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Three Core Strategies to Reducing The Perception of Risk

There are, in my mind, three roles of marketing.

The first is to get their attention.

The second is to filter and establish if it’s a fit at all (by going through the three filters of relevance, credibility and value).

The third is to lower the risk of taking the first step (or the next step).

In this blog post, I’d like to delve deep into that third role.

It’s vital. Someone could decide that you are exactly what they are looking for (relevance) and that they trust you (credibility) and even that your offer is a really good deal for the money (value) and yet they still might not buy.

How could this be?

It’s because of this big old, stone wall of risk that lies between you and them.

They are standing there on one side of this very tall wall, with money and a desire to work with you but that wall is too high to scramble over.

So, how do we lower, eliminate or even reverse that wall so it’s a gentle downhill slope towards us? How do we make it easier to say ‘yes’?

Well, I was delving into some old notes of mine and found what follows. I have more thoughts on this and, one day, there may be an eBook on the topic coming but for now, I thought there might be some use in these old notes of almost a decade ago for you.


Core Strategy #1 – Develop a Good Reputation (Word of Mouth Marketing):

Fundamentally, we are talking about word of mouth here.

This is, hands down, the biggest way you can reduce risk – develop a good reputation by doing good work over time.

When people are uncertain they tend to look at what others like them are doing for guidance. Branding & Identity Building is, ultimately, much stronger than any guarantee. Remember: it is more compelling for you to do business with someone who you KNOW will do a good job than with someone who guarantees they will fix it if they screw up.

  1. Endorsements: Getting the endorsement of a hub or influencer in the community. This could also include quotes from experts in print ads, mailings, brochures or commercials
  2. Good Ratings: Getting a top rating by an advisory service, or on something like Yelp or Google Reviews
  3. PR: Experts not employed by you and customers quoted in articles recommending your product or service (PR)
  4. Infomercials: featuring videotaped or audiotaped sessions of experts and peers endorsing a product
  5. Networking: at conferences, associations meetings, or seminars where you can meet people face to face
  6. Hosting events: such as dinner meetings, swap meets, barbecues or rallies mixing customers and prospects.
  7. company president talking in a commercial
  8. Endorsements from people they know and trust. This is likely the most powerful form of risk reversal there is. If it is used in combination with any of the others you will be unstoppable.
  9. Just sticking around long enough can build credibility in many people’s eyes. They feel CERTAIN about you because you’re always there. They see you as consistent and committed to the community you serve.
  10. Credentials/Credibility (years of training, who trained you, # of people served, # of people in your business)
  11. Position yourself as an expert:
    1. Write a book
    2. Lead seminars
    3. Host a radio show
    4. Write a regular column
    5. Get published in respected magazines and journals
  12. Show past results produced
    1. successful case studies – more powerful than testimonials. Compile the stories of the people you’ve helped, and put them into a booklet and use that as your marketing piece. It can be entitled “Stories and solutions to help you conquer….” Or “Personal Triumphs from….”
    2. photos or examples of past work done
    3. being able to show that you don’t have breakdowns in more impressive than promising to fix them when they happen. A friend of mine was calling up the big trucks company Caterpillar and asked what their guarantee was on a particular Earth mover. He was told, “We’ll have replacement parts to you in 24 hours and you’ll be back to work.” Pretty impressive. Then he called their competition Kumatsu and asked the same question. There was a pause on the other end, “ . . . We don’t know – we’ve never had a breakdown.” Sometimes showing them you won’t breakdown may be more powerful than showing them how you’ll clean up the mess. 
  13. Being a “Well known figure” – even if it’s for unrelated things. Speaking at events makes you well known at them = credibility. A friend of mine Selah Koile in Halifax who decided to target leaders in the environmental community for paint jobs. Why? Her business is an eco-friendly painting business. Their endorsement will mean everything. Their endorsement will massively reduce the risk that people perceive and experience.
  14. Second Opinions: “In the small business context, one of the best references you can obtain for a service you offer is to send a customer to a respected peer for a second opinion or critical evaluation. For example, an architect might send a client to a solar expert for confirmation that his design is, in fact, solar efficient. A builder working in an area of earthquake risks can refer potential customers to a soils expert or structural engineer to review her plans.” Marketing Without Advertising
  15. Testimonials of past clients
    1. Full name
    2. Company
    3. Where they’re from
    4. Their phone Number
    5. Credible source
    6. Headlines: take the most powerful statement in the testimonial and put it above the testimonial in a larger font and centered.
    7. Before/After: what did they think about you BEFORE working with you and what do they think now?
    8. Painful stories of how they dealt with problems before hiring you (e.g. “I was in denial and miserable” or “I was in one crappy relationship after another” or “My back was in such pain I lived on pain killers before I saw Dr. Chiropractor . . .”)
    9. Painful stories of how your competition failed them  or screwed them over and how glad they are to have finally found YOU.
    10. What’s unique about you?
    11. Biggest impact/Benefit to your life?
    12. How do we compare to the competition?

