The REAL Death Of Affiliate Marketing (And Just In Time For Christmas!) By now I?m sure you?ve heard the FTC is dropping the hammer starting Dec 1st 2009 regarding product endorsements and the use of testimonials in marketing? (And if you?re one of those marketers living outside the USA everything still applies to you if you plan on selling inside the country? even online) So while you may know changes are coming, what you may NOT know is how far these new changes will reach. Here, if you?re in a hurry I?ll bottom line it for you: On December 1st 2009 ALL Marketing As You Know It Will Change Completely? As I?m a fairly successful online business owner what first got my attention was the forum chatter about the new laws regarding use of testimonials and kickbacks (affiliates/disclosure of material connections) Most of the Big-Kids in my market thought the changes would effect those ?I Made 9 Million Dollars In 15 Seconds!? sort of testimonials and also require anyone promoting a product to disclose if they were getting a cut. And yes, that?s totally true? Under the new laws you can no longer show best results unless you also show average results. You also need to disclose if you?re making a buck off recommending the product to people? No big deal, right? I mean, changes like that can only help people by removing moronic/obvious fake business opportunities and weight loss programs? Sweet! But that?s not where the laws stop? that?s not even close to where they start! In fact, the changes are so sweeping it would take me at least 10 pages just to scratch the surface of testimonial usage. This is simply much, MUCH bigger than anyone was lead to believe? Just How Big Are These New Laws? Here?s An Example: ClickBank (A Billion Dollar Company) has what?s called an ?Open Affiliate Program?. This means anybody with a computer, some free time and a dream can get a link, promote a product and get paid every time somebody clicks and buys? Super cool, right? Hey, that single technique has been responsible for improving the financial lives of TONS of people (including myself) Under the new FTC laws? those days are GONE. Under the new laws (and this is just my interpretation of legal jargon) you can no longer make any claims about a product you?re endorsing unless you?re personally using it and can SCIENTIFICALLY verify the results you?re claiming. In fact, this is so far reaching it would appear if you are the product OWNER and one of your affiliates makes claims using promotional materials they got directly from YOU containing result claims they can?t personally verify? BOTH of you are liable. Bottom Line: You own a product. One of your affiliates promotes it somewhere and simply restates claims you make on your own sales letter? if they can?t back those claims up personally with verifiable data? you?re both hosed. Example #2: You own a product and your affiliate makes claims you DO NOT support on your sales letter? Guess what? Yup! You?re both toast! (Even if you have no knowledge of what this affiliate is doing) Under the new laws it is the publishers responsibility to police any/all affilaites. Good by ClickBank open affiliate program marketing! Will they have to close? I doubt it, but they will have to make some very big changes to how they allow people to promote as affiliates. Holy Crap! What About Joint Ventures And Big Mailings? For me this would appear to be a MEGA concern as it?s the cornerstone on which my entire business is based? On the surface it would seem getting people to hit ?Send? for your product is something that is laid to rest alongside ?flogs? However, what I?m seeing/reading this isn?t actually the case. (Keep in mind, this is my non-lawyer interpretation of VERY vague legal jargon) It would appear so long as the Joint Venture partner makes ZERO results claims inside the promotional email and fully discloses the link inside clicking is an affiliate link? then you both should be fine. Holy Crap We?re Screwed! We?re Screwed! We?re Screwed!!! I?m sure by now if you?re making money online and/or even thinking about choosing this sort of business you?re about 15 seconds from physically lighting your computer on fire? And I get it, but hold up a second because all is not lost. After spending HOURS reviewing this stuff what seems to be the bottom line for us kids in the online marketing space is this: So long as your marketing is 100% transparent with zero results based testimonials, along with FULL affiliate compensation disclosures? and you truly have your customers best interest in mind you SHOULD be fine. The issue (as I see it) is that the FTC has left A LOT to interpretation. All Truly Is NOT Lost? Obviously (as I said before) I?m not a lawyer, I just get advice from guys who play them on tv? I?m going to share with you where I?m leaning with my own business and hopefully you can get some ideas. Jonny?s Potential Don?t Get Sued By The FTC Ninja Move ?A?: From everything I?m reading it would appear the only sane move is to totally change how you might be marketing ClickBank products (including niche markets) But their open affiliate program may just be too much of a potential legal minefield to continue using them as so many online publishers have. Jonny?s Potential Don?t Get Sued By The FTC Ninja Move ?B?: Not that I have in the past, but in the future I?m not going to use ANY results based testimonials. If I use any at all they will be what they are now ?I like your stuff and you?re a really good teacher.? According to reps from the FTC itself testimonials like that should be totally fine because they?re not ?results based?. Yes. There Is Hope. These New Laws Can Actually Make You MORE MONEY! Just a few weeks ago I did an internal marketing test based almost entirely on the new FTC laws? this particular test made me a very large sum of money in a very short period of time. (Won?t disclose exactly how much, but let?s just agree it was more than $2.97 in under 365 days, you should personally never expect to make a dime and will potentially get facial mites just for having read this blog post.) The entire process took very little time to build, only a few hours to implement? and was done WITHOUT any testimonials, WITHOUT any 3rd party income claims (or results claims of any kind at all) and WITHOUT any sort of standard marketing techniques period. The entire sales process was 100% transparent from start to finish. Despite the apparent lack of standard sales tactics, this particular marketing process converted BETTER than almost anything I have done before and was basically a full disclosure/breakdown of how I was selling them into the program in the first place. Thus far my internal FTC compliance test has resulted in my highest grossing month of 2009 hands down. So what if, just what if you were able to make oodles of loot as an affiliate without ever making an income claim, fully disclosing you were getting a cut AND using social media to market your links in complete compliance with every FTC guideline written no matter how vague? Oh no, I?m not ?claiming? anything? I?m just asking ?What If?? All I?m saying is the game has changed for everybody? BIG TIME. I?m guessing these changes will spell the end for 80% of the online marketers out there who rely exclusively on fake stories, false income claims and hype to sell their products. In reality this is fantastic. It leaves the market wide open for people like us who prefer to sell our stuff in an open, honest way. Because as my ?little? test just proved: you should NEVER lie? because the truth sells WAY more copies.