Money back guarantee to get more orders?
How likely is it to work for you?

While an online perfume offer seems like an unlikely
candidate for a money back guarantee, there
are serious reasons why it could work.

Money back guarantees were once standard. Advertising tests proved they could produce more orders. Then things changed. Marketers fudged their guarantees. The fine print took away what the large print offered. Buyers became skeptical and mistrustful. What did the money back guarantee really mean? The promise lost its power.

Then the internet came along, full of spammers and scammers. Now not only are the buyers fearful of being tricked, the sellers – with little understanding of the technology behind their platforms – worry that, unless they are careful, they will fall victim to online grifters. Out goes the money back guarantee.

Selling perfume online is a tough proposition. You need all the tricks in your bag to get the attention of prospects... and then – what's really hard – to get them to give you an order. I'm talking here about largely unknown (small, like mine) companies selling absolutely unknown fragrances. Can a money back guarantee have any value?

If you've come across my ads for $timeout and Mimosa, you've seen my money back guarantee. I offer a full refund, no questions asked, and no need to return the bottle. This is not as crazy as it may seem.

First, notice that this is an online offer which can be withdrawn at the click of a mouse. Are you thinking that so many people will respond that I'll be overwhelmed? I have never seen that happen. More likely I'll get fewer takers than I want, so it is extremely – extremely – unlikely that I'll get bombarded with orders from people who just want a free bottle of perfume.

Think about that aspect of the proposition. These people are not anonymous. To accept my offer they must send me their name, street address, and credit card information. They must trust me to deliver the perfume they ordered. I have their payment before they have the perfume. Then they must trust me to honor my guarantee. In spite of all the risks and scams on the internet for this offer to work there must be mutual trust.

Right now these offers are a test. I'm curious to see how customers behave and how well they like my fragrances. My suspicion, based on much past experience, is that although I may find myself with a few tricky customers, most – most – will respect my offer and NOT take advantage of the easily available refund UNLESS the fragrance really fails to please. If the fragrance really fails to please and I get too many refund requests, this feedback will help guide the development of my next fragrance.

There's one more reason why I'm experimenting with the combination of free shipping and the money back guarantee. It has to do with trademark rights. A trademark is established by offering "goods in commerce." In other words, putting your fragrance up for sale. To establish trademark rights you have to make a serious effort to sell your product; not to friends and relatives but to the public – to strangers. Then, if your name is unique – nobody else is using it or even a similar name – you acquire legal rights to the name.

If, in the future, you are approached by someone who wants to buy one of your names, one piece of information they will want from you is the "date of first sale." That helps establish the fact that not only have you offered your fragrance for sale but you have made sales. You really went out there and did it.

By making my two perfume offers no-brainers for anyone who is halfway interested, I'm seeking to establish a pattern of sales at the earliest date possible. The fact that a sale might result in a refund has no bearing on the trademark rights. Once, in the past, I did sell the name of one of my fragrances. It may never happen again but, I want to be prepared.


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Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.