Tripwire Marketing for Edupreneurs

By Jeff Cobb.  Last Updated on February 18, 2022

Man holding credit card while making purchase on laptop

Marketing your online business can feel difficult, but it’s a necessary step for connecting with the people you aim to serve as an edupreneur selling online courses other learning experiences. So, how do you make that connection – especially with people who are willing to pay for what you offer?

Many marketing strategists rightly suggest creating a wider online presence with a website, blog, or social media account in order to reach new learners. But what does it take to convert page views into purchases, and how can you convince more visitors to your website to take the plunge and invest in your products? One path is through tripwire marketing, creating, an irresistible offer that aligns with the type of value you can provide and that prospective learners can’t ignore.

In this post, we’ll look at what a marketing tripwire is, consider how tripwires might fit into your sales funnel, and give some examples of tripwires you can use to promote your education business.

What is tripwire marketing?

Tripwire marketing is a very simple strategy designed to incentivize visitors to your site to make a purchase by offering them something that’s too good to resist. All kinds of companies use tripwires to hook buyers. Tripwires are especially effective at convincing new buyers to take a chance on an unknown business, making them particularly useful for small business owners such as edupreneurs.

The best tripwires are high value, low price offerings. Our view is that they are not loss leaders, which are products sold below the cost of production. A loss leader might be a free copy of your book, for which the buyer only pays the cost of shipping. With a loss leader you’re giving away a product in the hope of converting that loss into profit further along your sales funnel.

Tripwires are preferable to loss leaders because they cover their own costs. Instead of giving your book away for free, if it costs $2.99 to manufacture and retails at $9.99, you could offer it as a tripwire for $4.99. That way the buyer gets a great deal, and you still make a profit.

Even if the tripwire doesn’t lead to additional purchases, it can still help you build a sales funnel by capturing email addresses to add to a marketing newsletter. A simple tripwire might look as follows:

  • New visitor arrives at your site
  • Popup offers your book for just $4.99
  • Visitor chooses Yes or No to accept or decline the offer
  • If they choose Yes, they make the purchase
  • If they choose No, they are redirected to another screen with a free lead magnet where you can capture their email address

You can also add upselling and downselling offers into your tripwire funnel to increase your chances of making additional sales. If a visitor chooses to purchase the tripwire, offering a high value item at the same time can increase upsales. If they reject the high value item, a medium value item could persuade them instead. For example:

  • Visitor chooses to purchase your book for $4.99
  • At checkout they’re offered the chance to purchase your whole course for $499
  • If they choose Yes, you’ve successfully upsold and increased your profit a hundredfold
  • If they choose No, offer the chance to purchase your standalone seminar for $99

One of the reasons tripwires work because they are typically one-time offers that increase the sense of urgency, prompting immediate action. Combining a tripwire with a Yes/No form also improves conversion rates by encouraging website visitors to make one simple choice: Do you want this offer or not? Even by clicking No, the visitor has taken an action. From a psychological standpoint, that’s incredibly important, because our brains automatically focus on unfinished tasks. That increases the chances that a visitor who opts out of the tripwire will still join your mailing list if prompted to do so, in order to “finish the task.”

Tripwire marketing process diagram from visitor through Yes/No through sale/no sale

Keep in mind that nothing in this process should be designed to manipulate your prospective customers. * Everything you offer as a tripwire, as a lead magnet, or an upsell or downsell should provide real value that aligns with the major positive outcomes you are able to create for your learners. You aren’t just trying move prospects through a list of price points, and you certainly shouldn’t charge for anything that isn’t providing real value above and beyond whatever you may provide for free. You may want to use the Value Ramp to think through the path to value that you provide for your prospects.

A Word About Language

Even though we use the term “revolution” to apply to what is happening with learning and the market for learning, we’re not really fond of military metaphors. We recognize that a “tripwire” most typically means a trigger to detect an intruder and/or set off a trap or bomb. Obviously, a prospective customer is not an intruder and the only bomb that should be set off is a “value bomb!”

All of that said, you have to pick your battles, so to speak. At this point “tripwire marketing” is an established and accepted thing. We want to make sure that edupreneurs who are searching for information on it will find this post and benefit from the guidance we provide. So, we’re sticking with the term, at least for now and trying to use it in the most positive way possible.

How to build a tripwire funnel

Although creating a multi-step funnel on your website seems complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Services such as OptinMonster are designed to make building tripwires as simple as filling out a box.

Begin by deciding on a tripwire offer. Remember this should be a high value, low cost product. This will most likely be an impulse purchase, so keep your buyer persona in mind when factoring in the price. If your site is designed to attract C-suite execs earning six and seven figure sums, $100 might be a drop in the ocean. However, if you’re targeting college students, your tripwire shouldn’t cost more than $10.

Using a Yes/No form is an important tactic for increasing your odds of capturing email addresses from visitors who don’t make a purchase. They’re still on your website, which means they’re interested in your subject and could be persuaded to buy at a later date. The more subscribers you can attract to your newsletter, the better your chances of generating more sales in the future through email marketing.

You can choose to end your tripwire with a simple Yes/No response, but upselling and downselling can further increase your income potential by convincing visitors who have committed to buy to purchase more. Starting with an upsale is a long shot, but it makes the downsale seem more enticing in comparison.

