Good-bye ridicule, doubt, and regrets.

WHAT: Leave all doubts behind

The guarantee is definitely NOT one of those cases where shorter is better. Of course, you don’t want to ramble. But, you do want to take as much time as you need to make your prospect feel comfortable.

Take enough space so you can truly convince your prospect you do care about his satisfaction … and how he thinks of you. (Trust is a two-way street). Two or three short paragraphs are usually enough.

Avoid token guarantees that say: “And, if you’re not convinced X-omel is all we say it is, we’ll give back your money.” How does this convince your prospect you’re an honorable person? What it really says is whoever wrote the letter felt he had to stick a guarantee in — so here it is.

Several years ago, I wrote a guarantee that worked well for the promotion. “When I was growing up, a man’s handshake was as good as any piece of paper a lawyer could write. I miss those days when a man’s word was his bond. So, here’s my ‘handshake.’ Here’s my promise that you will …”

I then gave a brief summary of the product’s core promise and explained the terms of the guarantee.

This worked because the promotion spoke about how we currently live in an era of distrust. The prospect universe was almost entirely men over 55, men who remember the good old days of the handshake-promise.

If your client will allow, make the terms of the guarantee as strong as possible. If you offer a 30-day guarantee, your prospect’s clock starts ticking immediately. He’s wary. Uneasy. “Return” sits in the forefront of his mind every time he uses your product.

But switch to 60-day, 90-day, or lifetime guarantee, the clock stops. The prospect enjoys the product without worrying about returning it. Plus, he feels you must really believe in it to offer such a generous guarantee.

Testing bears this out. The more liberal the terms (for good products), the fewer returns.

Oh yes, don’t forget to include reassurances like “no questions asked,” or “no hassle,” and “you keep all of the free gifts … our thank you giving us a try.”

WHERE: Show you’re proud of your guarantee

You don’t want to hide your guarantee. The best place for it is in your main letter. You can repeat it elsewhere like the order device, buckslip, or P.S. But, your letter is where the guarantee has the most immediate impact, strength, and importance.

Now, it must be said that if you haven’t identified the core complex and written a strong, compelling sales letter, no guarantee — no matter how well-written — will make the sale.

But, a convincing, irresistible guarantee will increase your credibility, cement your prospect’s trust, and increase your sales.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
No ratings yet
Published: January 16, 2012

1 Response to “The 3-W’s of a Compelling Guarantee”

  1. Hi Will,

    Thanks for your very helpful article. I'm especially grateful for your comments on writing a longer guarantee in order to give prospects a fuller sense of what it really means, and more confidence as a result.

    In light of this, I'm perplexed by something I've noticed before about one of the AWAI trainers - Heather Lloyd Martin. I'm quite interested in her SEO copywriting course, but am put off by her 24-hour money-back guarantee. Doesn't she know better?

    Thanks again,



Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)