Upsells have been around for years and they are completely ethical in most circumstances. You buy a burger at McDonalds and
they ask if you if you would like fries with that. All good. That is a suggestion prior to you making a purchase and they are upselling you on something, albeit unhealthy, that is optional and that you can choose whether or not it will add value to your service.
Believe it or not. the “fries” and the “drink” are where McDonalds makes all of their profit. This is an upsell.
You go to a car lot. Your base model includes the base features. If you want leather, heated seats, a roof rack, bigger wheels, etc…you are offered that as part of a more expensive package. You are UPSOLD on an more expensive product, more expensive that you might have anticipated. I am fine with that, although you and I both know how annoying car salesmen can be at times (some are wonderful as well, don’t get me wrong). The car lot is also full of very much qualified upsells.
But the Internet Marketing industry operates in a completely different and what I believe to be, unethical manner. They have taken the idea of upsells and turned it into game trying to get the most MONEY out of the consumer as possible. This dehumanization of a customer experience in place of monetization is where I have a host of issues. These are what I want to create an open discussion about here.
The Cheap Front End Followed by Secret Backend.
It’s highly elusive…and borderline unethical. When money becomes the only focus of your business, you lose sight of something that is very important. The customer. This is what happens a lot of the time when companies become desperate, or in some cases, they learning their business strategies from others “gurus” that are clear-as-daylight ripping people off.
If a company is not upfront about their costs on their “sales page” or their website, then you have to tread your water very carefully. I have investigated MANY products over the years that claim “riches” and extraordinary amounts of success on the front end with a low ticket price, only to offer you instant upsells after you join. Often times these upsells are in the $1,000’s.
$7. Sure pal.
If you go into a car lot, you can get a brochure indicating the upsells that may be involved in purchasing a brand new vehicle. It is clear as daylight, not misleading and any sensible person is able to understand the costs. Same with an order at McDonalds, you go up to the counter, you can see the menu board that clearly outlines the various price points.
This is a common attribute that you need to be very careful about. The ideology and the strategy behind this sort of promotion is that the MONEY is not on the front end, it is built by turning you into a customer and forcing you into much more expensive, overpriced upsells.
Get You On Your Knees, Get You To Pay For More
It is no different than being in the casino and when you put $20 on a hand of blackjack. Most money is not lost in that initial $20 hand, it is lost in trying to chase after that money and recoup the costs.
The same thing happens online. You buy a product. You chase the next one. And the next one. And the next one. This happens in a sequential, wallet sucking process by many companies and it won’t stop until you have a credit card that is maxed out and you don’t have any money left for groceries.
This can happen within a single product purchase. You invest in ONE thing at a low ticket price, say under $100 and the next thing you know you are getting hit with upsells that you “need to have” that cost $100’s more, if not $1,000’s. This is the conventional approach that is being implemented by the many gurus out there and the minute you see this taking place when YOU purchase a product online, you should consider getting a refund.
Because you likely have only gotten half of the product. The internet marketer has reserved the good stuff for the upsells and this model is not unique to just an upsell cycle within your purchases, it is also implemented through other techniques like free book offers, or other assortments of free shipping offers.
Get the Full Internet Marketing Pie, Not Just the Shell
Would you be mad if you went into a bakery, bought a pie, only to realize that when you got home there was no filling in the pie. I bet you would.
So then why, when you purchase something in the Internet marketing space is it OK to purchase something, with the expectation of the company that you will purchase additional and more expensive items from them to complete the process. Must haves so-to-speak.
I don’t think it is.
Here are some common upsells that you will see within the internet marketing world.
(1) More training. It is common that a product will be priced low, at a price point of less than $50 (usually at $7-9). Upon purchasing the given product or service, you will instantly be upsold on additional training. This often times leaves the consumer feeling as though they have the “incomplete” training package and in order to get what they need, they need to invest into the upsells.
(2) Private Mentoring & Coaching. One of the most common upsells within the Internet marketing industry is private mentoring or coaching. In many cases your personal contact details are handed off to 3rd party companies (for purchase) where they will call/email you can solicit expensive coaching programs, often times valued at $5,000-$10,000. As a rule of thumb, if you are solicited to over the phone and it is related to your Internet business, don’t trust it!
