Can someone explain the "tripwire" metaphor to me?

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All of a sudden I am encountering the word "tripwire" in marketing, and I don't understand either the meaning or the connotation.

According to the dictionary, here's the meaning of the word:

"A wire stretched close to the ground, working a trap, explosion, or alarm when disturbed and serving to detect or prevent people or animals entering an area."

So it seems like, when used for marketing, a tripwire would be something that alerts you the marketer to the presence of a possible customer. (It doesn't make sense that you would be wanting to prevent someone from becoming a customer.)

However, it seems to be used to denote an opt-in that starts the customer going through a funnel. That's what I don't understand. How does that relate to any of the meaning in the word "tripwire"? And why would we need a new word for that process?

What am I missing?

Marcia Yudkin
(a 35-year marketing veteran)
#explain #metaphor #tripwire
  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    In a marketing context, the term describes a low-price offer, usually related to the main product, intended to lure the prospect into the sales funnel, or begin the process of upselling to a higher-priced product.

    The logic is that once a prospect has committed to a purchase, even a small one, he or she is psychologically more disposed to paying for the main product.

    Yes, tripwire isn't the most obvious metaphor for this tactic, but in an industry that uses terms like growth hacking without embarrassment, we perhaps shouldn't be surprised at such instances of language-mangling.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    I think it's the latest 'buzzword' - we've had "hack" in one form or another and not that long ago everything was "ninja" or "gorilla".

    I think 'tripwire' may be one that makes sense in some way. I've found for years that new marketers increased their "price point" gradually. Before buying a $67 product, the marketer would buy a $10, then, $27, then $45....etc.

    It's an expanding acceptance of paying for information/products/software - the initial buy (the tripwire) is critical to getting buyers into the funnel.
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  • Profile picture of the author AriCooper
    You know the Burger King's new deal ...10 nuggets for $1.49?

    You see tripwires everyday in your regular life. It's usually a hard to refuse low priced offer. When a tripwire is done right, you will usually spend more because of the first offer being so low. You have a better chance of buying more things...

    Who goes to Burger King for just the 10 nuggets for $1.49?

    Nobody.

    You'll get a coke, maybe a order of fries... or maybe a milkshake. The tripwire was just the irresistible deal to get you into Burger King.

    In an e-commerce store, it maybe a cool "trinket" that's relevant to the Niche, and they can get whatever "trinket" for free if they cover shipping.

    "Get This *Awesome product for free ($19.95 value, just cover shipping and handling"!

    The value of the thing should be perceived higher than the shipping cost. So you make a small amount of money, or break even on the front end tripwire to get them to the rest of your store/funnel to buy more things where you're real profit is.

    In internet marketing circles, a trip wire can be something like a high priced course that is usually sold at $99, now being sold for just $9. The $9 get more in the front end, and you sell more of your content.

    So, it's not a word similar to "hack", it's a word that describers every low end offer you seen offline and online, to get you into a location or funnel, so you buy more stuff.
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    • Profile picture of the author jimwayde
      Aricooper hit the nail on the head. He pretty much summed up everything you need to know about what a tripwire is, and how you can use it for your own business.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    Yes, tripwire isn't the most obvious metaphor for this tactic, but in an industry that uses terms like growth hacking without embarrassment, we perhaps shouldn't be surprised at such instances of language-mangling.
    Frank, do you think it also has a connotation of "tripping up" the customer? The language seems to exemplify an opposite attitude toward the customer than, say, "opting in."

    Marcia Yudkin
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    • Profile picture of the author AriCooper
      It has nothing to do with a negative attitude for the customer, and everything to do with the industry lingo.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

      Frank, do you think it also has a connotation of "tripping up" the customer? The language seems to exemplify an opposite attitude toward the customer than, say, "opting in."
      Marketers are fond of using terms that conjure visions of trapping or snaring a prospect. I'm thinking of words such as bait, as in link-bait, click-bait, bait and switch etc. Even squeeze page carries connotations of coercion.

