We’ve all learned the hard way some time or another. Many of you have probably had a bad experience with an offer or promotion that a client wanted to exploit. While offering discounts and incentives is a great way to get the phone ringing, you absolutely need to include disclaimers on your marketing to avoid these unpleasant disagreements in the sales room. Here's what you need to know:
This article contains sound advice and is a good start toward protecting yourself. Most disputes won't ever reach a courtroom, but you might end up giving away more product than you intended to without proper disclaimers. That said, this article can't take the place of the advice of an attorney. At the end of the day the only way to completely CYA is to consult a lawyer.
See? Covering my own backside right out the gate! Read on for some disclaimer tips.
There are some terms that are simply asking for trouble. Here are a few:
- Satisfaction guaranteed
- Or your money back
- No purchase necessary
- Any qualifiers like: best, fastest, most, etc.This is just a start. I think wedding photographers should be the most cautious to use words like this, because the session is truly once-in-a-lifetime. You can't guarantee their satisfaction any more than you can guarantee that the maid of honor will catch the bouquet. Avoid this kind of terminology to avoid putting yourself in a tight spot. With the qualifiers, are you truly the best? The fastest? The most affordable? The most earth-friendly? And so on? This kind of exaggeration can be well meant, but could bite you in the… assets.
You can often cover most of your bases with these disclaimers. It depends on the type of offer, so you will need to fast-forward to the sales meeting and foresee any issues ahead of time. Not all of them are necessary for every type of campaign.
- No cash value.
- Not valid with other offers.
- Offer expires [Date].
- Limit one per household.
Using the term, "Restrictions apply" is a pretty safe bet. You can't cover all your bases with this one line, but it's better than nothing. If the offer is too complex to explain all the restrictions right on the marketing copy, then this might be a good disclaimer choice. For contests and more elaborate giveaways, you can direct people to your website for the complete terms and conditions.
I've seen some serious disclaimers. Full paragraphs of rules and regulations. Who has read the entire terms and conditions on itunes? Not I. While some people won't be daunted by long lists of rules, (didn't stop me from using my ipod) this kind of thing looks terrible on marketing, especially printed pieces. With something like portraiture, you want to send a message of clean, relaxed, timeless elegance. A long list of rules at the bottom is going to take a great design down a few notches and even worse, scare people away. It's important to say what you need to say in the least amount of words and in the least aggressive way. Small font sizes don't hurt either! And remember, some types of marketing will require more description than others. You don't have to include disclaimers on your facebook announcement or even a blog post, but it should be on all printed materials.
Put your disclaimers at the bottom of your marketing. If it is a two-sided piece, put them on the bottom of the back side. I typically see them right after the call to action, but in a much less prominent font size, color and style.
My Dad used to tell me, locks keep honest people honest. Disclaimers are a lot like that too. If a client is bound and determined to take advantage of your offer, a disclaimer won't stop them from trying (and perhaps succeeding). Sadly, some people expect to negotiate their way into more for their money than was agreed upon as a norm. However, the majority of people you serve will not have these intentions at all, and in the case of any confusion a simple reference to your marketing with the disclaimers in place will work wonders.If you write your offers with the full intent to honor them, then there is a good chance a disclaimer will also be like a good lock—hopefully something that feels nice to have, but isn't often tested. I think deceptive offers are where you will get the most complaints, and then you are asking for grief. Don't offer more than you can honor and you're good to go.
That's my take on disclaimers. I hope it will help you avoid a headache or two down the road.
Until next time,