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Using a Rags-to-Riches Story Won't Build Your Business

Words have power, and how you use them will determine what type of client you attract.

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One scroll through social media, and it won’t be long before you’re inundated with ads or posts from entrepreneurs sharing a specific story. This story paints the picture of how they went from a very low place to a place of incredible success using their proprietary method. These stories of going from broke to riches have been dubbed “rags-to-riches stories.”

Rags-to-riches stories can be incredibly inspiring, but also predatory. These stories are used by entrepreneurs trying to sell the consumer a lifestyle and what the entrepreneur teaches. Rags-to-riches stories are not new and not limited to the internet space. In times past, these stories were told through infomercials and in-person events. These days, rags-to-riches stories are used on social media and paid to draw in consumers. The consumer is skeptical when they encounter these stories.

Our goal, as entrepreneurs, is to share our stories because stories can be powerful. But, there’s a better way to share your story that leads to more impact and better clients in your business. Here are three points to understand about rags to riches stories and why they are not a great messaging approach.

1. You attract different demographics of clients based on your messaging 

Words have power, and depending on how you use them, it will determine what type of client you attract. Using rags-to-riches stories in your messaging tends to attract those on the come-up side of . It tends to attract consumers who would probably love to purchase your higher-priced services and products, but they’re not there.

It’s wise to offer services and products at a wide range of prices in your business, but it will be pointless if you’re only attracting those that can afford the lower side of things. High-ticket clients tend to be turned off by the rags-to-riches and internet-marketing type of messaging.  

Put yourself in the same position as your consumers. If you saw someone showing up in your feed or inbox with a flashy, “I went from broke to millionaire” type of message, how would you feel? Attract better clients with authentic messaging that’s focused on topics and clear takeaways.

Related: 4 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From John Paul DeJoria's Rags-to-Riches Story

2. Rags-to-riches messaging tends to draw in lower-tier clients 

Large companies spend millions in research before they ever advertise. They know exactly who they want to reach and the messaging that will reach them. They tend to focus on discounts and time-sensitive offers if they’re trying to get consumers on the lower side of things. If they’re trying to reach higher-end consumers, they use messaging that speaks to the affluent lifestyle. Your goal should be to mimic this strategy.

Using rags-to-riches stories will attract clients that can’t get past the lower level of what you offer. At that point, your only way to grow is to focus on volume. If you have to reach higher volume numbers, you will constantly have to find channels to reach new consumers — it’s a lot more work. What would you rather have, one hundred $10 clients or one $1,000 client?

Be strategic in your messaging. You can use your story of reinvention to attract those that need it. But you can also focus on the pivot and where you are now to attract higher-end clients. A better way to think about rags-to-riches stories is to rephrase them as pivot stories.

Related: Our Success Is Limited Only by the Stories We Choose to Believe

3. Let your content, knowledge and client results do all the talking 

Internet marketers tend to focus on rags-to-riches stories because they try to sell people on a lifestyle. It's hard to know whether the client results are there or not, but it’s suspicious when the marketer only focuses on the story and not what clients are achieving. Consumers see this, and it makes them skeptical about the whole market.

Word of mouth is a powerful form of marketing, and it happens when results are being achieved. People want to scream from the rooftops when they experience the real thing. The story becomes less important because the results are so different than what is typically experienced. 

The best way to know whether a service provider or service is worth your time is to examine the person pushing the offer. Are they making their revenue doing the thing, or is all the revenue coming from teaching you how to do what they say they do? When the service provider is not doing what they say, they tend to use rags-to-riches stories as a heavy sales tactic. You don’t want to tie yourself to a marketing and messaging strategy that has consumers questioning you from the outset. 

Stories are powerful, and you should use them in your content and messaging. However, focus on the pivot and authentic lessons you can share with an audience. Do your best to avoid using rags-to-riches stories as a sales tactic, as it will only attract those who can afford the lower end of things. Don’t get labeled in the same vein as an internet marketer who's only trying to sell you on the lifestyle.

Related: Millennials Don't Want Ads. They Want Stories.

Cindy Constable

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Cindy is a strategist, international consultant, and speaker. Her goal is to elevate your company culture and bring integration between your leadership, vision, culture, and team members. Join her at cindyrconstable.com.