Why you DON’T want to start your funnel with a tripwire

Why you DON’T want to start your funnel with a tripwire

Despite what many people may believe, the majority of extremely successful online marketers do not use a trip wire.

Even though they often teach YOU to use one.

Here’s why I don’t think it is always the best strategy to use.

Look at offers from people like Rich Schefren, Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, Dan Kennedy, and Jay Abraham. None of them start their funnel with a tripwire.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a tripwire offer, but it’s certainly not the only way to acquire new customers. If you really want to start with a lower-priced offer, start around $20 or $29.

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Psychology of offers

Take a look at the psychology of the strategy. When someone comes to you and you offer a little $7 product, and then from there you try to sell them a higher-priced product, you are asking the prospect/customer to gradually step up with you.

In contrast, most of the highly successful internet marketers start with a high-priced offer. Something in the range of $200 to $500. What this does is it gets the “cream of the top”, so to speak.

There is a certain percentage of people who are going to take advantage of the higher offer like that.

Then we create a frame of value around the product for those who don’t jump in right away.

Very often, after the higher one-time payment, we come back with a payment plan. We get a number of people who jump in there, because instead of $299, now they can get started with three payments of $99.

If they don’t take advantage of the payment plan, we’re able to drop them down to a lower-priced version of the product, say, a $69 dollar version that we break out of the main product.

For example, if your main product includes weekly coaching calls with you, plus videos and swipe files, maybe you offer a streamlined $69 version that doesn’t include any of the calls with you, but it still includes the modules and the swipes.

What you have done, is establish the positioning of the higher price point.

At the end, if you want to, you can roll out a trip wire offer for anyone who hasn’t yet become a customer at the higher price points. But now they have a completely different mental frame; you have completely changed your positioning and how they view you.

Create and establish value

As another example, when I was running the marketing at Strategic Profits for Jay Abraham, we would hold events for $20,000 or $25,000. He would market those events to his list and get a certain number of people to pay that price to be in attendance.

The whole purpose was to create and establish value and worth around the information. Six months later, Jay could go back to the list and make an offer for the recordings of the same event that people had paid $20,000 to $25,000 to be a part of live. Now you could get this same event for one-tenth the price, $2000, and save yourself 90%.

Think of the frame that he just created. It makes that two grand for the DVDs look like an insane bargain.

Imagine if he hadn’t set that mental frame, and hadn’t positioned the live event for $20,000. What if he just tried to sell you a $2000 set of DVDs?

It’s a totally different perspective.

It reminds me of an individual who is told that they have cancer, and they have to go through massive treatments for the next six months, but there is a great likelihood that they will survive. That’s terrible, horrific news for them.

Then imagine that the person is first told that they have inoperable cancer and only a year to live. The next day the doctor calls back and says, “Wait, we made a mistake. You don’t need surgery. You just need to go through treatment for the next six months and you’re going to live.”

Now the person is thinking, “Thank God. That’s the greatest piece of news that I could have gotten today!”

I know that is an extreme example, but now you see that it’s all based on how you frame something.

For that reason, I don’t like to start with a trip wire. We start high and then go to lower-priced options. You might want to try this too.

  • David Blaise
    Posted at 17:46h, 29 February Reply

    The approach you’re advocating had always worked better for me, but I’m sure there’s been split testing done on this. Have you seen any data in that regard?

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 19:01h, 29 February Reply

      Hey David – I like starting high and going lower rather the reverse. But, there is room for both low-priced offers and higher-ticket offers for acquiring customers. When the ROI is there, both are valuable.

  • wilson
    Posted at 17:48h, 29 February Reply

    Hi Todd, i really appreciate your great information but now with this post i am really confused.

    You say that you don´t like to start with a tripwire but at the same time i see promotions like this: https://funnels.marketingfunnelautomation.com/get-your-free-funnel-maps

    I am confused about now 🙁

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 18:55h, 29 February Reply

      Hey Wilson – great question (and observation).

      I’m not against Tripwire offers. Nor do I think they should never be used.

      The purpose of the article was to try and convey that a tripwire offer doesn’t always have to be used… nor is it the only effective type of customer-acquisition offer.

      I want clients to recognize that you can acquire a lot of customers from higher-priced offers as well. We built MFA off the back of offers $497 and up.

      For clients coming to us with an existing product, they don’t have to begin with a tripwire. For the clients without a product, a tripwire is a great place to begin and get an easy win.

      Hope that clarifies for ya a bit. Thanks for the question, man!

  • Rachel
    Posted at 18:01h, 29 February Reply

    Wondering if this is holds true for cold traffic as well? I do see higher-priced items being offered, though I’ve heard the conversion rate is very low. Is this considered standard, with the expectation that the money will be made by re-targeting?

