What is brand personality? It’s what makes your business human in the eyes of your customers. Communicated through tone of voice, visuals, and even customer service policies, brand personality can be expressed in anything you do that lets people know what the experience is like to be your customer.

Here’s why it matters in a nutshell:

If your brand doesn’t have personality characteristics, people are going to have a much harder time figuring out that you’re the one for them.

Think about the last time you became friends with someone new. No doubt you were drawn to certain personality traits: maybe they were funny, intelligent, kind, or something else. We like certain characteristics in other people, and we all have different preferences for qualities we find attractive in others.

It’s no different with brands! People purchase things from brands they like and relate to, it’s really just that simple.

If they don’t have a clear sense of you and what you’re like, they may just keep on scrolling. Inconsistent and generic brand messages with no real strategy or intention behind them aren’t going to get you anywhere, there’s just too much noise competing for your dream customers’ attention. But…

When you define your brand personality and communicate it consistently, you’re sending out signals that will attract your ideal customers and giving them a reason to choose you.

This is one of the most FUN aspects of branding and it’s quite simple too. Even if you don’t feel 100% clear about what it is yet, we’re going to break it down in this post. Let’s start by defining what brand personality is and then dive into the frameworks you can use to help you define yours.



Brand Personality Definition

Brand personality refers to human characteristics associated with a brand. They’re usually expressed as adjectives that convey how you want people to perceive you.

For example: cheerful, youthful, dependable, friendly, responsible, sophisticated, and so on.

We can also think about brand personality in terms of demographic characteristics like gender, age, and social class.

For example:

  • If Harley Davidson were a person? It would be a man. Victoria’s Secret? A woman.
  • Apple would be a young, hip, creative and Microsoft would be a mature professional.
  • Chanel would live in a mansion and TJ Maxx would live in an apartment.

Once you begin to think about your brand as a person with unique personality traits, you’ll be better able to connect with your humans — the customers you want to attract — on a more emotional and personal level.

And that’s important because emotion is what drives decision-making, and that includes purchasing decisions.

Think about Apple customers…

You know there’s no point in arguing the merits and benefits of purchasing a PC. For them, there is no substitute. Buying an Apple product says something about them. 

Apple’s brand personality enables its customers to express themselves–the ideal version of themselves–through the use of their brand.

So think about who your dream customer aspires to be and then consider how your brand helps them become that.

Why Brand Personality is Important

  1. Brand Personality Helps You Break Through the Noise to Capture Attention

Always remember that your dream customers have an infinite number of options for things to pay attention to every single day.

Even just scrolling through social media and checking their email, they’re bombarded with hundreds and thousands of messages. Then they’ve got a to-do list a mile long that they can never seem to get to the bottom of: they have to run to the grocery store, drop the kids off at soccer, schedule an appointment for Lasik surgery, fix the squeaky door hinge and on and on.

Busy, overwhelmed, and distracted… they simply can’t pay attention to every little thing that crosses their field of vision. Emails have to go unopened, social media posts quickly scrolled past, videos get assigned to the “(will never) watch later” list…

With that in mind, it’s easier to understand why a differentiation strategy is so crucial. You need to break through all that noise and get their attention, and one of the best ways to do it is by expressing your unique brand personality.

That is, if they like you… they’ll be exponentially more likely to pay attention.

When you have a clear and consistent brand style and voice (which starts by defining your brand’s personality traits), you shorten the time it takes for people to recognize, remember, and pay attention to you.

2. Brand Personality Helps DIfferentiate You & Drives Consumer Preference

Your dream customers are also comparing you to what your competitors have to offer, and if they can’t tell the difference, they’ll probably choose the one with the lowest price.

Humanizing your brand is one way for you to distinguish yourself from your competitors as something more special and valuable than what others are offering.

We humans like to think we're logical, but never forget that it's emotions that drive your customers' decision to choose you.Click To Tweet

3. Brand Personality Helps You Tell Your Brand Story

At the core of your brand story are the reasons why your customers should care about you.

  • What do you stand for?
  • What are you here to contribute to your tiny corner of the world and the people in it?
  • How do you do business differently than your competition?
  • What is the experience like to work with you?

The personality characteristics you choose to focus on must be rooted in your larger brand strategy.

Humans (and brands) all have underlying beliefs, values, core principles that guide them.

Personality traits — the things we perceive on the surface — give us insight into who people are deep down.

Brand personality is really about personifying your brand in a way that has meaning to the people you wish to attract

How to Define Your Brand Personality – 3 Frameworks

There are two main approaches to defining your brand personality, and a third method combines the first two. There is no right answer — choose the one that makes the most sense for you.

Personally, we use the first method but many of our branding colleagues use the second.

The important thing to remember is your goal: to create a consistent tone of voice in your messages and to create a visual identity that’s in alignment with your personality. If you can do that, how you approach it doesn’t really matter.

Framework #1: Aaker’s Brand Personality Dimension Framework

We always find it’s helpful to use a framework and luckily, a Stanford researcher named Jennifer Aaker in her paper Dimensions of Brand Personality created one for us and it’s a great starting point.

Brand Personality Framework
Brand Personality Framework

Aakers’ model groups brand personalities into five broad categories:

  • Sincerity
  • Excitement
  • Competence
  • Sophistication
  • Ruggedness

You want to pick 3-5 adjectives (personality traits) you want to “own” when somebody thinks about your brand.

The adjectives (traits) you choose will fall under one of these five personality dimensions. For example, daring or adventurous go under excitement. Charming and feminine fall under sophistication and so on.

This simple framework can help you distinguish your brand from your competitors.

For example, if you’re a virtual assistant, your main competitors may focus on competence — they’re all about reliability, hard work, and responsibility.

You might position yourself as the one who’s sincere – cheerful, casual, and relatable.

Yes, of course, you’re also reliable, hard-working and responsible… it’s about choosing specific traits you’ll put forward and lead with.

Choosing specific qualities to focus on (rather than every trait you possess, the complex human creature that you are), allows you to create a powerful value proposition:

“I’m the one that’s __________.”

Being able to fill in that blank means you’ve provided your potential customers with a clear and easy-to-understand differentiator and they’ll be able to base their choice on the qualities they feel more attracted to and aligned with.

Brand Personality Quiz

Want to have a little fun? I’ve created a free quiz to help you determine which of Aaker’s Brand Personality Dimenions you belong in: Take the brand personality quiz here.

Once You’ve Chosen Your Brand Personality Traits… Then What?

From here on out, rather than calling them “brand personality traits,” let’s use a metaphor that can be really helpful for remembering “how to be” in your communications. We like to call these helpful adjectives “brand anchors.” We’re visual people and this helps us burn it into our subconscious that we’re supposed to actually do something with these words:

Everything you do, say, write, share and even how you present yourself (your brand visuals) should be “anchored by” these adjectives.

The graphic below represents the way we approach branding and how we anchor these characteristics to everything we say, create, and do. This little metaphor helps us to be consistent.

Brand Personality Anchors

Brand Anchor Example

Using Aakar’s framework, we clearly fall under the “sincerity” category. We’re not wild and zany, or tough and rugged, and unfortunately, we’re not glamorous or fancy. And while we like to think of ourselves as intelligent and hard-working, we don’t quite qualify for the “competent” category — which doesn’t mean we’re not competent, it’s that we don’t lead with that quality.

Because a lot of our customers have described the process of working with us as approachable, we wanted to convey friendliness in our visual brand. For example, rather than corporate blue (always appropriate for a ‘competent’ brand) we use bright, warm, and fun colors in our brand visuals. Cheerful, but not so over-the-top as to spill over into the “excitement” category.

Framework #2: Brand Archetypes Framework

Another way to personify your brand is to choose an archetype. This is a model based on Carl Jung’s theory that people tend to use symbolism to understand concepts. He defined 12 archetypes that represent different groupings of characteristics, aspirations, values, and attitudes.

