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Home-Based Business Website and FTC Compliance

Home-Based Business Website and FTC ComplianceThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one of the agencies ruling over advertising, including online advertising, marketing and sales. Starting from 2009, there are now clear rules on what companies can and cannot do in terms of presenting their offers to clients and attracting them with promises of benefits.

Apart from regulating fair use of advertising, the FTC also oversees online data privacy. This means that even if you have a landing page inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter, you fall under FTC regulations and must comply with its rules.

The consequences of not doing so are harsh, with fines up to $40,000 per breach of regulations and even larger amounts in legal expenses and damages if you fight it in court. There is little chance of winning a case against the FTC, especially in view of the growing concern on personal data protection and online fraud.

This means one thing: you must safeguard your home-based business website against violating FTC rules. Here are the top issues you need to review and solve as soon as possible:

1. The Privacy Disclaimer Page
Any website collecting personal data must include a Disclaimer page. In this page you will disclose to website visitors who agree to share personal data with you the following:
⦁ That you are taking the best precautions to protect the data you collect from theft;
⦁ That you do not sell their personal data to third parties;
⦁ If applicable, if you share this data with your investors/stakeholders.

The Privacy & Communication Disclaimer is a binding contract between your home-based business and your subscribers. This means that if you fail to keep any of the promises above, you are liable for action in court.

2. Testimonials
Any business needs testimonials in order to gain the confidence of future customers by bringing proof of the quality of the product. Certainly, the best proof come from people who bought and tried the products. Ideally, testimonials are given without asking for them.

However, if you offer any kind of incentive for customers to post testimonials, you need to make a material connection disclosure about this aspect. Otherwise, you might fall under the incidence of a false and misleading advertising violation.

Also, if you plan to use any person’s full identity (photo, video recording) in the testimonials published on your website, you must sign a Publicity Consent & Release Agreement with each person individually.

3. Claims Concerning Your Products
Any kind of claims you make about the way your products work, and the effects or benefits the customers should expect to see must be substantiated. Things are extremely sensitive especially in the area of weight loss, diet, natural supplements and similar products. This sensitivity extends to online fitness or healthy recipes websites.

The FTC is extremely proactive in enforcing the regulations concerning false and misleading advertising in these domains, so if you are operating or plan to open a home-based business in any of these areas you must consult with a specialized attorney.

4. Products for Children
If your ads are targeted at children under 13, you fall under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).You need to follow closely all the FTC regulations included in this act and make all the required disclosures on your website, as well as create your ads in accordance with the guidelines.

5. Affiliate Marketing
Are you an affiliate marketer for the products you are promoting on your website, through reviews and blog articles? Then you must disclose your material connection with the owner/seller of these products. Ideally, you should place this disclosure at the end of each article, specifying that you gain material or monetary advantages from promoting the respective product.

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The Biggest Digital Marketing Trends of 2017 You Should Know About

The Biggest Digital Marketing Trends of 2017 You Should Know AboutHere it is now – we are ready to wrap up 2016 and look forward to the coming year. It is a time to count our wins and losses, to celebrate all small victories and to plan for new endeavors and new efforts to take our businesses to the next level in 2017.

There are so many things to talk about at the end of a year, but as always it is better to look forward into the future than to look back into the past. Therefore, we want to make this article about what you should start preparing for in order to maintain your businesses successful, and even grow them into bigger and more outreaching companies.

Given the importance of marketing for all companies, large or small, we believe that it is worthwhile taking a peek at what 2017 will mean for your online campaigns. As you know, there is nothing faster changing than the digital world, and marketing follows the general trend. Some strategies work for a season or for a year. Others are just a passing fad and go away just as quickly as they became popular.

So, what will be the biggest and most impactful digital marketing trends in 2017?

1. Live Video Takes over the Social Media
The past years have seen the rise of video over text and static images as the most popular format for sharing content and creating ads. And video will continue to rule, promoted by the wide availability of smartphones with HD video cameras and fast mobile internet. But the new king of content and marketing is set to be live video.

The first live video sessions, reserved initially for celebrities and other public personalities with verified accounts, made a huge impact. As soon as everyone could go live on Periscope and Facebook, it was apparent that you do not have to be a star to attract followers and engage people in a strong and meaningful way. Therefore, live video will be even more effective than pre-recorded videos in promoting your business.

So, if you are camera shy, take steps to correct that because you need to ace it at live video if you want to get the most out of social media marketing in 2017.

2. Augmented Reality Will Start Playing a Key Role in Marketing
Augmented reality has been around for a while, but it seemed a niche technique reserved for hair stylists, home improvement, plastic surgery and makeup artists’ businesses. Then came the rave of Pokémon Go, which brought augmented reality in front of every person with a smartphone. The game may have lost its initial popularity, but marketers and product managers are already brainstorming to see how they can take advantage of this technology for more targeted and visually appealing promotion of their products.

