What's in Kim's Mailbox?
In this past Friday's issue of Copy Insiders I promised to do a follow-up to last week's "Over the line!!!" email where I focused on copy compliance.
I also shared with you a painful personal story and how it's impacted how I approach this "fine line" of copy we often find ourselves walking as copywriters and marketers.
I wasn't trying to do any "virtue signaling" or be holier than thou. And to be clear, I'm 100% in favor of companies continuing to sell solutions that can help their customers during this extraordinarily difficult time.
In fact, I've written before that if you have a product or service that can help your customers, you'd be doing them a disservice if you didn't try to get them to buy it.
I'm completely in favor of selling programs, courses, coaching, financial advice, and anything else that can help people successfully navigate, survive and come out stronger once the darkness has lifted. That includes supplements, too, for sure.
But back to that "fine line". I do feel there's a fine line (both legal and ethical) between marketing in a way that's based on real research or other proof versus over-promising or exaggerating your claims.
If you as a copywriter or business want to come out on the right side of this pandemic once it's behind us, versus simply trying to make as much money as you can in the short-term, you'll want to walk this fine line carefully...at least when it comes to selling supplements.
I've seen businesses get knocked down--hard--and struggle to get back to where they were before after they've lost sales and exhausted their financial resources with legal fees, etc.
As a copywriter, I lost tens of thousands of dollars in potential royalties from one promo I wrote several years ago that had to stop mailing.
It wasn't due to claims in the copy, it was due to how an auto-ship offer was sold to inbound callers, most of whom were elderly. Some were confused by subsequent charges and complained to the FTC.
(Note: out of the dozens of promos I've written over the past few decades, this is the only one that ran into trouble...but it's also because I've consistently worked with clients who are generally careful about not crossing that fine line I mentioned earlier.)
So my message isn't DON'T market or be of service to your customers. In fact, if you've got a product that can help with immune function or lung function or something else that's timely, you should absolutely go for it and put it out there.
Just be truthful and realistic in your claims. We all know people want the easy, "one and done" total solution. It's human nature.
But even taking the most powerful immune-boosting combination of supplements is NOT proven to 100% protect against the coronavirus. So it's irresponsible to suggest it is.
Now, let's take a look at the promo I mentioned on Friday. We're just going to look at the email today...and look at the VSL it's driving traffic to in tomorrow's email.
Here's the email that arrived in my inbox last week with the fairly bland subject line "What do we really know about the coronavirus?"...
I understand many supplement buyers tend to distrust the government. There's nothing wrong necessarily to agitating this emotion or belief they already have. But it's not being factual. A simple Google search shows the CDC is in fact reporting and tracking the number of reported cases by state. Using this misstatement to stoke fear of some sort of "conspiracy" to me isn't being ethical. The copy goes on to paint a picture of the dire situation that happens if you get the coronavirus...and it's all true. But the copy needs to be more careful about calling out health conditions by name--i.e., "diabetes". Instead say "blood sugar concerns". In the close part of the copy is where it really crosses the line in terms of compliance. Again, do not use disease names in your copy ever when selling supplements. By doing so, it's implying this immune-boosting supplement will prevent pneumonia from happening. In fact, it's even implying it'll reduce your symptoms and keep you alive. Not true. And obviously, if the FDA were to see this, it'd be...
The Big Lebowski - OVER THE LINE I spent a minute or two rewriting that close copy to make it much more compliant. I also took out the direct mention of coronavirus at the end, and it should probably come out throughout the email. Here's what I came up with...I think it's just as strong of a call to action, without being "over the line". (It's not perfectly compliant, but most companies are going to fine taking a moderate level of claims risk vs blatantly skirting the rules.) One way to help protect yourself is to make sure your immune system is in top shape. You see... If you give your immune system maximum support right now... You'll strengthen your body's natural defenses to help fight off this dangerous invader… And you'll dramatically boost your chances of staying healthy. So years from now, you'll be telling your grandchildren the tale of this global pandemic...and how you got through it. I hope I gave you some ideas of how to write more compliant copy while offering your customers and prospects useful solutions for boosting their immune system or whatever can help them survive and thrive throughout this crisis. Tomorrow we'll take a quick look at the VSL it's sending traffic to. (Here's a link to the VSL if you want to get a preview). Yours for smarter marketing, Kim