In copy, the words “free” and “guaranteed” are both powerful and weak… both easily understood and completely misunderstood… and both essential to successful advertising and a good way to murder your sales message.
The problem — and the solution — is in a small detail that most rookies miss.
That detail is… proof.
Both words have been so overused and misused that, all alone in a piece of copy, they are pretty much meaningless. Even the most gullible prospects today know that a simple declaration that something is “free” doesn’t mean it’s actually free of strings. It’s free when you buy this. Free when you’ve saved up enough coupons. Free as long as you meet these requirements.
Same with “guarantee”. I see this a LOT when I critique copy for rookies — the word gets tacked onto the end of the headline, followed by an exclamation mark. As if the pure power of the word is so staggering, they’re risking the wrath of God just writing it down like that.
But they seldom explain what the guarantee is. And so it is meaningless bragging… much like that uncle who gets drunk at family gatherings and starts yelling to make his point during an argument.
Yelling is not being bold and convincing. It’s just yelling.
Smart writers know their reader is skeptical of these words… and immediately (as in the next sentence) explain what they mean by “free” or “guranteed”. Or at least allude to that explanation — so the reader knows the details are forthcoming.
The concept of the guarantee is the easiest to screw up. You make a promise to your reader, and then say you guarantee it. But what does that mean? Many writers use the word to imply that they are so confident, they will use the most powerful word they know to punctuate their promise.
But if there’s no meat behind the guarantee — if the consequences of NOT fulfilling the promise are not spelled out — then the word becomes limp baggage in your pitch.
The concept of the guarantee is all about reversing the risk in the deal. Instead of the prospect shouldering the burden of how good your product is… YOU take on all the risk. And not just with bragging — with real money, or a real promise of something that helps convince the reader he actually doesn’t risk anything if he gives your product the old “look see”.
At the very least, you need to guarantee a prompt refund. Even better, explain how there are no hoops to jump through, either — no forms to fill out, no questions asked, no delay. Even better, sweeten the deal so that he gets to keep most or all of the stuff even if he decides he wants a refund.
That’s what a truly confident salesman does.
And give him a long time to think it over, without penalty. The basic 30-day money-back guarantee helps to make the prospect feel safe, but still seems like he’s being rushed a bit. Ninety days is better. Six months is even more calming. And a year… well, the risk just evaporates when you know you have a full year to examine something before deciding if you want to keep it.
I even throw in a line, sometimes, about being able to return the product “in any condition”… so the prospect can actually use it during his guarantee period without worrying about having his refund denied. Sometimes I even insist that he return it beaten up and bruised.
That’s what shows real confidence. (“Why do I insist you use it as if you own it? Because I know that, once you see it in action, you won’t part with it for any amount of money…”)
Take away ALL the risk. Every scrap.
What’s more… in my experience, having a few “strings” attached to just how free anything is… is acceptable to most readers, as long as the conditions are thoroughly and honestly explained. Sure, you need to buy something first… but since you have a long guaranteed refund period on that purchased item, and you can keep the free stuff even if you return everything else to get your money back… well, “free” fits.
It’s all about explaining things honestly, and making your explanation make sense to the reader.
The old saying “he could sell ice to Eskimos” has a deeper meaning — which is: Objections are not a deal-killer to a good salesman. (How hard do you have to consider before buying some clean, fresh-water ice for your evening cocktails, when it’s made clear that all the snow around you is dirty and mixed with sea water? For example.)
If what you offer fits your prospect’s needs or desires… then all that stands between you and a sale is the way you present the deal. You’re selling apples, I’m hungry and I want an apple… but I’m not sure I want YOUR apple. It’s your job to make it seem like a no-brainer to try one of yours.
If I don’t like it after the first bite, I get my money back. And I get to keep the apple anyway.
And you’ll even throw in a free second apple… because that’s the kind of guy you are.
Pleasure doing business with you.
P.S. By the way… I realize the archives of this blog aren’t yet attached. They soon will be… and it’s a lot of good material. Going all the way back to the start, around a year ago. The tech person I’m working with is busy changing the host for this blog… and once that’s done, the archives will go up, too.
P.P.S. Thanks to everyone who sent me an email, glad I wasn’t abducted by aliens or drowned in a freak accident. Next time, though, post your comment here, on the blog. New readers like to see what you think.
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.