Email Marketing: How To Avoid Becoming A Mail Chump

By | Internet Lawyer | No Comments

mailchimp email marketingIf you have an email marketing list, you’ll want to protect that asset by regularly making backup copies.

Why is this important? Data loss and deplatforming.

Data Loss

Something can happen to your email autoresponder service. For example, I once had a client who failed to back up his lists. There was a server crash. And he lost a list of 325,000. What had been generating a very nice income for the client was gone in a flash. And under the terms of his agreement with his email service provider, they weren’t liable for his loss.

Deplatforming

email marketing complaintA more recent trend is social justice warriors (SJWs) waging war by deplatforming those they disagree with on any issue. Typically this involves attempts to get the person’s social media accounts (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) banned for allegedly being racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.

The employee activists at these social media companies will often violate their own terms of service to arbitrarily implement a ban based on prejudged guilt because of the SJW’s accusation.

This deplatforming has now spread to email marketing service providers.

For example, yesterday a so-called “woke” individual tweeted a complaint to Mailchimp about a twitter user she accused of being racist, etc.

In response, Mailchimp promptly terminated the accused’s email marketing account.

Whether or not you believe the marketer deserved to have his account terminated because of his beliefs, the moral of the story is that you need to back up your lists because it could happen to you someday. If there’s a lesson to be learned online about disagreements, it’s that popular opinion today on an issue can make you a pariah six months from now.

Email Marketing Precautions

Before you sign up for an autoresponder service, be sure to read the provider’s terms of service so that you understand what the company’s official policy is on the content you send to your lists.

Make sure you have those regular list backups made so that you can port to another autoresponder service if there’s a server data loss or your account is terminated.

And be sure to comply with applicable email marketing laws. I cover many of these legal risks — and how to avoid them — in my book “Email Marketing: How To Protect Your Business When Selling By Email.”

Recommended Email Service Providers

At the present time, I can no longer recommend Mailchimp because of their complicity in deplatforming email marketers based on views.

Many of my clients use either ActiveCampaign or AWeber for their email marketing. I’ve used AWeber for the past dozen years to handle the firm’s lists and I’m an affiliate for the company. I highly recommend AWeber for simplicity and legal compliance reasons.

 

Website Membership Contract: Do You Need One On Your Site?

By | Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents | No Comments

website membership contractThere’s a lot of confusion as to whether a website membership contract is necessary. Many online businesses mistakenly think that the site’s terms of use (a.k.a. terms of service) provides enough protection when selling online memberships (sometimes referred to as a subscription or continuity program).

Yet, as part of your website legal documents, it’s important to have a separate membership agreement in these instances to protect  intellectual property and other legal rights. A good contract will reduce lawsuits and the likelihood you’ll get into trouble with the FTC or another government agency.

This membership contract spells out exactly what the buyer is getting with the purchase (e.g. a license to use X), what happens when membership ends, and many other important key terms that are unique to the membership itself (as opposed to all website visitors).

In addition, a good online membership agreement will address what will happen if there’s a conflict between the terms and conditions of the agreement and your site’s general terms of use and refund policy.

A skilled Internet business lawyer can draft a custom website membership contract that’s specifically designed to protect you and your venture.

Why An Affiliate Deleted 13,164 Tweets Today

By | Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents | No Comments

affiliate disclosure and tweet deletionI just watched a large Twitter account delete over 13,164 tweets because the account holder didn’t use an affiliate disclosure when promoting others’ products and services in exchange for commissions. The tweet deletes were a c.y.a. move designed to limit legal liability exposure.

That’s a shame because the tweets contained really good content, i.e. he gave out a lot of valuable content in the process of affiliate marketing.

And the sad thing is, he could have fixed the issue for any tweets he wanted to save. It would have taken just one call to an experienced Internet business lawyer to learn how to do it.

Affiliate Disclosure And Material Connections

Since December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines have been clear that material connections — including affiliate status — must be disclosed so that the prospective purchaser has the key facts necessary (including your potential bias) in order to make an informed decision whether or not to purchase a recommended product or service.

This covers all of your marketing online and offline to U.S. consumers.

Some online marketers mistakenly believe they only have to comply when promoting on their websites by using the right website legal documents.

That’s not true. Disclosure requirements cover emails, social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), etc.

Marketing To The U.S. From Other Countries

What’s interesting is a fellow marketer on Twitter responded to the guy deleting tweets by saying the FTC’s rules and regulations didn’t apply to the marketer because he was based in another country.

That’s another mistaken belief.

If you’re marketing to U.S. consumers from anywhere in the world, the FTC has the ability to go after you for false or deceptive marketing practices.

Does the federal government go after foreigners for bad marketing practices? Absolutely. In fact there have been spammers sent to federal prison for years for violating U.S. law even though they never stepped foot in the United States prior to being arrested in their home countries and extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.

