Make The Sale Before They Buy

This is how I deal with Stinky Heads ๐Ÿ™‚

I grew up in a family of smokers. When I was a kid, my dad, mom and brother used to collect Marlboro Miles and hoped that some day they would smoke enough cigarettes to get the new Jeep Wrangler.

Alas, they never got the Jeep but they did smoke enough Marlboros to get a sleeping bag. Which we did put to good use when camping.

That Was Then

Back then, I would take their cigarette packs and hide them, I would destroy any unattended cigarettes that were lit, and generally, I was a menace to any and all smokers around.

And when I wasn’t destroying their cigs, I would stage quiet protests in their vicinity by covering up my nose using a T shirt -as if it was a gas mask- to send a clear message that they are stinky heads and I don’t like them when they smoke.

Looking back, however, it’s clear that Marlboro had engaged in a brilliant -if antiquated and uncreative- scheme to turn even a casual smoker into a very loyal customers.

A loyal customer is the one that wouldn’t dream of buying another brand or going someplace else to buy what you’re selling. I mean…think about how hard it is to pull that off.

  • If I want a cup of coffee, there is only marginal difference between any two coffee shops. But I will always choose the one who’s logo is on my Buy 10 Get 1 Free punch card I carry in my pocket.
  • If I need to travel, there is no difference between any two airlines -they all suck equally- but I will always choose the one that will make me their VIP if I collect only 10K more miles.
  • If I want to buy a pack of smokes…well, I would never buy a pack of smokes, but if I did, it would be a pack that has more of those valuable miles that get me a Jeep, or at least a sleeping bag.

Buying Triggers

If you’re Philip Morris (the makers of Marlboro), these types of loyalty programs elicit all sorts of right psychological triggers.

  • Humans like to collect things; horde even. (how many Miles did you collect today?)
  • We like routines, and smoking the same brand of cigarettes, or drinking coffee from the same place helps us do that.
  • We like to carry out missions. And having clear goals (getting a sleeping bag, Jeep, 11th cup of coffee or VIP status) feeds right into that.

What it Doesn’t Trigger

Some might say that we do all these things because we like to get things for free. I say NAY!

First of all, “Free” is not free…at all. And second, “I like getting things for free” is a rationalization for our behavior, it’s not the reason for it. Psychology 101.

This Is NOW!

Times, they are a changing, Dylan once sang. And he is right.

In order for you to engage in the game of collecting Marlboro Miles (or airline miles, or free coffee) you had to become a customer FIRST! And only then could you play the game.

Now, you engage in the game first, THEN become a customer.

Examples of successful businesses that are using this model is staggering:

  • Zynga, the purveyors of FarmVille and MafiaWars allow players to play for free. But they also sell virtual currency in case you want to get rich quick.
  • Facebook and Twitter are essentially set up the same way, except they don’t make money from the players, they make money from businesses who want access to player’s information. In other words, YOU produce what Facebook and Twitter is selling.
  • Google gives away its search capabilities to sell you some advertising.
  • Triberr is set up very much like Zynga properties as well. It’s free, but if you want to grow your tribes past 7, gain more benefits from expanded reach, etc. you have to spend our virtual currency (Bones). Granted, you can win or earn Bones, but for those who are impatient, there is always an option to purchase as well.

To put it another way, all these businesses make the sale (get you into the door and get you to play the game) before you even spend a penny.


Facebook/Twitter/Google are especially effective in doing this because people who use Facebook to market their products are they themselves users of Facebook. Same is true of Twitter and Google.

The typical sales-conversion path for a GoogleAds buyer is “search engine user” first, then ad buyer.

Zynga is very interesting because the same game is available to both paid players and those who choose to play for free. There is absolutely no difference in the user experience, options, etc. between the FarmVille players who spend money, and those who don’t. And yet, 7% of FarmVille’s 80+ Million players are paying real money for virtual Farm Coins.