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 18:59h, 29 February Reply

      Hey Rachel – Super question.

      Absolutely. Our most effective marketing funnel in 2015 used with paid traffic was for a $497 product.

      Remember, conversion rate is not a metric used to determine the viability of a funnel with paid traffic. ROI is.

      You’ll definitely have a much higher conversion rate with a low-priced offer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will give you the needed ROI. It certainly may… with a well-designed upsell sequence. But, it’s easier to get to a positive ROI — even with a lower conversion rate — with a higher-priced offer.

  • Omar Von Gimbel
    Posted at 18:05h, 29 February Reply

    I think you are just playing with the definition. Sure, the typical tripwire is usually from $1-$20, but that is not what defines the tripwire.

    Take one of the examples you used… Frank Kern. He offers consulting services. He typically starts with ads leading to free webinars. Then he ask for I think it is up to $700 as a deposit to consult with him. If you want to work with him, he puts the $700 towards the $4,000/month fee he charges. If you don’t work with him, he gives the $700 back. If you tell him he wasted your time, he’ll give back double.

    So if we follow the outline Digital Marketer gives….
    Lead Magnet > Tripwire > Core Offer > Profit Maximizers > Return Path
    ….how does Frank’s funnel fit?

    —Free Webinar (Lead Magnet – free, pointed, valuable info)
    —$700 for consultation (tripwire – gets people to pull out money, thus changing them from prospect to customer, which is the true point of a tripwire)
    —$4,000 /month for consulting services (core offer from which he deploys profit maximizers offers, like master mind groups, etc.)

    So even though the tripwire is not the recommended usual of $1-$20, it still fulfills that role. It converts prospects from Lead Magnet into customers. It is a fraction of the cost of his core offer, thus giving him a chance to “wow” them up front for “cheap” (relatively speaking, lol) thus building trust for his core offer.

    I think a more accurate, and less confusing way to explain your point is to show how with super high-end, expensive products and services can have a higher priced tripwire to weed out the cheap-skate, tire-kickers.

    The marketers you mentioned Impliment tripwires. They just implement much more creative & advanced tripwire strategies.

    The tripwire isn’t about the dollar amount, but rather about micro-commitments. It is about giving people a taste of your skills for a “smaller” entry fee before going for the core offer. It’s also about liquidating ad cost, but that’s not really the scope of this conversation.

    An extremely high priced core offer would be incongruent with a $20 tripwire. Yet, for the target audiences these big marketers you mentioned go after, several hundred dollars IS like a $20 tripwire to the Walmart shoppers of the world.

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 18:52h, 29 February Reply

      Hey Omar – thanks for sharing. I love your thinking. And can tell you’re a savvy marketer.

      While I agree that a typical “front-end offer” is usually priced as a percentage of a higher-priced “backend offer”, not all front-end offers are a “tripwire”.

      “Front-end offers” are designed to turn prospects into customers through a smaller commitment.

      A “tripwire” — as defined by DM — is a type of front-end offer that removes price-point as the barrier of entry.

      In the example of Frank’s $700 offer for a consultation, that is a “front-end offer” and a qualifying mechanism, not a tripwire.

      Frank could certainly use a “tripwire” at the start of a funnel, if he wanted, (e.g. his book), then bring people to a webinar, then consultation, etc. Starting with a tripwire would just require another step before going to an ultra-high-price backend offer.

      In every successful direct response marketing company there are higher-priced backend offers. The less expensive front-end offers don’t make them all tripwires. Only the ones that are designed to eliminate price point as the barrier to entry. All others are just “front-ends”… which can be priced all over the map (like many of ours at MFA).

      Keep rockin’ dude. Love your willingness to share your perspective.

  • Tom R
    Posted at 18:24h, 29 February Reply

    This email came at the perfect time for me.

    I was debating whether or not to use one.

    I’m just not comfortable with throwing a sales pitch at someone right of the bat.

    But it’s interesting that you are suggesting starting off with a high priced offer.

    The offer I have is first presented in a follow up sequence and it’s about as high as I see it being worth.

    I cannot slap a $500 price tag on something that I don’t believe is worth $500.

    I’m using a front end model. it’s priced between $30 and $50.

    With upsells.

    Goodblog post although you in the second half of the post, you could have used a different example.

    Slightly tasteless to angle that in there in my opinion.

  • Nic
    Posted at 19:26h, 29 February Reply

    Hey Todd … you make a good point. When I trained with Cialdini we learned very clearly the massive impact of ‘contrast’ when influencing others … and that starting high worked better than working your way up.

    The only problem I see with starting high and not staying high … is the mixed message it can give.

    “Pay me 20K for my magic … or you can get the same magic for 2K if it’s not live.”

    If you really need to see someone live at 20K to get the result that they promise then that means that you will not get the result they promise if you buy the replay.