The question to ask yourself is, which one of these identities will YOUR dream customers relate to most?

Brand Personality Archetypes
Brand Personality Archetypes

The Social Types
want to connect with others

THE REGULAR GUY/GAL
Goal: To fit in
Wants their customers to feel a sense of belonging
Traits: Casual, down-to-earth, folksy, guy/gal next door, supportive, solid virtues, real, democratic, equality, community, lack of pretense
Famous examples: IKEA, Visa, Levi’s

THE LOVER
Goal: Intimacy
Wants their customer to find love and connectionTraits: Romantic, sensual, passionate, warm, intimate, giving
Famous examples: Chanel, Victoria’s Secret

THE JESTER
Goal: to enjoy life
Wants their customers to have more joy and laughter in their daily lives
Traits: Fun, light-hearted, quirky, zany, irreverent, humorous, enjoyment, never boring
Famous examples: M&Ms, Skittles

The Order Types
want to give the world structure

THE CREATOR
Goal: To innovate
Wants their customers to believe in what’s possible
Traits: Imaginative, creative, artistic, entrepreneurial, inventive, non-conformist, visionary, innovative, non-conforming
Famous examples: Adobe, Crayola Lego

THE RULER
Goal: Control (in order to lead)
Wants their customers to feel more organized, stable, secureTraits: Organized, leader, role model, responsible, controls the chaos, boss
Famous examples: Microsoft, Mercedez-Benz, Rolex

THE CAREGIVER
Goal: To serve others
Wants their customers to feel understood and protected
Traits: Maternal, generous, compassionate, caring, nurturing, parental, empathy, selfless
Famous examples: UNICEF, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz

The Ego Types
want to change the world

THE MAGICIAN
Goal: Power (to make magical things happen)
Wants to make their customers’ dreams come true
Traits: Inspirational, idealistic, charismatic, visionary, imaginative, spiritual
Famous examples: Apple, Disney

THE HERO
Goal: Mastery (in order to make the world a better place)
Wants to help their customers: by rescuing them from their troublesTraits: Bold, honorable, confident, strong, courageous, inspirational
Famous examples: Nike, FedEx

THE REBEL
Goal: Liberation
Wants to help their customers break free from the status quo, overturn what’s not working Traits: Wild, change-maker, rebellious, rule-breaker, revolution, edgy, misfit, outrageous, radical, free, disruptor, shocking
Famous examples: Harley Davidson, Virgin

The Freedom Types
want to find paradise

THE INNOCENT
Goal: Happiness Wants to help their customers feel great on the inside
Traits: Positive, kind, good, pure, simple, young, loyal, optimistic, trustworthy, moral, reliable, honest, good virtues, nostalgic, sees the good in everything, faith, does the right thing
Famous examples: Coca-cola, Dove

THE EXPLORER
Goal: Freedom
Wants to help their customers have new experiences, adventures, discoveriesTraits: Adventurous, independent, pioneering, individualism, wanderlust
Famous examples: REI, Corona, The North Face

THE SAGE
Goal: To understandWants to help their customers by sharing knowledge
Traits: Wise, visionary, knowledgeable, intelligent, trusted source of information, thoughtful, mentoring, advisor, guru
Famous examples: Oprah, Google, NPR, Quora

Framework #3: Combo of Personality Dimensions & Archetypes Frameworks

By now you’re probably wondering if you can combine these two methods. It just so happens that some researchers set out to do just that! In Advertising between Archetype and Brand Personality, the authors combined Aaker and Jung’s work and the result turned out like this:

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Bechter, Clemens & Farinelli, Giorgio & Daniel, Rolf-Dieter & Frey, Michael. (2016). Advertising between Archetype and Brand Personality. 

The personality traits and dimensions they chose were subjective, so this means if you want to use an archetype and combine it with some brand anchors, you can create your own framework to follow. Just use your best judgment when choosing the traits that fit your archetype.

Embracing Your Brand Personality

An important thing to remember is that these exercises intend to help you create a consistent voice and style so people can understand what you’re about and connect with you on a deeper level.

But it’s not about strategizing ways to trick people into believing something about you that’s just not true and that’s not necessary anyway. Your greatest competitive advantage is there’s only one YOU. It’s just that people tend to see their personality traits as “flaws” and they downplay them.

Want a winning brand personality? Be who you actually are.

What do they do instead? They look around at what everyone else is doing and copy it. This tendency is called social compliance and you must resist following what everyone else is doing if you want to stand out.

Maybe you’re…

  • Adventurous and spirited but you’re a financial planner, so you think you need be corporate, responsible, dependable.
  • Sophisticated and feminine but you work in tech so you think you need to be tough and masculine.
  • Down-to-earth, warm, and laid-back but you’re in fashion so you think you need to be glamorous and refined.

Branding is not trickery. It’s about showing up as authentically as you can so people know what to expect.

Now let me ask you this:

  • Who do you think adventurous and spirited people would rather work with when they need a financial planner?
  • Who do you think sophisticated women will want to work with when they need technical expertise?
  • Who do you think laid-back people will choose when they need fashion advice?

The beautiful silver lining about having so much competition these days is that you have a huge opportunity to get narrow and worry only about finding your people. They notice us when we’re showing them exactly who we are.

People like to work with people they like and relate to. Your people will get you, so don’t try to be something you’re not -- that’s only going to backfire and attract the wrong people to you.Click To Tweet

How To Communicate Your Brand Personality

Now that you’ve chosen your personality traits, you need a strategy to communicate that personality with consistency. You’ll do that in three ways:

  1. Visual Identity: This is your logo, your fonts, your color palette, and the image and design style used in your marketing materials.
  2. Brand Voice: This is your tone of the language you use–how you say things; the words you use and the ones you don’t.
  3. Actions: Basically, everything you do contributes to your customers perceiving you in one way or another, make sure your actions are intentional and in alignment with the personality you define.

Visual Identity

Once you have your brand anchors, you can make choices about your visuals–your graphics, brand colors, and so on—so they’re in alignment with the traits you want to become known for. They include…

  • Your Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Visual Style Rules
  • Image Style Rules
  • Design guidelines

Brand Voice

Your brand anchors can also help you create a consistent tone of voice in your brand copy and marketing messages, including…

  • Naming strategy
  • Tagline
  • Tone of Voice
  • The words you’ll use and the ones you won’t
  • Editorial guidelines

Actions

This is where people fall off when it comes to branding–thinking that their brand visuals and voice are all that’s required. But keep in mind that people’s perceptions of you are largely based on experience. Your actions are brand promises fulfilled. How will you walk the walk in your…

  • Customer service policies
  • Product and service offerings
  • Processes — onboarding, offboarding, etc.

Your brand personality is the promise, but you must live up to it in everything you do. The idea is that when your work together is through, people will automatically describe you with the same personality characteristics you defined in your brand strategy.

Brand Personality Examples

Let’s take a look at the Aker’s Brand Personality Dimension exercise to see some famous brand personalities in action.

SINCERITY

When you fall under the sincerity dimension, you’re down-to-earth, honest, cheerful and genuine. People appreciate your generous, helpful, and caring nature.

This happens to be our brand personality dimension. We wish we had fallen under “excitement” (ha!) but the reality is, the way we are with customers is more in alignment with qualities like empowering, friendly, unpretentious and “no bs” — that’s based on feedback they’ve given us, not just some adjectives we pulled out of a hat.

That’s why this exercise can be so helpful… sometimes we don’t always recognize our own strengths and qualities and how others perceive us the frameworks give us a starting point.

Oh, and another famous brand that falls under this category is APPLE. You may think they belong in the “excitement” category with the visionaries and change-makers, but they’re actually all about empowering their customers to unleash their creativity. HELPFULNESS is the more dominant characteristic.

EXCITEMENT

If you’re a change-maker and a visionary, chances are you fall under the EXCITEMENT category. Excitement brands are daring, charismatic, spirited, imaginative, passionate and creative.