By the time a player buys FarmVille dollars they’ve been playing the game for months, but Zynga had made the sale the second someone signs up. Which is why your Facebook wall is inundated with requests to join MafiaWars.

By sending you an invite to FarmVille or MafiaWars, your friends are able to delay paying real money for Zynga’s virtual currencies; and for Zynga, you are basically money in the bank.

This is a brilliant strategy and you can’t do much better than to use Zynga as a model for your next online biz.

HairClub for Men

I’m not only the President, I’ also a client. That is to say, I put my money where my mouth is.

Unlike farming virtual sheep and killing virtual mafia Dons, Triberr is connected to a very real outcomeย  We send around 100 thousand visits to our members’ blogs every day, and this number is increasing every day. However, Triberr’s business model is identical to Zynga’s.

You use Triberr for free for as long as you want. There is absolutely no need to buy Bones (Triberr’s virtual currency) at any point, ever.

You can win Bones, you can earn them, we give you some when you join. However, if you want to get some Bones fast, you have an option to buy them.

Did you know? When you spend Bones on things like Replay they actually go to your tribesmates, which is another way of acquiring Bones on Triberr.

All of these examples lead to the same conclusion. We are many online and making the sale is hard unless you’re Marlboro, and most of us aren’t. So, make the sale before they buy.

Et tu, Blog?

Do you think that blogging is set up in the same fashion?

Do you think that readers/commenters engage in a kind of game with the blog author and only THEN become customers?

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi ๐Ÿ™‚

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - Google Plus

  • Stan Faryna

    Most bloggers believe that to build readership they have to bring a proactive readership that makes comments and, thereby, contribute to an immersive experience of the blog and its community. Or, perhaps, at least until a critical mass is achieved. I have no idea what a critical mass means because I’m not there. So I am speculating on that.

    There is some fleeting, fuzzy sense of reciprocity going on. I comment on your blog, you should comment on my blog. Is it gamey? Perhaps. Are their natural game mechanics structured within authentic human relationships? I would say so.

    Can you game reciprocity of commenting? In other words, can you get more comments than you give? 2x? 3x?

    Some people try to game that intentionally. Some do it unintentionally in the sense that they get more comments than they give but that was not a function of intention. It was a function of availability, interest, or other pressing matters.ย 

    Where you are giving comments 5 to 1 or worse, I would re-evaluate the value of reciprocity with that connection. Of course, mileage will vary. And popularity provides for some unintended perks and leeway.

    How are bone revenues these days?

    Recently on my blog: Why This Blog Post Sucks!

    • Dino Dogan

      Interesting you say all that…Dan and I are working on Comment tribes next. It will be game-y and it will be all about reciprocity.

      However, the last section was total bait. I dont believe our readers/commenters are our customers. I was just throwing a line to see how people respond…maybe I’ll do post about it as a follow up ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sorry for the trickery ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Betsy Cross

    This blogging for business is the craziest game. I don’t think there are rules like people try to make me think. I WANT to know if you have something to sell. Enough of the marketing ploys and mind games. That’s so old. And everyone can see through it. It’s palpable. I love that guy on Ground Hog’s Day (?). You know, the insurance salesman. At least you knew who to go to if you wanted insurance!
    I think I am the most impatient person on the planet. I’ve had enough talk about “lizard brains” (that annoys me to no end!) and authenticity, etc.ย 
    Just say it….I. want. to. sell. you. a. pack. of. gum….Do. you. want. to. buy. it? Done.
    And write because it’s fun.

    • Dino Dogan

      ahhh Betsy, while i principal I agree with you, I will say 2 things that contradict it.

      1. When it’s done right, you dont see the sale, you just buy. And

      2. Everyone likes the seduction. Everyone wants to be seduced. And thats what great ones do.

      #ThatIsAll ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Betsy Cross

        I just don’t think you can teach someone how to be seductive (even with their product). It’s either there or it isn’t. To be yourself is more appealing than trying to be appealing.
        So maybe all I’m saying is that those who are “doing it right” don’t try. It just comes naturally.So we agree to disagree.ย 

        • Dino Dogan

          I think you can help someone be more seductive than they naturally are, but you’re right, some are just naturally good at it, the rest of us suck at it lol

          • Betsy Cross

            Sorry for being a jerk! And you don’t “suck” at it at all..

