In the last six months, a new marketing strategy has popped up inside the online influencer + digital marketing community…

You’ve probably heard of it. You’ve likely seen Facebook ads from influencers teaching it.

Let’s call it, “The Paid Challenge (Fad).”

The idea is, you create a short-term challenge at a low, accessible price point – with the intention to later sell these newly WARM LEADS into your higher priced offer.

(Maybe it’s the 30-day challenge for $27, or the 10-day challenge for $17, or WHATEVER.)

Short-term, low-price.

And it’s a good strategy… for the people it’s designed to help, right?

The problem comes when influencers start selling this marketing strategy as though it’s for everyone + everything – because it’s really, truly NOT.

And I want to offer you some words of caution!

In this episode, I’ll debunk the myth that the paid challenge is the “next best thing,” plus go into details about…

  • How mega-influencers make the “paid challenge” look easy
  • Why offering FREE value content will likely make you more money
  • And why I will never, ever sign up for a 30-day challenge….

Tune into this episode for a signature “pep-talk” from me – and then hop over to Instagram (@emilyhirsh) to share your thoughts!

What do you think… is this “fad” sticking around, or not?

If you’re ready for behind-the-scenes marketing strategies from Team Hirsh, sign up for past + future monthly reports at HirshMarketingReport.com.

Key Points:
[2:24] In the last six months, this new “strategy” has popped up…
[4:52] Here’s the problem with the paid challenge fad
[5:44] Why it won’t make you money
[6:22] Who has time for a 30-day challenge?
[9:09] This is exactly what happened with the “free plus shipping” book funnel fad…
[10:11] You have to consider who each *new* marketing strategy is meant for!
[12:19] Are you willing to make an investment in getting this “paid challenge” to work?
[14:31] This is where digital marketing gets messy

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Episode Transcripts:

Emily Hirsh: Hello, welcome back to the podcast, you guys. Thank you so much for tuning in. How are you all? Hopefully you’re having a great February, and when this episode releases, I’ll probably have a brand new baby! I will be in a major life transition. We’re definitely trying to get ahead on our content creation right now, so I can take most of February off, pretty much. I like to still be involved in some communication, but definitely not podcast recording, and anything that requires me to be not with the baby, I will not be doing. So today I’m super excited, [and] I want to dive in. This is, actually, a conversation we’ve been having on my team a lot. It goes off of a lot of what I talk about, about the importance of customizing your strategy for your audience and for your products, and not just taking a fad that’s out there, a marketing fad, of what you’re seeing people doing… but actually thinking through, “Does that make sense for my business? Does it make sense for my audience?” And thinking that through.

So I’m excited to talk about that today. And this has kind of been a conversation we’ve been having on our team, especially with our strategist who onboards all of our new clients… and something that I’ve been involved in, and just watching this kind of play out. So in the last six months, there’s been this new fad… I’ll call it a “fad,” but basically this new strategy that so many people are teaching and preaching, and that’s the paid challenges. And so you’ve probably heard of it, there’s actually a lot of people who have done it, but there’s also people who are teaching you that you should do it. A lot of it’s in the Click Funnels community, not just Russell [Brunson], but Russell’s students, too, I’ve seen [them] run ads teaching you that you should do this strategy.

I actually don’t even think it came from Russell initially. It came from that community, but I think that he used it, and then it worked, and then a lot of people are also using it. So here’s the problem with it, because we’ve had a handful of clients come in to work with us thinking like, “Here’s my strategy. This is what I want to roll out,” and we’ve had to kind of push back on it, and say, “No, we don’t think that’s a good strategy.” So I don’t actually recommend paid challenges, like a paid challenge funnel. And let me backup and just explain what that funnel is, for those of you who don’t know, but basically you would run ads to a paid challenge that’s $27, or I think $27… $17, $27, those are the average prices people are charging for them.

People pay for that challenge. It’s like a 30-day challenge. They, obviously, are getting more value than they would from a free challenge. And then the point is, they would sell you into their next level program. Maybe it’s $997 or $1,997. And the reason it became so popular is, it was a way that it was really working for people to sell into their next level program. So the concept was, “If we get somebody in who’s willing to pay $27, they’re going to actually consume my challenge content, go through my challenge content, and then they’ll be so much more likely to buy my $997 course,” which is great in theory. So I actually do agree with that strategy, and I do think that is why it worked for some people to do that strategy is, because yes, if you get somebody who’s going to pay upfront for something, then they’re going to be much more invested, and you’re also delivering a lot more value with that challenge. 

