Endorsements and testimonials can be powerful marketing tools, but they have to be used with care. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pays close attention to endorsements and testimonials they find online (especially on consumer-oriented websites). Here’s some best practices for your site’s testimonials.
If you’re interested in adding testimonials and/or endorsements to your auto parts website, here are some guidelines you should follow:
1) Keep records. If you receive a letter (or email or phone call) with a great testimonial, keep a record. While some will say that you should request a signed statement for each testimonial you advertise, we think this is probably overkill for most businesses (it can’t hurt, of course). If you keep a copy of the email/letter/voice mail, you’re covering yourself well enough.
2) Don’t emphasize atypical results and experiences. Testimonials and/or endorsements are considered misleading if they emphasize extraordinary results. For example, if you sell a fuel injection cleaner and your average consumer sees a .5 mile-per-hour improvement, then your endorsements and testimonials should emphasize this type of result. If the endorsements and testimonials on your website emphasize unusual results (like 10 mph instead of .5!), you have a problem.
Check out our post on how to collect reviews and testimonials for even more tips.
3) Disclose any relationship you have with the endorser. If an endorsement is paid, you must disclose as much if you want to avoid trouble with the FTC and/or local regulating authorities. If a testimonial is from a friend or family member, you should disclose the relationship.
4) Paraphrase with caution. Testimonials and endorsements are often paraphrased, and this practice isn’t necessarily bad. Brevity is important in advertising, and paraphrasing a long endorsement is acceptable so long as you don’t change the intended meaning.
5) Testimonials and endorsements are defined rather broadly. According to guidelines from the FTC, “any advertising message that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience of a party other than the advertiser” is considered an endorsement/testimonial. In other words, if you hire an actor to pretend to be a typical consumer in your next TV commercial, that could be construed as a testimonial.
It’s also important to recognize that the FTC gives a bit of leeway when it comes to enforcement. Like any government organization, you don’t want to cross them. If you’re concerned at all about testimonials and/or endorsements on your site, now is the time to re-evaluate.
The best guideline of all is to make sure every endorsement and testimonial you publish is honest and truthful. That’s the easiest way to cover the bases. Learn more by visiting the FTC’s website.