  • Bruce Sallan

    Who is Dylan? BTW, you sold me at “Hello”…

    • Dino Dogan

      you know, I knew you’re joking about “who’s Dylan” but I thought to myself “wait a minute…maybe I misspelled Dylan”, so I googled it real quick to double check lol what can I say, I have very little faith in spelling abilities lol

  • Keith Bloemendaal

    Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here. I sell aluminum fence products online, it’s not sexy, it’s not seductive. It’s about having a high quality product at comparable products. Sometimes it’s about how fast I can ship it compared to my competition. Mostly it’s about how good I am at SEO so I can get people serching with “buy” terms to land on my site.ย 

    I provide a solution to a need. It’s not that sexy, but I make money with it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dino Dogan

      Hey Keith, you Hall of Famer you ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s hard to flip the traditional sales funnel for traditional products, but not impossible. It’s much easier to do it with online properties of course. I like the way Repo Games did it…I think I’ll do a video post about that ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Keith Bloemendaal

        I actually much prefer it that way, I never touch the products, they are high end (most sales are $3k-$10k), I make 20-30%, I get paid up front…. need I say more?ย 

        I will admit I have much more fun working with local businesses building websites, managing social media, email marketing etc… but I make more money on the boring, non sexy products…ย 

  • Eugene Farber

    The whole idea of getting someone invested in your brand is very effective. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Especially the coffee card type of deal where you buy 10 and get 1 free. How do you apply that to digital products (like ebooks or training programs for instance)?ย 

    And I do have to disagree with you on one thing. All airlines are not equally bad. Some are just beyond terrible.

    • Dino Dogan

      LMAO..yes, some are just beyond terrible. I was being kind ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for digital products, I think this stuff can be applied very easily.

      Blogs function in very much the same reverse-sales-funnel kind of way when it comes time to sell an eBook for example.

      I think it can work in any situation where you are able to provide great value for free AND solve someone’s problem. Zynga solves the problem of boredom, Triberr solves the problem of attention.

      These are both new “things” and ppl dont know if they will be effective until they try it. Only once they try it and the effectiveness has been proven can ppl feel comfortable “buying into” your brand, platform, etc.

      Anyways…I could go on and on….lemme shut up now ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Fascinating, Dino! First, I grew up in a household where my mother smoked and I did the exact same thing. Our reactions were identical (loved your picture for this article!). I’m so glad smoking is no longer considered cool.

    Second, Farmville is like Triberr. I had never thought of that but now I see the similarities. On Farmville, they also have sponsors, so Zynga gets money every time you Like a 3rd party’s page and put their blimp on your farm.

    Triberr is amazing, I hope you have as much success with it as Zynga has had with Farmville! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dino Dogan

      Thank you so much for your words Carolyn.

      I havent really studied Zynga beyond what I presented in this article. I wonder if more of Zynga’s monetizationย  strategies could be incorporated into Triberr.

      I wonder what sponsors bloggers could “Like” on Triberr…I’ll be thinking about that tonight ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

        I’m thinking something like Klout perks? Triberr is off to such a strong start that third parties should want to have similar participation opportunities as they have with Klout.ย 

        • Dino Dogan

          We’ve done a little bit of that already….we want to formalize and streamline it next year. This year we’re releasing Dynamic Tribes, Facebook tribes and comment tribes….once we have those in place, we can focus on perks, but with a Tribal twist ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

            Looking forward to seeing Triberrs future developments!

  • Constantin Gabor

    Yup! Blogging follows the same business model.ย 

    Actually blogging works just like software – you reading my content and interacting with me on social media is the equivalent of Free Trial – then, if you want more, you simply buy (my services, my book, my product, etc)