The standard opt-in rate for email marketing is less than 5 percent. That means for every 100 visitors your site attracts, fewer than five will actually join your mailing list. There are ways to increase that rate — squeeze pages, popups, and lead magnets can all improve signups — but 25 percent is generally considered the upper limit of what is possible to achieve.

The conversion rate for an email marketing campaign in 2020 averaged around 15 percent. So if you attract 1000 visitors with a blog post, you might get 50 new newsletter subscribers, and seven or eight sales.

Tripwires convert at a standard rate of 5-10 percent. That means those 1000 visitors will immediately net you 50-100 sales. You’re already well into the black simply by including a tripwire on your landing page, and all the people who successfully complete your tripwire can then be upsold through the tripwire marketing funnel, and again through email marketing, increasing your earning potential exponentially.

Strategies for making your tripwire irresistible

Price isn’t the only factor you should consider when designing a tripwire, although it is the most significant. Remember this is an impulse purchase, but it needs to cover its own costs. Offering a print book makes a great tripwire, but you can also put together a PDF or ebook of valuable content, a swipe file, or anything else related to your business. An edupreneur teaching gardening might offer a selection of seeds, or a musician could offer sheet music. Use your imagination to work out what your site visitors really want.

Example of OptinMonster pop-up for a Growth Hacking Tactics marketing tripwire
Source: OptinMonster

Don’t forget a tripwire needs to cover its own costs. That’s not just the cost of the product itself (manufacturing, shipping, or your time putting it together). It should also cover the cost of the marketing tools and time spent bringing in cold traffic. For example, if you use a service such as OptinMonster to create your tripwire popups, consider that part of your overheads.

Convenience or benefit to the visitor is also an important selling point in tripwire marketing. Can they buy seeds cheaper elsewhere, or find the information contained within your tripwire on the internet? Probably. But you’re offering a simple, instant solution to a problem, and that in itself holds value. Rather than spending hours conducting research, the visitor can spend a nominal amount and get what they need delivered to them in an instant.

Emphasize value and the benefits of your tripwire. Does it save the visitor time, provide them with a complete toolkit, or save them money? Bundling products is a great way of adding value to a tripwire while still covering your costs. You can also make bundles seasonable or tie them in with current affairs to boost your content marketing strategy. For example Vistaprint offered a “Back to Business” bundle to coincide with the end of the pandemic lockdown.

Vistaprint "Back to Business" tripwire marketing example
Source: Vistaprint

10 tripwire marketing examples that work for edupreneurs

So, you’re sold on creating a tripwire, but aren’t sure what products or services to offer? Here are 10 tried and tested tripwire marketing ideas.

1. Books

Ebooks and physical books are both popular tripwires. If you’ve written a book, it’s easy to offer it at a nominal price plus shipping. Alternatively, you can put some of your past lessons and blog posts together to create an ebook just for your tripwire funnel.

2. Webinars and seminars

Give visitors an instant taste of your teaching style by offering reduced-price access to a past webinar or seminar. You can use a platform such as Vimeo to provide gated access and deliver the product as soon as a purchase has been made.

3. Reduced price lesson or course

Have an introductory class or course that would make a great lead for the rest of your online content? Lower the price and use it as a tripwire to get new visitors engaged with your teaching.

4. Worksheets and cheat sheets

Don’t overlook the information you hand out to learners who take your courses. If you’ve built a worksheet or put together other data for classes, you can offer that material as a standalone tripwire to incentivize purchases.

5. Feedback sessions

If you teach a transferable skill, offering brief consultations or feedback on learners’ projects can make a great tripwire. You could offer anything from checking a learner’s code to giving them advice on how to improve their painting.

6. Product bundles

Got two courses that complement each other? Or a seminar and book that go hand in hand? If you can bundle your products to offer more value at a lower price, it makes a powerful sales generator.

7. Content upgrades

Similar to bundles, content upgrades offer the visitor something extra for “free” when they make a purchase at a regular price. For example if you sell a standalone seminar, you could bundle it with an introductory course lesson at a reduced rate for the two, or include the course lesson for free when a visitor purchases the seminar at full price.

8. Software or templates

Have you created an Excel template that will do your learners’ work for them? Or created a series of templates for your learners to use? You can sell copies of those files as tripwires and make a lot of visitors very happy.

9. Mini courses

Mini courses also make great email marketing campaigns. They are quick, simple versions of your longer courses that are delivered straight to the subscriber’s inbox over a week or two. It’s a great way to introduce learners to your teaching and turn a profit doing so.

10. Your work

Depending on the subject you teach, you might have work you’ve created that you can offer as a tripwire. Photographs, music recordings, art prints, website and coding frameworks, language tuition recordings — whatever you create that can be mass-produced can become a tripwire.

Final thoughts on tripwire marketing

Creating tripwires is a great way to accelerate your content marketing and sales funnels. The immediate nature of the offer increases conversion rates, and unlike loss leaders, tripwires cover their own costs, meaning you don’t have to give something away for free. Almost anything can become a tripwire if it has value to your website visitors, so experiment with a variety of products and price points to find the tripwires that work best for your course creation business.

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