(3) High Ticket Info Products. Also known as high ticket affiliate marketing, a common upsells you will see these days are high ticket information products. You will typicall be required to spend $100’s to $1,000’s on these programs, often times with an entry point purchase either being a free ebo0k or very inexpensive initial purchase. During the sales process, you are typically left with the feeling as a customer that you are not “getting everything you need”, thus forced into making these very expensive purchases.
(4) Masterminds / Seminars. These are expensive retreats. If you have heard the idea of “get to the events” this is the common approach that is taken in the internet marketing industry. Ranging from $1,000’s to $10,000’s, these masterminds are often very exclusive because of their high price point. People that go have the tendency of feeling they are getting “value” because of the price point. If you attend one of these, you can pretty much assume that you are very deep into the marketers funnel. That got you by the tail at that point!
(5) Webinars. Sometimes you pay for a webinar, only to be upsold on another webinar or a series of webinars. These are often times pre-recorded, but they present themselves as “live” training that you sign-up to attend. Always be weary of a product or service that is trying to get you to sign up to a FREE webinar, it is almost certainly going to be followed by a significant pitch for more purchases.
(6) Conferences. There is a lot of money in the specialized conference industry. If you had a budget for it, you could quite easily spend $100,000’s per year if you were to attend all of the high ticket conferences in the affiliate marketing and Internet marketing industries. It is quite common for companies to use a lower ticket purchase, a free ebook, or a low ticket info product to get you in the door for much more expensive conferences upsells.
Don’t Be a Fool for the Upsell Game.
Now you know. I have personally warned you. I have communicated with 10,000’s of people over the years that have been involved in purchasing products like this. I have even had lengthy conversations with those that have implemented these types of upsell sales practices in their businesses.
If you join a low ticket program that doesn’t acknowledge other price points within their website, and then you are immediately hit with upsells, downsells and all sorts of after purchase, purchases, remember this very article.
I understand that everyone has to make a dime in this world, but does it have to be done in a way that is elusive and far from upfront to the consumer.
This is a trend that’s really worrying for people looking to get into affiliate marketing. How do you find an ethical product to represent? You didn’t address this problem in your post, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
If you want to consider an ethical product to represent, I recommend that you check out Wealthy Affiliate. Not only have we been in business since 2005, we are the most cost efficient platform in the industry offering a completely free Starter membership so people can try before they buy.
There is a lot of “smoke and mirrors” in the industry, and very few products tell you what they are before they make you pay. WealthyAffiliate.com is different in that you have access to a great portion of the service and you can commence the process of building your business, hosting your website, building out your content, leveraging the many tools and platforms at Wealthy affiliate, and even getting personal support and expert help before you ever have to consider paying a cent.
You can check it out here:
Unfortunately, almost 50% or more advertisements (links, pictures, videos, webinars, call to actions, emails, ebooks, products and etc.) do not tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It would not be an ad. McDonald sandwiches will never look like the tv ad but the price is known. What gets me more than upscale is FREE, McDonald Ad is a FREE sandwich but no mention its a 1/2 sandwich. I have click, listen, download, and etc, to find out that it half works, limited time and features, doesn’t work, oversold, and can’t really make money (do or difficult) without it, Only true ad is for medicine by the time they tell the whole truth do you really want to take or by it. If you want to make money and still provide a service half truth but not ball face lies. I look forward to working with you WA lesson 1.
Exactly true. McDonalds is forthcoming about the prices and you can see right on the menu in front of you what a meal costs, what individual products cost, and what all the upsells potentially will be when you check out.
This differs from all of the “upsell” offers you see these days within the internet marketing world. You don’t know what you are getting and often times it is the “bag” to put your meal in, then once you pay your first payment, you have to end up paying for the rest of the products that you actually need (the meal). If a company is not forthcoming about their price and their potential upsells before you join, then you should absolutely not consider them and I would go as far as to say, consider a refund for your initial purchase if you get just part of what you actually need within the initial purchase.
Using McDonald’s to explain an upsell is brilliant. All hugely successful companies like McDonald’s or Amazon use this technique. I like your idea of being upfront with the consumer and explicitly telling them what they are getting for the money they are spending. That way they can make a rational purchasing decision without getting sucked into an “unknown funnel” of promotions.
