How To Think About Writing Compelling Guarantees That Won’t Cost You The Company

On LinkedIn, a copywriter was recently asked if he could guarantee his copy would get more business. He said no, but was worried he should have said yes.

I told him he did the right thing (we cannot control other people unless we lie, cheat, or steal).

But one person replied “of course you should give a guarantee”, followed by “Literally every offer on the internet has a guarantee.” (side note: ‘literally’ is a good example of a pointless adverb).

In internet marketing circles, almost everyone offers a money-back guarantee. They use sentences such as “We take all the risk”, which is not exactly the truth – if whatever is being bought fails to work, then the buyer has lost time AND money – the money could have been spent elsewhere on something that worked (money back guarantees don’t take away all the risk).

To get closer to the truth, we can use the rhetorical tool of reductio ad absurdum. Here’s a fictitious offer:

“Give me $10k and if I don’t give you back $12k, I’ll give you the $10k back. Sound good?”.

But why not go a stage further:

“Give me $10k and if I don’t give you back $12k, I’ll give you your $10k back plus another $1k for wasting your time. Sound good?”.

Guarantees work because statistics show that most people fail to claim them. But every now and again, companies go too far.

In 1992 the British division of Hoover offered free flights for anyone buying a £100 washing machine. They nearly went bankrupt (it cost them £50m and the British division of Hoover had to be sold).

Guarantees only win trust if you first trust the company, so building trust comes first (the proof of this is that even if an offer is free, people won’t necessarily take it up – try giving away money by approaching strangers in the street).

Real people don’t want guarantees, they want results. They’d like some kind of guarantee as reassurance, but it’s not their priority.

They don’t want to waste time OR money. That’s the two main objections every piece of copy has to overcome. Don’t just add guarantees because everyone says you should. Think about them and why they might be necessary in the context of your offer (if the only thing an offer has going for it is a guarantee, it’s not an offer worth having).

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