Does your marketing still rely on fine print?

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The fine print

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There's lots of talk these days about authenticity and transparency and lots of other feel-good ideas in marketing. I'm glad, but I am also skeptical, because I still see plenty of tricky "fine print" marketing. If your offer requires fine print, maybe something's wrong.

You know what I'm talking about. Fine print has bedeviled consumers for years. You see the big offer in 36-point type, but that agate print at the bottom tells you all the terms and conditions that make that offer not-so-good.

Or you get pages of tiny type in a little brochure that comes with your credit card. Or you get the verbal equivalent of fine print when that announcer talks at 100 miles an hour at the end of the commercial: "This is not an offer which can be made only by formal prospectus. If pain persists, see your doctor."

All this tells your customer is that whatever you said they shouldn't believe. Yes, you shouted the offer from the rooftops but then you tried to whisper the catch past them.

I ran into my own version of fine print when I tried to order a book from Borders recently. I usually buy from Amazon, but they had the book backlisted four weeks, so I looked for other bookstores and finally found it available at Borders--the product page said it "usually ships in two days." So, I added it to my cart and purchased it.

Two weks later, I called Borders to find out what was wrong. "Oh, that title is backordered four weeks." I asked why it said that it usually ships in two days on the Web site. "Oh, that's only on the product page--when you add it to the cart, it says that it's backordered."

I tried it, and she was right. It really does say that, in very tiny print in a place on the page where I'd never notice it--and I didn't. But that didn't make me feel any better.

I felt duped, so I canceled the Borders order and ordered it at Amazon. It was going to take the same amount of time, but I felt like Amazon had been up-front about the delay right on its product page, while Borders had tried to slip one by me. (Honestly, I suspect that Borders just had an inept Web site and they weren't trying to fool anyone, but the experience didn't make earn my trust.)

If you're still relying on fine print to square your real offers with what you need to say to get customers to bite, perhaps it's time for you to start the straight talk. I suspect it will restore your relationships with your customers.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Moran published on January 13, 2009 6:45 PM.

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