It’s a time of fast, violent and aggressive change for Internet marketers. In fact, the changes began as of December 1, 2009, and these are changes that you need to be aware of and fully participating in, so that you can enjoy a profitable year, in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
You’ve probably heard about this already, but if not, the FTC has made some changes regarding the rules on testimonials – for Internet and offline marketers alike. The days of posting a fantastic testimonial on your sales page with the words “results not typical” buried in the small print somewhere are over.
We’ll look at the basics of what the new FTC rule means for you, the Internet marketer, but I strongly urge you to visit the FTC website and read their new guidelines for yourself. You can find them here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm, and then download the “Text of the Revised Endorsement and Testimonial Guides.”
While the rule changes cover a lot of important ground, I’d like to point out a couple of key points that may affect how you are using testimonials right now.
First, you can no longer use testimonials that a) you cannot substantiate, and b) that are not reflective of typical results. The keys here are being able to substantiate claims that are made via testimonial, and results that are typical.
As an example, if you’re marketing an eBook on getting your ex back, and someone who has bought and used the eBook emails you saying that he used your eBook and got his ex back within one week and now they’re planning the wedding of a lifetime, that would make an awesome testimonial, right?
But you might not be able to use it because the results might not be typical, and you also can’t substantiate whether other eBook users will be able to have the same wonderful success. Your eBook might not work at all for one person, and for another, it might have taken three months to win an ex back vs. one week.
You probably don’t know what typical results would be, and the FTC is saying that you can’t use that glowing testimonial and just a note that the results aren’t typical anymore. So what are your options?
You can not use the testimonial, you can risk using it and possibly getting into trouble, or you can spend money on market research to find out what typical results would be, and then make it very clear on your sales and other pages what kind of results most people can expect.
Another issue centres on affiliate products. If you’re promoting someone else’s product, you could be held liable for the product owner’s non-compliance with the new FTC rules regarding testimonials. And furthermore, if you have affiliates selling your products, and they aren’t in compliance in their own sales pages and websites, you could be held liable, right along with them.
Don’t despair! You may have to make some changes, but this certainly won’t put you out of business. A possible answer would be to have market research done, which is costly and time consuming, but would actually add credence to your advertisements, and allow you to still use the fantastic testimonial.
Or you could pull the testimonial (which you don’t want to do), or leave the testimonial up, but use it as an opening for a discussion on why the eBook worked so wonderfully for this person, and how it might work differently for others - you could even ask people to let you know their result from using your eBook, whether it was good or bad. This could keep the FTC happy with you. A bad idea is to leave the testimonial, and risk being caught and fined.
If you’re involved in affiliate marketing, it might be time to start an application and vetting process for your affiliates to make sure you’re dealing with people who are willing to be in compliance with the FTC rules.
Finally, don’t forget that you need to be careful with your own testimonials that you let other’s use. The rules have changed for that, too. These new guidelines are changing the way the game is played, and if you want to avoid an altercation with the FTC, you’re going to have to make sure you’re playing by their rules.
Read the FTC guidelines, because they cover more situations and are more in depth than what I’ve outlined here, and they also give lots of good examples. Then check with your own legal counsel, and finally, do what you need to do to make sure you’re in complete compliance.