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How (and Why) to Set Up a Tripwire Funnel

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It’s 2020, so let’s get real. Smart business owners are already prioritizing list building. No one has to tell you to build an email list, am I right?

Here’s the thing, though. Building a list is a great start but building a list of buyers should always be the goal. It makes no sense to continue to pay for an email marketing platform if your email list isn’t earning its keep. That’s just bad business.

Enter the Tripwire Offer

What if you could quickly convert those new subscribers to customers? How much more value would your list-building efforts provide?

That’s exactly how a tripwire funnel works.

Simply put, a tripwire is a low-cost offer made immediately after opt-in. It’s the first thing your new subscriber sees, and it gives her an opportunity to learn more from you with very little risk.

Tripwire offers are typically priced in single or low-double digits, so they’re an easy sell even to someone who is brand new to you and your brand.

The result? A funnel that lets you skip right past the whole “nurture before you sell” phase and get right to providing massive problem-solving ideas your subscribers can actually use.

Why Tripwire Funnels Work

If you’re paying attention to your email open rates, then you know that on a good day, you’re probably reaching 20% of your subscribers. You probably also know that those first few emails immediately after someone subscribes get far better results than that.

A tripwire does even better, because that thank you page is where ALL eyes land. Every single person who opts into your list sees it. And what’s more, they are primed to take action. The problem you solve with your freebie is top of mind, and your new subscriber is actively seeking a solution.

Your tripwire offer is their next best step. It’s the thing they need right now to reach their goals, and you are there to provide it.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Fully optimized, a tripwire will not only fill your list with customers, but will pay for their acquisition as well. #tripwirefunnel #internetmarketing #onlinemarketing #listbuilding @cindybidar ” quote=”Fully optimized, a tripwire will not only fill your list with customers, but will pay for their acquisition as well.”]

How to Set Up a Simple Tripwire Funnel

You can set up a simple tripwire funnel using the tools you already have. In fact, you likely have most of this already in place. All it will take is a few tweaks to your existing funnel.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Create an opt-in offer.

This can be a content upgrade or an opt-in page. As I said, you probably already have one or two of these working for you, so feel free to repurpose something that’s already pulling in subscribers. Just make sure that existing freebie flows naturally into step two.

Step 2: Create a closely related, low-cost product.

Ideally, you want your tripwire offer to be the very next step a new subscriber needs after he or she has downloaded your freebie. For example, if your opt-in offer is a resource guide for fiction writers who want to self-publish, then your tripwire might be a cheat sheet that helps them format and upload their book to Kindle.

Step 3: Create a thank you page with your tripwire offer.

This is the page your new subscriber will see immediately after opting in, and it’s where your tripwire sales page will live. If you already have a funnel set up, you can use your existing thank you page, just add some sales copy for your tripwire offer.

Since this is a low-cost product, you probably don’t need a full-length sales page. A great headline, a few benefit-rich bullet points, and a strong call to action will do.

Pro tip: Include a short line at the top that lets subscribers know that their freebie will arrive shortly. Do not put the download link to the free offer on this page.

Step 4: Add a sense of urgency.

Use a countdown timer to encourage subscribers to take action right now. This isn’t strictly necessary, but that ticking clock or other urgency-adding element can have a big impact on the conversion rate for your tripwire page.

Step 5: Connect all the pieces.

Just as you would with a free offer funnel, connect all the pieces within your landing page builder and email marketing platform so that the user flow is correct. Remember, a new subscriber will see the opt-in page, then the tripwire page, then they’ll receive an email with the link to the download/access page for the freebie.

Step 6: Test everything.

Using a “clean” email address (meaning one that’s not already on your list), opt-in at your offer landing page. Pay attention to the user experience. Are you redirected to the tripwire page after you opt-in? Did you receive the email with your free download?

A Great Strategy with an Unfortunate Name

Admittedly, the name for this technique leaves a lot to be desired. It has a negative connotation, and that can turn people off—especially if you’re already inclined to feel icky about sales and offers in general.

Let’s look at it for what it really is, though: The very next thing your subscriber needs to solve the problem she’s having. As a business owner, it’s your job to provide solutions, and when looked at from that point of view, making sales offers feels a lot better.

Just remember…

[click_to_tweet tweet=”A good tripwire offer has real problem-solving value for your subscriber. #tripwirefunnel #internetmarketing #onlinemarketing #listbuilding @cindybidar ” quote=”A good tripwire offer has real problem-solving value for your subscriber.”]

You can’t just put up any old thing and slap a $7 price tag on it and call it a tripwire. That’s not cool no matter how you spin it.

Real Life Tripwire Case Study

In August 2018, I created an opt-in offer called 51 Opt-In Incentive Ideas That Convert. On the thank you page for that opt-in is a tripwire offer for email templates to use in your follow up funnel. It’s a $27 offer, which is actually a little high for a tripwire given my product pricing, but it’s working for me.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Case Study: How one small tripwire offer earns $5.71 per subscriber. #tripwirefunnel #internetmarketing #onlinemarketing ” quote=”On average, this offer earns $5.71 per subscriber.”]

Here’s the current results as of January 2020:

Total opt-ins for 51 Opt-In Incentive Ideas that Convert: 679

Total tripwire sales: 126, so just under 1 in 5 subscribers take advantage of the tripwire offer.

Total tripwire revenue: $3882.00 (there’s an “order bump” on the checkout page which is why the math doesn’t work, but that’s a subject for another post).

In other words, I’m earning $5.71 for every subscriber who downloads 51 Opt-In Incentive Ideas that Convert.

With that in mind, I could take this offer combo one step further, and create a paid ads campaign to drive traffic to it. As long as I keep my cost of acquisition below $5.71 per conversion, I would be building my mailing list for free.

That right there is pretty powerful stuff, and that’s what a tripwire can do for you.

Get my Tripwire Toolkit to get started building your own tripwires today.


  • Julie Hood says:

    Excellent advice Cindy! Do you have a specific traffic method you like to use to get the initial optins?

    • Cindy says:

      My favorite traffic method right now is affiliates. It’s an easy promotion for them, plus they get commissions on the back end. I’m also doing a lot more with organic traffic and paid ads this year.

  • Tara says:

    Excellent article Cindy! Thanks for sharing a case study. Very informative.

    • Cindy says:

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  • Love this Cindy!!! Just signed up to your affiliate program and made my first blog post promoting this…affiliate marketing is my jam :)..thanks so much – Kristie

    • Cindy says:

      That’s awesome! Thanks Kristie!

  • Suzanne says:


    This is great (as usual).I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t open offers up to affiliates before you know it’s already working. What are your feelings on this, and how optimized are your offers before you open them up?

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