FTC Declares Shenanigans On All Kinds Of Stuff!
OK. Before we begin, let me make the following disclaimer: I AM NOT A LAWYER, NONE OF THIS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE.
Most people think the new FTC guidelines are aimed at stopping those fake blog sites.
You know the ones, right? Where the “blogger” is a totally non existent person and it’s just some made up story to promote a CPA offer?
I’m sure you’ve seen them.
Here’s a list of fake weight loss blogs
…And here’s a list of fake “Make Money” blogs:
And while I’m sure these fake blogs played a major role in the FTC ruling, all those people telling you that this is all about blogs …
Here’s the deal:
First, if you’re getting paid to sell something on a blog, yeah, you should go ahead and let people know. Maybe mention it in the TOS, or maybe say something like, “If you decide to get this thing, click this link first and they’ll pay me a little commission money so I can finally retire to that little fishing village in Mexico!” (<---Like I said, this is not legal advice! Get advice on this from a real lawyer and NOT me.) Personally, I don't think the whole "blog thing" is that big of a deal for REAL marketers like us and I think it'll be super easy to comply with the FTC.
BUT HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE NOT TELLING YOU.
These new guidelines are a whole lot more serious than this blog business.
They also cover how you can use testimonials …and this is likely to PERMANENTLY change the way we do business.
Here’s the interpretation straight from my FTC lawyer, Gary:
“…The most significant change to the revised guides is the deletion of the “safe harbor” that has long allowed advertisers to use testimonials who reported specific successful experiences with an advertised product or service as long as the advertiser included a disclaimer such as “Results not typical.” Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.”
Umm …right. Here’s the “Kern Translation”:
Let’s say you sell an exercise DVD.
And let’s say you’ve got a customer …we’ll call her “Patsy” …let’s say Patsy followed your DVD to the letter, worked out like crazy, watched what she ate, and lost 950 pounds.
Now, let’s say Patsy wrote you a testimonial and said “I lost 950 pounds thanks to this DVD!”.
Nothing weird there, right?
Up until these guidelines came out, you could be really safe by simply putting the standard “results not typical” disclaimer on your site. You’ve seen it 100 times, right?
It goes something like this: “Results not typical. Your results may vary.”
No big deal …up until now.
Here’s the key phrase form the “official” paragraph above:
required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.
What this means is that if you have a testimonial where someone gets an amazing result using your product, you’ve got to follow it up by saying something like this:
Results not typical. The average user uses this DVD as a coaster for their Big Gulp and never loses any weight at all.
And frankly, even doing that might be dangerous if you say “the average user uses this DVD as a coaster” because the FTC could theoretically argue that …well, you’re implying that therefore all anyone has to do is NOT use the DVD as a coaster and they’ll lose 950 pounds.
See? Easy to screw that one up.
Here’s more from my man Gary: “The FTC also said that it believes that it is “likely” that testimonials that present the specific experiences of a product user (e.g., the number of pounds or inches lost) will be viewed as claiming that those experiences are typical of what consumers will generally experience.”
Mmm hmm. Trouble with a capitol “T” right there, buddy.
Here’s the sentence that get’s you: viewed as claiming that those experiences are typical of what consumers will generally experience
In my opinion, this means that if you say Pasty lost 950 pounds, the FTC will view this as you saying the TYPICAL USER will lose 950 pounds.
And if you don’t have documented proof out the wazoo showing that the typical user loses 950 pounds, you’re hosed.
Here’s what this means to you
OK. Basically, if you use a testimonial that shows someone really hitting it out of the park, you can’t say “results not typical”.
You gotta say something like “Results not typical. The average user experiences XYZ.”
And if you don’t know what the average user’s results are, you’d either better find out …or simply not use these types of testimonials at all.
But this doesn’t mean that ALL testimonials are this serious. From what I understand, you don’t have to worry about any disclaimers if you’re using testimonials where your customers simply say they like your product, like you, and are happy with their purchase.
…It’s only when you’re conveying a specific result.
Here’s my advice
COMPLY, BY GOD!!
Look. Many marketers are going to scheme for days on how to “get around” this new ruling.
Don’t waste your time. You don’t “get around” the FTC. If you’re worried that a certain testimonial will get you in trouble, don’t use it.
In my experience, testimonials are overrated anyway.
My Mass Control sales video didn’t have any (but I did use them in pre-launch. I won’t do that any more.)
And our current “Screw Google” promotion doesn’t have any either.
If you deliver enough value BEFORE asking for the sale, you should be able to sell plenty of stuff forever.
We’re SUPER lucky as Internet Marketers because when you build a list, you can constantly be providing great value for your subscribers for free …and when it’s time for you to sell something, they don’t need too much convincing.
Anyway – that’s my take on this whole FTC thing.
Hopefully, it clears things up for you and will help you keep your nose clean!
P.S. I almost forgot to make this point. Any time you have a major change in marketing like this, you’ll see a big drop off in competition.
Lots of people will either screw themselves by not complying with the new regulations, or they’ll try to comply but fail to sell anything because they’re not delivering enough up-front value. Or they’ll just say, “aww …to hell with it” and quit.
All three of these scenarios do nothing but clear the way for you to get more customers by eliminating your competition.
Selling stuff is easy. All you gotta do is give away stuff that makes people happy …and then sell stuff that makes ‘em even happier.
No over-the-top testimonials needed
Now get out there and make some money!
*** If you enjoyed reading this blog, your results are not typical. The average reader eventually says to himself, “Shit. I shoulda just watched Family Guy or something.” Absolutely nothing in this post should be considered legal or professional advice. Seek the care and advice of a normal and sane person.