30 Jan Viewing the Internet as a free-for-all can be costly
As long as the Internet remains inexpensive to use and difficult to regulate, e-mail abuse and Internet fraud concerns will be commonplace. Internet-savvy marketers proceed cautiously and ethically to safeguard their reputation.
According to a recent study, nearly 94 percent of all electronic mail on the Internet is unsolicited spam. The study, conducted by Postini, said that much of the increased spam comes from networks of hijacked personal computers that allow spammers to send endless e-mail at no cost.
Internet users are also concerned about Internet fraud. This generally refers to schemes using e-mail, websites, or other Internet-based technology to steal money or personal information. Internet fraud can involve misleading websites, theft of personal information, fictitious merchants, selling items that are never delivered, and more.
Internet marketers must exercise caution, and they need to pay special attention to the topics of disclosure, privacy, and ownership.
The self-service nature of buying online means that customers need to have as much accurate information as possible about your product and service. Since they’re not able to see products first-hand, it’s important to provide photographs and detailed information about size, weight, color, and performance. Since they aren’t talking to a salesperson, they need to be aware of any limitations, requirements, or hidden costs.
While all marketers should be accurate and forthcoming, Internet marketers should be more accurate and more forthcoming. Full disclosure saves your company money and insults. It reduces the volume of returns, refunds, credit card chargebacks, and transaction-related disputes. It also protects your company’s reputation and credibility with customers.
Information collected from customers by marketers is confidential and must be safeguarded and used responsibly.
Privacy policies also should describe precautions taken by the company to protect customers from the loss, misuse, or alteration of their personal information.
Information ownership should be safeguarded and respected. Copyright protects “original works of authorship,” including your competitors’ product descriptions, sales brochures, and research. Copyright doesn’t protect statements of fact – and it doesn’t cover intellectual property in the form of titles, names, short phrases, and slogans – although these can be protected by trademark.
Trademark law protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs that have become part of the identity of a company.
Marketers frequently violate competitors’ trademarks when they bid on competitors’ names, or their product names, as part of search engine marketing campaigns. Trademarks also are violated when a marketer embeds competitors’ names in website metatags as part of their search engine optimization efforts.
While these efforts seem like good tactics, they’re short-sighted because they invite competitors to do the same. Instead, marketers should identify trademark violations by competitors and send “cease and desist” requests that encourage everyone to respect trademarks in the industry.
Effective online marketing requires building trust and brand equity among Internet users. That means avoiding online marketing tactics that put your company’s reputation at risk, and it means promoting your company’s strict adherence to policies that protect the users’ privacy.
Internet marketing is a powerful and inexpensive tool – but only when it’s used responsibly
Recent articles by Troy Janisch
• Troy Janisch: It takes more than money to reach the top
• Troy Janisch: Getting the most from Google dayparts
• Troy Janisch: Risks and returns: Building a search engine marketing portfolio
• Troy Janisch: Search engine optimization: What’s the word?
• Troy Janisch: Big opportunities with small businesses
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.