Three Tips to Help Marketers Course-Correct Before It’s Too Late
SECURE PROPER TRADEMARKS, COPYRIGHTS AND PATENTS
Trademarks, copyrights and patents are important to have in place to not only safeguard your company’s name, services and intellectual property from being stolen, but also to protect your company from legal battles with other entities claiming their rights were potentially stolen. Trademarks are especially important to owners of pest control companies because it protects brand names and any logos, words and slogans or taglines used in your goods and services offerings. In a competitive industry such as pest control, these attributes are oftentimes what set businesses apart from each other, so it is important to properly protect them.
Copyrights protect any original creative work, and for small businesses, this is especially important, as it safeguards all promotional marketing materials as well—including commercials, brochures, manuals and website content. According to the Copyright Society of the USA, copyright law provides the copyright owner with the exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute and display the copyrighted work. Without proper copyrights in place, any created materials are subject to being stolen without legal ramifications.
Patents are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and are only valid within the United States. According to www.USPTO.gov, a patent does not grant the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but grants the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Failure to properly patent any invention—including a new process, machine, type of manufacturing, or any improvement of one that already exists—puts it at risk of duplication by others.
ENSURE PRIVACY IN DATA COLLECTION
We live in a world that runs on data and automation. While this helps expedite many processes that were once tedious, it unfortunately leaves ample room for security breaches as well. As a business owner, it is important to not only protect data and information pertaining to your company, but also that of the customer and any outside vendors. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you are marketing your company with security in mind. According to Marketo, marketing automation platforms are an integral part of ensuring data is organized and protected. Marketing automation platforms are invaluable to marketers as they help to easily track customer habits and measure ROI. When used correctly, they can help target and refine marketing messages to ensure they’re resonating with intended audiences. However, if marketing automation platforms are not used in accordance with best practices and national and international laws, severe consequences for the company can result.
All online tracking and marketing in the U.S. must be compliant with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which acts in the best interest of consumers. The FTC recommends that marketers are always transparent with their audience by informing them of what data they are tracking and why and requiring consent to do so.
And believe it or not, given the increased interconnectedness of the digital age, international boundaries are more easily crossed than ever. According to Smart Insights, if the marketing messages of your company are reaching an audience in the European Union, all practices must also comply with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) as of 2018, even if the marketing message is not intentionally meant to reach that audience. GDPR was implemented to give individuals control over their personal data and requires that marketers and any other collectors of personal data clearly disclose any data collection and the purpose for collecting, and state how long data is being collected for and if it is being shared with any third parties or outside of the EU.
Given this heightened regulation, when collecting data, both nationally and internationally, be sure to be as transparent with your intent as possible.
STEER CLEAR OF DECEPTIVE MARKETING
In addition to regulating privacy and data collection, the FTC also aims to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair acts or practices and prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any capacity. A deceptive or unfair practice, representation or omission is defined as one “likely to mislead consumers and affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service.” This includes any claims in promotional materials and, for pest control companies especially, means they must be careful when making a claim about a service, its safety and the environment to ensure they are not misleading in any way. The FTC can take action against a company for deceptive advertising, even if the ad was not actually intended to mislead the customer.
According to Nolo.com, one of the largest online libraries of consumer-friendly legal information, if the FTC believes an ad is in violation of the law, they can do any of the following: issue a cease-and-desist order and civil lawsuit; seek a court order to stop the ad while they investigate; or require the advertiser to issue a new ad correcting any previous claims and admitting they were deceptive. Along with following FTC regulations, each state must also follow their own set of advertising laws, so it is important to be aware of both national and state-level legislature relating to misleading advertising.
Establishing a successful marketing plan for your company is one of the most crucial factors for success. From ensuring all marketing materials are correctly trademarked, copyrighted and patented, to protecting customer privacy and ensuring your messaging is not misleading or deceptive, be sure to take the steps necessary to maintain compliance. By doing so, you’ll ensure your marketing department operates like well-oiled machine, and in the best interest of your customers, too.