Like us, you may have been surprised a few years ago when researchers declared that an apple a day really does help keep the doctor away. In most areas of life, putting in a little work up front can prevent big problems down the road.
So, it begs the question why many in an industry like performance-based advertising — where small mistakes at the
outset of a campaign can result in extraordinarily expensive,
company-ending problems later on — often pay little attention to those important details.
Below are a few thoughts to consider before launching
your next campaign. If you did not think about these before
launching your last campaign, don’t worry. It’s never too late
to revisit and refine your advertising and business practices.
While you will not be able to turn back the clock on
every issue, proactively ensuring your marketing and business
practices are compliant will often soften the blow when regulators and/or plaintiffs’ attorneys come knocking.
If You Love Something, Set It Free
Probably the No. 1 thing mar-
keters can do to avoid problems is to
make it easy for consumers to cancel.
Convoluted cancellation processes,
or customer service phone numbers
and e-mail boxes that go unanswered,
may keep a customer on the books for
another cycle or two, but they also
create problems much larger than the
revenue they produce. In addition to
generating complaints to regulators
and online consumer forums, such
practices likely will result in credit
card chargebacks. High chargebacks
over a period of time likely will drive
up your reserve requirements and processing costs. High chargebacks could
even threaten your ability to maintain
a merchant account.
Develop cancellation and refund
policies that are transparent and understandable. Then make sure your
company and service providers follow
the policies. Having a business model
based on making it difficult to cancel
is a recipe for legal problems.
Use Less Fine Print
“Surprise and delight” was a hot term in consumer marketing last year. The thinking goes that brands can drive loyalty by surprising consumers with something they love and
were not expecting.
All too often, another type of consumer “surprise” occurs
when consumers don’t get what they bargained for, or at least
what they thought they’d bargained for. In this scenario, a
surprised consumer is likely to complain to someone other
than you, to cancel — or to do both.
Limit consumer “surprise” by ensuring that you disclose
the material terms and conditions of your offer clearly and
conspicuously, in every format in which it appears. If a free
trial converts to a paid subscription after a certain amount
of time, make sure the consumer knows that when they confirm the order. If you plan to share the consumer’s data with
other parties, ask for their explicit consent and abide by their
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
There is no doubt that aggressive claims move more product, but it is critical that marketers and advertisers also think
of those claims as promises to consumers. Any representations you make to consumers need to be backed up by your
actions and — if you are making performance or comparative
claims — by cold, hard facts.
When making claims about your product’s efficacy or
performance, be sure that you have the studies and/or surveys
in hand before making those claims. Be able to demonstrate
that the studies or surveys supported your advertising claims
before you made those claims. Similarly, keep you customer
service and delivery promises.
In the End, Be Consumer Friendly
Performance-based marketing requires aggressive marketing for continued commercial success. Despite that, never
underestimate the power of consumer complaints. Regulators
and plaintiffs’ attorneys use them to identify companies with
potential legal exposure. Marketers who keep consumers’
best interests at heart when planning and conducting their
campaigns will come out ahead in the long run.
Working with experienced legal counsel to ensure that
business practices, advertising claims, and other details are
vetted before launching a campaign can go a long way toward reducing consumer complaints and increasing the long-term viability of your campaign and enterprise. ;
Check Yourself Before You
By Jeffrey D. Knowles and Leonard L. Gordon