Hack #1: Your Guarantee Must FEEL Risky to Increase Sales


‘Cause guarantees are a “Risk Reversal” technique.

Normally, the buyer takes the risk by handing over her money and accepting the possibility that the product or service may not satisfy or be “as advertised.”

A guarantee reverses that risk back to the seller, hence “risk reversal.”

So if a guarantee is supposed to place risk on your business, but it doesn’t feel risky…

Then it’s not doing its job.

You’ve hedged your bet with too many exceptions, caveats, provisos, etc.

That fine print BS reduces risk for you while killing the assurance it’s supposed to offer the prospective buyer.

Big, powerful, no-loophole guarantees feel risky because they leave you vulnerable to bad actors.

Yet those very guarantees are the ones that create business empires out of a mom & pop startups.

Think Sears, Cabela’s, LL Bean, Domino’s Pizza, and others who were bold enough to offer no-loopholes, satisfaction / money-back guarantees.

The trick to this is two-fold:

First, realize that most customers are unreasonable AND fair at the same time.

As opposed to reasonable and unfair, which is what most business owners believe.

Unreasonable means they want what they want when they want it.

Tasty hot food on-demand, without a wait after ordering is unreasonable. But the drive-thru fast food business model satisfies it.

Free two-day or even next-day delivery is unreasonable. But Amazon satisfies, etc.

An absolute guarantee of satisfaction is unreasonable. But SEARS, Cabela’s, and LL Bean satisfied that need.

So customers are unreasonable. But the vast majority of them are fair.

Yes, there are some unprincipled knuckleheads who’ll take advantage of your good-faith offer. Customers bringing boots or backpacks back to LL Bean after ten years and claiming they weren’t satisfied. That kind of thing.

But they’re a tiny percentage of the populace. And so long as you budget for the “knucklehead factor,” you’ll be fine.

In fact, you’ll probably find that you over-budgeted.

Hack 2: Realize the Buyer’s Risk Goes Beyond Money

Buying the wrong thing — and especially the wrong service — comes with greater risks than just wasted money.

There are also time and opportunity costs, along with risks to one’s reputation or self-image.

So money-back alone may not be enough to move the needle.

What helps in this case is reputation.

A money-back guarantee from a company that feels scammy, isn’t nearly as powerful as one from a blue-chip brand with a strong reputation for quality.

The greater the risk, the more important reputation becomes.

And the fastest way to build reputation is to allow people to understand your motivations.

What emotional itch drives you to do what you do in the way that you do it?

In other words, tell your origin story, then make the guarantee an expression of your thumos — a personal act of accountability to your self-professed mission.

Remember, guarantees — like other differentiators — are easily copied, while your personal story and brand personality will always remain unique to you.

So don’t rely on your guarantee to do the work of branding for you. Brand first, and use the guarantee as the seasoning, not the stew.

Hack #3: Word Your Guarantee as an “If, Then” Statement

“If our service doesn’t unclog your drain and restore flow, your cabling job is free.”

“If we can’t restore heat same-day, we’ll take $350 off your repair bill.”

Note how these guarantees are written as classic “If, Then” statements.

IF [we can’t deliver the promised performance / benefit],

THEN we’ll make it up to you by [providing some refund, discount, or other make-good benefit]

Both parts of the guarantee are important, but the second part — the THEN part (aka the “or what” part) — is the most important.

This gets back to the first Hack. Your guaranteed make-right has to feel risky.

Don’t wimp out with a lackluster “THEN.”

Waived service fees, small-dick discounts, or non-value ad bonuses won’t cut it. Go big!

Hack #4: Openly Advertise Your Failure

Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.”

No business is operationally perfect. So a big, bold, risky guarantee means you’ll end up paying the piper from time to time.

Real guarantees WILL cost you — if they didn’t they wouldn’t be powerful enough to attract customers.

Of course, your ROI will dwarf the costs, but still, the costs are real.

So use that to your advantage. Because if the costs are real, then so is the guarantee.

This means the best way to convince people that your guarantee is real and your product or service is the honest goods is to advertise those times when you had to pay up.

Not only will this shock your audience, it’ll be persuasive as heck.

Want an example?

You better believe that ad cut through the clutter, created high-impact word of mouth, and brought in a ton of new business.

Hack #5: Tie Your Guarantee to Your Character & Brand Values

You want your guarantee to be a manifestation of your brand values, which, in turn, should be based on your personal ethos.

In other words, you tell your Origin Story to establish who you are as a person and what emotional itch drives you to do what you do in the way that you do it.

Then transform your guarantees from a straight-up pitch into a proof point that you really do believe what you say you believe — and have the thumos to put your money where your mouth is.

Go back and re-listen to that James Sylvestre Enterprises ad and you’ll hear this in action.

The guarantee is made to be more of a personal promise based on hard-wired values than a simple business proposition.

How Do Your Guarantees Measure Up?

And that’s it — five hacks for powerful, lead-generating guarantees.

How do your guarantees stack up?