The market is always changing. New platforms and services are constantly introduced and improved allowing anyone to start a business, advertise online and operate as their own media company.
With more marketing options comes more responsibility.
If you are marketing any products and services either for yourself or on behalf of your clients, then you need to make sure your marketing and sales material is compliant.
Here are great tips from Frank Kern, a leader in the internet marketing space who was himself sued by the FTC in May of 2003.
CLICK PLAY and make sure to up the volume on the video player by clicking on the audio icon.
“It was my fault because I was violating all kinds of regulations that I didn't know existed” said Frank.
“Despite my telling that story as much as possible – and doing my best to let my fellow marketers know about the regulations out there, the majority of online businesses I see are NOT compliant with the law. I believe the reason for this is because people aren't aware of what the laws are.
Here's the deal: WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW *CAN* HURT YOU.“
Another notable marketer touched by the FTC rules and regulations in the past include motivational speaker Anthony J. Robbins and his company, Robbins Research International, Inc.
The video covers some of the more common mistakes but should not be used for legal or financial advise. Some of the tips covered include:
- ROSCA (Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act) Laws: Get familiar with ROSCA laws and comply, specially with continuity programs that bill your clients each month.
- Refunds and Cancellations: Make it easy for your customers to get a refund or cancel any services as outlined in the purchase agreement.
- Earnings Claims: Avoid unsubstantiated income claims. You have to prove that your income claims are true and that a typical consumer following your advice, system or program can get the same results. The best protection is to avoid any income claims.
- Disclosures and Disclaimers: Disclosure provides a reader all necessary and relevant information regarding a purchase or promotion so they can make a well-informed decision. … A disclaimer is a statement to limit your liability; that denies something, especially responsibility. Keep your marketing honest and accurate… if you have to… use disclosures not disclaimers.
- Get guidance from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) on how to improve your marketing material.
FTC Compliance and Guarantees
With updated rules and regulations this is a good time to examine what your marketing material says.
Special note on the part referring to success stories. Your business might truly have great success stories, but if these case studies are not average results, then your marketing material needs to be very clear on that.
For example, most people who join gyms stop showing up after a few months and might not lose weight or get fit.
So even though the principles of eat less and exercise more are true and you have success stories to prove it, you cannot guarantee results because most people will not have results.
Perhaps a good example would be ads for prescription drugs. If you live in the United States and watch TV, then no doubt you have seen many such ads.
- Ads usually start by highlighting the undesired condition and how the advertised drug can help relieve symptoms.
- They are carefully worded and usually avoid the word “cure” because no one can guarantee a cure.
- They also mention all the side effects (including death in some cases) while showing people happily going around their daily life.
So your ads can stay positive and state the desired effect. At the same time, they need a disclosure about what could go wrong.
Just because some of your services and products work for some of your clients, does not mean they will work for everyone else. Only advertise substantiated results. Substantiated results mean that you have proof that the majority of your customers and clients have been successful using your advertised products or services.
How Could This Happen?
Breaking the rules can be easy if you don't know them. As newbies, we might just imitate top marketers in the industry not knowing that their marketing is not compliant.
If you are performing any type of business online or offline, selling your services, products, affiliate offers, MLM or licensed products, then its important to get familiar with the rules and regulations.
This includes celebrities and social media influencers who are compensated for featured products on their posts. Sponsored products can be a great source of income. For example, it has been reported that Beyonce who is one of the most influential people on Instagram, has been commanding over $1 million per post.
If you are compensated for sharing your affiliate links and your social media posts, then you need to disclose that in a visible format or you might join some of the celebrities who received a warning from the FTC.
If in doubt, consult the FTC website and/or a lawyer and have them review your marketing material.
P.S. If you have any more details or guidelines I can add to this post to make it more useful and accurate, please send me a note.