Completely agree Dennis. It is the “unknown” that concerns me about the industry and what is being taught by many marketers. Basically the logic is that if you can trick someone into paying a low price for a product/service, you immediately have the right to promote the “rest of what they need” for $100’s or $1,000’s more.
Too often people get a bite of the donut, but are anticipating the entire thing. The entire thing costs a significant amount more when it comes to all of the additional upsells and downsells that the marketer puts them through.
In hindsight I think the up sell thing is pretty funny. Case in point. About 15 years ago I was in Vegas at the craps table betting small time on field bets. Another guy started with a couple grand and built it up to 12 k in about a half hour. He got greedy and let it ride, the whole table was cheering him on. He kept throwing the dice and seven out would come up almost every time. He lost everything in ten minutes and walked away dejected. As funny as it seemed at the time because I had a few cold ones in me in reality he got up selled out of the game. Now, I don’t even think about taking chances like even gambling for money. It’s just not worth it. But, I did fall for the Grand Mac Mcdonalds which almost took me out all by itself. It was the grand daddy of Bic Macs, but I won’t fall for that again. Good post here.
Being a craps fan, I have seen lots of stories just like you said. People get sucked up into their own “success” and hype and as a result they end up not knowing when to quit. In terms of upsells, the McDonalds analogy is a common place one where there is a legitimate upsell. There are no surprises and when you get the Grand Big Mac, you know exactly what you are getting and how much it costs.
Compare this to the Internet marketing world, often times you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Often times a free book or a $7 product will end up result in a several $1,000 conference, coaching program, or in some cases a pyramid scheme.
Another great article. Thank you.
You got me thinking about why there is a lack of ethics in the Internet marketing world. I guess it is because there is no physical contact. Communication is mostly done through clicks and messages. When you have a store in physical world, you want to please your customer and get him to come back. If you cheat people who are standing in front of you, you might get punch in a face from time to time. But by cheating people on the Internet, you get them upset, but there is nothing much they can do about it in most cases. What do you think?
Exactly. Within the online world it is much easier to run unscrupulous campaigns like this because you don’t have that face to face interaction. It isn’t as harmless as asking “do you want fries with that”. It is getting you to join something that seems like a good value, only to put you through a spin cycle of internet marketing upsells and programs that you have to join in addition to your initial purchase.
There doesn’t have to be ANY human interaction at all during the process and because of this, it is easy for these schemers and scammers to get away with their activities.
Great post.when I first got into the online money making world, I encountered a lot of these upsells and nearly fell for them. Thank God I usually do my research(look before leaping).
Your post is so informative as I now know how to effectively identify these unethical practices.
The internet is rife with “opportunities” that are taking advantage of people using this exact, what they deem to be a, business model. It isn’t. It is smoke and mirrors marketing at its best, but unfortunately there is such a large audience of people that are desperate to build a business online or make more money, that these sort of upsells work.
The only thing that will help subside this sort of activity is bringing consumer awareness to this. That is my ongoing mission here with Ways to Avoid Scams Online.
You are great Man! Already a Premium Member of WA……… I have avoided all the scams 🙂
Awesome Vijay and you truly have. Now that you are a member of Wealthy Affiliate (WA) you will not be subject to getting scammed or taken advantage of again…I can assure you of that!
You are right on the money with all of your points. I have seen all of these in action, your post helps me to understand the signals and motives behind them.
Have a Blessed Day!
I am sure. If you have been online for even a few months and have done a few Google searches for “make money” opportunities or been on social media, you have likely seen most of these in action.
Hey Kyle. I absolutely agree with the info provided in this post of yours. Personally, before having any idea of what it actually took to start an online business, many programs appeared persuading me to join them for an “special price” at first… It was just a matter of time before they showed the real evil deal behind everything. The upsells are horribly tricky, and what’s worse is that most of these programs don’t offer much as they should! But this is because the internet is overloaded with scammers everywhere.
Exactly, that special price quickly becomes more special prices that you have to purchase after the fact…and then when you buy those, there are often times even more purchase that you will need to make.
Upsells have gone from “do you want fries with that” to “you need this to actually complete your purchase you just thought you were getting”.