When you. think of creative vision and imagination, you can’t help but think of DISNEY!

Or how about TESLA? Tesla is a brand that’s out to disrupt the car industry to be the “world’s first genuine green car brand.”

COMPETENCE

When your brand dimension is COMPETENCE, you’re the one people depend on. You get things one and you’re reliable. We want our doctors, lawyers, plumbers and car mechanics to be competent and dependable above all else.

One of the most famous brands that falls under this category is Microsoft.

SOPHISTICATION

Sophisticated brands inspire a sense of luxury, prestige, femininity and high class. Many personal brands fall under “sophistication” — think lifestyle bloggers, beauty gurus, and even graphic designers who have an elegant aesthetic. Think Audrey Hepburn

The famous brand that first springs to mind in the sophistication category is Chanel.

RUGGEDNESS

These are the outdoorsy, adventurous, masculine and sporty brands. While usually reserved for B2C brands, you’ll also see personal trainers, life coaches and other consultants with a rugged personality. It’s definitely a great way to set yourself apart!

Think JEEP, Harley Davidson, or REI… we ADORE that one of their biggest campaigns is to promote the CLOSING of their business on Black Friday to encourage their customers to get outside.

In Summary

The real magic happens when you convey a consistent personality in your branding — your brand voice, visual identity, and even your actions. WIth consistency, people start to “get to know you,” which leads to trusting and choosing you.

Having a distinct personality means you’re not just some anonymous, generic company offering the same things a lot of other companies are offering. You become known and remembered as the one that’s ________[insert personality traits here].

Don’t forget to grab our Brand Personality Exercise below to discover yours or take this fun brand personality quiz!



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“Tripwire” is one of those jargon terms that make even our most hardcore marketing friends cringe, but there’s no denying they’re a powerful tool for creating sales funnels that convert.

If you’re interested in building a list filled with eager-to-buy customers rather than just freebie-collecting subscribers, and if you’re looking for a way to add passive revenue streams to your business, stick around as we walk through how to use tripwires to do just that. 😎

But first, if you’re wondering, “What is a tripwire?”  let’s start by breaking down some basic definitions in real-human lingo…

What is a Tripwire in Marketing?

A tripwire is an irresistible low-cost offer (usually a digital product priced at $49 or less) that’s designed to turn a member of your audience into a customer quickly.

Irresistible because the perceived value is much greater than the price and it solves a painful problem for your customer.

At ConversionMinded, we stick to a rule of “$49 or less” but often our tripwires are priced much lower in the $7-$22 range. The reason why is that for our B2B audience, this fits squarely into the “impulse purchase” range.

If the price is less than the value of having that problem solved, there’s very little anxiety around their decision to buy without doing a ton of research and taking time to consider, so they’re more likely to take action the moment they see the offer.

Say you offer a coaching package or digital course priced at $2,000. That’s a pretty big financial commitment (especially for people who don’t know what it’s like to be your customer yet). Your customer will need to compare all their options, do a bit of digging to figure out exactly what to expect, and psychologically process all of their objections before feeling confident about spending that money.

A product that’s priced very low is a less-risky first step. So maybe for you, that first offer comes in the form of a $25 workbook that helps your target audience inch closer toward their goals as they relate to your coaching program.

Once your customer “converts” (makes that initial purchase), you can continue to nurture the relationship with them through automated email sequences, webinars, and other marketing tactics to guide them toward your premium offers. But now, after getting a sample of the value they can expect when they give you money, they know they can trust you if they make another purchase.

What is a Tripwire Marketing Funnel?

A tripwire marketing funnel uses your irresistible low-cost offer as the first step in a larger funnel that guides customers toward an additional purchase. It’s the tripwire offer and all the other pieces in the funnel mapped out from start to finish.

The tripwire’s purpose in the funnel is to get your audience to take a leap of faith and take a small action (to put it crudely, “pull out their wallets”).

Their decision to trust you with their money has already been made, so it’s the perfect time to offer them something else that will help them solve this problem even more. You can even do that during the checkout process. Your second offer might be an “upsell” to a complementary product or an “upgrade” to a larger package.

Or, if you’re selling services or high-ticket programs and courses, your “pitch” might happen after you nurture the relationship with emails and other content so they can get to know you and your approach a little better first, but you want to do this immediately by automating your follow up emails because this is when they’re going to be most engaged and will be actively looking for solutions.

Think of it like “stacking” one offer on top of another in a way that helps your customer solve a specific problem or achieve a desired outcome.

Either way, if your tripwire is hyper-relevant to your other offerings, it’s a very effective way to attract the right people into those funnels.

Why Tripwire Marketing is So Effective

When someone makes a purchase there is an exchange of value (their money in exchange for your solution) and that changes the relationship. That psychological shift is the key to understanding the purpose of a tripwire.

Once someone trusts you with their cold, hard cash and you deliver value in return, they’re no longer a total stranger, they’re a satisfied customer.

And a satisfied customer is exponentially more likely to take you up on another offer (even a much more expensive offer!) than someone who has never made a purchase before.

In other words, a tripwire fast-tracks the customer journey.

The Role A Tripwire Plays in Your Value Ladder

I know, “value ladder” — more marketing lingo. But this one is actually a goodie because it’s a visual metaphor for exactly what it is, so it’ll will help you remember it and put it into practice.

A value ladder is simply a series of offers that guides people from complete internet strangers (“who are you again?”) to loyal customers and raving fans.

The idea is that each of your offers will increase in price and value so you can meet your audience where they are in their decision-making process (to hire you or make a purchase).

As we’ve covered, when they first encounter you, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to be ready to commit to a high-ticket purchase. They’re just starting to become aware of the problem they’re experiencing and options to solve it.

The customer decision-making phases

At the awareness stage, they’re probably only willing to invest a bit of their time to read a blog post. Then, if the blog post was valuable to them, they’ll likely be willing to give you their email in exchange for a free offer. And deeper into your marketing funnel they go…

A Tripwire is a Bridge Between Your Free Content and Your Marketing Emails

Now, what most people do at this point (after your audience subscribes to your list) is to start sending out newsletters to “stay in touch” hoping someday, eventually, their subscribers will be ready to take the next steps. And that’s fine, we do that too, but we all know the chances are very likely that this person will be one of the 75-80% who, on average, doesn’t even open your emails.

Enter the tripwire.

By making an irresistible offer right away, a percentage of those people who sign up for your list will become a customer immediately. And that’s magical because a customer is something entirely different than a random person who doesn’t know or trust you who just signed up for your list to grab a freebie.

Now, before you start getting dollar signs in your eyes…

Yes, you can make money selling tripwires. (Some people make a lot.) But always remember that the most valuable role your tripwire plays is to earn trust. So come at it from that angle and make that your primary goal. You might even think of the revenue it generates as the cherry on top.

If you offer some flimsy cheapo thing that doesn’t have a whole lot of value, they might not be too upset if they didn’t pay a lot for it. But be careful here because if the value doesn’t exceed the price they paid for it, you’ve blown your chance to retain a customer for life and maximize revenue in the long run.

Because it’s exponentially cheaper to keep a customer you have than acquire a new one, tripwires are a great way to build a list of buyers. Once you’ve established trust with a customer, they’re exponentially more likely to buy something else (even a high ticket offer).

So you want to be thinking in terms of your lifetime value of a customer, not a one-off low-ticket sale.

In the following value laddder illustration, I’m calling the tripwire an “intro offer.” (This is the exact ladder we teach in the Bullseye Offer Formula course).

This offer represents the first time you’re putting a price tag on the value you provide –it’s higher in value than your free offers (blog posts, freebies, webinars, etc.) but less than your high ticket programs, products, courses, or 1-1 services.

It needs to be a digital product of some kind (not a discounted consultation or service) so you’re able to scale and make the best use of your time. That is, it needs to be a 100% automated and passive thing working for you in the background.