      Although I'm sure most use it without much thought, the language does suggest a less than respectful attitude to potential customers.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Singletary
        Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

        Marketers are fond of using terms that conjure visions of trapping or snaring a prospect. I'm thinking of words such as bait, as in link-bait, click-bait, bait and switch etc. Even squeeze page carries connotations of coercion.

        Although I'm sure most use it without much thought, the language does suggest a less than respectful attitude to potential customers.
        Very true. You can also see this attitude coming out in other ways that are discussed here repeatedly:
        • People unwilling to answer questions before a customer purchases. Can you imagine a hardware store having this attitude?
        • No contact information available.
        • Fake names, fake addresses, etc.
        • Fake proof of screenshots. Saying they made money with one thing but it actually came from another thing (if it happened at all)
        • Miracle product of the week. Last week the only thing you needed to get rich with email is product X and this week the only thing you need is product Y.
        • More time and effort spent on the sales letter than the actual product.
        • Having to watch a video or sometimes several before getting to your purchase.
        • Selling junk and worse yet - temporary junk. A good lesson in all the supposed success of the WF members would be to go through the WR or WSO forum and count how many dead links there are. If the report really made $12,333 a week then doesn't it make sense that a few months later or even a few years later they'd still be doing it? Hit and run marketing is the key, it seems.
        • Refusing to give refunds that were promised.
        And many more such attitudes and behaviors.



        Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    It has nothing to do with a negative attitude for the customer, and everything to do with the industry lingo.
    Words have connotations. "Tripwire" is a hostile and aggressive choice of language as a way of treating a customer. What happens with jargon is that once it is familiar to you, you go blind to its source and its implications. But that doesn't mean that the assumptions built into the choice of words do not have an effect.

    For example, you might regard the phrase "hostile takeover" as just meaning an acquisition by an outside entity. But that word "hostile" is there for a reason, and it has an impact.

    You might just as well argue that the Wisconsin Tourism Federation (abbreviated as "WTF") was ridiculous to change its name to Tourism Federation of Wisconsin to avoid that unfortunate connotation of "WTF". After all, it's just three letters of the alphabet, right?

    Marcia Yudkin
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    • Profile picture of the author AriCooper
      Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

      Words have connotations. "Tripwire" is a hostile and aggressive choice of language as a way of treating a customer. What happens with jargon is that once it is familiar to you, you go blind to its source and its implications. But that doesn't mean that the assumptions built into the choice of words do not have an effect.

      For example, you might regard the phrase "hostile takeover" as just meaning an acquisition by an outside entity. But that word "hostile" is there for a reason, and it has an impact.

      You might just as well argue that the Wisconsin Tourism Federation (abbreviated as "WTF") was ridiculous to change its name to Tourism Federation of Wisconsin to avoid that unfortunate connotation of "WTF". After all, it's just three letters of the alphabet, right?

      Marcia Yudkin
      I think your over analyzing a simple, harmless term and focusing on the wrong thing...

      you should focus on how to get some people in your funnel with a low front end offer.
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  • Profile picture of the author MeelisM
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    All of a sudden I am encountering the word "tripwire" in marketing, and I don't understand either the meaning or the connotation.

    According to the dictionary, here's the meaning of the word:

    "A wire stretched close to the ground, working a trap, explosion, or alarm when disturbed and serving to detect or prevent people or animals entering an area."

    So it seems like, when used for marketing, a tripwire would be something that alerts you the marketer to the presence of a possible customer. (It doesn't make sense that you would be wanting to prevent someone from becoming a customer.)

    However, it seems to be used to denote an opt-in that starts the customer going through a funnel. That's what I don't understand. How does that relate to any of the meaning in the word "tripwire"? And why would we need a new word for that process?

    What am I missing?

    Marcia Yudkin
    (a 35-year marketing veteran)
    Basically you have someone buy one product for a low price and it acts as a "tripwire" that makes the prospect fall over to buying the high tier product(s).