Kyle, thank you for writing about this!! I think I’ve had experiences with all of these tactics. They are very hard to miss nowadays. The one that I’ve noticed the most recently are the FREE Webinars. Every day on YouTube I get at least one ad of someone inviting me to a free webinar that is going to change my life. They will usually include a very fancy house and exotic cars. The pattern is so obvious that it is getting a little ridiculous now.
And you’re right, the 1 or 2 times that I’ve decided to view the webinar, they are always trying to make you feel like you’re missing out on something huge. The answers to all my prayers is just at the reach of my credit card.
Do you see an end to this type of tactic? I think these tactics are going to be with us for a long time. Judging by how common they are becoming, I guess they work.
Thank you for making me more aware of them!
A free webinar that will change your life…if you purchase the $2,000 upsell that is offered and you NEED to have within the free webinar. This is marketing, at the core, to a certain degree. The way people are convinced into joining something with no additional purchases, ever, is what I feel is elusive and completely uncalled for in the industry.
Unfortunately though, this sort of selling online has become the norm in the affiliate marketing space by the many schemers and shiesters out there.
Try typing in work from home, they crawl out of the woodwork. I have been burnt twice by scams that I thought where legitimate and where they offer a price, you payment then you only get half a package until you pay a further premium. I think this is exactly what you are speaking about here Kyle when you are talking about upsells.
Yeah, that is exactly what I am talking about.
You buy something, only to realize that you have “half” or even a fraction of what you need. Then you are typically encouraged to purchase much more expensive wares to get the full product and everything you need. It is unethical, it is underhanded to the customer, but it is something that is all too common these days in the internet marketing and affiliate marketing space.
Hello here, thanks for the clear explanation how people can be trapped in the world of false promises and illusions about how he or she will be rich overnight.
I know how it works just after encounter with one guy from Warrior Forum. I was fooled by him but thanks to PayPal, I got my money back.
I remember this feeling when I was happy when he offered to teach me and others some of Internet Marketing tricks. However he was a novice in the scamming business too. He made some visible mistakes which prompted me to think what something is wrong.
For example the price for his courses was to high: $1000. He did not explain what he is going to teach. He provided contact numbers which did not work.
I want to ask you, how beginners or people who are really green in the marketing world could recognize scammers?
Everybody wants to make money online but dishonesty in the same way as karma turns the back to these speculative individuals.
Can you tell signs which could be suspicious when somebody looks for ways how to succeed online?
All the best, Nemira.
Very often the case, you don’t really know what you are getting when you join many of these programs either. The secret is inside the box, then you open the box only to realize there is nothing there. To get what was “supposed” to be in the box, you end up having to spend $1,000’s.
It is a shame that this sort of thing exists, but what is happening is newcomers are learning how to do this to others…and subsequently the vicious cycle of SHAMELESS upsell marketing continues.
Hi I love the fact that there are no up-sells in the operation. The business is very simple and easy to use and work. The fact that there are more ways to work this business is great. And the fact that it is an easy one step after another system is also very nice and easy to understand is very nice. I love it. Thank you for creating this nice easy operation.
Thanks Frank, we like to lead by example and when I speak about and entire industry and one we have been involved in for quite some time (closing in on 12 years) I take these types of conversations very seriously.
There are definitely a lot of circumstances where I feel that “opportunity seekers” are getting the short end of the stick, being stuck with upsells they didn’t have a clue was coming, and ultimately lose an incredible amount of money as a result of ruthless, unethical and even sometimes illegal sales tactics.
Acknowledging this publicly will help consumers understand what is going on. If you join something and you the company you are joining is not upfront about costs associated with creating a business and they feel like they are hiding something, run for the proverbial hills.
As you mentioned early on, there are plenty of circumstances where upsells are completely ethical. I really hate the way are often used in the IM world.
I’ve paid up to $99 for courses only to be immediately confronted with as many as 4 upsells before I could even access my purchase! That is unacceptable to me.
Yeah, and that is exactly what I am talking about. There is such a thing as an ethical upsell, one that doesn’t suspiciously arrive without acknowledgement the minute after you purchase something. These “surprise” upsells are the ones that adversely impact an industry as a whole, but unfortunately this is something that MANY are doing in the internet marketing space.
