Lesson 6: How to write a guarantee that increases trust & rapport
All about your guarantee
You’ll write more this week than you did last week. But to keep your lizard brain lulled, you won’t be writing heaps more. We’re going to turn up the heat slowly — you won’t even notice your writing abilities coming to the boil, but by the end of this course you’ll flick out a landing page in a day without batting an eyelid.
We’re going to work this week on your guarantee — which will also teach you the second of the 4 Cs: candor.
I don’t always recommend using a guarantee. But on an entry-level offering — which the sales page you’re writing should be — they almost always increase trust, credibility, and the personal rapport Sam feels with you. And because they do this, while also mitigating risk, they increase his chances of responding favorably to your offer.
What a guarantee is (and isn’t)
Or, put another way, why guarantees work (or don’t).
People tend to talk about guarantees in terms of risk reversal — the “risk” being monetary loss. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that your guarantee is just there to reassure Sam that he can get his money back if he isn’t happy.
But hopefully you’re remembering the value pyramid, and have spotted the problem with this: Sam isn’t necessarily measuring risk just in terms of money.
Let me suggest that monetary risk reversal is more of a means than an end. To wit:
Typical guarantee: gives Sam confidence that he can get his money back if he is unhappy. Objective: reduce FUD.
Your guarantee: uses risk-reversal as an opportunity to give Sam confidence that he won’t be unhappy in the first place. Objective: build trust, thus reducing FUD into the bargain.
You see the subtle difference there? Given the value pyramid, we don’t want to focus on money. We want to focus on what Sam really values. Sure, he likes to be confident that he can get his money back. But he really likes to be confident that he won’t be put in the awkward or confrontational situation of needing to get his money back. That isn’t to say you should avoid speaking of money — just that you should put it in the right perspective. As one student of this program observed, you want to think of your guarantee in three facets:
Your financial guarantee (which is all most people do);
Your time & effort guarantee;
Your emotional guarantee.
Brainstorming these three angles will help you come up with a guarantee that outshines just about anything Sam is accustomed to seeing.
Why most guarantees don’t build trust & rapport
The thing about guarantees is that they almost always look like boilerplates. In particular, they suffer from two major problems:
Most guarantees are generic
You could often swap the guarantees from Guru 1’s Product X onto Guru 2’s Product Y, and no one would even notice. Any time you can take someone else’s copy and slap it on your own product, you’re in trouble. I see this all the time on websites everywhere — but it’s particularly bad to see on guarantees, because they should pull so much weight.
Remember in lesson 1 how I said that you must avoid being generic? When Sam thinks he has seen something before, he switches off. Rather than even skim your copy, he’ll just skip it.
But this is only half the problem. Even if he reads it carefully, the glaring issue with a boilerplate guarantee is that it uses bland, quasi-legal language. It is utterly impersonal.
You may have heard (once or twice, I expect) that Sam doesn’t buy from websites; he buys from people. Specifically, from people he likes and trusts. So copy that fails to build a personal connection is copy that fails to do its primary job. Your guarantee is an excellent place to let your own personality shine through. A place to help Sam feel like he gets you, and like you get him.
Most guarantees are “C-average students”
Because legal departments are often involved with writing them, and lawyers are not known for their willingness to concede an inch more than necessary, most guarantees blandly offer only the most basic protections required by law. They’re like apathetic teenagers who only do the minimum work required to get a passing grade at school, rather than going above and beyond.
So even though most guarantees are supposed to reverse the risk for Sam, they manage to come across as self-serving and indifferent to his interests.
This has the effect of making Sam ho-hum about guarantees in general, to the point where you have to work at getting him to notice that you’re offering him something unusual. (If he doesn’t notice, your guarantee is worthless — you might as well chop it off and shorten your copy.)
How, then, should you write a guarantee?
You can see how the two factors above (generic + indifferent) work together to create a rather poor effect. You want to achieve the opposite: a standout guarantee that connects with Sam personally, and shows him that you really care for his interests rather than your own.
This is much easier when you are focusing on your true objective, which hopefully you recall is to help Sam make a good decision; rather than your instinctive false objective, which is to persuade him to buy.
Treat your guarantee as a product
I call this a “branded guarantee.” The idea is to imagine your guarantee as a mini-product in its own right. You give it a name that reflects your broader brand or messaging. This name, and the guarantee as a whole, should emphasize how you are trying to help Sam make a wise decision; thus, if you fail, it’s your fault and you will take the heat.
I realize this is abtruse, so let me give you a specific example that I have used in the past:
My No-Horseplay, 10-Minute/Lifetime Guarantee
This product has a very simple guarantee. I believe in its value to you. But I don’t believe you should have to risk anything if I happen to be wrong, and I don’t believe in mucking you around.
So here’s what I reckon:
Download it now. Open it immediately and spend just 10 minutes checking it out.
If after 10 minutes you’re not firmly convinced you can use it to make back at least ten times what you paid — please, email me right away, and I will return your money. Calmly, quietly, without question.
Plus you can keep the product, free. So you risk nothing.
But if you do believe, after those 10 minutes, that you got a good deal...you are still covered by a guarantee...forever.
