The buyer beware thinking is yielding to the need for the seller to take care to avoid unhappy clients. If you are a Latin speaker (who is?) you’d say caveat emptor. The phrase describes the concept in contract law that places the burden of due diligence on the buyer of a good or service.
According to the caveat emptor principle of buyer beware, a buyer is responsible for performing the necessary due diligence before the purchase to ensure that a good is not defective and that it suits his/her needs. If the buyer fails to perform the necessary actions, he or she will not be entitled to any remedies for damages in case the purchased product shows significant defects.
And here is the reality of selling products and services today: as business owners, we want to keep the buyer satisfied.
You’ve probably seen the dark gray Amazon trucks that now roam the streets of the U.S. Most of the drivers’ work involves delivering orders, but they also make a significant number of pickups.
Amazon is now making it extremely easy to return things. Not only are returns on millions of items penalty-free, but no one now needs to call UPS or go to the post office or a UPS office. The Amazon driver will pick it up from your house, and you don’t even need to be home.
While other companies don’t have Amazon’s resources, they will feel the consumer pressure to make returns easier. One of the best ways to prevent excessive customer returns is to tighten up on accuracy and scrupulousness when it comes to advertising.
Is What You Read What You Get?
This question has several aspects. The first involves the copywriter making sure that all the information in the description is accurate and that nothing essential is left out. If, for example, pregnant women shouldn’t take a particular supplement, highlight that.
The second involves making sure that the instructions for the product match the sales copy. I recently bought a space heater because the ad copy said you could plug it in anywhere, due to its being low wattage. The instructional booklet that came with the space heater said that you needed to get an electrician in and make sure that the circuit could handle the heater.
I managed to sort that out with the company that made the product, but I was annoyed about the time this took and about the deceptive advertising. The only reason I didn’t return it was because I really wanted that space heater. You can’t count on your customers having that kind of determination.
The manufacturer also needs to ensure that if a product needs to be assembled, it comes with assembly instructions. That sounds obvious, but a friend of mine bought a snow shovel that came in several pieces. She had no clue about to put it together, and she returned it.
You Need to Hire or be a Skilled Writer
Depending on the size of your business, copywriting may be outsourced or in-house. If you outsource it, you still need an in-house person who scrutinizes the copy with great care. For example, comparing the instruction booklet or printed matter on the box to what appears on the sales page would be an essential task.
And while we are on instructional booklets, I want to know who taught these companies that they should use the tiniest piece of paper with the smallest font. I’ve had to take a picture with my phone and enlarge it just to read some of the contents.
If you have in-house copywriters, they need to practice the same degree of due diligence.
The people you hire to advertise your products need to have patience, focused attention, and the ability to think logically—and think like a customer.
Suppress Buyer Beware and Promote Truth in Advertising
Without clear descriptions, companies will eventually raise prices to counter the cost of returns. Customers discouraged by higher prices will bargain shop. Trust levels go down. Dissatisfied customers can quickly and loudly make their unhappiness known.
Interrupt this downward spiral. It costs less to hire the best copywriters than to deal with a glut of returns. And building customer trust because you give them accurate information about your products is priceless.
Business writers’ language skills, whether expressed in web site text, newsletters, blogs, reports, or advertising copy, represent their companies. Business is all about communication, and language skills are the building blocks of effective communication.
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Pat Iyer is a skilled editor who works with authors of nonfiction works.