The art of winning costumers by giving away outrageous guarantees

The first time I saw tasting spoons at an ice creamery, I finally realized just how truly risk averse we all are. Potential ice cream buyers hold up a queue of people behind them while they taste test several flavors with tiny plastic spoons. All this is to ensure that the flavor of ice cream they finally commit to buying doesn’t disappoint.

Risk reversal in the form of an outrageous guarantee means that if the product or service doesn’t work out for the prospect, you’re the one who’ll have something to lose rather than them. This needs to be more powerful than something ordinary and lame like “money back guarantee” or “satisfaction guaranteed.” By having something to lose if it doesn’t work out, you have an easier path to the sale and you’ll much more easily avoid alarm bells set off in your prospect’s brain.

Here’s a practical example. If I want to hire an IT company for my business, what sort of things might I fear? Here are a few items that immediately come to mind:

  • Are they going to send some junior technician who’ll fluff about for hours as he learns on the job while I get billed a premium hourly rate for the privilege?
  • Are they going to be available when I urgently need support?
  • Will the problems they fix continue to recur?
  • Are they going to bamboozle me with geek speak when I request an explanation of work performed or needed?

A risk reversal guarantee for this type of business might look like: “We guarantee that our certified and experienced IT consultants will fix your IT problems so they don’t recur. They’ll also return your calls within fifteen minutes and will always speak to you in plain English. If we don’t live up to any of these promises, we insist that you tell us and we’ll credit back to your account double the billable amount of the consultation.” Compare that with a weak and vague promise like “satisfaction guaranteed.”

To be truly effective when using this technique, you must avoid the vague crap that everyone says; for example, satisfaction guaranteed, service, quality, dependability. Your guarantee should be very specific and address the fear or uncertainty that the prospect has about the transaction.

For example, if you’re in the pest control business, your customers want to know that:

  • The pests won’t come back
  • The technician won’t leave their house dirty
  • Their family and pets won’t be poisoned by the chemicals

So your outrageous guarantee could be something like this:

We guarantee to rid your home of ants forever, without the use of toxic chemicals, while leaving your home in the same clean and tidy condition we found it. If you aren’t absolutely delighted with the service provided, we insist that you tell us and we’ll refund double your money back.

Is this kind of guarantee risky? Only if you consistently do a crappy job. If you are committed to giving your customers excellent service and training your staff accordingly, then there is almost zero risk for you. More importantly there’s also almost zero risk for your prospects, which makes closing sales much easier. Indeed the law even require that you provide warranties on the quality of your products and services and make things right if they fall short. Given this is likely already a legal requirement, why not up the ante and make it a feature you promote in your marketing?

Here’s the other thing about guarantees. If you’re an ethical operator, you are most likely already offering a guarantee but you just aren’t using it to your advantage in your marketing. So why not make a point of talking about something that you’re already doing? Most people are honest and won’t abuse guarantees, especially if they’ve receive the service they were promised. Even after accounting for the few people who do abuse them, you’ll be far ahead because a strong guarantee will attract more customers than a weak and vague one.

A smart entrepreneur will look at their business from the eyes of a fearful, skeptical prospect and reverse all the perceived risks so that the path to the sale is much smoother. This also results in customers who are much more sticky and who won’t fall for your competitors, who by comparison seem much more risky to deal with.

A strong, results-oriented guarantee will also drive you to deliver a great customer experience. This alone ensures that it’s worthwhile to have a strong guarantee. Your customers have their own fears. When you can name the fears and guarantee against them in your marketing, you give yourself an overwhelming advantage over your competitors.

A marketing consultant trying to write on subjects ranging from persona; finance to child psychology. As founder of Marketing Realm, I help businesses grow.