Where the tripwire offer fits into your value ladder

Want some help launching your first (or next) digital product? Grab our Digital Product Launch Blueprint! 👇

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The Benefits of Using A Tripwire

Tripwires Help You Build A More Target Emal List

Because you’re taking a shortcut in the customer journey by turning them into a customer right away, that means you’re able to more easily build a list of customers rather than a list of anonymous strangers who are just there to consume your free content and peace out.

Tripwires Provide a Way for Hesitant Customers to Vet You Before Investing More Money

This is an unexpected surprise I learned about tripwires after implementing them to make a bit of extra passive income…

I figured people would buy them as part of the natural flow of a very simple marketing funnel: blog post > opt-in freebie > tripwire offer.

But what I didn’t expect was that people who were considering me for my higher-priced 1-1 services were purchasing my low-cost digital products as a way of sussing me out. My tripwires were intel for them!

I know that because time after time, I’d get on a sales call and the person on the other end would kick things off with, “So I read your ebook!”

Sometimes what they purchased had nothing to do with what they wanted to hire me for. They just wanted to know if they gave me money they’d get value in return.

I realized they had been eyeing the top rung of my value ladder (my premium services) and decided to skip back down to the low-priced offer as a way to overcome final objections and lingering doubts.

And that? Makes sense. Whatever works. 🙂

You Can Use Tripwires to Gauge Interest in Larger Offers You’re Thinking About Creating

You can get creative with tripwires and use them to validate other ideas you have for larger product or service offerings. That is, create the tripwire first and then create more offers for your funnel if it works out.

Say you have an idea to create a product about branding and you outline all the things people need help with when they’re doing their own branding project.

What you can do to “test the waters” of interest in your course or product is to create a smaller digital product that relates to it and solves a very narrow, specific problem.

To get ideas you’ll start by brainstorming all those problems…

“How do I come up with my brand name?”
“What colors should I use for my branding?”
“What fonts should I choose for my branding?”
“How do I create a logo?”
“Do I need a tagline? What even is a tagline?”

From this list, you might choose the problem of selecting great fonts to use in a branding project. Cool. But that’s still a pretty broad topic, right? That is, you don’t want to create a typography course, that would be solving the problem too far and you don’t want to get too carried away. 🤪

So think about…

How can you offer a quick win? What kind of tool or training could you create to help your audience quickly choose fonts for their branding project?

This is the exact process I went through when I came up with the idea for The Font Personality Swipe file, one of my very first tripwires. I included 75 Google Font combinations categorized by brand personality and I priced it at $7.

I just offered a quick win for one very specific problem. People struggling to choose brand fonts can use this swipe file to find options that will work for them.

I knew that if people gobbled that up? I could continue solving their problem further. That little $7 download sold really well so I invested a bit more time in creating a larger product – the Brand with Confidence Toolkit which, no surprise, also sold really well and continues to. Because the tripwire sold well I knew there was a pretty good chance solving that problem further would be a winner.

Tripwires can be a great way to understand your audience and what they need help with and they shouldn’t cost you a lot of time to put together.

Plus, even if a tripwire flops, chances are good you’re going to make some sales to offset the costs of creating it. You would be surprised how helpful even a $7 product can be for your bottom line when you give it enough time. (As my accountant mama used to say when I’d ask her for money, “It all adds up!”)

Tripwires Can Be Repurposed As Bonus Incentives For Larger Offerings

Once you’ve created a tripwire, if it naturally relates to another product or service you offer, you can easily throw it in as a bonus. People LOVE bonuses and it helps you to create the perception of higher value without lowering your prices when you offer something extra for a limited time.

Over time, you can even build up an inventory of low-cost digital products to use as tripwires and limited-time bonuses in email promotions to help you create a sense of urgency.

Tripwires Are The Easiest Way To Make Passive Income

And last but not least, one of the biggest benefits of adding a tripwire to your marketing mix is to make extra passive income.

If you’re considering creating a larger course and that’s new territory for you, I’d encourage you to try creating a tripwire funnel as a first step — they take much less time to create and test.

You’ll learn a LOT about how much time, money, and effort it takes to set up sales funnels and automate the sales process, and then you’ll be able to apply what you learn to a larger offering. (The higher the price, the more complicated the marketing will be but this is a great way to get started with the basics.)

While it’s possible to make oodles of money with low-cost digital products, “how much” largely depends on the size of your audience and how aggressively you promote them.

Be realistic because passive income is a long game, it takes time to gain momentum. But if you consider the money you make as a way to offset marketing costs and the time/expenses it takes to create them, you’ll be more likely to keep adding to your inventory of digital products.

If your tripwire converts really well you can lean into that and focus on getting more traffic to it, even running paid traffic (advertising), and adding more offers to your funnels (upsells, downsells, etc.).

When I was just starting out many years ago I had a relatively small audience and wasn’t getting rich selling tripwires, but every week I’d get a paycheck and it amounted to a few extra thousand bucks per year in additional revenue with virtually no overhead. It may not seem like a lot, but consider that even years later, those products still sell without any additional efforts and negligible overhead costs.

What Makes a Great Tripwire?

TLDR; it’s all about value, value, value.

At this point, I want to mention a common mistake people make based on my experience coaching clients through setting up their first funnel…

As we’ve established, a great tripwire is a low-cost offer ($49 or less) but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be incredibly valuable. In fact, it should provide much more value than the price you put on it and that can feel painful when you’re just getting started.

What a lot of beginners do is consider all those hours they spent creating their digital product and calculate the value of their time. That is, if they’re a freelancer charging $100 per hour and it took them 20 hours to create, they’re thinking that was a $2,000 opportunity cost (so, they’d better price it pretty high).

You might be tempted to think that a tripwire that’s priced at $10 means you’ll have to sell 200 before you “break even.”

But selling digital products is not the same as selling your time. It’s not an opportunity cost, it’s an investment, and the payoff won’t happen instantly like it does when you send an invoice for services.

And remember, your first goal isn’t to generate revenue, it’s to earn trust and to attract people who are good candidates for your other (higher priced) products and services. You can even think of creating a tripwire as a marketing investment.

A great tripwire helps your customer solve their problem a little bit of the way (toward your other solutions) and gives them a quick win. If must relate to your other paid offerings (see value ladder above) in order for it to be a win for you as well.

Quick example. My first digital product was an eBook/workbook written with my ideal client in mind. I priced it at $47 and made less than $1000 in sales the first year. Not awesome, right? 😂

I had no idea what I was doing and no clue how to even get my product in front of the right people. But, I had created something I knew would be valuable to the people I wanted to work with 1-1. When I crunched the numbers I realized 10% of them went on to become a client and those clients paid me thousands of dollars for my services.

So think about…

  • What problems do you solve? (With your 1-1 services or higher-ticket products/programs.)
  • What problems do your customers have as they relate? (Brainstorm a big old list!)
  • What’s the ultimate outcome or transformation they want? (Really take the time to get clear about the big picture.)

Then think about…

  • How can you break this problem down and solve one specific aspect of it?
  • How can you give them a “sample” of your larger offerings without giving away too much?
  • What can you create that’ll be useful to them (for example save them time or money, or help them achieve an immediate goal)
  • What do you need to include in your product to give them a standalone solution? (In other words, they win whether they make another purchase or not.)

👉The key to a great tripwire is that it solves a specific problem. Be ready to define exactly what that is and what outcome they can expect when they buy.

Note: don’t go wild and start solving all of the problems your dream customers have. Just make it hyper-relevant to your other products and services in your value ladder and aim to give them a quick win.

Examples of Tripwire Digital Products You Can Create

Since we’re talking digital products here, we’re talking about content and that can come either as…

  • Written content
  • Audio content
  • Video content
  • A combination of all three (like a small course)

Once you have an idea for what you can create, play to your strengths and choose the format that will be most useful to your audience.