As long as I’m still kicking, you can get in touch with me at any time to ask for your money back, and I’ll send you a refund without hesitation. So if, at any point in your entire life, you get a nagging feeling in your tummy that tells you this product was not worth what you paid for it, you just let me know and I will refund your money. No questions, no fuss, no bullshit — I’ll simply give you back every cent. (If I happen to kick the bucket before you do, then sorry, all bets are off!)
Let’s deconstruct the major concepts here:
1. Unusual name
I play on the paradoxical concept of a 10-minute lifetime to get Sam’s attention here. You don’t need to be paradoxical—you just need to make it obvious that your guarantee has a special name because it is a special guarantee.
2. Frank language
If there is anywhere in your copy to speak candidly, it is here. Next lesson, we’ll go into this deeply. For now, notice that I develop my personal connection with Sam by writing like I talk. I use idioms, colloquialisms, even a bit of vulgarity and humor to emphasize that this is a thoughtful offer from one human being to another. (I’ll note in passing that although the term bullshit is not terribly rude in NZ, where I live, I would not use it now. Sanctification is an ongoing process, innit.)
3. Helping Sam out
I encourage Sam to act in his own best interests — and also at cross-purposes to mine if my interests are actually to make a buck rather than to help him. It would be natural for me to encourage him to take his time checking out the product — not to push him into a quick decision about its value. (The longer he takes, the less likely he is to do it at all.) It would be natural for me to say to him, if he came after 10 minutes asking for his money back, “But Sam, you’ve hardly looked at it! That’s not fair. Why should I refund you when you’ve barely bothered to examine what I’m offering — let alone implement it?” So I am showing my confidence, while simultaneously illustrating my trust in Sam’s own judgment, and my willingness to let him decide what is fair.
Btw, a couple of people have taken me up on this guarantee, and it always turned out that they could easily decide within 10 minutes. Usually they were too advanced for what I was teaching, and I was happy to refund them.
4. Ballsy terms
You might be afraid to offer a lifetime guarantee, or to make it unconditional. Don’t be. Not only does this vastly increase Sam’s confidence in you — because it increases your perceived confidence in yourself — but it statistically reduces refund requests, provided you filter out bottom-feeders beforehand. The rest of your funnel will do this.
It sounds weird that longer guarantees reduce refunds, until you consider Sam’s lizard brain. Remember how lazy Mr. Lizard is? Yeah. So what do you think he will do if he knows he has unlimited time to ask for a refund? That’s right — he will put it off...often for an unlimited time.
5. Turning the guarantee into an offer
You see that I explicitly called out a 10× ROI as part of my guarantee. This effectively turns the guarantee into a place where I can reiterate a key benefit — where I can re-state my offer. It doesn’t have to be the main benefit; it doesn’t have to be the same angle you take in the rest of your copy. You can use the guarantee as an occasion to call out a second benefit or angle, especially if you have trouble finding a place for it elsewhere. But you can also link directly back to the promise made in your headline or throughout your body copy. The important thing is that you do offer something. That refocuses Sam on the value to him.
What should you guarantee?
The sales page you’re writing at the moment should be offering Sam either a product, a consultation, or a continuity (like a web service, newsletter or repeating product). I really don’t suggest offering a personalized service like web design or life coaching. If that’s your bread-and-butter, you should offer Sam a consultation first, because you really need to sit down and talk to him about his specific needs anyway before you can quote. You should be selling this initial sit-down on your sales page — not the service itself.
You can guarantee products, continuities, or consultations using the pattern I’ve described above. You’d simply offer Sam a full refund at any time. But try to be creative about the conditions. You can get imaginative here and challenge yourself.
Perhaps you could say that if Sam doesn’t have five useful new ideas at the end of your consultation, you will return his money.
You could be fuzzier — guaranteeing improved clarity, for instance.
Offering a specific target ROI or other benchmark can also be a strong way to show your confidence. For instance, if you’re offering an online advertising service, you could tie your guarantee to Sam’s getting a certain number of leads per month.
Even a simple product can have imaginative guarantees that get Sam’s attention and help focus him on your value. For example, if you’re selling women’s hats, you could ask Sam to inspect her hat when it arrives, and if she finds even one frayed stitch, you will send her a replacement.
A note if you’re selling continuity: Sam is probably worried about getting locked in. With that in mind, you should be very clear and up-front about the terms of subscription so he doesn’t have any nasty surprises later, or any uncertainty before signing up.
You won’t be doing any writing just yet. We still need to go into more detail on how to write. Today, I’d just like you to brainstorm the following:
What are some ways you can guarantee Sam’s financial investment, plus his investment of time and effort, plus his emotional investment?
How can you “productize” or brand your guarantee? Try to come up with some ideas for names, and/or words you could put together into names, that reflect your personality, your offer, and your existing brand if you have one.
What are some things you can suggest Sam do with your offer, that will help him test its value?
What kinds of terms can you offer? I suggest a minimum of a lifetime full refund (30–60 days is simply insipid in most cases). But can you go further? For instance, can you offer double his money back if you fail to meet some condition? Be as brave as possible.
How can you turn the guarantee into an offer that emphasizes a particular benefit to Sam? Look at the brainstorm you did in lesson 1 and see if there are any points of value that you can play up here.