Whether you’re a business owner trying to learn about marketing for your organization or someone who is new to the marketing career path, it’s important to find out the basics about marketing compliance.

While this might seem a term that refers to just annoying red tape, it is actually an essential element of marketing in this day and age, and something you need to read up on. Here are some tips you can follow today.

Advertising

Advertising your organization’s wares is an important part of any marketing campaign. However, there are numerous laws and guidelines to follow if you want to ensure compliance. For example, be very careful about making deceptive or unfair claims for which you have no proof and which may pose a hazard to buyers.

This is particularly the case in relation to health, safety and economic injury to consumers. To cover yourself, word advertising language carefully. Don’t make claims that you can’t prove or use absolute or concrete language (e.g. stating that a massage “will relieve back pain” as opposed to “may relieve back pain” if it’s not definite). If your wares do indeed provide a concrete health or related benefit, you must have the proof to back up this claim.

Similarly, don’t be blasé about the language you use when comparing your offerings to that of other organizations, whether by name, illustration or some other distinctive information. Comparative claims are legal, as long as you go about them in an ethical way. To stay safe, be sure you’re making a fair and objective comparison. Have proven facts to back up your claims and avoid disparaging, attacking or discrediting other companies.

Advertising is also regulated when it comes to mentioning special offers. If you want to offer free or discounted goods or services, free gifts, zero-cost shipping or other deals to your customers, clearly and prominently display the terms and conditions of these offers when advertising them. Make it easy for people to understand what is being promised.

Copyrighted Material

Whether using photographs, infographics or some other kind of pictorial content, graphics can have a positive impact in marketing material. However, business owners and marketers need to be careful they don’t misuse copyrighted items. Remember: If you didn’t create something yourself, its copyright doesn’t belong to you, and you need to get permission, in most cases, to use it. This is especially the case when you want to use it for commercial purposes.

To cover yourself, there are a few steps you can take. For instance, choose works that come from a public domain repository. These exist in the public domain and once had copyright on them, but now this copyright has either been forfeited or has expired. Also note that a lot of image copyright owners are okay with someone using their creations so long as they are asked first for permission and then correctly attributed.

You can also find Creatives Commons images and other graphics online offered freely to the general public but which have certain restrictions on them about how the material can be used (e.g. it may not be available for commercial purposes or may need to be attributed in a particular way). Of course, you can also pay for images too. Join a stock photo site such as Shutterstock and pay for each image you want to use or for an annual membership. Do keep in mind, though, that most of these sites also have set terms of use which you need to abide by when using material.

E-newsletters

Now more than ever businesses must ensure they are operating ethically in their email correspondence — not spamming recipients or obtaining email addresses in any way that avoids consent.

The newsletters you send out to consumers must have a visible and easy-to-use unsubscribe link or button. Requests made by people to unsubscribe need to be honored within 10 days, too. Email marketing messages must have subject lines that reflect the actual content found within them, and they need to be labeled if any of the content is adult in nature.

With the recent new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rulings out of Europe, there are even more elements to factor in. Don’t rely on your marketing automation or CRM provider to handle all your GDPR compliance requirements for you; you must take steps yourself to ensure that no personal information of people in the European Union is collected without their knowledge or consent.

Keep in mind that compliance isn’t just relevant for businesses operating in or selling to European consumers but to anyone who has website visitors from this part of the world. There are many factors involved in GDPR compliance, so investigate what is and isn’t relevant to your company to be sure you’re protected.