  • It might be an interactive .pdf workbook or an eBook or guide, a calendar, a swipe file, templates, a spreadsheet or a combination of digital documents
  • An audio guide or an audio series is great if your audience includes people on-the-go – they can listen in their car, on their commute, while doing chores, or at the gym
  • Maybe it’s a video masterclass or tutorials
  • What about a bundle or toolkit that combines different options from the list above?

Brainstorm some initial ideas and then ask yourself:

  • What is the outcome my customer will get when they’ve used this product?
  • Are there any gaps that will prevent them from getting that outcome? (Fill those in!)
  • What can I include that will make it even easier for them?
  • How can I save them time in achieving this outcome?
  • What would make this even more valuable to them?

PDF Workbooks, Swipe files, eBooks, and other Digital Documents

You don’t need special software or design skills to create a digital document. It can be as simple as hopping on Google Docs or Canva and creating a document as you do, then, save it as a .PDF, and voila!

But as a former professional designer, I know first-hand that good design can elevate the perception of value so my advice is to create a nice cover and mockup and make sure your documents are well-formatted. You might even find a freelance designer or virtual assistant with design skills to help if that’s not your cup of tea.

Or, check out our Make it Sell it Toolkit which we created for digital product creators for this very reason. We put together an epic collection of Canva templates for creating documents to sell (plus matching landing pages and sales pages for WordPress).

Audio Guides

Admittedly, I’m no audio expert so if you’re a podcaster or have experience with this, just fast forward, nothing to see here. 🤪

I keep it cheap and easy by using QuickTime (already installed on my computer) to record audio. I don’t have a fancy-pants microphone (yet) and I don’t think you need to to get started… but, you do want to make sure your audio is clear and free from background noise. Customers will forgive a lot if you’re working on a budget but not bad audio.

I either use earbuds that have a microphone built-in or a lavalier mic. If you’re “one of those people” and only top-shelf will do, a top tip I have for you is to look in the description box for your favorite YouTube podcaster, they usually link to the equipment they’re using.

For editing, check out Audacity. 

To sell an audio file, you can use something simple like Gumroad.  Just sign up for an account. You can use the free plan to start (they just take a bigger cut of any sales) and upgrade when you’ve got money coming in.

Video tutorials, workshops, masterclass, small drip course

If you can teach something that’s better presented in video format, you could create a video presentation or a series of smaller videos to be delivered as a “drip course” (for example one short lesson delivered each day for a fixed number of days).

Setting that up can be as simple as hosting your videos as “unlisted” on YouTube and then creating an automated series of emails that link to the videos with a tool like MailerLite or ConvertKit.

Both email tools make creating automated sequences easy but my preference is MailerLite if you’re just getting started with something like this because it’s free until you hit 1,000 subscribers.

The easiest way I know how to host and sell videos, though, is to set them up in a digital product hosting service like Podia. You simply upload the videos directly into the lesson and they handle all the hosting for you, you can even set it as a “drip” course.

It’s also extremely user-friendly for people who are consuming your content and works on all devices. If you have supplemental text, checklists, or workbooks, or documents, you can upload them as well. Easy-peasy.

Side note: I know there are lots of great membership sites and digital product e-commerce solutions out there that I’m not mentioning. I’ve done tons of research and have used lots of technologies for different projects. But, I use these in my own business and I’m a huge fan of choosing the easiest solutions to start — my feeling is, tech headaches and frustrations are not a good use of time until the revenue justifies it.

3 Simple Tripwire Marketing Funnels

Once you’ve created your low-priced digital product, you can’t just stick it on a “products” page on your website and expect people to buy it. Some may, but most people will miss it. The idea is to present them with an offer they can’t resist at exactly the right moment.

Remember that your tripwire is the bridge between your free offers and your email marketing content.

Free content > Free opt-in incentive > Tripwire > Email marketing

Your tripwire sales page needs to be shown to them immediately when they sign up for your email list. That’s when they’re most engaged and actively looking for solutions. Presenting your tripwire offer can be done in one of two ways:

  1. It’s presented on the “thank you” page that you redirect people to after they opt-in to your email list
  2. And/or, it’s offered in your delivery welcome email

There are lots of ways to go about setting up a tripwire funnel but here are just a few ideas for you. Just remember that the purpose of the tripwire is to create an offer that’s so attractive it’ll wow your audience so much they’ll want to buy it on impulse.

1. The One Time Offer Funnel

The “one-time offer” (or “OTO”) is a very common funnel used by bloggers and digital product creators. To set it up you’ll need:

  • Relevant blog post(s) that relate to your tripwire product
  • A content upgrade (a freebie + an opt-in form within your post)
  • A landing page to redirect the user to after they fill out the form with a “one time offer” for a limited time
  • A follow-up sequence of emails that guides them toward your next or more premium offer
Tripwire marketing funnel

How this works is immediately after they sign up for your mailing list, you’ll send them to a “thank you” page. Most email service providers have this functionality (we use ThriveLeads to create our forms and redirects).

But instead of just a simple “thank you” message, you’ll also present a special offer… you might call it:

  • An exclusive offer that’s not available anywhere else
  • A one time offer that won’t be made again
  • A limited time offer for new subscribers

To give you a visual, it looks something like this…

STEP 1: Create a landing page

A landing page is different from a normal web page because you’ll remove all distractions with the exception of your offer. That means it should have no header navigation, no footer, no links to other things, no “follow me on social media” — just the offer.

I recommend learning how to set up landing pages on your own domain because to me, committing to using a third-party landing page service (which are usually not cheap) is a monthly expense that’s not worth it when you’re just getting started.

The WordPress theme I prefer to use to create landing and sales pages is Divi – it’s as simple as choosing the “blank page” template. Then, I just use their visual drag-and-drop editor to set up the page.

Visual builders like Elementor or Thrive Architect are also great tools that allow you to do basically the same thing.

(You can check out our toolkit that includes pre-designed sales pages and landing pages for all three builders with copy prompts and mockup templates to set these pages up quickly.)

STEP 2: Integrate a countdown timer

I know you’re probably thinking “Oh no, those cheesy things?” but without them, there’s no real urgency to take action. But here’s the thing… you mustn’t just put a countdown timer that doesn’t really expire the offer.

You need to use one that legitimately offers it for a limited time and if they don’t buy, the page should expire.

An affordable option I use and have been pretty happy with is Countdown Dynamite. It’s a simple plugin that integrates with WordPress and is easy as pie to set up. You just turn it “on” on any page where you want it to appear, tell it how long you want the timer to run (e.g. 15 minutes) and then the page redirects to a page of your choice once that timer runs out. For around $10 bucks it’s a bargain and definitely gets the job done.

The ONLY thing you need to be aware of is that when your countdown timer runs out, it runs out for YOU too, and if you’re working on the page, it’ll tell you time is up and redirect you! 😂 Either work fast or just be aware you need to turn it off while working or go into your post to clear cache and restart the timer.

2. The Tripwire Upsell Funnel

Another way to go about it is to drive traffic to a landing page with a freebie and for that, you’ll need:

  • Traffic (ads, seo, social media, etc.)
  • A landing page with a freebie and opt-in form
  • A sales page with tripwire offer to redirect them to after they sign up
  • An upsell offer right within your checkout process to add to their order

Once people opt-in to your freebie, you would then redirect them to a sales page with your irresistible offer. Once they begin the checkout process, you can invite them to add an additional purchase to the order.

How you price your upsell all depends on the price sensitivity of your audience and what you’re selling, but generally these aren’t super high ticket offers (those take more nurturing, usually with emails, sales calls, free trainings and webinars, etc.) but to just give you an idea, most of our upsells are under $200.

Note: this is not a hard-and-fast rule, it’s just an example:

Tripwire upsell funnel

These are just two simple examples and if you’re wondering… Yes, you can totally mix and match these ideas or edit your funnels in a way that makes sense.

For example, you might drive traffic right to your tripwire page and skip the freebie landing page step. Or you might add an upsell to the “one-time offer” funnel that starts with a blog post and content upgrade. Visuals always help us but it’s really just to get you started thinking about the possibilities.

