When you ask people for free help, you simply cannot impose a ton of legal terms and conditions. For example, surveys. People love to give their two cents. You can often get your customers to complete brief surveys without incentive, as long as the participant feels that their opinion matters.

I recently received an email invitation from my local telecomm provider. They were smart to set my expectations in the body of the email:

“The survey has only 12 questions and should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.”

I found this acceptable and clicked through to their survey website. Upon reading the lengthy text on that page, I gave up without even starting the survey. Here’s why…

You have agreed to take part in a survey regarding of one or more new technology products or services (or improvements to existing products or services) that may be marketed by

[BRAND] in the future.

By accepting below, you agree that:

– The [BRAND] technology products, services or improvements that you will be evaluating are confidential and proprietary to [BRAND].

– You will not disclose, sell, license, sublicense, transfer, or otherwise convey to any third party any confidential information or materials disclosed to you by [BRAND] in connection with the survey.

– You will keep confidential, and not disclose to any third party, the [BRAND] survey or the fact of your participation in this survey.

– You will not copy, print, store, forward or attempt to do any of these acts with respect to any images or pages presented to you in any format or manner during the survey.

– You will keep confidential, and not disclose to any third party, all suggestions for changes or improvements to, or any other feedback about, the [BRAND] products, services or improvements that you or any other participant in the survey may make.

– [BRAND] shall own and shall be free to use, without any acknowledgment or compensation to you, any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques contained in any suggestion or feedback you may make for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to developing, improving, manufacturing, and marketing products, services or improvements incorporating your suggestions or feedback.

– Neither you nor any member of your immediate family work for competitor of [BRAND] (if you are not sure who [BRAND] competitors are, please contact a member of the [BRAND] team conducting the survey).

– This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between you and [BRAND] with respect to your participation in this survey. This Agreement shall be effective on the date you ACCEPT below, and shall remain in effect for two (2) years afterward. This Agreement is governed by the laws of the State of New York.

Agreeing to non-disclosure for two years … for a survey? I wouldn’t agree to anything more than one year for a paying client.

I’m sorry, but this is not worth my time, effort or the worry about legal action.

The key take away for business owners is simple: respect the people you are inviting to help you, but don’t muddy the message with a bunch of legalese. If it’s so important, than move those people to some form of confidential advisory panel with an actual incentive. Otherwise there is no value for them to participate, especially with the threat of legal action.

What’s your opinion? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.