Here’s an excerpt from George Silverman’s excellent book, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

“The most expensive and complicated a product is, the more word of mouth comes into play. This is true because these products are more risky in terms of time, money, and potential damage to professional reputation. High ticket products are not as easily tried as simple consumer products. People have to rely on other people’s experience to substitute for all or part of the experience they would get in a trial. Prospects and customers need extreme amounts of reassurance and vicarious experience – the kind that conventional marketing cannot deliver. After all, how do you try a surgeon, or a life insurance agent? In the first case, you can’t let several surgeons cut a little bit and then pick the winner. The only way to try is to try vicariously. The sharing of experience, as we’ve seen earlier, is an often overlooked function of word of mouth. There are only two ways to get experience: directly or indirectly. Now you would think that direct experience–actually trying the product–is the best teacher. But it is often the most costly in time, money, and risk of failure. Also, most people don’t have the resources to try new products fully, in large numbers of situations, which keeps their experience base or sample small. Indirect experience–that is, hearing other people’s experience– is actually much better than direct experience in many ways: Someone else is footing the bill and spending the time, and you can pool the experience of several people so as to have a greater sample. The lack of positive experience with a product is usually the single greatest factor holding it back from greater and faster acceptance.

Direct experience isn’t always the best teacher. Although direct experience has the advantage that it is gathered in the actual situation in which the product will be used, it does have many disadvantages:

    • When you try a product, you are inexperienced (that’s why you are trying to get experience!). You are likely to use the product in an unskilled manner and have negative experiences with it. Of course, this applies not only to sophisticated products such as electronics. Even buying a new car–or even simpler products– can be stressful for most people.
    • These negative experiences are often risky, costly, or damaging to self-esteem and reputation.
    • It is time consuming to try new products.
    • Trying new products yourself can be very unsettling, confusing, disconcerting, embarrassing, and anxiety producing. Many people shun the uncertainty and ambiguity inherent in a direct trial, especially of a new product.

Free trial (sampling, equipment loans, etc.) as powerful as it can be, also has it’s own set of difficulties. There are many things that are impossible or difficult to try or sample, such as life insurance, a new surgical procedure, or any other all-or-nothing major commitments. Often, products that one would think are easy to try, such as new prescription drugs, involve a large perceived risk, which makes people like physicians and pharmacists want to wait, even when you give samples. Also, as many customer packaged-goods marketers have learned, samples and coupons are often used by people who are already customers, thereby cutting into regular sales without stimulating new sales.  

Entrepreneurs, teachers, and many marketers have absolutely no apparent appreciation of or tolerance for [the risks and hassles involved in gaining direct experience].

People are caught in a dilemma. A physician, for instance, will not get experience with a drug unless she has confidence in it, but she can’t get confidence in it unless she has experience in it.

If what holds a product back is the time it takes to get the experience, the problem becomes how to accelerate that experience gathering.

Indirect experience can be better in many ways than direct experience, despite the fact that it doesn’t take place in the exact situation in which the prospect will use the product.

