“I made six figures last year using this technique, and you can too!”
Sound familiar? Income-claim marketing is a tactic that we’ve all likely come across. A spokesperson for a company proudly shows off an impressive paycheck and assures you that you can have one just like it in your pocket — if you buy what they’re selling.
Income-claim marketing works for a couple reasons. The first is that it sparks competition and envy. What entrepreneur doesn’t want to see that kind of financial success? The second is that it appeals to people who don’t always have the full picture when it comes to what it takes to successfully run a business — an important key to successfully executed income-claim marketing campaigns, and a big part of the problem with the businesses that run them.
Let’s dive into why income-claim marketing should be avoided and what you can do instead to generate attention and leads.
1. Income-Claim Marketing Hopes the Audience Doesn’t “Get” Business
Any businessperson who’s got the knowledge and experience to successfully run a business knows that revenue fluctuations are a normal part of operations. When you’re selling products based on your income, it doesn’t always leave you room to let natural and healthy fluctuations in cash flows play out without hurting your claims to success. This puts unhealthy pressure on the business using income-claim marketing and sets those business owners on a track to burnout.
Another issue with income-claim marketing that experienced business people will likely note: income is not profit. In fact, income and earnings are such different things that anyone selling a product based on their income should raise flags for businesspeople. Unfortunately, those that aren’t as savvy might not pick up on this important caveat.
This indicates a bigger problem with income-claim marketing — who it appeals to.
Starting and successfully running a business is no joke. It’s a complex and challenging process that is full of risks — which explains why so many businesses fail in the long run. When your livelihood is at stake, it quickly becomes clear that entrepreneurship isn’t a game. A business cannot succeed without a few essential things — none of which can be easily bought or sold. Good financial backing, a foundational education, realistic expectations, and a lot of hard work are all key to successful business management. While income-claim marketers will argue that none of these things are absolutely essential to success, the numbers tell another story.
If the success of income-claim marketing campaigns depends on a lack of understanding some basic business principles, what does that say about who you’re selling your product to — and about your product? How can a product guarantee business success if it depends on buyers not understanding some basic tenets of business processes?
2. Income-Claim Marketing Doesn’t Sell Your Product
Income-claim marketing doesn’t sell your product. It sells success.
Income-claim marketing implies that if someone uses your system or product to help their business, they will achieve the same level of success as (you say) you’ve achieved. The problem is that most of your customers will not achieve the same results for their business, and you can’t guarantee it. Why sell your product based on something that you know isn’t true?
Good marketing informs the customer. It gives them as many details as possible, because good marketers understand that successful business relationships are ones built on mutual benefit and trust. It’s better to have fewer but more loyal customers than to leave a trail of unsatisfied customers and burned bridges — a recipe for unsustainable growth. Instead of trying to lure in customers with unfounded promises of success, look harder. Find the right customers for your company and give them the full story.
If you’re not ready and willing to open your books to your target audience, don’t even consider using them as the basis of your sales messages.
3. Income-Claim Marketing Hurts Your Reputation
While the goal of income-claim marketing is building a reputation for your business, it actually achieves the opposite in reality. There’s a few reasons why:
It’s tired. When you use income-claim marketing instead of actually telling customers what you can do for them or their business, you’re a part of the pack. You fall right in line with all of the other companies using the exact same claims. Customers have heard this pitch hundreds of times, and you’re not telling them anything new — or anything about what your product can actually do for them.
Successful business people see right through income-claim marketing, and tend to lump those that use this strategy into a group you likely won’t want your business to be associated with.
Another reason it leaves a bad mark? It’s bad when it doesn’t pan out for the customer. When your customer doesn’t end up with six figures in their bank account like you said they would, it reflects directly on your business’s capability to deliver on its promises, which has a compounding effect on reputation. When your claims to product quality and sales pitches are based on your customer’s business’s success, it’s a short-sighted way of building authority.
This is especially true when you don’t really have any control over whether or not clients who use your system or methods will actually succeed. Experienced and successful business owners know it takes a lot more than one product, method, or system to make a company succeed.
In the age of powerful word-of-mouth influence and social media, unhappy customers aren’t afraid to let the world hear what they have to say. Stories of poor results and misled buyers will very quickly degrade trust in your business. Customers will see that you’re sending a message to your audience that you’re not afraid to omit important details, useful information, and true keys to successfully running a business in order to sell your product. What else will you tell them to make a sale?
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to avoid income-claim marketing — and the biggest argument against its ethical standing — is that it’s often actually illegal. The FTC takes great issue with business that falsely advertise opportunities. While you might be able to avoid legal issues by avoiding explicit income claims and sticking to vague statements about the amount of “figures” your paychecks are packing, it’s better to avoid misleading your customers in the first place.
Selling Success the Right Way
We’ve all heard it before: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Income-claim marketing might seem like a great way to stand out, but in the end, it will only come back to bite you. If you’re hoping to successfully sell your product, there’s a couple things you can try instead that will actually help bolster your reputation, build up your brand, and earn you lots of good attention.
First, focus on your product. What are you really selling to your customers? If you find yourself needing to overly embellish or puff, it might be time to take a step back and identify the real selling points of your product. Focus on how the product actionably benefits your customers. Give them evidence of real results, cold hard numbers, and good reasons to buy — proof that depends on the real performance of your product, not on the number in your bank account.
Next, reevaluate your marketing plan with a fine-toothed comb and get rid of spam, puffery, and sales-oriented language. It might take a lot of work, but if you’re serious about the success of your business, it’s worth the time and effort. If you can’t eliminate spammy tactics and false or inflated claims while marketing your product, your problems might be bigger than your marketing plan.
A business relationship should be mutually beneficial. If you’ve got a worthwhile product or idea, there are plenty of great ways to communicate the real value of what you’re selling. You can find a marketing plan that works for both your business and your customers, building up your reputation and your relationships in a sustainable way. It might not be easy, but entrepreneurship never is.
Victoria is a writer and and social media geek who loves exploring consumer psychology, branding, and content creation strategy. She also has a passion for creating guides that help people make good financial and business decisions.