Take out a piece of paper and sketch out the path that guides your target audience to your offer and then test, test, test to see what works best!

Note: It usually takes a bit of experimenting because some top-of-funnel content (blog posts, freebies, etc.) will work better than others and you’ll want to create multiple paths for your audience to find your offer too.

Whichever way you go, it’s important to create a sense of urgency.

If it’s just a low-priced offer that they can get any old time any old where they are unlikely to take action and become a customer quickly (the goal).

To create urgency for something that really isn’t scarce (a digital product can be sold an infinite number of times), the OFFER must be scarce and/or time-sensitive.

For that, you’ll need a couple of tools to create a limited-time offer. There are all kinds of expensive funnel products out there but with a bit of creativity you can easily set this up yourself to just get started with it.

3. The Email Tripwire Offer

The other way to do this is after they’ve signed up for your email list, to make them a limited-time offer and put the countdown timer right in the email itself. For that, you’ll need something like Deadline Funnels.

Keep in mind that when people opt-in to your mailing list, they’re MOST engaged in the initial emails you send them. When you send them a welcome email, you can make them a limited, one-time exclusive offer there.

Or, you might set up a welcome sequence where you build interest for your tripwire, warm them up to the idea, maybe offer it first without a timer, and then offer a “last chance at this price” email with a timer.

There are a lot of ways to go about this and I’d experiment a bit… if one method isn’t working, try another! That’s what conversion optimization is all about: testing and tweaking until you get a certain % of people raising their hands for the offer.

Then, once you get that sorted out, it’s just a matter of getting more people to that offer. (Another story for another day!)

I hope you found this helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Have fun with creating your tripwire marketing funnel, and before you go be sure to grab our Digital Product Launch Blueprint to help you create your irresistible offer!

Get the Digital Product Launch Blueprint from ConversionMinded
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One of the most frustrating aspects of running a creative or consulting business is the amount of time wasted writing custom proposals.

If you’re offering any kind of client service that starts with “How much would it cost to____?” and your answer doesn’t come instantly, you know exactly what I mean…

Hours and hours spent doing a dog & pony show for anyone who requests a quote only to be ghosted… ouch.

In this post, I’m going to share my secret for getting off that hamster wheel with a lead service instead.

But first, tell me if this sounds familiar…

The Problem with Responding to RFPs & Creating Custom Proposals

For years I squandered my most valuable business asset (my time) jumping through hoops trying to convince people to hire me…

Only to find out that all they really wanted was to “get a sense” of how much they should expect to spend if they decide to go forward with their plans.

I call these people “tire kickers” which sounds like an insult, but consumers should be able to kick tires before they buy.

The problem is in the process: when there’s a variable scope of work, there’s no quick and easy way to quote a price.

And then there were the Requests for Proposals (RFPs)… ooof.

It took me a while to figure out that some of the more challenging RFPs were written by people who didn’t know how to go about it, so “played it safe” by copying and pasting from big corporate or governmental RFPs.

The result is RFPs that are overly complex and demanding to respond to, taking exponentially more time than necessary with no guarantee of work.

Some were rigged against me from the start, which I realized when a big nonprofit organization wanted to hire me for a gig but they were required “go through the motions” and issue a public RFP…

All the other poor suckers didn’t have a chance, and that rang a big huge bell for me.

One particularly excruciating experience was a proposal process with a “big fish” client that lasted for an entire year:

  • Back and forth emails
  • Phone calls
  • Project research
  • Soliciting quotes and recommendations from subcontractors
  • Schmoozy lunch meetings
  • A proposal that took me a week to write

To make matters worse, all that work I put into courting them informed an RFP they issued at the 11th hour, despite months of assurance it was “in the bag” for me.

In the end, I “came in a very close second place” to a larger firm and lost the gig (which was the equivalent of an annual salary).

I was done.

The opportunity cost of investing all of that time to benefit someone else’s business rather than my own was a game of chance more costly than I could afford.

I knew there had to be a better way go to about this and that’s when everything about my business took a huge pivot for the better.

It was then that I decided to create a “lead service”… one that would allow me to get compensated for all the value that’s provided during the initial steps of the process of any project.

What is a Lead Service?

A lead service is one that allows you to monetize the discovery process while providing standalone value to your clients. It discourages tire kickers from picking your brain for free and frees up your time so you can invest it in your own business rather than someone else’s.

A lead offer (1-1 service) is part of a larger value ladder — which is simply a series of offers that increase and price and value. The lead offer is the step that comes right before your more premium offers, whether those are value-based, fixed packages or custom engagements.

The Benefits of a Lead Service

1. Helps Establish Clear Client Boundaries

Of all the steps of the value ladder, the lead offer is my favorite and I think that’s because I sometimes have a hard time setting and enforcing boundaries with clients.

I’ve always struggled with responding to people who ask me to meet with them to “pick my brain” … I want to help! 😩

Honestly, if I could just help people all day long without having to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills I’d happily give value away for free all day every day.

But that’s not the world we live in and it’s no way to run a business. #truthbomb

If I’m spending my time (my “product”) on behalf of a potential client and helping them solve business problems, I deserve to be compensated.

So do you.

My lead service was the first steps of working with me packaged up with a fixed price and scope of work.

That means I can quickly move the conversation from “Can I pick your brain?” to “Absolutely! I have the perfect thing for that — here’s more information about [insert service name here]. Let me know if you’d like to move forward and I’ll send over next steps.”

No more…

  • Awkward conversations and feeling like I’m being put on the spot…
  • Feeling resentful about people expecting me to invest my time for free…
  • Worrying about whether all that time will even lead to a paying gig…

Just a simple back and forth and it’s all prepared in advance.

They either see the value and say “let’s do this!” or they don’t… either way, there’s no more risk of time spent without compensation.

2. Creates a Better Client Experience

We go into this in more detail in The Bullseye Offer Formula, but here’s the thing: good clients want you to lead them through your process. They appreciate that you’re prepared and have the steps for “how it works to work with you” all laid out in advance.

It may feel a bit ungenerous at first if you’re used to doing free consultations prior to signing up a client…

But it actually signals to your potential clients that you’re professional, you know what you’re doing, and you’re here to run a serious business. And that can only instill confidence that you can help them with theirs.

3. Attracts Higher Quality Clients to You

Bad apple clients who are only interested in “picking your brain” aren’t going to appreciate this and that’s okay. They can go kick someone else’s tires — you’ve got an empire to build.

Great clients expect you to charge what you’re worth, set boundaries around your time, and demonstrate you know your value.

4. Frees Up Your Time to Work on Your Business (Rather Than Just in It)

Rather than re-creating the wheel with each and every client, your time can be much better spent working on your business.


Take this email exchange between me and a client as an example of what I mean…

They were interested in hiring me to rebrand their online presence to prepare for a big upcoming launch. 61 emails were exchanged over a two-week time period and about a third of those were written by me.

Let’s break down the math…

Say those 20 emails took me 15 minutes each to write. That would have amounted to 5 hours of my time spent in the sales process.

FOR FREE.

This is something we normally chalk up to “the cost of doing business” but there’s usually a LOT more time slipping through the cracks than most business owners realize.

In order to recoup that cost, I’d have to build it into their costs and let’s face it, that’s not always so easy to do when you’re working with price-sensitive small businesses, especially if you have a lot of low-balling competitors.

But I didn’t spend five hours answering their questions. I had a lead service to offer them!

This cut the back and forth to a short conversation — I kept directing them to the lead service where I would address the advice and recommendations they were asking for.

This saved me five hours of my time in this one client conversation alone.

So think about…

  • How many of these back-and-forths do you have each month?
  • What is that costing you?
  • What percentage of those pre-sales conversations result in paid work?

In the end, this client didn’t hire me — they went with someone cheaper. And that’s perfectly okay, but what they didn’t get to do is take advantage of my brain stuff and pass along my expertise without paying for it.

