Tripwires 101, aka stop with the free stuff

Vanessa Copley
Tripwire 101

Getting lots of leads but few sales? Or people who are getting sticker shock at your prices? Well, a tripwire offer could be just what you need.

Why lead magnets are like lettuce

How many free ebooks do you have sitting forgotten in your inbox? Ones where you gave them your email but then never got around to reading them.

It’s like lettuce. We pick one up with the best of intentions, convincing ourselves we’ll be virtuous and make some healthy salads. But we never get round to it, so it just sits there wilting at the back of the fridge until it starts smelling funky. 

So it’s not surprising that 700 million pounds of lettuce end up in the garbage each year.

Ebooks often suffer from the same fate. People grab them with the best of intentions. We want to learn the business advice, health tips, or whatever else was in the ebook. But, we get distracted so leave them to sit forgotten in inbox (although thankfully without the smell).

Using them to start building a relationship isn’t effective if they just get ignored. 

“People value what they pay for…You’re not doing [prospects] a disservice by charging them, you’re actually doing a profound service for the people who want to take action.”

Ramit Sethi

Sure, you can hope that people read your follow-up emails despite not opening the ebook. But, don’t trust your open rates, because they’re definitely lying to you.

Stop undervaluing your content

Yes, you’ll get more conversions if you give something away for free…

…but will that actually lead to more revenue?

If your core product has a three or four-figure price tag, it’s sensible to avoid the sticker shock and not scare people away.

A great alternative approach is a tripwire campaign, where you first sell a low-priced offer.

For example, let’s say your main product is a $300 dollar course. You want to give people a low-stakes first interaction, so you could offer a $20 mini-series as a first purchase.

Or perhaps you offer high ticker consulting services? A popular tactic is to sell a short book filled with advice as a low price introductory product, which is “free” other than the price of shipping.

Add a valuable tripwire offer

There are then two potential funnel strategies:

  1. The immediate upsell, where the checkout sequence pitches higher value products
  2. A nurture sequence, giving them time to find value from the first product before upselling

Both aim to sell the full course, with the best approach depending on your content and sales style.

A 2-Step Tripwire Sales Funnel

OptinMonster suggests this 2-Step approach for a tripwire sales funnel

Advantages of a tripwire

As well as making a bit of extra revenue, running a tripwire has various advantages compared to a lead magnet:

Freebie hunters – you don’t want an email list of people only after free tips. Charging upfront removes these time wasters.

Value perception – all of your content is valuable and helpful, so charge for it! Instead of making it a major jump from free to paid.

Cover ad costs – Revenue from the tripwire can go a long way to covering your advertising costs, giving you a much bigger reach.

“Yes” mode – it is easier to pitch the high ticket product when customers are already in a purchase mindset and happy to buy from you

So if you’ve been building your email list with dubious results, then go ahead and try selling a low-priced entry-level product instead.

Matching up the three pieces

Much like with lead magnets, the key is to optimize the set of three parts. That’s why you’ll want a set of metrics such as 

  1. Cost per visitor to the tripwire page
  2. Conversion rate for the tripwire
  3. Conversion rate for the upsell

You want to find a tripwire that will attract folk who will want the upsell. That sounds easy, but it is very easy to be misled by your metrics.

Tools such as Google Analytics make it easy to measure how many visitors are buying your tripwire. If you’re upselling them the same visit then it will also capture that data, but if you’re taking your time to nurture them first then it will fall short.

This can be dangerous, as a more popular tripwire won’t always mean more core product sales.

Here is an example of a previous client who had a fitness course, who was selling a recipe book for fitness folk. It was very popular but didn’t lead to many course sales. It turns out the people who enjoy cooking healthy food aren’t necessarily the people who enjoy working out. The tripwire was tangential but wasn’t connected.

Connect account data with Segmetrics

Take this set of lead magnets from EOFire. The Resource Guide is the most popular with 4,029 downloads, yet the Cheatsheet, Burnout Template, and 5 Reasons are all converting to paying customers at triple the rate

It is far more profitable for EOFire to promote these resources that are less initially popular, but more often lead to sales.

That is why it’s important to test a few different products before throwing resources promoting one in particular.

How to measure your tripwire performance

Even if you’re immediately pitching the upsell, it’s worth measuring long-term performance.

Frank Kern covers this in his Hardcore Scaling YouTube series. His campaigns look like they’re losing him money if he measures the sales generated within a week of people clicking an ad.

But, he then expanded the view to 4 weeks and the RoAS jumped up to 200%! The leads were great, it was just that they needed a few weeks of nurturing before they purchased.

It is only by looking at the long-term RoAS that he was able to assess which ad campaigns were turning a profit.

(Note: SegMetrics reports on this in the “Sales Velocity” report, showing the time from lead to first and second sale)

So, let’s look at how to measure the total revenue your tripwires have brought in.

Step 1: Tag your contacts

Use the tagging feature within your email platform.

Most major email platforms will let you tag subscribers with extra information. This might be the URL of the signup page or the name of the product they purchased.

We can’t cover every system, but for two examples…

HubSpot – HubSpot’s automations can enrich the contact’s data to show what product they purchased. 

Create a static list for each tripwire, then add an automation step to add contacts to the relevant list after they complete a purchase.

Add tripwire leads to a relevent sequence

MailChimp – Use Mailchimp’s automations to add tags to each contact. 

Create a separate tag for each tripwire, then tag people with the relevant one when they make a purchase.

Step 2: Find the LTV from each tripwire

The next step is to find the lifetime value of customers who bought each tripwire, even if their follow-up purchases were much later.

There are a few ways to do this, depending on your setup.

Option A) Export and manipulate data from your email platform

If your email platform already imports revenue data then it’s a matter of viewing the revenue per tag. To do this you will need to:

  1. Export the list of subscribers, then tidy it up so it is just the name, product tags and revenue.
  2. Create a pivot table between the tripwire tag, and the number of core purchases and revenue that were generated by those contacts.

Option B) Export and merge the lists from your email and payment platforms

The aim is to match up the email addresses of people on your subscriber list with customers in your payment processor. That way you can see the revenue associated with each tripwire. To do this you will need to:

  1. Export the list of subscribers, then tidy it up so it is just email addresses and tripwire tags.
  2. Export the list of customers from your payment processor and again tidy it up into only email address and revenue.
  3. Use a VLookup to attach the sale to their subscriber entry
  4. To see how much revenue is associated with each tag
Segmetrics Makreting Analytics

Option 2c) Do it in a few clicks with SegMetrics

There are funnel analytics tools designed to look at long term customer data.

SegMetrics will directly collect information from multiple sources, such as your subscriber data and payment processor to let you analyze lifetime revenue.

Order placed
Tripwire A23$82$1886
Tripwire B7$96$672
Tripwire C40$16$640

You can even connect SegMetrics to your ad platforms. That will let you see the lifetime RoAS for each campaign based on the revenue from both the tripwire and upsell.

Vanessa Copley


Vanessa Copley is a business automation specialist and the founder of Custom Client Journey. She specializes in client journey management and bringing the human touch to your automated experience. In her free time, she enjoys reading fantasy and horror novels, practicing Tang Soo Do and spending time with her amazing children, the love of her life, and their 15 birds and 2 dogs.

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