Income reports used to puzzle me.
Why would anyone want to invite a stranger into their finances? Especially considering that the dollars involved can be pretty big – pro bloggers can make a heck of lot of money when they take their business seriously.
I mean, obviously people post income reports as a type of advertising. No matter how friendly, approachable and “normal” the lady who’s raking in $150,000 a month seems (or may actually be) she’s telling you about that $150,000 a month as a way to get you interested in her secret sauce. Which, conveniently, is available for the low price of $199.
Why does this type of advertising work? What specific buttons does it push? And, more to the point, if you don’t rake in $150,000 a month, is there any way that you can still push those buttons and dial in a slice of the magic for your own promotional efforts?
Why Income Reports Are So Effective. It’s Science, yo!
There’s a pretty smart guy in the marketing field named Robert Cialdini. He’s done a lot of interesting work on the psychology behind marketing – trying to answer questions about why people do the things they do and how to understand those motivations so you can reach people more effectively.
In 2001, he wrote a kick butt article for the Harvard Business Review (go Crimson!) where he talks about some of the important elements that underly the science of persuasive campaigns. If you’re bored, give it a read, it’s pretty good.
If you’re not quite that bored, here’s the skinny – great marketing campaigns have things in common. They share a common set of attributes that enable them to be effective. Just like blogging, there’s a formula you can follow to be successful.
The thing is, whether the people posting them realize it or not, income reports combine an awful lot of those attributes into one successful package.
Money is kind of universal motivator. Accordingly, finding people who are interested in reading about how Strategy X or Method Z resulted in big revenue gainz is pretty darn easy. Not only is it easy, it’s completely independent of whatever niche the reader happens to occupy. It doesn’t matter if the reader writes about knitting, sells gardening tools, analyzes personal finance, or flies drones – big splashy numbers are going to draw in a lot of eyes.
And that’s pretty critical.
Getting as many eyes as possible focused on whatever it is that you have to say/teach/sell is like the bread and butter of any business anywhere.
Income reports are powerful – from an advertising point of view – because they’re able to attract such a large segment of the total possible market.
Nobody ever posts one income report. They post a bunch of income reports over a period of time. Interestingly, and with only a few exceptions, income reports tend to be posted on a monthly basis for somewhere between 11 and 18 months. After this point, the person doing the posting almost always “decides” to stop posting them, for any number of stated reasons.
I’m going to put on my tinfoil hat and suggest that – maybe – that was the plan all along. That the poster understood, from the beginning, that the power of the income report owes a lot to its ability to be consistent. I mean, if someone posted one dramatic income report, and only one, would that be enough to convince you that they had a secret sauce you might be able to borrow? What if they posted ten income reports in a row, but each one showed wildly fluctuating income – $2,000 one month, then $37,000, then $500, $9,000, etc.?
Instead, income reports work because they provide consistent evidence of success. They create engagement – a critical metric for any business.
A great example of this are the blogs that post income reports with numbers that aren’t big and splashy. Even though they’re not big and splashy, they show consistency – numbers that are either really stable or rising – and get people interested in the ongoing progress.
Being able to generate revenue automatically grants you authority. The truth of the blog world is that lots of people are trying to figure out how to use their blogs to turn a profit. Many people try and fail, and many more come from the mindset that people who don’t fail – people who make decent revenue – are some kind of uncommon thing.
Now, the truth is that people fail to generate revenue mainly because they give up, not because they can’t do it. And, making decent revenue is just a matter of following the right formula. It’s not lucky or rare. If you have the right tools, create the right content, and grab enough eyes, you’re going to succeed. It’s just math.
Still, if you can show the vast aspiring audience that you’ve cracked the code and are earning revenue, you immediately gain authority points, which leads to trust.
Hacking the Not-So-Obvious Psychology of the Income Report
One of the things our new friend Robert Cialdini likes to talk about is Social Proof.
Social Proof is the idea that you believe something – or are persuaded by something – because you have a lot social evidence that other people find it believable or persuasive.
Now, social evidence isn’t the same thing as real evidence, it’s just the idea that other people have already taken the risk of trying a product/service and it’s worked, so you feel more comfortable about taking the plunge yourself. Really, we’re all just sweet little gazelles waiting for someone to go check the watering hole for secret lions before we wander down for a drink ourselves.
This is not a new idea. I mean, the ads for Dr. Zanzar’s Super Amazing Restorative Tonic back in 1821 had all kinds of personal endorsements plastered on them.
For real, look at this craziness.
In the early days of online advertising & marketing, the social proof offered up most commonly was not so different than the totally unverifiable people backing Dr. Zanzar’s Super Tonic. This was the age of the Testimonial, many of which were smacked up on tons of websites hawking all kinds of products and services.
The testimonial persists even today, which is why you see lots of those mini-interview videos posted on a lot of sites that offer products and courses.
However, because we live in the age of social media, social proof has taken on a diverse and sophisticated variety of forms that go well beyond the testimonial of ages past. Likes, Shares, follows, pins, smashing, ringing, subscribing – these are all variations of the same basic concept – getting new people on board by showing them that other people have already checked the watering hole for lions.
Things get interesting when we think a little bit deeper about the idea of social proof, how it applies to the income report, and how we can hack it for application to our own marketing aims.
It’s a curious fact that social proof follows an “uncanny valley” distribution.
The uncanny valley is a term that describes how people feel about robots. Yes, robots. Basically, when you build a robot, people like the robot more if you make it look more like person. That is, until it looks a lot like a person, at which point they kind of start to hate it. It makes them more and more uncomfortable – until it looks so much like a human that a real human can’t tell the difference. Then they totally love it again. Weird.
Though the uncanny valley was conceptualized to describe this robot thing, it turns out that the basic cycle of like-don’t like-totally love applies to lots of things. Including – you guessed it – social proof. In an unexpected twist, it appears that people don’t really trust the first couple of gazelles who wander down to the watering hole. They wonder, “what if those jerks are just pretending there are no lions so that the lions totally eat me and then they can have all the water for themselves?”
It turns out that income reports are a super effective method of advertising because they short circuit this cycle. The manage to be so attractive, consistent, and authoritative that people are willing to be in the first cycle of tweeters, pinners, likers and reposters. The income report manages to very quickly hurdle right over the “uncanny” part of the the valley into the lush green savanna beyond.
Though it’s taken a lot of words to get here, the hack you can apply to your own purposes is to create content and campaigns designed to be super sharable and promotable. You can use the building blocks of attraction, consistency, and authority to craft a product that gets shared quickly, allowing you to jump over the valley and capitalize on the exponential growth that follows.
Pretty neat, right?