I quickly got in and out of the discussion and spent my time doing things that benefited my business.

5. Helps You Scale Your Business Without Growing a Team

When you’re running a small service-based business, your most valuable business asset is your time. Unless you have a dedicated business development person on staff, recreating the wheel with custom proposals or responding to RFPs is likely going to be your biggest business expense.

Even though it’s not costing you in dollars, it’s costing you time.

By monetizing the sales process and charging for your discovery process with a lead service, you’ll immediately get cash flowing in when working with new clients.

The time you free up can then be invested in streamlining your processes (to make them more profitable!), adding passive streams of income (as part of your value ladder!), building a client attraction system (a.k.a. marketing), and even leveling up your skills so you can charge more.

Ground Rules for Creating A Lead Service

1. Free Advice Belongs in the First Rung of Your Value Ladder Only

I provide as much free value as I can in the form of blog posts, emails, tips I share on social media, free masterclasses, and so on. This is the first rung of your value ladder or the “top of funnel” content and it can include anything that allows you to serve 1-many rather than time spent 1-on-1.

  • Email newsletter
  • Podcast
  • YouTube videos
  • Social media posts
  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • Free courses
  • Lead magnets
  • Public speaking
  • etc.

Free value is how we market our businesses and establish our expertise, but it isn’t a very smart thing to give away to one person who may or may not ever reciprocate that value (in the form of payment for your time).

That means I no longer offer free consultations, respond to RFPs, or build custom proposals for clients and I invite them to take the first steps with me by purchasing a lead service instead.

But there’s a trick to this because they won’t see the value in paying you for discovery or consultations that your competitors probably do for free…

2. A Lead Offer Must Provide Standalone Value

It’s not enough just to start charging for something you’ve always offered for free in the past… you must describe it and package it so your potential clients will see the value.

That means you must solve a problem with your service.

If you just charge for a gab session to explore possible solutions or “how it works” you’re actually creating a problem: they’re no further ahead but their wallet is a bit lighter.

That’s why I don’t recommend things like “audits” or “assessments” – for one, they’re a tough sell (even though they can be incredibly valuable). Nobody really wants to buy a summary of all the stuff they’re doing wrong or need to fix.

What we want to buy are solutions.

So think about how you can create something that feels tangible that moves their piece forward on the board…

Maybe that’s a…

  • Plan
  • Checklist
  • Roadmap
  • Playbook
  • Blueprint

And this is key: it must contain value whether your client takes the next steps with you or signs up for your more premium offers.

3. Fixed Scope & Timeline

Once you have your lead service figured out, you want to do as much upfront work as you can to “fix” the scope of work as well as your time.

At first it may take you a bit longer and it may take a bit of experimenting. Some things to think about:

  • What scripts need to be prepared? (What will you say to “pitch” your lead service to people who ask you for a quote?)
  • What steps will you ask them to take to initiate the work? (Will you need to write up instructions? Create a contract? Set up a calendar for scheduling?)
  • How will you respond to objections and questions? (What can you create in advance for this? Think FAQ sheet or “How it works” document.)
  • Will you need any templates for your deliverables?

The more you can “templatize” in your process the more efficient you’ll become (and more profitable!).

In Summary
If you’re looking to scale your service-based business and get away from the time-sucking custom proposal process, a lead service can help you better leverage your time while creating a better experience for your clients.

Will you implement a lead service? If you have any questions hit us up in comments!

And don’t forget to grab our value ladder planner below to brainstorm ideas for creating your lead service as well as the other offerings in your value ladder. 🙂

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So you’ve been hearing all the buzz about “value ladders” and wondering whether you need one? Or how to set one up? Well, you’re in the right place my friend, we’re going to walk you through all of that and more! But first, a definition:

What is a value ladder? A value ladder is a lineup of offers that increase in price and value in order to meet people where they are on their journey to become a customer: from initial awareness to their final decision to buy your premium offerings. It’s an effective way for you to build trust and maximize the lifetime value of each customer.

The way it works in a nutshell: you start off by offering something of value for free and then increase the price and value with your subsequent offers.

They’re usually discussed in the context of sales funnels and it can sometimes sound like: “get as much money out of ’em as possible for as long as you can!”

But a business’s first imperative is to get and keep customers, and when you do that, the revenue will follow. So when you’re planning your value, be sure to make your customer’s experience the primary focus.

A value ladder, when executed correctly, is actually interlinked with your brand strategy.  Your lineup of offers is used to build trust and ultimately, inspire brand loyalty. In other words…

You use a value ladder to get and keep customers

Before we get into the details about how to create a value ladder, let’s first take a look at how this all works from the perspective of your customer.

Why You Need A Value Ladder

It’s easy to forget that most of your customers who see your marketing messages aren’t going to sign up instantly. There’s no magical formula that can persuade someone to whip out their credit card and purchase a premium offering if they’re just not ready.

Enter… the value ladder.

It’s a way to meet people where they are in their decision-making process and readiness to commit to a purchase. So let’s talk about what that looks like…

Your customer’s decision-making process to make a purchase

The goal of your brand strategy should be to communicate the reasons why customers should choose you instead of all their other options.

Along the way, your job is to provide value and earn their trust in order to help them make that decision.

(Also known as marketing.)

From your customer’s perspective, the journey looks like this…

When businesses forget that potential clients are going through this process, they do things like drop a bulleted list of capabilities on their services page with a “get a quote” button and call it good.

Which, for all of the people who are just beginning to become aware that they maybe-possibly need help, sounds like this:

“MAKE A DECISION NOW! DO YOU WANT TO HIRE ME? YES OR NO!!!”

Kind of awkward on a first encounter, right?

A value ladder, in contrast, takes prospective clients by the hand from the very first interaction and walks side by side with them as they grow to trust you.

A value ladder guides your clients toward purchasing your premium offers by providing them with smaller offers along the way

Visually, then, it looks something like this…

Customer decision-making process & offers that meet them where they are.

Now, their journey and your offers aren’t always going to line up perfectly like this. For example, people in the consideration phase may sign up for a free offer. But here’s the key takeaway:

Having different offers at various price points means there’s something for everyone.

A little sneak preview for ya here (I’ll get into more detail when we talk about how to create a value ladder), but what we’re essentially going to do now is take the idea of creating different offers as part of the customer journey, and then rotate the customer journey funnel onto its side. And voila! Now it looks like a ladder.

Neat, right? 🙂

A Basic Value Ladder

The ladder is a great metaphor because as you can see, now we can visualize how we’re going to create offers that will increase in price and value and naturally lead from offer one to the next.

The Benefits of a Value Ladder

A value ladder focuses on solving a problem your client is grappling with and gives them options to solve that problem based on their readiness to commit and their budget.

Because you’re the expert, you’ll design service offerings that give them the outcome they desire.

This approach is very different than reacting to a potential client who rolls up and tells you what they think they need and asks you for a quote. They’re not steering the ship here, you are, which is why figuring out what to include in your offers takes a bit of upfront work.

But the advantage is that for you, there’s no recreating the wheel figuring out what each and every potential client wants and preparing time-costly proposals–instead, you’ll be identifying the problem(s) in advance and have solutions to offer them all ready-to-go.

Because it’s your process, and because you’re presenting it like a product (you’re selling whatever is needed for them to get that outcome), you’ll be perceived as the go-to expert rather than an order-taker. And when you do that, it’s easier for people to understand. They’ll come to you to follow your process because you’re offering the outcome they want. Make sense?

Have The Flexibility to Upsell and Downsell Your Offerings

Once you have the steps of your ladder in place, you’ll upsell along the way.

For example, when people buy your low-priced INTRO offer (also known as a tripwire), you can pitch your LEAD offer as a next step. Then, you can present your BULLSEYE premium offer and so on.

You can also experiment with the order!