    • It’s safer. For instance, a doctor is–in effect–trying out a new drug on some other doctors’ patients!
    • It provides a larger sample and a broader range of experience: Prospects can talk with more people and get the benefit of more uses of the product than would be likely directly.
    • It is less costly, less time consuming, and less visible.
    • Mistakes aren’t your prospect’s mistakes. She can’t get in trouble, can’t be embarrassed, can’t look foolish, etc.
    • Your prospect can learn from other people’s mistakes.

Imagine that there are 5 levels of ways that people gather experience from most to least powerful:

      1. Direct experience with the product
      2. Experience of peers who are like themselves
      3. Experts’ experience
      4. Scientific journals, studies, panels
      5. Independent rating and opinion services.” 

Core Strategy #2 – Taking Risk On Yourself:

  • Radical Business: I offer all of my live workshops and seminars on a “Pay What You Can” basis.
  • A number of people have gotten very good jobs by using this risk reversing gambit, “Mr. Owner, I would like to work for your company. I know, so do many others. So, here’s what I propose. You let me work for your company for one week (or one month or one year). You won’t pay me a penny during that time. You’ll have a chance to see me in action. After that week I will leave. I will not come back on Monday unless you call me.” What works about this? Well, obviously free labour is a huge piece of it. But think about this: what’s the difference between – “I’ll come in on Monday and if you don’t want to hire me you can send me home.” vs. “I won’t come back unless you call me.” Which is less pressure and risk on the employer?  The second one. It’s virtually all upside for them.
  • 154-Year-Old Hometown Jewelry Store Spreads Holiday Spirit – and Attracts 3,127 New Customers in Just 4 Days With a $90 Marketing Promotion (TYLER, TX) – Since 1850, Murphey the Jeweler has faithfully served its local Tyler, Texas customers with fine custom and stock jewelry as well as repairs and service. But, this holiday season, store owner Shannon Murphey saw signs of slumping sales and knew he needed to do something fast to jumpstart his business. In a dramatic and risky move, Murphey dispatched a fax to local business owners and managers offering to provide free $50.00 gift certificates they could give to all their employees as holiday or end-of-year bonuses. Response to the fax was immediate, and overwhelming. “We couldn’t answer the telephone fast enough,” says Murphey who adds that he has never seen this kind of response in the history of his company. “We had no idea people would react so favorably.” Within just four hours, Murphey and his staff fielded calls from more than fifty-six local business owners and managers requesting the gift certificates. Requests totaled more than 1,700 employee gift certificates on Thursday, the first day of the promotion. The next day, calls kept pouring in and continued on Monday after the weekend. By Tuesday morning, Murphey had seventy-four businesses requesting more than 3,000 gift certificates. Based on average sales information, he expects the certificates to bring in more than $1.5 million in new business for his store, all from a $90 promotion.“People are puzzled at how Murphey the Jeweler can afford to make this offer,” says JP Maroney, a business strategist who advises Murphey, and masterminded the promotion. “In fact, many are skeptical, because it sounds too good to be true. But it’s really simple. We examined three key areas of his business; The lifetime value of a customer, the dollar amount of his average sales transaction, and his profit margins. We then determined that the promotion would pay off above and beyond the risks.” Shannon Murphey is a sixth generation Murphey the Jeweler storeowner. He and his brother, Rick, each independently own their respective stores in the Tyler, Texas area.
  • Personal Best – A seminar company in Calgary, Alberta decided to give away 1500 spaces at their Level 1 weekend seminar for free. They would normally charge $1000 for the weekend, so they were giving away $1.5 million dollars of real value. But, of course, many of these people decided to go onto Levels Two and Three.
  • A lawyer who specializes in helping small businesses sends a letter to her network of clients and friends saying that, in September, she plans to concentrate on incorporations because her new computer program allows her to achieve substantial efficiencies by preprogramming the standard “boilerplate” language. as part of “incorporation month,” she not only offers a free (or low-cost), one-day seminar on the pros and cons of incorporating, but also reduces her normal incorporation fee by $100 to pass along the savings a volume approach allows.– Marketing That Matters
  • Many massage therapists offer free foot massages at the county fair. Tired feet are soon refreshed, and a whole new group of people are introduces to the massage therapist’s business.
  • Restaurant: “I worked with a company that owned a chain of upscale restaurants. On my advice it hired a bunch of high school kids to go around to all the upscale homes in the neighborhood with the following script “Hi. I’m with XYZ Restaurant. We have a special effort going right now to get people like you to become our clients. In fact, we’d like to buy you a dinner at our restaurant as a way of putting our best foot forward.” The kids would then give them a certificate for one free dinner. Others have done this with a “buy one, get one free” approach to ensure that people will bring someone else with them. When someone showed up with one of these certificates, the restaurant staff knew to treat this person like gold. The manager of the restaurant would go over and personally introduce himself to make the person feel special. Who wants to go to a restaurant where you get treated like everyone else when you can go to a restaurant where you get treated like a king? Using myself as an example, let’s see what the lifetime value of a client can be. I eat out four or even five nights per week. I frequent three restaurants whose staff, I have trained to treat me like the ‘frequent diner’ that I am. I make sure they know who I am and that I am a frequent customer. Since I always want to get a table and the finest service, I tip heavily. I even tip a few hundred dollars every Christmas to the manager of my favorite restaurant. If I eat at a restaurant just once per week, spending $100 each time, and I go there for five years, I’m worth more than $25,000 to that restaurant. If you own a restaurant, do your waiters treat their customers like they are worth $25,000 in business or like they are just worth the $25 meal they’re buying that night?” – The Ultimate Sales Machine – Chet Holmes
  • PAYMENT PLANS: “Pay us only $50 now and you can take it home today.”
  • LOSS LEADERS: “The first one is free.” (It works for drug dealers and it can work for you). NOTE: This is not recommended to amateurs of companies in a cash flow crunch because it might take some time to work out the kinks here.
  • WARRANTIES: “If you have any problems over the next five years we will fix it for you at your home for free. 24 hour service guaranteed.” If you’ve got a product that people are paranoid will break down – this is just the ticket.
  • PAY FOR RESULTS NOT TIME: “You pay me nothing now. If the ad copy I write for you increases your profits, all I ask for is 10% of the increase.” NOTE: Only use this if . . .
    1. You are highly competent and confident in your ability to produce results.
    2. You have a valid way of tracking the results.
    3. You have a way to ensure your clients and accountable and trustworthy.
  • TRY BEFORE YOU BUY: “You pay nothing until after you have tried our product for 30 days.”

