As a marketer, you are surrounded by creative individuals whose focus is on the art and design of a marketing campaign. Creating engaging material that will appeal to your consumers is an intuitive talent for these marketers. However, it is important to balance that creativity with the practicalities and legalities of marketing compliance. There are compliance standards that you must meet in any marketing campaign, which requires a different kind of thinking that is probably not as second nature to your team members.
Marketing compliance standards protect consumers so that they are not lied to, tricked, or misled by businesses. These compliance laws also ensure that a person’s privacy rights are protected and that they have an option regarding which type of information a brand collects and how they communicate with that business. Every member of your marketing team should have a general understanding of these compliance standards – but as a marketer, it’s even more crucial that you understand these principles.
Meeting these guidelines will not only protect your public reputation and integrity, but it can also save you from making some costly (literally, not figuratively) marketing mistakes.
What’s the Big Deal about Marketing Compliance?
For marketers who want to focus on the creative aspects of a marketing campaign, compliance standards can seem like nothing more than a nuisance. You can argue about the value of compliance regulations all you want, but the simple truth is that it’s the law, and failing to comply can cost you money and customers.
As far as reputation goes, there is little that can harm you more than being caught in a compliance violation. Essentially, this sends the public the message that your business is deceitful and not trustworthy with consumer information (or your message). This type of blow to a company’s public image can be very hard to recover from. With information dissemination happening at a faster rate than ever before, the importance of reputation management cannot be overstated.
From a financial standpoint, a compliance violation can be devastating. Not only do you face lost revenue as a result of consumer distrust, but the cost of a regulator audit can be extremely expensive and cripple business growth. The repercussions that are in place have been designed to discourage violations, so it should perhaps come as no surprise that they can be crippling.
How to Avoid Marketing Compliance Violations
Compliance regulations are constantly changing and, to be honest, you shouldn’t expect your sales or marketing team to keep up with all the specifics of the various laws and privacy acts. However, with so much at stake, it is important that all of your team members understand the importance of complying with these standards and regulations. Below are some general guidelines that can help ensure your marketing campaigns meet these standards:
- Think like a consumer: The goal of compliance regulations is to protect the public, so if you’re unsure that you are meeting marketing compliance standards, look at your campaign from a consumer’s perspective. Ask yourself if your message is clear, will the public understand it, is there anything that is deceptive, etc. If you would feel comfortable sharing an ad/e-mail/flyer with your grandmother, you’re probably in good shape.
- Make compliance a priority: Again, not every employee needs to know the ins and outs of compliance, but everyone should be well aware that these standards are a priority for your marketing team. As a marketing professional, you need to be mindful of the message you are putting out to the consumer, whether your organization is B2C or B2B. Is it accurate? Make it a priority.
- Monitor and document: It is important that you have a system in place that monitors compliance standards, and recognizes potential violations early enough that they can be corrected. You also should have an audit trail regarding key aspects of compliance, where applicable (i.e. customer-facing assets, collection of customer information, e-mail subscription process, etc.), so that you protect your company in the face of any complaints.
Do you Need a Compliance Officer?
Many businesses, particularly small to medium-sized businesses, opt to make compliance monitoring the responsibility of the marketing team or the legal team. While this may work in some instances, there is definite value in hiring a compliance officer.
A compliance officer is someone who can focus solely on ensuring that your organization complies with government regulations on both a domestic and global scale. A compliance specialist can stay on top of the inevitable changes regarding compliance standards and monitor marketing material and communication to ensure those standards are met. By appointing a compliance specialist, or even an entire compliance team, you leave your sales and marketing team free to focus on their responsibilities while still protecting your company from making a costly business mistake.
Whether your marketing company or department is big, small, or somewhere in-between, the fact is that marketing compliance laws and regulations apply to you. By making compliance a company-wide priority, you can minimize your risk of compliance violations and protect your reputation and relationship with consumers. Are you complaint now? Have you even given it any thought? It’s time to start paying attention.