If I asked you to tell me right now — no peeking, no asking a colleague — the total number of web pages where your products were currently being advertised and sold, could you give me an accurate number? Do you think you could even estimate it to within, say 10% or 20% accuracy?
Assuming your company sells through a channel of partners, at any given moment your products are probably being advertised on dozens, perhaps hundreds of different pages across the Internet: eCommerce sites, display ads, pay-per-click ads, online marketplaces, affiliate content, and other pieces of digital real estate. Moreover, these ads and sales pages — as well as their advertised prices for your products — are dynamic and can change frequently.
And of course, not all businesses listing your products are officially part of company’s resale network. Some are resellers you have no relationship with and might not even know about, which makes tracking how they’re advertising and selling your products much more difficult.
All of which is to say that if you’ve gone to the effort of developing a minimum advertised price (MAP) policy to protect your products’ advertised prices — smart move, by the way — you now need an effective MAP enforcement program to support that policy.
Unfortunately, many brands, even those with well-written MAP policies, still suffer serious business problems caused by regular violations of those policies — because their enforcement strategy is poorly thought through, ineffectively executed, or both. Don’t make these common mistakes when setting up your MAP enforcement program.
5 common reasons map enforcement programs fail
1. The manufacturer or brand fails to effectively publicize and communicate its MAP policy
The first step after drafting your MAP policy will be to get the word out to your entire resale channel that the policy exists and that it is now in effect.
Many brands simply publish their MAP policy on an internal page on their website and leave it at that — assuming that they’ve checked the “MAP” box and can move on. But this policy isn’t just some legal boilerplate language that needs to be posted somewhere on your site.
The whole point of a MAP policy is for your resale channel — as well as businesses just starting to consider carrying your lines — to know that the policy is there to protect them against being unfairly undersold.
When you’ve completed your MAP policy, don’t keep it to yourself. Post it prominently on your site — particularly on your Partner pages. Issue a press release to your industry’s trade publications announcing the new policy. Send the policy to your existing resellers and include it in any onboarding package you have for new members of your sales channel.
One of the most effective MAP enforcement strategies is educating your resale channel about the rules — so that fewer of them violate those rules in the first place.
2. The company can’t fully monitor its products’ presence across the Internet
Because it is so simple today for an online retailer to build a sales page or buy a pay-per-click ad, you have to assume that your products are being advertised by more businesses, across more websites than you and your internal team can keep track of.
Moreover, because these pages and ads are likely changing frequently — and because some businesses selling your products might intentionally drop their advertised prices below your MAP-approved levels at times of the day or days of the week when they think you won’t notice — it will be very difficult and time-consuming to monitor the web frequently enough to catch violations.
And it is this lack of a brand’s ability to fully monitor its products’ presence across all digital channels, at all times of day, that can lead to MAP violations that go unnoticed and unaddressed.
3. The company enforces its MAP policy inconsistently
Another common weakness in many companies’ MAP enforcement programs is the fact that, because they manage their MAP programs manually, the enforcement measures they take differ over time or from case to case.
Perhaps at the start of the year, a manager decides that MAP enforcement will be a top priority. The company tasks several team members with monitoring the web day and night for violations and sending out warning letters. But soon another business priority emerges, and those MAP-enforcement employees are re-tasked. Now MAP violations are allowed to stand for long periods of time — which the company’s key resellers notice and are not happy about.
Effective MAP enforcement requires the company consistently catch and take action against violations. This is one of many reasons that the best MAP enforcement program is an automated MAP enforcement program.
4. The company mistakenly takes a one-size-fits-all approach to all violations
This might sound like a contradiction to the point I just made. For your MAP enforcement program to be effective, it must give your company the ability to be consistent about spotting and reacting to violations.
Also, for legal reasons, you need to enforce your MAP rules consistently across your resale channel. You can’t show favorites, for example, by penalizing smaller or newer resellers while cutting slack to your large, lucrative retail partners who commit the same violation of your policy.
However, you can — indeed, you should — develop your MAP enforcement strategy with the understanding that not all violations are created equal. Some will be innocent mistakes; others will be intentional. Some will come from honorable partners you’ve done business with for years; other will come from fly-by-night operators who have no relationship with your company.
Even your trusted sales partners, the members of your Authorized Dealer Programs, and well-known, reputable retail companies new to your resale channel might violate your MAP policy — and these violations might even have an innocent excuse.
New marketers join the teams at these companies and post advertisements without realizing you have a MAP policy in effect. And of course, in their enthusiasm to promote your products, sometimes these well-meaning marketers might just forget about checking their promotions against your MAP prices.
This is one reason I listed failing to communicate your MAP policy as the first item on this list of mistakes to avoid.
So, for the sake of legal compliance, you’ll need a MAP enforcement program that takes the same approach to each type of violation, no matter where it comes from. This will mean a specific type of violation (from anyone) will trigger the same warning message from your company, followed by the same series of escalating actions.
But for your key strategic accounts, and for the businesses who have earned your trust over time, you might also want to add a friendly phone call to the process, just alerting them that they’ve violated the MAP pricing policy. In most cases, this will have the dual benefits of bringing the violation to the reseller’s attention so they can quickly correct it, and preserving your working relationship with that company.
5. The company’s MAP enforcement strategy lacks the efficiency and scalability of automation
One theme you have probably noticed among all of these common MAP enforcement mistakes is that they’re largely the result of brands trying to enforce their MAP policies manually.
Simply monitoring their products’ entire presence across the entire Internet, at all times, is a difficult enough task to accomplish without automation. But add the fact that these companies would also have to fully document every violation, and then determine what actions to take in each case — and you can see that the time and resources needed for in-house enforcement simply becomes cost-prohibitive.
There is a solution, though, and it is both more effective and more affordable than even the most well-thought-through manual enforcement program. That solution is a fully automated online platform for MAP tracking, monitoring and enforcement.
With this automated MAP enforcement solution, once you have your product line’s MAP pricing uploaded to the system, the platform will constantly scour the Internet to make sure your pricing guidelines are being followed. If the system spots a violation, it will automatically begin taking action immediately — documenting the violation, sending out the appropriate warning messages (whether the violator is a website owner or a marketplace such as eBay or Amazon), and alerting you directly, if you choose.
This should all happen automatically, without the need for any manual intervention from your company, and it should happen every time someone violates your MAP policy. With the best-in-class automated MAP enforcement solution, it will.