And, of course, one of the strongest ways you can take risk onto yourself is to…

Offer Strong Guarantees:

Thoughts from Jay Abraham:

“By turning the tables and taking all the risk off the buyer and assuming it yourself, your sales proposition is so much more powerful, appealing, and embraceable that considerably more customers will break out of their paralysis and take advantage of your offer, since there’s no risk on their part to do so.  If you are the first company in your field to assume the risk for the customer, you gain an incredible advantage. Most businesses de-emphasize the guarantee. But make sure you state a long enough term within which the no-risk guarantee is in effect so that the customer feels very secure about his purchase. If you emphasize the no-risk guarantee for a comfortable amount of time and give customers something valuable as a bonus, you’ve probably got a sale.”

Thoughts from Clayton Makepeace:

The stronger your guarantee, the better. One-year guarantees tend to be the most common today. However, I have written Rodale promotions in which you could return a book at anytime in your lifetime for a full refund! Cheaping out is the biggest blunder you can make in a guarantee. Offer a 60-day or 90-day guarantee and you’re going to get a blizzard of refund requests two or three months out. Delay your customer’s decision date for a year, and you’ll find that refunds fall precipitously. Whenever possible, tie your guarantee to your product’s performance. Set a specific benchamark: “XYZ will double your money in gold stocks every three months, or just let me know and I’ll refund every penny you paid.” In cases where you have significant production costs — or when there’s a temptation for shady customers to take advantage of your generosity and get your product for free — you may need to require that the prospect return the product or “the unused portion” in order to exercise his right to a refund.  If on the other hand, you’re selling something that costs very little to produce — a newsletter, for example — you’re better off telling prospects that in the unlikely event they decide to cancel, they can keep everything they’ve received from you completely without cost or further obligation.” 

