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Message & Media : Satisfaction Guaranteed

6 examples of the profitable power of a promise

November 2012 By Pat Friesen
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The simplest, most effective way to diffuse buying objections is with a simple, straightforward guarantee.

Having an unconditional promise of 100 percent customer satisfaction can be the difference between making a first-time sale to a customer who becomes a very loyal (and profitable) customer … or not.

A no-risk guarantee entices fence-sitters to jump off the fence and comparison-shoppers to choose you over the competition. It's a key element of your offer as part of what you're willing to give in exchange for response.

If you don't have a guarantee, you should. And if you do have a guarantee and don't promote it—shame on you.

There's nothing worse than making a prospective customer hunt for your guarantee. This is someone who WANTS to spend money with you but needs reassurance about your credibility. Your guarantee should be easy to find; whether it's on your website, in your store or in a direct mail piece.

Aaron Montgomery Ward, mail order pioneer, recognized the power of the guarantee in 1875 when he introduced his company's policy of "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back." It was his way of reassuring rural customers accustomed to shopping in dry goods stores—not by mail—they could trust his catalog as a reputable source of quality products. With a solid guarantee aimed at diffusing doubters, he built a mail order business that sold everything from clothing to barbed wire, saddles, windmills, and even steam engines—the of its time.

During the past 137 years, the guarantee has become a staple of marketers using all channels—mail order, TV, e-commerce, you name it!

Here are six interesting examples of guarantees, some with intriguing elements you may want to incorporate into your own.

1. Diffuse the "but" objection. Here's a guarantee that resolves one of the biggest concerns of homeowners involved in painting projects. It's the "BUT what if I really don't like the color once it's on all four walls?" objection. Valspar Paint understands this concern and also knows its product is a commodity marketed by many. That's why the paint company developed the "Love Your Color" guarantee. In addition, showcasing it on its website home page—"If you don't love the color, have another on us" —Valspar also promotes the guarantee in broadcast, print, and even on YouTube!

2. Stand apart from the competition. How many plumbers are there in your city and how much time have you wasted waiting for one of them to show up to fix your plumbing problem? What if a plumber promised to be on time or he would pay you for your time lost? Benjamin Franklin Plumbing—"The Punctual Plumber"—does just that. The guarantee sets them apart with this promise: "If there's any delay, it's you we pay. If we're not on time, we pay you $5.00 per each minute late up to $300." What reinforces the attention-grabbing value of this guarantee is its specificity. And, no surprise, it's even featured on the back of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing trucks.

3. Don't let your lawyer write it. The best guarantees are short, to the point, and without asterisks or legalese. When it comes to having the shortest, most unconditional guarantee on record, Lands' End wins hands-down with "Guaranteed. Period." To prove the retailer means what it says, the Lands' End website recounts the following story:

As you'd expect, over the years our guarantee has been put to the test. We've been given countless opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to customer satisfaction and our willingness to stand behind the products we sell—though none more demonstrative than the return and refund of an original London taxi. Featured on the cover of our 1984 holiday catalog, the taxi was purchased for $19,000 by a Kansas native as a gift for her husband (an avid car collector). In 2005, her husband contacted Lands' End and expressed interest in returning the car for a full refund. Of course, we obliged—because whether your purchase includes a tote or a taxi, your satisfaction is Guaranteed. Period.

4. Guarantees work for intangibles, too. If you're an insurance marketer, you may think guarantees don't apply. Think again. A guarantee answers the question, "But what if I change my mind?" And if you're making a significant purchase, such as life insurance, you may need or want to change your mind.

The question is, "Can I do it?" Life insurance companies often offer a 10- to 30-day "free look" during which you can return your policy or certificate for a full refund of premiums paid. While this may (or may not) be required by some state insurance commissions, it does address a potential buying objection and can be promoted as such.

5. Add value. Here's a guarantee that adds value by addressing the objection, "What if I don't get the results I need?" Green Training USA, a provider of training for contractor certification programs, offers Success Guaranteed Results. "If You Don't Pass Your Certification Exam the First Time—No Worries! You can retake the Green Training USA online class for FREE." This guarantee has the potential of being worth hundreds of dollars.

6. Be bold. You may have thought the entire product category of ink-on-paper planner/organizers was passé, but it's alive and well at the Planner Pad Company. Take a look this no-risk guarantee made by the Planner Pad Organizer. Bill Crosson, company president, states:

I guarantee the Planner Pad organizer will help you be more organized and productive both at work and in your personal life. If for any reason you're not 100% satisfied at any time in the first 6 months, just return your Planner Pad organizer and I'll refund the entire product price. No questions asked.

In a recent mailing, this guarantee was featured on the front and back of the outer envelope, in the sales letter and product brochure, as well as on the order form.

So, what's in your guarantee? Whatever you say, don't be shy about telling tire-kickers and comparison-shoppers that you stand behind what you sell and genuinely value your customers' satisfaction.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter and creative strategist writing for online and traditional media. Reach her at (913) 341-1211, or by visiting Also find her at


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