We will soon see the rise of apps and software allowing even small businesses to use augmented reality for an affordable price, so start getting familiarized with this technology.

3. Search Algorithms Will Keep Changing
Is your SEO on point? Good. Here’s the bad news: it may soon become obsolete. With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest growing as alternative search engines and keyword promoters, Google and Bing (yes, Microsoft’s own search engine is still around and wants to be taken seriously for once) will change the way pages are ranked and search results displayed.

You may want to extend your SEO beyond your website to your social media accounts just to be one step ahead of the game.

4. Native Ads Are the New Winners of the Game
Let us face it: the number of browsers with ad blockers installed on them or which have ad blocking technology incorporated into them (just like pop-up blockers became a default feature years ago) is on the rise. Banner, video and link ads are becoming obsolete and their conversion rate is decreasing as we are speaking. The new way of serving ads to internet users is through native content, which incorporates promotion in a persuasive and non-intrusive manner.

Great ads which create a viable sale funnel are those which tell a story, create emotions and offer arguments in a natural, conversational manner. Soft selling skills will become more important than ever when planning your marketing campaigns.

5. Mobile Will Dominate the Internet World
If 2016 was the year when mobile internet traffic exceeded desktop traffic, this trend will continue even stronger that we’ve witnessed so far. In a worldwide market of affordable smartphones and data plans, even people from remote areas will be able to be connected to the rest of the planet through a simple handheld device capable of so many tasks.

Besides the rise of mobile internet usage, a side trend to keep your eyes on is the rise of wearable smart technology. Keeping in mind the small screens of these devices, it is worthwhile starting to polish your writing skills to come up with short and effective calls to action which can be properly displayed on these devices.

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The Best Marketing Tools for Home-Based Businesses

the-best-marketing-tools-for-home-based-businessesFinding the ideal marketing strategy for your home-based business is one of the critical aspects for running a successful business. The ideal set of marketing tools is inexpensive and able to reach the largest potential audience of people who are interested in buying your products and services.

If you start a simple Google search, you will have a hard time selecting from the various marketing suites, offering various benefits and functionalities at various prices. Before you settle for any kind of paid marketing tool, you should make sure that you make the most of the basic ones, which are either free or very affordable.

As a home-based business owner, every cent spent during the start-up phase of your business is money taken from your own savings and from your family’s budget, so you should think twice before you sign up for any payment plan. Thus, before you do anything that could impact your finances, you should make sure that you are using these effective and cheap marketing tools:

1. Social Media
Yes, we have been talking a lot about marketing your business on social media, building a close relationship with your followers and potential customers. But this is probably the first time that we are stating it aloud that social media – any platform you are using – represents the biggest, most effective and most affordable marketing tool.

Whether you invest money in ads or promoted posts, or you try to increase the reach and exposure of your business through organic growth strategies, using social media is the first and foremost marketing strategy in the current business world.

2. Email
Email was, practically, the first form of direct messaging. It allowed people to communicate with each other at zero cost (apart from the internet subscription) from any corner of the world. Today, having an email address is a must – it is just as important as your home address or company headquarters. From top entrepreneurs and company CEOs to regular people, we cannot imagine exchanging correspondence or being informed of topics of interest in any other way than through emails.

Email marketing is still alive and well – both for home-based businesses and large corporations. Newsletters, direct response email, and various special offers sent by email get a high conversion rate for a very affordable fee for opening an account with one of the reputable email clients (such as MailChimp).

3. Local Listings
As start-up home-based business, you should focus on reaching out to your local community in the beginning. Local directories, Google Maps and Yahoo Local are some of the most important local listings where you should include your business. The reason for this option is that when someone starts searching for various products and services, businesses situated in their local area will show up first among the search results.

4. Customer Referral Programs
Perhaps one of the most efficient ways to market your business, customer referrals work great for any type of business. The reason for this is that the person’s reputation adds to your company’s. When someone recommends a business, product or service to their family, friends and acquaintances, they add the unspoken guarantee that they vouch for the quality of customer service and professionalism of that business.

5. Bloggers
Influential bloggers are not easy to find, but they can be a great launching board for your business if they accept to post links or banners pointing at your website, or write a product or business review. When you start approaching bloggers, you should make sure that the topics they write about have something in common with your niche. Otherwise, even if the blogger accepts to feature your business on their website, their readers will not be very impressed with your ads and you will get a lower conversion rate.

As you can see, we have focused on what we may call, in this age, traditional marketing tools. However, they are still very effective and will not burden your start-up budget.

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