Thoughts from the bookMarketing Without Advertising (this book is a must read):

“Slip-ups are inevitable in any business. To avoid losing customers (and referrals) over mistakes, you need to establish an effective recourse policy. Providing recourse to customers simply means giving them a way to get a fair resolution of their complaints. It’s almost essential that a small business go out of its way to emphasize its recourse policy.  In a retail business, a reputation for quick exchanges or refunds is a key ingredient to customer loyalty. You will notice that good policies anticipate typical problem areas and establish a procedure to head them off before a dispute arises. The best recourse policies give your customers as much control as possible, as early in the relationship with you as possible. When people feel they are in control from the start, they are less likely to get upset. As you design your recourse policy, ask yourself: What role do my customers play in deciding whether my product or service is substandard? When designing or improving your recourse system, remember that customers care most about:

Promptness: the amount of time it takes–or your customers think it will take–to correct a problem is crucial. Fast resolution of disputes is not good enough if you can think of a way to do it faster.

Responsibility: Is your customer presumed (even implicitly) to be the cause of the problem when a complaint is made? If so, your policy is a poor one. Clearly, the responsibility for dealing with a real or perceived mistake should be on your business.

And ask yourself:

    1. Is your recourse policy clear?
    2. Is it communicated to your customers early and often?
    3. Do your friends, employees, and customers perceive your policy in the way you intended?
    4. Are customers with small complaints really encouraged to bring them to your attention?”

Six More Considerations Around Guarantees:

  1. Totally and completely guarantee the purchase for your client. What does this mean? Identify the most important results that people want from your product or service? Why are they buying it? For them, it’s a means to an ends. What is that end? Then guarantee them that result – or they can have some of, all of or more than all of their money back. A very powerful and bold approach to take is to define the specific result or minimum level of performance that you believe they should expect from your product or service and the defined period of time that they should expect it in. This guarantee must be real. You must stand behind it 100% of the time. No loopholes. No funny business. If you don’t, it’ll do more harm than good.
  2. Bring it to the forefront. Don’t hide it is the small print.
  3. Extending the timeframe – the longer the guarantee lasts the better. Lifetime guarantees are almost never used. Why? “Well . . . I can always do it tomorrow . . .”
  4. Make it a ‘soft’ warranty based on how they (and their team) will feel.
  5. Better than risk free: The key here (as illustrated in example #3) is to compensate your clients for any and all dissatisfaction and to value not only their money but their time and trust invested in you. This can include: keep the product and get a refund, or “double your money back” type offers.
  6. Free Trials


Written by Jay Abraham for A Body Building Client

“Your Bullet-Proof Protection…

If, by the 90th day of training on Power Burst principles, you haven’t nearly doubled your strength and improved your size and/or muscle definition a bare-bones minimum of 20% or better, I want you to write and tell me and I’ll gladly refund your entire purchase price on the spot — no questions asked.

On the other hand, if my Power Burst Training method produces incredible results for you, I want you to not only write and tell me about it — but tell your friends too!

Even if you do decide to stop the program or send for a refund, I want you to keep the $500 weight training video program for your faith in me now.

— Leo Costa Personal Weight Trainer


Written by Jay Abraham for his own products.

“Jay Abraham’s Totally Risk-Free 100% Money-Back Double Guarantee …

“Purchase as many sets of transcripts as you like.  Read them over thoroughly (perhaps several times each).  Then, take the ideas you get from them and immediately put them into action.

If you discover that the ideas you use don’t pay off, you can get a refund of every penny you paid up to nine months after you order your transcripts!  That’s right, TAKE NINE MONTHS TO DECIDE IF THEY’RE ANY GOOD OR NOT!

Or, if you read Jay’s consultation transcripts and you feel right away that the information isn’t useful or appropriate for your situation — and you honestly can’t use any of the ideas you get from it — Jay will refund your entire purchase price on the spot.  No questions asked.  No hard feelings, either.

