What’s the one thing that all businesses have in common?
You guessed it, they exist to generate revenue for someone, whether it be shareholders, co-founders, or small-time owners.
Of course, the issue with generating revenue is that you’re required to convert leads into customers, which is why so many startups and small businesses focus on things like compelling copy, split testing, and email campaigns.
At the end of the day though, no matter how well you court a future customer, there’s really only one thing that they want, and that’s a guarantee that they’ll get something out of the purchase.
Some people want results, some want gratification, and some want happiness, but at the end of the day it all boils down to one thing: avoiding regret.
People simply don’t want to make a purchase that they’ll regret, and saying no is their way of avoiding just that. But you know they won’t regret it; you simply need to prove it to them.
How do you do it? You use a convincing guarantee to silence that objection and get them to take a leap of faith.
Is your guarantee good enough to do that?
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most popular examples and see if we can find out.
1. The Money Back Guarantee
This is probably the most popular guarantee in the world. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s no longer viewed as a benefit, but as a right.
The origins of the money back guarantee go back as long as people have been buying and trading goods…it’s a natural offer.
The problem is that it’s so overused and average that unless your product is extremely valuable (like a car) or easy to return (commodity products, such as retail goods), then you’re going to have an incredibly difficult time overcoming an objection with this guarantee alone.
That being said, it’s certainly better than having no guarantee at all, and if you communicate this well in your sales material, you’ll at least mitigate some of the risk to the buyer.
Chrysler recently tried this with their line of automobiles, but recalled it a few short months later. Almost every existing retail establishment, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, chain book stores (brick and mortar), Amazon, and Apple (online) offer a guarantee of this caliber, but most of the time, it’s hidden in the fine print, which is a poor idea.
Instead, take the example of Rockable Press and make the benefit clear and concise. You’ll have a much higher success rate as a result.
2. The Risk-Free Guarantee
This is a close relative of the money back guarantee because it’s essentially the same thing, the only difference being the context surrounding it.
Risk free guarantees work best with high cost products, services, recurring billings, and products with amazing, but yet to be proven claims, such as the ShamWow and/or a variety of Internet Marketing products.
A risk-free guarantee, which has been used by everyone from Frank Kern to Billy Mays, gives your customer a chance to try something before they buy, or at least commit to buying.
SEOMoz offers a risk-free guarantee for their SEO services, as quoted in this line of their pricing and signup page:
“If for any reason you’re not satisfied with your membership, simply e-mail [email protected] during your first 30 days and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.”
The great thing about a guarantee like this is that it pushes people over the hump and moves them from “I’m considering it,” to “what the heck, I’ll try it.”
3. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
This is the hallmark of the new generation, and is a great take on both the risk-free and the money back guarantee.
How does it work?
Instead of simply offering a customer’s money back or giving them a chance to try before they buy, you create an offer that’s advantageous to both the customer and your business.
A 100% satisfaction guarantee not only guarantees that the customer will be happy, but also guarantees that you’ll get another chance to save the sale by offering an exchange or 2nd chance effort.
From a customer’s perspective, you’re not only reducing risk, but you’re reducing it almost completely. You’re guaranteeing a result, which as we talked about earlier, is the most important aspect of the conversion. You’re guaranteeing their satisfaction, which in turn negates the opportunity for regret.
It’s a win-win.
For a company like Inkd, which expends a tremendous amount of creative resources during the logo design process, the satisfaction guarantee gives them a chance to keep working until they get it right.
Hampton Inn, managed by Hilton Hotels, offers a similar guarantee for their rooms. If you aren’t satisfied, you don’t have to pay. Being that they trust in their overnight experience, they can offer this guarantee, knowing that 99% of the people won’t use it.
When someone does, they get the feedback they need to improve their experience.
4. The Forever Guarantee
When I was a teenager, I got tired of working for McDonald’s and decided to move into marketing, where I spent 2 years working in direct sales for a company that offered the most incredible guarantee I’d ever seen.
Cutco sold high-priced cutlery that was guaranteed to rock your socks off. The only issue was that most people simply weren’t in the market for high priced cutlery.
However, when I told them that by buying today, they’d never have to buy another knife again, they suddenly re-thought their position. Cutco’s “Forever Guarantee” meant that by buying a set of knives today, they’d save hundreds, if not thousands by never having to buy another.
Most people buy cutlery like they buy pots and pans, which is every few years. Rather than racing to the bottom, Cutco raised prices and improved their guarantee instead.
I can personally attest that this guarantee alone earned me 10-25% increases in revenue, and tens of thousands in sales.
5. Low Price Guarantee
When a lifetime guarantee, or Forever Guarantee, won’t work, consider taking a page out of the Amazon.com playbook, which is to not only offer returns, but offer a low price guarantee right along with it.
If you pre-order an item from Amazon.com, they’ll guarantee that you’ll be charged the lowest price the item has been sold for, rather than the price at the time of purchase.
Furthermore, they guarantee that low-price for 30 days after purchase, meaning that if it goes on sale, you’ll get a refund of the difference.
