Tripwires: Catch Customers, not the Enemy


Tripwires have long been a part of military strategy for centuries. They are usually used when ground troops are fighting a lot of hand-to-hand combat in heavily wooded or jungle areas. Basically, a wire is place on the ground across an area where the enemy will walk, with holders of that wire on either side. When the enemy approaches, the tripwire is pulled tightly so that a small unit of soldiers trips over it and can then be captured. They are also used in hunting, although many consider this “cheating.”

Trip and Catch Your Customers


Tripwires for marketing are also things that stop a potential customer “dead in his/her tracks.” They are offers so compelling that they are almost impossible to resist. We see them all the time on TV commercials. Some new product is being offered at a great price, and you are given a full show of all that it can do to make your life easier.

But wait!

If you call and order within the next hour, you’ll get all sorts of extra stuff thrown in! And we’ll add another of the same product for free, for just the low cost of shipping and handling.

Then when you call to place your order, there are even more amazing deals and offers that you will want to order too. You have been put in the mood for bargains, and you’ll take advantage of them all.

And don’t worry — you don’t need to take a cheesy, infomercial approach to online tripwires. It’s entirely possible to make tripwires appear attractive, sophisticated, and representative of your brand.


Tripwiring In Online Marketing

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Image via

Typically, target customers enter your sales funnel with some type of interest you have created. They have provided an email address in exchange for something. From that point, your job is to keep in contact, to convince him that there is real value and benefit in your product or service.

Now, they are at the point of considering a purchase. You must continue to communicate and nurture and cajole until some of the people in that stage of your funnel finally make a purchase. This involves many steps and a lot of work on your part. And a small percentage finally move through the rest of the funnel with a purchase.

What if you could actually realize purchases at the top of your funnel – on the front end? This would be the ultimate sales funnel optimization, wouldn’t it? And the more people you could get to do this, the fewer you lose going through that funnel.

This is what having a tripwire will do. You are going to offer a very low risk purchase or something free (for just shipping and handling costs) that a customer simply cannot turn down. And then, just like the TV offer, you will have a chance to offer an upgrade of greater value at the end, which will really be your whole product or service. It will get you income up front! And here’s how you can do that.


  1. Begin With Some type of Lead Magnet or Immediate Tripwire

Probably the best method for getting tripwire purchases is through email, although it is not always done this way. Let’s look at both types of lead wire strategies.

  1. You have a lead magnet that gets you an email address. This could be some kind of content upgrade that you offered in a blog post or a discount for setting up an account on your site. These people are then placed into a specific segment of your email list – they are at the top of your sales funnel, not those who are already down into it. They will be getting the tripwire email – some offer they cannot refuse and that you are probably losing money on.
  2. You can also offer a tripwire on a landing page to which people have come based upon some content they have read elsewhere. If, for example, you sell children’s toys and books, your landing page offers 5 books for $3.95. That’s hard for a parent to pass up, given the cost of children’s books today. Of course, you are probably taking a loss on this, even though you may make up some of that with shipping and handling. But that trip wire is just the beginning.
  1. The Tripwire Has Resulted in a Purchase Decision – Now for the Upsell

Now the customer has placed the tripwire deal into his/her shopping cart. There are two things that can happen at this point.

  1. Either the customer will simply checkout, taking advantage of the deal without considering anything else you offer. That is okay, because here’s the thing: if what they get is really valuable and they are happy, they will likely come back for the whole deal.
  2. The other thing that the customer may do is take the whole deal after entering the shopping cart phase but before the final checkout. Think about it. The parent who has just purchased five books for $3.95 sees a shopping cart checkout with a nice low amount of money. They are happy with the deal. When they actually enter the process of checking out, however, you offer the upsell – the whole set of books for a discounted price but one which is really going to give you some profit.

Your customer is already happy with a great deal and has seen a nice low amount in that checkout. Psychologically, this is the perfect time for him/her to grab the “whole enchilada.” Many will do it. And you have realized upfront sales without any more effort on those customers. Again, those who don’t take you up on the upsell may still come back for more, if they love what they get.


Identifying Good Tripwires

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Image via

This may take some experimentation on your part, but here are a couple of tips, if you are trying to figure out what would be an offer that could not be refused.


If you sell products, identifying a tripwire deal will be a bit easier. Consider a site that sells beauty products, for example. A great tripwire would be one item from an entire set of skin care products that are usually sold as a set. Here are a couple of things you can do.

  1. Offer a part of a set for $1 or free with just shipping and handling.
  2. Offer a two-for-one deal, paying just shipping and handling on the second one – plant the idea of giving one away a gift, especially during the holidays.

Once the customer gets to the checkout, then offer the upsell. It might be the kit of products at a discounted price or another great product at a great price.


This may be a bit more difficult, but think about offering a part of your service for free. Let’s say you have a resume writing service. Obviously, your clients are people looking for professionals who can create resumes and related documents for their job searches. You have a couple of options here:

  1. Offer to write a cover letter for one company to which they plan to apply, for free.
  2. Offer to provide a quick review of their current resume. You might point out a few mistakes. Then, you are in a position to make them an offer for full resume writing services at a great price.

So, think about what small part of your service you may be able to offer for free or at a much discounted price.

Free trials are great tripwires, and here’s why. A customer takes that free trial, and your provision is that they can opt out at the end of the free trial period. If they don’t opt out, then the monthly subscription fee will begin to apply. While some customers will not do this, a chunk will. And because opting out at the end of the trial period requires some “work” on their part, many will just not do it. Of course, whatever they have taken for a free trail must be valuable and solve a problem for them. Basecamp, a company selling project management software, knows that it has a good product and knows that once a potential customer tries it, s/he will have a number of problems solved. Giving a free trial is the perfect tripwire in this case.

Another example would be if you offer training in some area. Set up a shortened webinar or video showcasing just one aspect of your training program. Offer it for free, and then, of course, offer the core product at a nicely discounted price. You can also offer a package deal of several training programs as an additional upsell.


Getting More Sophisticated With Tripwires


Your customer base is not always composed of identical people with identical problems. Let’s go back to the beauty products example for a moment. You have customers with oily skin, dry skin, blemished skin, aging skin, and more. You don’t want to offer the same tripwire to all of these customers. Their problems are different.

In your marketing materials and other content, you provide options for getting the leads you want. You can provide some advice for individuals with all of these different skin issues on separate landing pages. As they land and provide an email address, you place them on segmented email lists, so that you can offer a tripwire that directly relates to their skin issues.

You can do the same thing with a resume writing service, based upon career fields or whether the resume is entry-level or for an experienced job hunter.

Identify the types of problems you target customers have and devise some way for them to tell you which one is the most critical. This kind of personalization of tripwires has the potential to increase those upfront sales.


Tripwires Can Make a Difference

 The key to tripwire success is that the offer you make has to be sexy and irresistible – something that will create a quick and strong desire to take it. If you try tripwire marketing and it doesn’t work, take a hard look at what you are offering and/or how you can personalize it more for specific problems your customers want solved.

Have you worked tripwires into your sales funnels? Let us know what you offered in the comments!


Featured Download: Get our free checklist to set up your own sales funnel. It’s called “The 11 Point Perfect Sales Funnel Checklist

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