Material Connections Are More Than Just Affiliate Status

And remember, it’s more than affiliate status that needs to be disclosed. It’s all material connections that a prospect should know about.

For example, if you’ve reached an agreement with another marketer to promote to each other’s Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or email lists, that material connection should be disclosed.

Does Your Website Privacy Policy Protect You In Other States And Countries?

By | Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer, Website Legal Documents | No Comments

website privacy policyIn the past, a U.S. business typically needed to be concerned about the laws of the state(s) where it did business (e.g. where the company was set up) and federal law. That’s not the case today if your business is online – with or without a website privacy policy.

For example, California and the European Union may attempt to apply their laws and regulations to your business…even if your company isn’t based in California or Europe. Both have strict privacy laws and regulations that may affect your website’s legal protection.

In fact, the EU adopted an 80+ page data protection regulation that went into effect in 2018. And California has enacted a new law that’s similarly complicated…and it goes into effect in 2020.

In other words, if your site has a website privacy policy that’s a couple years old, chances are you haven’t even addressed these potential threats to your business.

Now, you could ignore these risks. And maybe a government agency won’t come after you. And you won’t get sued by someone claiming you’ve violated their new legal rights.

Of course, the prudent thing to do is have a skilled Internet business attorney review your website for compliance issues and update your site’s privacy policy, terms of use, and other legal documents. As Benjamin Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

5 Keys To Selling An Internet Business

By | Business Contracts, Internet Lawyer | No Comments

selling an internet businessIf you had the foresight to create an online company years ago, you are likely ahead of the curve. According to Nasdaq, it is estimated that 95% of purchases will be through eCommerce by 2040. That means investors are motivated to get involved with eCommerce and internet business sales are booming. But what do you need to know when selling an Internet business?

The bad news is that a significant number of business sale transactions fall apart before closing. If you are considering selling your online business, it’s important to get informed so that you can maximize your profits and minimize risk.

Here are the top 5 things you will want to know when selling your online business:

1. Prepare your Internet business for sale

Before you publish your sale or start working with a website sales broker make sure your online business is actually ready for sale. Ensure you have written business contracts in place with key employees, suppliers, or contractors so they will remain with the business after the sale. Also make sure your intellectual property, spam, and privacy policies enable you to legally transfer information to the third-party purchaser. Have a professional look over (and supplement, if needed) your financial and tax information because you will need to divulge accurate and thorough financial information to potential buyers.

2. Determine your desired outcome

There’s more to selling an Internet business than simply deciding on a selling price. Determine how you would like to be paid (do you want to be paid a lump-sum or in installments?) and whether you will provide financing for the sale. Also, do you intend to stay with the business as a consultant or employee after the sale? If so, determine how long you plan on staying and what you want to be paid for your time (above and beyond the website purchase price).

Related Article: Sell An Internet Business – How To Avoid 3 Costly Mistakes

Do not make the mistake of offering ongoing consulting services without a solid agreement governing the terms of your consulting. Many internet business owners get stuck doing free work 90 days to a year post-sale just to keep the business afloat until the buyer is up to speed. You can avoid that.

3. Conduct a pre-sale legal compliance review

You will want to ensure your website is not violating any intellectual property, spam, or privacy laws before you even consider posting your business for sale. Legal issues in the business will reduce the value of your business, or worse, prevent a sale entirely.

4. Use the right professionals

There are plenty of well-versed professionals with respect to selling traditional brick & mortar businesses, but selling an online business is not the same. You will need to work with a professional with specific knowledge and experience in eCommerce business sales. An Internet business lawyer can help ensure you have the appropriate legal documents and field questions from potential purchasers to bring your deal to the closing table while minimizing risks.

5. Protect yourself against risks

Selling any business carries certain risks. Sometimes competitors act like a prospective buyer in order to gain confidential business information that they will use to compete with your business. Be wary of frivolous prospects by carefully reviewing letters of intent and seeking the advice of experienced internet business counsel. You also want to be cautious of contracts and legal documents provided by potential buyers, because those documents will be written in favor of the buyer, not you!

Also, if you plan on financing part of the sale, make sure you secure that part of the sales price with collateral to minimize the risk of nonpayment. Without collateral, it may not be financially profitable for you to pursue legal remedies in the event of nonpayment. By securing your financial agreement with collateral, you are protecting your ability to collect if issues arise.

While these are the fundamentals to selling an internet business, you will want to perform due diligence and learn as much as you can about this online business transaction process to ensure you get maximum value.

Do You Need Help Selling An Internet Business?

If you have a motivated prospective buyer and time is of the essence, it will be worthwhile to contact an experienced attorney right away. Attorney Young helps entrepreneurs sell their eCommerce business for a fair price while reducing your legal risks. If you are ready to sell your Internet business or simply want to learn more about the process, schedule a phone consultation with Attorney Mike Young and he will help you develop a road map to ensure you get what you want from the deal.