Another example of this type of guarantee is with retail outlet Best Buy, who offers price matching on any in-store item.
Though it’s slightly more difficult to use this for online info-products and services offered in only one place, it’s a perfect option for online retailers.
6. Free Trial
In an age of freemium business models, the free trial has become not only the norm, but a customer expectation.
Looking at startups, such as Dropbox, Evernote, Mailchimp, and CloudApp, you can see that their approach is to offer a free and premium service, hoping to attract a small percentage of free users into paid users.
Online video host Wistia offers a single service, yet gives new customers a chance to try via a 15-day trial. Online help desk Zendesk offers a 30 day test-drive of their service.
If you’re a small business or startup offering a service, a free-trial might be your best bet for moving leads into your customer development cycle. One thing to note is that the most common trials are those that require no credit-card in order to get started, but you’ll want to use an analytics product to track and split-test conversions of this type.
Outside the Box Guarantees
7. The Extreme Guarantee
You knew it was coming didn’t you? How can I discuss guarantees without mentioning Zappos’ incredible “Free Shipping, Free Returns, Free 365 Day Return Policy?”
Not only can you buy a pair of shoes from Zappos and send them back if you don’t like them, but you can keep them around for a year before deciding to do so!
To sweeten the deal, Zappos even offers to pay for the return shipping, including a label with your original purchase.
This is such an incredible guarantee that you simple can’t ignore it. There are claims of Zappos accepting even slightly worn shoes, knowing that they’ll probably retain a customer for life in the process.
If your product is one that begs to be tested, worn, or played with before purchase, consider using Zappos as an example for how to get it right. Yes, their margins are lower than the average online retailer, but they develop passionate and loyal customers, which is something that can’t be said of other online storefronts.
It’s because of philosophies like this that Zappos does over 1 billion in sales annually.
8. The Double Guarantee
Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and traveler to almost every place on Earth, has decided that a single guarantee isn’t good enough, so he’s gone Billy Mays style and “doubled the offer.”
“If you read the guide, listen to the audio sessions, and put in a good-faith effort, I am not allowed to keep your money if it doesn’t work for you. You have to let me know if this happens, and I have to refund your money promptly. You have 60 days to succeed before I return your money.”
Specifically, I want to ensure that you can earn at least $200 a month ($2,400 a year) in new income through what you learn. Obviously, I want you to do even better than that – but this is the bar of success for the guarantee.
In addition, there is the usual, 365-day guarantee – if it doesn’t rock your world anytime in the next year, just tell me and you get your money back.”
Wow. It’s almost as if he’s begging you to top it. The question is, can you?
Well it works well for Chris, who sold well over six figures of information products in the past year.
9. The $1 Million Service Guarantee
Have you heard of Lifelock, the company that promises to protect your identity at all costs? If you have, you’re probably familiar with founder Todd Davis publicly stating his Social Security Number on TV and Radio, but what you might not be familiar with is their 1 million dollar guarantee, which states:
“LifeLock works to help stop identity theft before it happens by taking proactive steps to reduce your risk. But if you become a victim of identity theft while you are a LifeLock member because of some failure or defect in our service, contact us and we will act on your behalf to repair any damage. We will spend up to $1 million to hire lawyers, investigators, consultants and whatever else it takes to restore your name and help you recover the direct losses from the identity theft.”
That’s a pretty good way to negate risk, wouldn’t you say?
While I don’t recommend giving your SSN away, nor do I recommend backing up with $1 million that you can’t afford, this is a great example of how you can take an ordinary guarantee and make it look infinitely stronger.
The lesson learned in this case is that if you believe in your product, then put your money on the line to prove it. Because of this guarantee, Lifelock earns well over 100 million per year in revenue.
Danielle LaPorte, App Store, PragProg
10. The Zero Guarantee
I know what you’re thinking…”how can this help me improve conversions?”
My answer to you is this: Apple doesn’t seem to have a problem with iTunes, nor does my favorite online bookstore, the Pragmatic Bookshelf.
The truth is that in some cases, you simply can’t offer a guarantee, so rather than omitting one from your sales page, you can take the other road and tell your customers that your products are so great that you don’t offer refunds.
Danielle LaPorte recently did this and earned $11k in 11 hours with this product. It worked not because she acted in defiance, but because of her explanation here.
Why do I like it?
Digital products are abused by serial refunders and non-action takers on a daily basis, and this sort of fearless approach not only shows confidence, but builds it with your audience in the process.
The “I don’t need your refund money” approach creates an atmosphere of exclusivity, and we all know that there’s nothing we want more than that which we cannot have.
It might not work for your product or service, but if you’re brave enough, I’d love to see you try it.
So what’s your company’s return policy, or do you not have a guarantee at all? It’s likely that there’s no perfect guarantee that works for across the board, but hopefully after learning from these examples, you can be a little creative in redefining your approach to the guarantee business.
About the Author: Nathan Hangen is the co-founder of Virtuous Giant, creator of IgnitionDeck, a crowdfunding plugin for WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter via @nhangen.
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