And here’s the best part:  Even if you do decide to ask for a refund, Jay will send you Gary Halbert’s Advertising Brainstorming Transcript (valued at $2,500) absolutely FREE.  “Why such a generous guarantee?  It’s Jay’s way of assuring you that — in the remote possibility that your business is so unique or difficult that not even his principles can help you — you won’t have to pay for something you can’t use.  Jay is purely ‘performance based’, and if you honestly can’t benefit from what he teaches or advises, he doesn’t want your money.  It’s that simple.

However, you’ll never know until you try.  That’s why he’s giving you nine months to validate his concepts — beyond any question — not that they merely can help you make money, but that they do help you make money.  If they don’t, you’re not out a dime.  Instead, you get a $2,500 bonus just for your trouble.   He can’t possibly be any fairer.”


Written by Jay Abraham for his own seminars:

“I sell my own live training on a better-than-risk-free basis.

First I let people preview my methods both in written and recorded form before I even ask them to sign up. I promise they’ll get a tangible and profit rendering idea they can apply and make money from before they even sign up. The materials are theirs to keep even if they don’t go forwards and attend my seminar. When they sign up, I send them nearly $5000 worth of materials a full six weeks prior to attending. They are encouraged to read, listen and watch everythingI send them to apply prior to attending. If they don’t make a significant pre-attendance profit, they are welcome to cancel and keep nearly a third of the advance materials for their effort.

I don’t stop there. If they do what I suggest, applying all the advance materials and making a profit upfront, I still don’t consider their attendance binding on their part, not until they’ve sat through a full one-half of the entire program. If by 2:00pm on day two of my three day program they haven’t absolutely received $5000 in value, they are welcome to leave and receive a full and immediate refund. No questions asked. No hard feelings either. And I want them to keep the materials for having gone that far.”

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #4: Lee Valley Tools: (they sell tools to serious woodworkers) “We pledge you the best service we can provide and personal attention for every order you place. We will always try our best to give you the fastest delivery possible and the best values.   If, for any reason, you are not completely satisfied, just return your purchase within 3 months by ground mail. You can choose to either exchange the product or receive a complete refund (including our regular shipping charges); we will also refund your return parcel post costs at the ground mail rate.”

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #5: Vitamix: (a high powered blender) “We Guarantee Your Vita-Mix Super 5000 Will Run Trouble-Free For 7 Years in Household Use Or We Will Fix It For FREE! Quite simply, there is nothing that compares to the power, performance and versatility of the Vita-Mix machine. And no coverage that comes close to our 7 Year Limited Warranty. Far beyond the scope of the typical kitchen appliance warranty that merely covers defects in workmanship, we guarantee that your Vita-Mix machine will perform like new for a full seven years from the date of purchase–or we will fix or repair it for FREE. When you invest in a Vita-Mix machine, you are getting the highest-performing, longest-lasting, most user-friendly appliance available–along with a warranty that has truly met it’s match.”

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #6: Domino’s Pizza: “Fresh, hot, delicious pizza to your door in 30 minutes or it’s free.” (though, for driving safety reasons I don’t think they do this anymore).

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #7: A TV-set distributor offers to buy back any sets not sold by his retailers in the first 180 days.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #8: A consultant agrees, in writing, not to cash any cheques until his clients tell him they’re satisfied with the work he’s done.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #9: A prominent builder-developer guarantees the development costs to his clients. If he goes over budget he pays the costs, not his clients. He’s the only person in his area doing this , and he gets most of the business because of that.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #10: A large power-equipment company in the South that has built a multimillion-dollar business by telling clients they have five working days after they take delivery of any large piece of power equipment to bring it back for a 100 percent refund – no questions asked. They’ve have three people in the last five years ask for a refund – which is the negative side. But they’ve had a 300% increase in business – which is the positive side. And every piece of equipment that was returned was sold almost immediately to someone else – with the same guarantee.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #11: A car dealer doubled his business by offering and two week, 100% money back guarantee on any new or used car purchase – no questions asked. No one else in his area was offering anything close to this. His volume went up. Some folks did bring back their cares for refunds. But very few. And, of those, only a scandalous few wanted their money back. The vast majority actually wanted to trade up for a better, more luxurious, higher end car. He made more money on these folks trading up than he did on his initial sales.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #12: A company that sold a home teaching program focused on helping children improve their reading skills has this guarantee: “Your child will raise his reading or spelling grade by at least  one grade level on his next report card or your money back.” Notice, that’s not a vague, abstract or nebulous concept – it’s entirely measurable.

