You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it yourself:
“I made 5 figures last month, and I can show you how.”
“I run a 6 figure business, so you should take my course.”
“We have a 7 figure company, and we’ve doubled our business year to year, sign up for my programs.”
…What do you feel when you’re exposed to these marketing messages?
If you’re anything like me at various points along my journey: probably a mix of jealousy, anxiety that you’re not there yet, and scratching your head asking yourself if there’s something wrong with you or your business.
I get it.
Income claim marketing is prevalent in the digital marketing space, and there’s a reason for it.
In case you’re not familiar with it, income claim marketing is when a business or coach shares how much money they’ve made… in an effort to prove how successful their business has been. Usually, this display of wealth is also used in order to sell something that promises to replicate these results for students.
Am I immune to this form of marketing? Nope. I’ve shared some of our business income milestones in the past.
But sharing income and talking about 5, 6, and 7 figure sums has never really sat right with me.
The Reason Income Claim Marketing Is So Common
If you’re tired of this trend, you first need to understand why it has taken over in recent years and why it’s actually not common outside of the business-to-business space.
1. Businesses teaching “business skills” need to convince you of their effectiveness.
I’ve spoken about how it’s absolutely possible to run a successful online business outside of the “business niche” before. But we're fooled into thinking it's not possible, and here's why:
Anyone who is selling or marketing a business focused program needs to show that it works, and usually the only proof is if it worked for the program creator (before they have any student success stories, especially).
On the other hand, if you run a business that delivers a product or service outside of the B2B space, there’s no reason to share your income. The focus is on helping customers, whether that’s teaching people how to train their dogs, organize their closet, or blend a mean green smoothie.
So the income claim marketing is totally unnecessary in these areas of business.
2. Money & Numbers Fascinate Us
People are curious. We love seeing behind-the-scenes information – especially when it comes to how money works. Money is even more intriguing because most of our society is hush-hush about it these days.
How often have you spoken about your income or had in-depth money conversations with friends, coworkers, and family members? Probably not often. But any juicy details about the income of other people can help you know if you’re “on track” or not.
And I think it's also really refreshing to remove the money talk taboo so we can be more honest with how we're doing – and where we want our businesses to be. At first, this can be a positive of sharing the income of a business. But in a minute, you’ll see why this positive side doesn’t last for very long…
3. Success breeds success
If you see someone who is rocking it out and making a killing, you’ll want to follow along for the journey and maybe even join in the action to see why other people are also flocking to this business.
Call it the “busy restaurant line up effect”, where a successful business keeps getting more successful because it can use the social proof to market even more.
It just takes a small success to then snowball this “win” into bigger results, which allows a business to continue to up their income claim marketing and up their sales as a result.
Why Income Claim Marketing Is A Dangerous Business Practice
I’ve been thinking about income claim marketing for the past few years, and I could never quite put my finger on why it bugged me so much.
On the one hand, it causes lots of crappy feelings for anyone who compares themselves to the businesses in question…
Of course we can reframe that and coach ourselves into being “happy for the business owner,” so that we can manifest the same great thing for ourselves.
(I’ve done that. I’ve definitely looked at other people’s success and cheered them on, because I know that the more of us who are successful, the better. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all!)
And I definitely recommend this positive attitude whenever you see someone else doing what you want to achieve (whether it’s speaking on stages, publishing a book, landing top clients, earning big, etc.).
But here's the real flaw I’ve come to see with income claim marketing: it doesn’t just affect an audience’s feelings, but it also causes a ton of internal pressure on the business owner to keep performing.
Remember that business is cyclical: there are growing seasons, times of rest, and everything in between.
No business earns exactly the same amount from month to month or year to year… and when we base a business’ success on the income it generates, instead of on the value it provides to its customers, we’re creating false structures that are bound to topple.
How Income Claims Force The Wrong Kind of Business Growth
Growth for growth’s sake is a dangerous mission. It has unsustainability written all over it, and there is no system in nature that can grow unchecked forever.
So why would we think that business is any different? When we look at the stock market, we expect it to just go up-up-up… and the same goes for our business revenues. But that’s not reality.
There are no “linear trajectories” in life or business. Everything is circular or cyclical, and trying to force growth to follow a straight line up is a recipe for burnout.
In order to keep up with expectations like doubling your income year after year, or reaching the next big income milestone, we end up making business growth decisions that don’t align with our intentions for starting a business in the first place.
For some people that means upgrading their lifestyles so that they can add luxury brand marketing to their arsenal and sell the dream using fancy shoes, handbags, and jet-setting adventures.
I know, because I upped my spending on luxury items when my business income increased. Once I started buying fancier clothes, I was perceived differently, but it didn’t fulfill me or make me any happier. To this day, I still have a love/hate relationship with fashion, but that’s a discussion for another day…
Other tricky growth-for-growth’s sake traps that go hand in hand with income claim marketing include:
- Hiring more team members to keep up with the growth (especially if you never wanted to become a manager)
- Saying yes to opportunities for growth that aren’t in alignment with your mission and will create more stress and resentment down the line
- Committing to new offerings just to feed the beast (make payroll or keep your income consistently high)
- Doing promotions with partners to reach income goals (but that don’t feel good in your heart)
- Feeling trapped and unable to slow down or create space in your life because the business has taken over
Business Burnout That Looks Like Celebrity Burnout
I think that income claim marketing leads to placing a business owner on a pedestal and can cause issues that many celebrities experience when they get fame quickly: burnout.
When a business owner relies on their income claims to show their expertise and success, it can lead to people chasing similar results like they might chase a popular band or singer. They may not really be there because they love the music, but because everyone else does and it seems like it might work for them.
On the other hand, when you build a community of true fans that love you for who you are and the value that your products and services provide, you don’t need to use your income to market as much.
You can just trust that you provide value directly just by being yourself.
It Doesn't Show The Full Picture
The other dark side of income claim marketing is that it doesn’t show the full picture. Usually we’re only seeing the “topline numbers”, so we don’t know if a business is profitable.
It’s possible that a business is sharing a huge 5, 6, or 7 figure income but that they spent just as much on expenses to get there. Or even worse, that they’re in debt or owe a ton of taxes.
Again, all of this reminds me of the rosy pictures that we paint of famous celebrities. We don’t really know what’s going on behind the flashy photoshoots and fancy dresses…
That’s why we’re so surprised when we hear of a star overdosing or having addictions.
The Real Solution To Business Growth That’s Sustainable
The solution is simple, and it doesn’t lead to instantaneous success: it’s to put your customers first. To focus on what you can do for them. Irrespective of your income.
Because truly, people don’t care how much money you made as long as you can help them. As long as you care.
So the next time you see a big flashy income claim that’s part of a marketing campaign… think about the value YOU bring, not the numbers that might make you doubt yourself.
I believe in you. I believe in your value.
Let’s discuss this…
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts about income claim marketing. Have you done it? Do you feel burned out by trying to keep up appearances when it comes to luxury lifestyle marketing?