I totally see your passion about upsells. Given that they happen almost any affiliate marketing program has them, they definitely drive a person away from wanting to become a member. I know many years ago when I thought about would affiliate marketing it was the upsells that scared me. I felt like if I bought into the program than I would have to buy the rest of the program other otherwise I would be left behind. Hopefully, affiliate networks can scale back their upsells so people can get back into the marketing game again.
Cross sells are completely different, I just want to clarify that. There are many things typically that you will have to purchase in a business overtime. Perhaps you need an autoresponder, that is a service you can purchase to manage your emails. That may be in addition to some training you receive. That is ethical and fine.
It is when you are tricked into buying something, only to find out to get what you need you have to spend a great deal of money more.
Very informative Kyle I read the entire article. What an eye opener, I myself have always been quite paranoid so I have a tendency to look into things before buying, It can pay to be paranoid sometimes.
It’s good to see someone cares enough to share this information most would probably try to ‘UPSELL’ you this information. Have you ever been caught out yourself Kyle?
Always a good idea to look into things Samuel before you make a purchase, in particular if you feel like you aren’t getting the “full story”. If a company doesn’t explain what their service is and the costs of their service in full before joining, then it is a reason to be weary.
Unfortunately in the Internet marketing industry, there are too many companies keeping this information ‘hidden’ from their customers and then as soon as you pay to purchase, you are hit with a series of upsells, often times much higher ticket purchases. It is truly unfair to the consumer and unethical.
Yes, these upsells are an absolute nightmare and drive me crazy!!! I totally agree with you 100% that some of these upsells are totally unethical. The phrase cheap front end and the more secret expensive backend is so true and it makes my blood boil and gets me so damm frustrated. Thanks a million for your advice, I only hope that lots of other readers will stay away and not be fooled by these cheap introductory offers to be followed up then with expensive upsells. Keep up your good honest work
It is common place to see this in the industry, but for most doing this they will just deem it is as “marketing”. That is likely what they have learned from their mentors or through their own purchases they have made online.
But being “tricky” and not upfront about your sales process is not marketing, that is being deceiving. There are definitely tastefully done upsells and cross-sells in the industry, but for every ONE there are 100 others that are totally taking advantage of their customers with a “smoke and mirrors” marketing approach.
Great post and some great information on what to watch out for when choosing an online business. I can readily identify with what you have experienced in this business, actually who hasn’t for that matter, but the thing is, the businesses are advertised at a favourable price for starters and people are sold on this until they have committed and then they realize they have been sold a pup.
I have seen the opposite as well, when you are about to click away from a website that you are not interested in, a drop-down box all of a sudden appears and offers the product at a substantially reduced rate. I bet some people purchased these products at the higher price not realizing that there was a discount on offer, as well.
We need to be vigilant when looking at these online business and thanks for posting about these upsells
Well the first step in stopping this sort of activity online is bringing awareness to the consumer. There is nothing that I despise more than seeing people get taken advantage of, often times the most vulnerable and desperate people are those that fall into this upsell opportunity traps.
The “reduced price” exit pop-ups are something that always bothered me as well. If you can reduce the price just for someone leaving the site, why couldn’t you have offered that price up front. So if someone was totally engaged in your product, they have to pay a different price than someone that wasn’t. Marketing, yeah. Right.
This is completely true, especially with a lot of “MLM” companies. Like you said there is nothing wrong with an upsell if the original product you paid for isn’t just a piece of garbage that isn’t complete without buying 2 other upsells. Unfortunately, that tends to be the rule instead of the exception within internet marketing. Before you buy anything always Google the product+review and see what others are saying! This could save you from getting ripped off.
Right, exactly. If you make a purchase and you get what you thought you were purchasing (and it offers a great deal of quality), that was a good commerce trade. If you don’t get what you thought or there is a requirement to buy a whole bunch of other stuff to get what you need, then these are the upsells I am talking about here.
I found this article to be very informative and well written even though it was covering a subject that I am very familiar with. Most sales funnels are just that, a cheap item up front and then a funnel to get you to buy the upsells. It does feel like a scam, especially when it is something that you buy into. I actually ran into this just a couple weeks ago, where the base product was $20 and then to get something actually worthwhile you had to spend at least another $57. So, I requested a refund of the original $20. Thanks for posting!
Yeah, especially when you have just made the purchase and then are left with the instant feeling that you need to buy more…without even getting the first product yet!