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #13: “Fit lab also has brochures available in a rack outside its door. Curious passers-by, who can see all the exercise equipment through the sparkling window-front, can get more information instantly without going in. This not only is good after hours, but also allows people to “browse” without risking a hard sell (which they wouldn’t get anyway).” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #14: “The Cross Corporation allows customers to return a pen for any reason, and stores that carry Cross products are provided with a supply of addressed envelopes to give to any customer who wishes a refund or a new pen. In other words, the decision of the Cross Corporation to guarantee its product is made evident to consumers by providing easy and convenient recourse.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #15: “Sears Roebuck & co., a huge company selling moderately priced goods, has a generally good reputation for customer satisfaction. For example, it has traditionally guaranteed its Craftsman Tools and replaces them for years after purchase if they are defective. When Sears started selling computers, people correctly assumed that the same sort of replacement policy applied. this assumption was a key to Sears’ early success in the computer market. Customers, knowing that there was little chance of getting good service from many computer retailers, preferred dealing with a store with a solid reputation for customer service.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #16: “Recreational Equipment Inc., a cooperatively owned retail and mail order company headquartered in Seattle that specializes in outdoor apparel and equipment, does even better. Its order form states: “REI guarantees satisfaction on every item purchased. If you are unhappy with your purchase for any reason, please return it for a replacement or full refund.”” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #17: “And the legendary L.L. Bean Co., a small business grown large, which built its reputation on quality clothing and outdoor equipment as well as excellent customer service, backs up its product with this statement in its catalogue and at its website: “All of our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We will replace it, refund your purchase price or your credit card, as you wish. WE DO NOT WANT YOU TO HAVE ANYTHING FROM L.L. BEAN THAT IS NOT COMPLETELY SATISFACTORY.” Not only do L.L. Bean customers get assurance that they will be satisfied, but Bean’s recourse policy also works as an effective marketing message, because customers realize that only companies offering quality goods can make this type of promise.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #18: “Lands’ End sent out its first catalogue in 1964 from a basement along the river in Chicago’s old tannery district. In one of the recent catalogues it printed the business’s “Principles of Doing Business.” Principle 3 states: “We accept any return, for any reason, at any time. Our products are guaranteed. No fine print. No arguments. We mean exactly what we say. GUARANTEED. PERIOD.” Reassured by this guarantee, Salli overcame her reluctance to buy a swimsuit though the mail. The swimsuit was shipped the same day, and she was very pleased with the quality and fit. One week after it arrived, Salli received a phone call from Lands’ End asking if she was happy with the purchase. Not only was their recourse policy clearly stated, they followed up to make sure they had a happy customer. Recourse policies can’t get any better than that.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #19: “A painting contractor we know prides himself on being extremely neat and doing quality work. However, because there is a lot of potential for paranoia among his customers about what their rights are if paint drips on their floors or furniture, he is especially clear about the precautions he takes to avoid this problem and about what he will do to correct any that should arise. He not only promises in writing to correct the problem, but explains the type of insurance he carries and just what it covers. He also explains provisions made for outside evaluation and mediation should any dispute ever arise. Another frequent problem for painting contractors is that a color a client chooses from a color key looks different than expected on a wall. All sorts of factors, from the nature of the surface being painted to lighting, can affect this. In anticipation of this common problem, this contractor puts on a first coat and then encourages his customers to live with it for a few days. He specifies in writing the number of days his client has to decide if the color is the correct shade. If the customer doesn’t like the color, the contractor makes agreed-upon modifications in the second coat. If the customer assents to the color choice, the final coat is applied and after that no free repainting is done for the reasons of color. If, however, the customer is legitimately dissatisfied with the quality of work, the contractor will do any repainting necessary at any time.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #20: “Ruth, who owns a garden and plant store, has a replacement policy should any plant she sell prove unsatisfactory. However, to help her customers avoid more common problems, she instructs them both orally and in writing as to what kind of care the plant they purchase requires. For example, ruth goes out of her way to explain the symptoms of over-watering, letting a plant grow too large for its pot and become rootbound, and excess exposure to sunlight. Armed with this information, the customer is in a good position to evaluate and save a drooping or rootbound plant. One additional advantage to this kind of instruction is that Ruth gives her customers a reasonable standard against which to judge whether a problem with the plant was caused by their neglect or occurred because the plant was defective in the first place.” – Marketing Without Advertising

