Tripwire Cover thumbnail hero image Tripwire Cover
January 28, 2020

What is a Tripwire Offer? (And How To Profit From It)

I started selling physical products on my website in 2017. Back then I really wanted to increase the rate at which people bought from my store. This is when I first discovered tripwire offers.

A tripwire offer is a very low-priced, impulse buy, aimed at incentivizing leads to become customers. It’s a similar concept to a lead magnet which incentivizes viewers to become leads, typically through a free offer.

Famous Tripwire Example

Does anybody remember when AOL mailed out physical CDs to everybody in the country? They offered 100 free hours of Internet access to anybody who wanted to try this new-fangled “Internet” thing out.

aol tripwire offer in 1995.  Floppy disk in mail.

That is a tripwire offer at its finest. The offer was free, so it meets our criteria for cheap. It was appealing because everyone was curious about what “Internet” was. And it was impulsive, you could pop it into your computer whenever you want and check it out at home for free. Tripwire perfection!

Oh, and AOL also charged a monthly fee of like $30 a month to use “Internet.” They made an absolute killing. Money that they wouldn’t have made without their signature tripwire offer.

Why a Tripwire Will Make You So Much Money

Many people fail to understand how giving something away at cost will make them more money. Common sense tells us that you can’t get rich giving things away for free. So how does this work exactly?

There are many benefits to a tripwire that we’ll go over later in the post. But, the math reason behind your success is that more people enter the top of your funnel. Thus, more people ultimately buy your core offer. It looks like this.

How tripwires affect bottom line sales numbers.

The end result is more people on your email list, more sales of your core offer, and more post-sells. You win across the board.

A Tripwire Offer Builds Trust Between You and Potential Customers

The hardest part of the sales process is building enough trust to get the initial sale. Everyone is rightfully skeptical of you, there are a lot of scam artists in the world.

picture of button with scam written on it.

You build trust with your audience by having their first sales interaction with you go well. And many more people will have that first interaction if there is the smallest barrier to entry possible (AKA an outrageously free product).

Once you have a large group of people assembled who trust you, you are now poised to sell a much larger amount of your core offer.

The Easiest Person To Sell To Is Someone Who You Just Sold Something To

Do you want fries with that?

People often say those words as a joke, but it is the most powerful invention in marketing history. The hardest part of the sale was getting your customers to come to your store and buy the burger. Once the burger is in their hands, getting them to buy fries and a drink is simple.

The same is true for your Internet business. The tripwire is getting the “burger” in people’s hands. Now all you have to do is offer them fries and a drink.

You can double your business overnight simply by setting up your funnel like this.

Your Email List Has Lasting Value

I wrote an entire post about why emails are so valuable to bloggers.

With a good tripwire offer, you’ll be adding to your email list faster than ever before. An email list of people who really liked getting something from you for free. People who are receptive to you that you can sell to for a very long time.

Tripwire Example 1: The Free + Shipping Offer

I wanted to end this post by giving some more examples of Tripwire offers. This one is common in Internet marketing. You’ll see it a lot with dropshippers. It’s where you give away a “free” product in exchange for the cost to ship to get a paying customer in the door.

Typically you’d charge somewhere between $3.95 and $9.95 to ship the product. Enough to cover the cost of the product + shipping. The goal is to not lose money from a sale. Then you just try to find the biggest impulse purchase in this price range that matches your niche.

I’m ultra-liberal, so I’m not trying to push Trump socks. Nor am I judging you if you want to buy these. The point is that to a Trump supporter, this may be an attractive impulse buy. You can produce these for like $3 and ship for $3.95.

A deal like this is a great way to get people onto your list as opposed to leading off with the $50 core offer.

Tripwire Example 2: The free Course/Workbook/Swipe File/e-book

If you go to Melyssa Griffin’s blog, you’ll see an email sign-up that looks like this. She’s not offering a physical product; instead, she’s offering you an answer to your traffic problems in the form of a workbook. All you have to do is sign up for her email list.

Some may refer to this as an “email opt-in” and not a tripwire offer. That’s just nuance. This is exchanging something impulsive of little cost for somebody’s email address.

Imagine if instead of the free workbook, she had an advertisement for her $397 Pinfinite Growth course? She’d sell a lot fewer courses than she does going straight to the expensive core offer.

Tripwire Example 3: The Free Trial

This one is stupidly simple, but the most effective. If you have a subscription business where you can let people try your product for free, for the love of God, please DO IT!

The example I’ll give here is what you’ll see if you head over to Shopify’s website. But, I could give a billion examples. Most companies have realized that free trials will up their sales numbers by a significant margin already.

shopify free trial tripwire.

Tripwire Example 4: You Just Won a Prize!

I’m shocked by how big an impact the Wheelio app had on my bottom line. What is Wheelio? It looks like this.

Wheelio is an exit-intent popup that gives you a chance to win a discount on whatever it is you’re selling. And holy crap does it work!

10-20% of my visitors were spinning the wheel! That’s not a typo. For those of you in the email capture game, you’ll realize how astounding that is.

Better than that, people who won the prize bought my core offer at a significantly higher rate. It upped total sales across my entire website by 25% overnight! To this day, I’ve never seen anything work better.

Other Common Tripwire Examples

Here are a few more common things bloggers sell and how you could set up a tripwire offer with those products.

Core Offer Tripwire Idea
Book or e-Book Give Away a Few Sample Chapters
Digital Course Give Away a Few Sample Chapters. Or give away your e-book in hopes of inspiring people to buy your digital course.
Digital Course PDF or Swipe File. Basically you create a very small digital presentation around what you’re offering or to help your visitor fix a problem in hopes that it inspires them to buy your full course. These are ALL OVER the Internet these days. Check out Melyssa Griffin’s opt-in as an example.
Software or App Give away a free trial.
Physical Products Sell your highest volume lowest margin item at cost.
Physical Products Give away a chance to win like with Wheelio. I’ve personally tried this one and it works great!


There are really a million ways to construct a good tripwire offer. Do not feel pressured to copy these examples. I want you to really give this thought and try to think up something unique for your business.

The main point is you need something free or cheap that you can sell at cost. It has to be an impulse buy. And it’s going to skyrocket sales of your core offer.

Shaun Poore spent a year or so attempting to sell products through Facebook ads. He had some winning campaigns and some losing ones. And Shaun realized that what all of the winning Facebook ads had in common was an effective Tripwire.

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