    If you sell a mastermind for 20K that includes daily interaction and a few events, and you’re saying this is what you need for success … and then you say … oh you can’t afford that, well why don’t you spend 1K to get something of lessor value that wont give you success, but will at least put 1K in my account.

    So, my point here isn’t that starting high and going low doesn’t work … it’s just that to be pre-eminent, you have to make damn sure that the low priced thing that you downsell has to deliver results …

    … and if it delivers the same results as the high priced thing, then you’re dis-honouring the clients who paid the high price.

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 06:32h, 03 March Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts Nic. And I do see your point. The difference is mostly about the experience. If you want to have the experience of meeting the presenters, of having conversations with other like-minded attendees, potentially finding new clients and business partners, and being able to ask your questions live and get real-time answers, then you are willing to pay for this kind of experience. The information is essentially the same at all levels of a product pyramid. And people are paying for that information at whatever your base fee is (say, $399 for an online course). But the customer who is willing and able to pay more gets a totally different experience. I hope that clears up the distinctions.

  • Michael
    Posted at 20:54h, 29 February Reply

    Tripwires make the most sense for me, being in the ecommerce world.

    However, now you have my imagination going.

    Let’s say I’m in the fitness physical product niche…

    What would be a good example of starting off with a higher priced product?

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 14:52h, 01 March Reply

      Michael, there are a lot of physical products you could offer in fitness. Cookbooks, DVDs, training attire, equipment…

      You could even have a monthly program where you send either links to videos, or hard-copy DVDs to the “fitness program of the month”, and offer one or two coaching calls to go along with it, and even extras like athletic socks, headbands, water bottles, etc.

      For the higher-priced program, give tons of value. Wow them with what you offer. If they can’t afford it, they can get a lower-priced program where you just start removing some of the options. Hope that helps!

  • Andy
    Posted at 05:19h, 01 March Reply

    Thanks for the article Todd – really appreciate it and agree it’s totally cool to go with higher pricing instead of low-cost tripwires. I have a couple of very brief questions and wondered what your take is:

    If I’m offered a $25k event and don’t take it but then later offered the recordings at $2 (over 90% off), then I would be “trained” to know that any high-ticket offer will eventually be offered at a discount anyway; especially if it’s common practice in the funnel.

    So the question is: what is the value of $25k vs $2k?

    Second question is: for the customers who paid $25k, how do they feel later knowing that they could have got the same thing at $2k? Even if they’re taken out of the email sequence because they attended the $25k event, they would probably find out later someway or another. So I suppose the question is whether this funnel / approach would hurt lifetime customer value?

    Thanks, Andy

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 14:38h, 01 March Reply

      These are great questions Andy, and yes, you could say that your audience gets “trained” about what to expect. But you have to remember that the two experiences are completely different. To sell the live event, you would then make a list of the benefits of attending live, only some of which have to do with the content. Those benefits include the opportunity to develop JV partnerships, to meet potential customers, the opportunity to meet with the speakers…

      The live event is available for people who WANT to have that experience and can pay for it. The DVDs are available for people who either can’t, or are unwilling to make that kind of financial commitment. There is still great value in the DVDs. They are just different.

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  • Alex Nghiem
    Posted at 02:27h, 29 March Reply


    Excellent discussion and I’m glad somebody clarified this.

    It seems like so many folks accept the tripwire model as the best or only way when in reality there are alternatives.

    I recently implemented the contract principle for a client who had trained his list to get his expertise for cheap (under $250 per session).

    We repositioned him as a high end guy by announcing to his list that he now has a $25K program (application only) for a 6 month 1-1 program and to our great delight, 7 folks applied. We ended up taking one client at this level and then followed up by doing a webinar to announce a $3K group program, which now seems reasonable based on the fact that he’s proven that there are folks that will pay him $25K.

    It’s like I always tell folks: when Ford tried to sell you a $30K sedan, you’d balk. When Mercedes sells you you a $30K sedan, it seems like a bargain.

    • Todd Brown
      Posted at 14:57h, 29 March Reply

      Great observations and tactics Alex! Repositioning can really make a big difference. Congratulations!

  • Angeli Gette
    Posted at 11:27h, 22 September Reply

    What a conversation you have sparked up Todd! I am trying to figure out what to offer as my tripwire as my core product is a 3 month coaching program and started researching for ideas.

    Your post definitely sparked some thoughts but unfortunately I have tested my funnel without a tripwire and direct to the core product which didn’t convert well.

    I guess it is different for each person and testing will help me figure out what is best for me. Cheers for the different perspective

  • Tudor Mateescu
    Posted at 16:41h, 08 November Reply

    I’m amazed’s with the quality of the comments. They added so much value to the article. Very nice ideas, definitions, and perspectives.

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