Why Upsells Are Scammy (In My Ratings)

October 18, 2009 , 2 Comments

Upsell Image

An upsell is when you offer extensions, expansions, “gold-memberships” or related products to your customers. Often this is done right after the initial purchase (instant upsell) and the reason upsells are so popular is that they often work. A customer who has just agreed to buy your initial offer is quite likely to be willing to shell out a little more cash for the next offer as well. In my reviews, I rate upsells and especially instant upsells as scammy. In this article, I explain why.

What Gives?

If you are an experienced internet marketer yourself, your first reaction might be to think that it’s very unfair of me to rate upsells as scammy. Am I against selling? What’s wrong with offering products? It’s not like you’re forcing anyone to buy them, right? Let me clearly state that I am not opposing selling itself in any way. I run online businesses myself, so I also sell to people. More importantly, I am also a customer and I don’t mind being sold to, as long as what you’re selling are products that interest me.

So why do I rate instant upsells as scammy? Because it’s an indication that you are not getting what you just paid for, that you aren’t getting what you signed up for. Take a look at the sales-pages of any number of get-rich-quick programs. They always give you the impression, or even explicitly state that this program is going to teach you everything you need to know to make tons of money online. Some of them even claim that their system is fully automatic and will practically start spitting out money at the click of a button. Now, when you decide to buy the product and immediately after the purchase, you are led to the backend where one or several upsells await, what does that say about the program you just bought? To me, it clearly says that the program I just bought is incomplete. On the sales-page, I was told that this program would solve all my problems and now I’m being told I should also get program X to really boost my traffic and program Y to make website-building a breeze.

Now, it’s one thing if these upsell products are affiliate-offers, but it’s even worse when they are from the same author who made the program I just bought. Why weren’t they included in the base product?

In short, the immediate upsell indicates that the product you just bought is actually incomplete. This is scammy, particularly if the initial sales-page explicitly stated that the program on offer is a complete solution.

Is a Non-Scammy Upsell Possible?

It’s definitely possible to make non-scammy upsells. On the one hand, the upsell product could be integrated into the base product and the combination could be offered at a higher price, right off the bat. In this case, the sales-page would make it clear that there are two or three different packages to purchase, e.g. the “Get-Rich-Quick Basic”, “Get-Rich-Quick Silver” and “Get-Rich-Quick Gold” packages. Of course, this might mean less sales, as many customers are put off by having to make a choice.

The main factor is the relation between the product an the upsell, however. If the product is “here’s the system that will make you money” and the upsell is “here’s really the system that will make you money”, that’s scammy. If the product is about something more specific, say, how to run successful PPC campaigns and the upsell is something like a software that makes creating and tracking PPC campaigns easier, that’s not scammy anymore (unless you were lead to believe that such a software would be part of the initial purchase).

The problem is that promising something like “the secret to making money and living your dream life” and being very vague about the actual product (a.k.a. hope and dream marketing) tends to do much better than if you’re specific about your offer. So, as a marketer in IM, you can choose to be honest and transparent, but that will mean less money in your pocket. Or you can go the typical route,  just push emotional buttons all the way and basically exploit the clueless to line your pockets. Which side are you on?


About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Shane, I certainly agree with you. Nothing screams scammy more than all the in your face upsells.

    I wouldn’t mind if the upsell was something like a really useful piece of software at a very discounted price, but most of the products tend to me yet another “easy” system to make loads of money.

  • Of course I am with you on this Shane, you are 100% right. I appreciate your candidness in talking about everything regarding IM.
    Thanks for the good information.

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