Small print? Big deal!

Apparently many terms and conditions seem very boring, way too long and full of legalese. To say the least...

The above may be the reasons why your customers are not able to understand your terms and conditions. Or why they are reluctant to even begin reading them. What do you find of the terms and conditions of many large companies? Your customers may eventually choose to accept by for instance ticking the box on your website. Without having any clue what they signed up for. Can you blame them?

However, you may want to help your customers understand your products and services, what they can expect from you and how you are running your business. And at the same time you want to stand out and make your terms and conditions your Unique Selling Point? Read my three practical rules to help you explore, understand and boost the content of your terms and conditions.

Rule 1: Make legal part of your business

First and foremost, legal is part of your business game. Many companies and business owners still seem not to be aware that legal plays a major role in their day to day business. At least, they tend to keep legal matters as far away as possible. ‘We will deal with the problem when it presents itself’, I hear regularly.

But why not better be safe than sorry. For instance, by recognizing that your commercial business also involves legal aspects and actions. And to properly include dealing with legal matters in your business plan. On that basis it is obvious that you provide adequate terms and conditions as part of your offer and contract.

Rule 2: Make your small print accessible

Terms and conditions are often referred to as small print or fine print. Apparently, because of how they literally are typed in minimized font size. All to cover up the real length of the text and to cram it on a single A4 page. Well, this doesn’t seem to help you achieve and retain a long-time and happy client relationship, does it? Or could you care less? And have you ever tried reading your own company’s small print? Do you know what they say and mean? You should. Because if you can’t read and understand them, do not expect your customers can.

So, my advice is to be pro-actively involved in drafting or updating your terms and conditions. And see to it that your employees who close deals or otherwise have to work with them also could explain what they say. Make sure your lawyer does a nice job by skipping the jargon from your small print. This may include not making lots of unnecessary references to articles of law. Your small print must be readable and understandable to your customers. Tell them in plain language. Because the impact of small print is not small at all.

Rule 3: Make your small print bespoke and relevant

The marketing motto ‘context is king’ also applies here. Your small print must reflect your business, what you can promise, the way you work and what is expected from all parties. ‘Copy and paste’ from others will not meet your business needs and interests. Unfortunately, I see this happen too often. And I find this is a big no-no. If not appropriate to your business and not adjusted accurately, the risks are too high. Also it doesn’t look professional.

Obviously, flawless terms and conditions are vital. They should at all times be in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Most challenging is an adequate but yet accessible translation of specific regulations, such as the telecommunications act, privacy law and e-commerce rules. Take the challenge.

Finally, distinguish yourself with the tone of voice of your small print. Tune in to your customers’ needs or target audience. And see to it that it fits your business style and proposition as well. You may think of a rather formal tone if you focus on business clients or a personal one when you focus on consumers. Or you may settle for something in between.

Make your small print your USP

Ultimately, your small print shouldn’t make you small. Provide information that is clear, relevant and as ‘lean and mean’ as possible. Show that you have nothing to hide. The above rules may help you create a USP from your small print.

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