For example, you might offer something for free — let’s say a webinar — and then pitch them on your highest-ticket offering.

For those customers who don’t buy your high-ticket offer, you can “downsell” by offering them an INTRO or LEAD offer instead. (Which can be set on autopilot with automated follow-up email sequences.)

By having different offerings at varying degrees of value, you’ll have something to offer people based on what they need and how much they’re willing to spend.

Earn The Trust of Hesitant Customers

A tripwire or low-cost offer helped me win clients who were interested in my premium 1-1 services.

I found that 10% of the people who purchased a low-price offer (a $30 eBook) went on to sign up for thousands of dollars in services. In those cases, they were interested in hiring me (closer to the “decision” phase), but they wanted some final reassurance that if they trusted me with their dollars, I’d deliver value.

So they grabbed one of my low-priced offers to “vet” me. Interesting, right?

Here’s where it gets even more interesting…

The price of that product was $30.

When I calculate the lifetime value of a customer who does 1-1 work with me, it works out to about $3,600 per customer. (Some are a few hundred bucks one-and-done and some are tens of thousands over years.)

So for a small investment in my time to create a simple eBook, I’m able to shortcut the time and effort it normally takes to earn the trust of a complete internet stranger and potentially for life. Which is far more than $30, it’s more than 100 times that! (Results will vary of course, but I did want you to see the big picture.)

Not only that…

A Value Ladder Extends The Lifetime Value of a Customer

Because you’re incorporating different offerings into your lineup, you have the potential to extend that lifetime value.

An introductory or low-price offer (which should be a digital product of some kind) can actually be quite profitable and generate an evergreen passive income stream.

A lead service (which I’ll get to in a sec) can help you recapture all the time that slips through the cracks pitching your services to people who are just kicking tires and are never going to get there.

The way I like to think of these initial steps in your ladder is they’re a way to monetize your sales and marketing and leverage your time (so you have more of it to fine-tune your processes and make passive income products!)

You can also extend your premium services by creating “loyalty” offers!

Hopefully, by now you’re chomping at the bit to get started, so let’s get into it…

The Value Ladder

How to Create a Value Ladder

There are many ways to go about it, but here’s a formula you can use to create a basic value ladder. Some value ladders have three steps and some have eight, it really all depends on what you’re offering.

If you offer more than one service line–for example, say you offer web design services and social media management, you would create a separate value ladder for each.

The Value Ladder

Step #1 Free Offer

Definition: The purpose of the free offer is to generate sales leads. Once you’ve identified your ideal client’s problems, you’ll demonstrate your expertise (you’re the one to solve it) by helping them solve their problem (5-10% of the way) with a free offer.

Ground rules: It has to be valuable. Your free offer is going to take the place of you getting on a sales call with them to demonstrate you’re trustworthy and an expert at solving this problem. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be valuable, quite the opposite.

Examples: Blog posts, a free e-book, checklists, swipe files, worksheets, how-to videos, audio exercises, a free introductory course, a webinar, etc.

This is how you’re going to get people to your website, but keep in mind that as people are going through their decision-making process and figuring out whether you’re the one to trust, it may take interacting with your brand 10-15 times or more before they’re ready to commit.

Having free content as an incentive to interact with you isn’t a magic sales bullet, it’s used to build trust. Make it valuable and focus on solving their problems, and when they’re ready to commit with dollars, you’ll be the one they turn to…

This is called reciprocity.

The idea is that when you’re providing value for free, your audience will begin to feel grateful for your help and even indebted to you. When deciding who to choose, they’ll be much more likely to go with you because you’ve already helped them solve their problem part of the way for free.

Step #2 Intro Offer

Definition: An intro offer is a low-priced offering that solves the problem a little bit more than your free offering

Ground rules: Again, it must be valuable. You’re still nurturing trust and establishing yourself as the go-to expert. Make sure it solves a specific problem and you’ve clearly articulated the outcome they can expect when they purchase it. The price should be set somewhere between $7-$49. Important: it should not require your time working 1-1 with clients.

Examples: eBook, paid workshop/webinar, an email challenge, a mini-course

Your intro offer isn’t designed to make a profit, but rather, to offset the costs of creating it and promoting it. The goal is to create a customer as quickly as possible so you can lead them to the next step, which is…

To learn more, we have an entire blog post devoted to setting up an intro offer (or tripwire) right here.

Step #3 Lead Offer

Definition: Your lead offer requires a larger financial commitment but it includes a much greater value. Here, you can begin offering 1-1 services that require your time, or, if you’re selling digital products, it will be a higher-priced offering than your tripwire but still less than your high-ticket offerings. This offer should be designed to be profitable.

Ground rules: Focus your lead offer on a specific outcome or “quick win” you can give your clients.

It must solve a problem and not create one. For example, if you’re designing a 1-1 service, an “audit” creates problems (“here are all the things you need to fix, have fun!”) whereas a road mapping or strategy session solves one (“here are your biggest opportunities and next steps”).

You should strive to create a service that allows you to replicate the process you’ll guide your clients through (no re-creating the wheel). This way, you can become better (more expert at solving this problem) and more efficient (and more profitable) the more you do it.

Things to consider:

  • What aspects of your process are you currently doing for free that you can monetize instead?
  • Is there an aspect of your larger high-ticket services you can “break apart” as a first step?

Examples: Road-mapping session, a done-for-you playbook or strategy, an introductory course, 1-1 coaching/consulting to achieve a specific result

Step #4 Bullseye Offer

Definition: A bullseye offer (or a “core offer”) is something we go into more detail about in The Bullseye Offer Formula, but basically this is where you pull out all the stops and do whatever you need to do to solve your customer’s biggest problem.

Ground rules: It should be priced based on the value of the outcome and really, the sky’s the limit. It’s your process and ideally, should utilize your zone of genius, the expertise you want to become known for. It must also be something your dream clients already know they need.

Examples: This is a high-priced offer–either a more comprehensive course or done-for-you 1-1 services.

Guiding people to a bullseye offer is where most people call it good, but to maximize the lifetime value of a customer, you can also create a…

BONUS (Step #5): Loyalty Offer

Definition: A loyalty offer extends the value of your signature offer by offering ongoing or ancillary services and digital products that continue to help them solve their problems.

Ground rules: Your loyalty offer provides you with ongoing revenue and allows you to create an ongoing relationship with your customers. These may be priced lower than your signature offer, but extends value over time.

Examples: Ongoing done-for-you services, a mastermind group, weekly group coaching calls, private paid Facebook group or slack channel, a membership site, subscription-based content, additional digital products, and courses to help them continue on their problem-solving journey, annual workshops or retreats.

Variations to Your Value Ladder

Again, the above is just an example to get you thinking about offering value along your customer’s journey. Every business is different and you may find that creating three steps is enough: maybe a freebie offer, an introductory offer, and a premium or signature service offering.

Maybe you’ll want six or seven steps in your ladder. You might decide to create two or three signature offers and a value ladder for each. Maybe you won’t have a signature service at all, maybe it makes more sense for you to create multiple introductory offers and then get people right into a loyalty offer.

Inside our course, we walk our students through the four key steps of the value ladder as a starting point, starting with the Bullseye Offer. Once you know where you’re leading people to, it becomes a “no-brainer” to create a logical, related line-up of offers that lead people to your premium 1-1 services.

Value Ladder
Create a bullseye offer first, then your lineup of offers

In summary

A value ladder helps make marketing your services easier. It allows you to earn trust, scale your business by increasing the lifetime value of a customer, and move away from selling your services like a commodity.

A commodity has no differentiated qualities; a brand is the opposite of a commodity and focuses on the value you can provide your customer. So in a way, the value ladder is just a framework for you to build your brand.

By creating different degrees of value-based offers corresponding where your customers are at in the decision-making process, you’re not only better positioned to get and keep clients but to maximize profit and lifetime customer value as well.

If you have any questions, hit us up in the comments and be sure to grab our FREE value ladder planner below!

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