No matter how hard marketers try to keep everything above board, ever-evolving laws and regulations mean many are just a step away from breaking the law. We don’t want to scare you, but are you sure your direct mail marketing follows all the rules? There are two big regulations that many skirt around. If you’re not aware of the details, you could wander right into the middle of illegal territory.
This particular regulation seems like an easy one to keep, right? Anyone who sends direct mail packed with inflated claims or outright lies deserves to be punished. The problem is that the Federal Trade Commission has a different idea of “substantiated” than many honest businesses and marketers.
For instance, several testimonials from happy customers aren’t enough to substantiate your claims. This is considered anecdotal evidence with no basis in science or even fact. Before you can claim that your products bring results, you have to have some reasonable basis for that claim. That “reasonable basis” comes in the form of real, hard evidence. In other words, you have to test, test, and then test again before you make any claims.
Even an implied claim, which might just be a quoted testimonial, must be backed up with facts. In other words, “Sally” can say your product is the reason she lost fifteen pounds in two weeks, but you can’t include that testimonial in your marketing materials—unless you have studies that back up her claim.
See how easy it is to fall into a sticky situation? Even if you’re trying hard to avoid exaggerated claims and outright lies, you could still mess up.
Again, we know you want to keep everything as honest as possible, but sometimes things get a little tricky. One of the biggest and best-known examples of deceptive advertising comes in the form of “shipping and handling” fees for as-seen-on-TV products. If you ever pay attention to the fine print on those Sham-Wow and Snuggie ads, then you know “buy one, get one free” isn’t exactly the truth. You may not have to pay the price for the additional item you receive, but you’ll shell out even more for shipping fees. In the end, you’ve paid as much as you would have if you’d just bought the second item outright. And that’s wrong.
You could fall into the same sticky situation without realizing it. What if you sent out direct mail marketing pieces that offered something free with the purchase of a paid membership? Those who take you up on the offer might not be too happy when they see their “free” item isn’t exactly free.
Maybe you send out a piece of mail offering a discount on one item but only if a particular second item is bought. Those who are counting on the lower price might feel they’ve been tricked when they’re stuck shelling out money for a product they don’t even need.
It’s important to examine your marketing messages before you send them. A slap on the wrist from the FTC is no fun. Things get even worse when those fines become public knowledge and you have to overcome a poor reputation. By following the guidelines closely from the beginning, you’ll never need to worry.
As direct mail marketing experts, we’re always here to help you. We want to help you grow your business and make more money without falling into one of these potential traps. If you need help or guidance, we’re always here. Feel free to reach out.