Since the adoption of new guidelines - or Guides as they are referred to - by the FTC, many sales organizations have had to re-examine their marketing and promotional procedures to insure that they change what needs to be changed and discard any activities which may become questionable as a result of the new rules. Most professional salespeople and sales organizations who receive compensation as a result of selling products and services should have nothing to worry about where the new 'Guides' are concerned because their relationships are unambiguous.
They receive commissions for selling products and services on behalf of those who pay them. Their clients. That's it!
The 'Guides' focus more on professionals in other fields who use their influence (name, image, status, etc.) to do what professional sales people do in promoting products and services on behalf of clients (sponsors, advertisers, manufacturers, etc.), but compensation is generally not disclosed or implied, so the FTC wants to remove any ambiguity where that is concerned and let the consumer in on the true relationships.
In the article which follows, "Commission" I did a little play on the word but the idea was to create ambiguity intentionally so that the main point of making distinctions between what is permissible and what is not will be a more succinct. Sorry about that! No harm meant. Here is the article in its entirety:
The last decade left many devoted employees a little skeptical and insecure about their future. Some of them have decided to...
No matter what language is used to pronounce the word it still carries the same significance to sales people the world over. It is my firm belief that it takes a certain type of individual to be a commission salesperson. That individual must be skillful enough to effectively convey a message in fifty different ways while understanding the odds that none of the message versions may result in a sale and his/her livelihood depends on each one being successful. The type of individual who understands the odds and is willing to take on the challenge anyway, and make the sacrifices that must necessarily be made.
The individual must be willing to share before he or she is successful, while having a clear understanding that sharing is not selling; selling only takes place when the transaction is closed and earnings are assured; for although selling can be defined as sharing, the reverse is usually not true – especially commission based selling - which, in my opinion, is among the purest methods of selling.
I shared several things with customers throughout my years in commission sales. I shared my time, knowledge, office, car and even my opinions, among other things. What I never shared with my customers, was the product(s) I was selling to them. Had I shared that I would have had nothing to sell and therefore would have wasted thirty-five years of my life without anything to show for it. Obviously, that is not the case because I supported my family throughout those years.
The point here is distinction between methods and techniques used by professional sales people (affiliates online/eCommerce market place) who earn a living from commission sales and those utilized at occasional tea parties where hobbyists exchange/share their favorite flavors, clothing styles, and scents, among other things. This is not a knock on hobbyists or tea parties, merely an observation of distinctions that exist.
The same distinction exists with online marketing, which encompasses affiliate marketers, merchants, and the methods employed to market and sell their products - including article marketing, blog marketing and social network marketing, among others. So it is necessary to understand where information sharing ends and selling begins. The need to understand distinctions became even more relevant since the FTC introduced new rulings in its Guides 'Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising' which took effect on December 1, 2009.
Sometimes the best way to achieve clarity is to convey a clear and concise message, and in cases where clarity about an advertiser/affiliate relationship may not be best suited for bottom line purposes of the principals, it seems that there may not be another option available because according to Section 255.0 - Purpose and definitions - of the 'Guides'
"...any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose belief, findings or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution".
There is generally no distinction in things that are identical, so "...views expressed..." in sponsor/agent relationships will have to be examined closely prior to uttering the actual expressions. Beginning to get the picture? Geez!
In addition to the above excerpted text, certain terms will be treated as the same under one umbrella term by the Commission. Those terms are product, service, company and industry. The umbrella term is product. Endorsement and testimonials will also be treated the same for enforcement purposes; and finally, an expert; defined as:
"...an individual, group, or institution possessing, as a result of experience, study, or training, knowledge of a particular subject, which knowledge is superior to what ordinary individuals generally acquire".
The Commission, through adoption of these new 'Guides' argues that the consumer is better off because of the protection against deceptive advertising afforded by the guides, but they are those who share differing opinions which, in effect, states that the consumer had ample protections under the 1980 'Guides' which included "safe harbor" language (eliminated in the new 'Guides'). Here is what remains perfectly clear to me; Commissioned salespeople will continue to promote, sell and earn a living.
They must! Therefore if the rules require them to change method and technique in delivering their message to the market, those changes will be undertaken, enabling performance of their duties within the confines of the law. Before concluding this article however, I must make one observation and it is this: Based on the interpretation of terms noted above as well as others contained in the 'Guides' text, it seems to me that disclosure of commission earnings by professional sales entities as well as their advertising sponsors may be the only clear and unambiguous way to appease the Commission (FTC). In the meantime!
Here is my declaration: I receive commissioned compensation for time spent, energy expended, and expenses incurred while promoting products and services on behalf of others. There! It is said! Oh, I forgot something. My creative promotional methods! That's worth something. Stop laughing!
Thieves are a problem out in the brick and mortar world is for business owners and thieves are a concern for cyber space business owners. Out in the brick and mortar world, thieves will take money and merchandise and it isn’t any different online. The real world merchants use locks and alarms to deter thieves. Internet business owners need to use anti-theft software to protect their commissions. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your commissions:
- Use Meta Refresh: A meta refresh is a simple bit of HTML code which automatically redirects your visitor to another page (your affiliate URL). It provides a neat way of presenting affiliate links in newsletters. It probably helps reduce commission bypassing and commission hijacking. A big advantage of using meta refresh is that if merchants change their affiliate links, you can change links on dozens of pages quickly and easily by altering only one file.
One problem is that some search engines don't like meta refreshes because they're frequently used for unsavory purposes. So if you use this technique, use it with caution.
- Use a URL redirection service. You can use free services or buy a unique domain name for each affiliate program you join. URL redirection makes affiliate links less obvious, so this will reduce some commission thefts.
- Use a web-based ad tracking service. The ad tracking link initially hides the affiliate link, reducing thefts.
- Use an ad tracking script. Good ad tracking scripts hide the affiliate link as well as being useful for tracking. It has the advantage that it doesn't promote someone else's domain.
Be aware that thievery is a problem for online businesses and take the necessary steps to protect your commissions.