GUARANTEE EXAMPLE #21: “A carpet retailer we know in the Sacramento Valley of California not only guarantees in writing all carpets sold, but encourages customers with complaints to contact him so that problems can be remedied. As part of doing this, he sends every customer a postcard a few weeks after a carpet purchase, with a reminder of the store’s “total satisfaction” policy. In addition, he includes a statement of customer rights every time he communicates with them in writing.” – Marketing Without Advertising

Core Strategy #3 – Education:

Remember – the bigger your claims, the less likely people are to believe you. The bigger your claims, the more proof you’ll need to back them up. If you make a really good offer – people are going to be skeptical and ask themselves, “Why should I believe you?”

From The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: 

“In another case, an industrial machine’s prices were more than 30 percent higher than the competition, but the overall costs were much lower because it had fewer and cheaper repairs, was supported by expensive training, and the company did not oversell more or fancier equipment than the customer needed. But people could not justify it to their bosses. Some did not know how to even begin to justify it. Others were waiting until they could get around to “doing a study.” This wait turned out to be years in duration. The company turned years into weeks by getting some of its most enthusiastic customers to make their studies public and serve as references. They even prepared a slide show template and sample spreadsheets that their prospects could modify to present to their bosses. A complicated piece of machinery required extensive research to buy, usually taking about six months. It then needed to be compared to the alternatives, which also took months. Then it had to be tried, which  took about a year. Then it had to be rolled out gradually, with training. Another year. The whole thing was compressed into about eight weeks by holding a seminar/training program, then following it up by audio teleconferences. The decision makers were given the material that would have taken them months to find, shown how to evaluate it, given extensive (and flattering) competitive materials, and encouraged to try one against the other–all in a carefully structured trial that kept several prospects in touch with each other and with customers, with a hotline to third-party experts. This word of mouth, applied to several critical bottlenecks in the decision process, cut the decision time by multiples, while at the same time showing that the company had nothing to hide.”  

The question to ask yourself here is, “What do people need to see or hear to know that they are making the best buying decision possible?”

Here’s some more ideas:

  • Articles and Press Stories
  • Associations you’re a part of.
  • Awards you’ve won.
  • Charts and graphs
  • Client Lists
  • Comparisons
  • Compliance Checklists
  • Earnings Reports
  • Examples of Savings
  • Expertise Tests
  • Facts and Figures
  • Performance Audits
  • Photos and Videos
  • Product Demos
  • Quotes
  • Standards List
  • Statistics
  • Technical Drawings
  • Tests and Lab Results
  • Certifications

But education is not just about ‘facts’. It’s also about context. You need to also…

Educate Your Clients on Your Point of View:

Walking them through the process, logically, step by step and educating them as to why it’s unique and to their benefit. It can build incredible confidence for people to see everything that goes into your work. Don’t just tell them what you do and how you do it but why you do it that way. Fundamentally this is what I call Point of View Marketing. This could take the form of expert/ peer word of mouth sessions teleconferenced or face to face, experts speeches, papers, studies and other endorsements and even product seminars conducted by a non salesperson at the company. 

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