    MeelisM
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    Frank, do you think it also has a connotation of "tripping up" the customer? The language seems to exemplify an opposite attitude toward the customer than, say, "opting in."

    Marcia Yudkin
    Marcia, take a look at the dictionary definition you posted, with my emphasis, and see if the meaning changes for you.

    According to the dictionary, here's the meaning of the word:

    "A wire stretched close to the ground, working a trap, explosion, or alarm when disturbed and serving to detect or prevent people or animals entering an area."
    You end up with an alarm serving to detect people entering an area. In this instance, it alerts the marketer that someone has left the area of "prospect" and entered the area of "confirmed buyer."

    The tripwire offer, when accepted, alerts the marketer to the change in status. Once that status changes, the messaging often also changes. It doesn't have to contain any kind of violent or hostile intent.
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  • I knew this sales tactic, but I didnt know that was its name, thanks for sharing it.

    I believe we actually see this tactic every day, when we see the classical three column sales option at websites (you know, those three columns, where two are just baits and one is the column the marketers wants you to choose).
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    Can someone explain the "tripwire" metaphor to me?

    You're walking through a jungle carrying an M60 and 650 rounds of ammo draped over your shoulder.

    BAM!

    There's a bright light...
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    Hi
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnTimmins
    Ryan Diess (Digital Marketing) is the best teching how to do tripwires.
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    • Profile picture of the author celente
      Originally Posted by JohnTimmins View Post

      Ryan Diess (Digital Marketing) is the best teching how to do tripwires.
      yes I belive he does the FREE <> $9 video <> $47 product <> $197 course <> $2000 seminar.

      Do this, the right way, and test and track everything and its a million dollar empire rather quickly.

      I just guessed on that sales funnel, but I know for one of his businesses he does something like this. You start em' off with a FREEBIE, and funnel them up to a $2000 seminar or something like that.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    I think your over analyzing a simple, harmless term and focusing on the wrong thing...

    you should focus on how to get some people in your funnel with a low front end offer.
    To each his own.

    My interest in language and the subtle influence that word choice has on people contributes to my success as a copywriter and marketing advisor.

    Whole books have been written on the ways metaphors influence our behavior, like this one:

    https://www.amazon.com/Metaphors-We-.../dp/0226468011

    Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author discrat
    Weird...I'm usually on top of things but just the other day I saw this term for the first time.

    Pretty apt word, I guess. But I think there are better ones

    - Robert Andrew
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  • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
    I first heard the term tripwire from Ryan Deiss at DigitalMarketer. He explains it in various places at his website including this page in Step 4:

    Customer Value Optimization: How to Build an Unstoppable Business

    I would summarize it here, but the info on that page is worth the read imho.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    Robert Cialdini writes about the impact of metaphors in business in his new book, Pre-Suasion, chapter 7.

    Among the examples he gives:

    Airlines have stopped talking about "your final destination" and now say only "your destination," and they try to replace "terminal" with the word "gate." Why? They don't want customers to be thinking about death when they're flying. This whole new book of Cialdini is about the impact of factors like this that are under our conscious awareness. He argues that such factors have much, much greater impact than we would expect, and he backs this up with many studies and examples.

    Marcia Yudkin
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

      Robert Cialdini writes about the impact of metaphors in business in his new book, Pre-Suasion, chapter 7.

      Among the examples he gives:

      Airlines have stopped talking about "your final destination" and now say only "your destination," and they try to replace "terminal" with the word "gate." Why? They don't want customers to be thinking about death when they're flying. This whole new book of Cialdini is about the impact of factors like this that are under our conscious awareness. He argues that such factors have much, much greater impact than we would expect, and he backs this up with many studies and examples.

      Marcia Yudkin
      Thanks Marcia,

      I've never been a fan of WAR metaphors; tanks, armies, crush, kill, etc., the competition. And when Cialdini ran up against using "bullet" points, even the educated master got schooled.

      I think this is a great book, and has given an old cat like me some new kitty like ideas.

      GordonJ
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