Like, Russell goes all out with his challenges. I think he even mails out a box that comes with actual material for the challenge. So he’s going all out with them. So of course, people are going to be more engaged, and then therefore it’s going to be easier to sell them into the [next level]. But here’s the problem with it for everyone [else], as a mass strategy that a lot of people are trying to do is, if you don’t have an audience of people who already believes in what you’re doing and believes in your content and your brand, and like, a warm audience following you, this is going to be a really difficult strategy to get optimized.

It’s not impossible, but it will take investment and time. And for a lot of new business owners or people launching a new funnel or people who haven’t had massive success online or already have million-dollar funnels running on autopilot, this is really difficult to do, because it’s going to take that investment, it’s going to take time to optimize, and it’s not going to make you a lot of money in the beginning. And here’s why.

Because you’re still asking people to pay you. So you’re still saying, “You’re cold traffic, you’re somebody who doesn’t know me. I want you to come in and pay me $27 to participate in a challenge. Here’s all the reasons why it’s awesome,” and you’re still having to get over that hurdle of convincing somebody… [whereas], it’s so much easier to just send people first to value, first to a free webinar, or first to a great, amazing PDF downloaded resource… or something that just doesn’t have that barrier of like, “Get out your wallet, and pay me, when you don’t know me.” Also, in my opinion, there’s an overload of content. Unless your audience is a brand new business owner who has the time to just like consume, consume, consume, and participate in these things, they’re not… a 30-day challenge, if someone asked me to do that, I’d be like, “Heck no! I do not have time to participate in a 30-day challenge, and go through all these resources, and put time into this.

I have a huge business to run, and a team to run!” Maybe I’ll watch a quick training, but I’m not going to participate in a 30-day challenge. And so, it’s also a limited audience that this would be relevant for. In my opinion, this is relevant for those very beginning business owners who have time and energy to go through a 30-day challenge with all the resources, and if you look at the people Russell targets, that’s actually in alignment. And so that’s why that probably is working well for him. First of all, he has a massive audience, massive name, massive warm audience, and can leverage that into getting people into the challenge.

Second of all, he has a huge team and marketing team to put into the effort of the delivery of the challenge. So those boxes that they send out and the coaches that are involved in it, it’s a big production.

And then also, his audience is people who are willing, for the most part, who are willing to participate in those things and give time to challenges and want to do that. But somebody who is targeting a million-dollar business owner or even a mom with kids, [who’s] busy with kids, this would not be relevant for them. So you have to know your audience, and you have to know your business and your own product, before you go say like, “This is a great idea, I’m going to go implement this in my business.”

So right now it’s paid challenges. I’d say, last year, it was the “free plus shipping” book funnel that, this was the same thing, very relevant. Everybody wanted to do a “free plus shipping” book funnel, and it still is really hard, for the same exact reason, to get a “free plus shipping” book funnel to convert, because you’re asking people for money upfront, it takes so much time to get those upsells and just the front end of that funnel converting, that it ends up being an investment to get it to optimize, especially when you don’t have a warm audience. And is it even right for your audience? So last year, it was the book funnel that I had a problem with and would always be like, “No, I don’t think we should do that,” with client strategy, and my team would.

This year it’s really become the paid challenges, because we’ve had people come in who, they’re in the health and wellness industry, and they’re like, “I’m going to do a paid challenge.” And they come in with that strategy, and we’re like, “No, we really, really are going to advise against that, because here’s why,” and everything I just said. And so, it’s just, next year there will probably be a new strategy. And it’s really cool, online marketing, how people can teach and share their strategies, and that’s what I do. But I’m always careful that when I’m teaching strategies, I explain who it was for.

Because whenever you hear a strategy, it’s important for you to dig a little deeper with that strategy that worked so well for somebody and understand their audience, did they have a massive following or not? What’s the price of their product? What does their audience actually want? And what are those things? What’s the price of their product, too, matters a lot. Because if you’re targeting high ticket and trying to do paid challenges, that’s just a massive disconnect in trying to get applications from somebody… [from] a high-ticket program [to] participating in a 30-day challenge that they don’t have time for.

So you have to think through those things with any strategy that you hear, and that’s why that’s so crucial for you. And again, paid challenges are just one example. There will be more of these things, and so keep that in mind. But if you’re considering a paid challenge, or if you’ve seen someone have success with a paid challenge, and you’re like, “Oh that’s a cool idea,” this episode is mainly to tell you, I wouldn’t do it… unless you fall into that category of, one, you have a warm audience that you can leverage.

Two, your audience wants this. They actually want to put time into a challenge that they paid for, because if someone’s going to pay for a challenge, they have to expect, “I’m going to definitely participate in this challenge, and I’m going to show up, and I have time to do that.” Which is why if someone asked me to do it, I would be like, “No way. I am not going to do that, I am not going to pay for that, because I just don’t have time for it. And I’m not that ideal audience for that.”

And then three, does it make sense with your product? Does it make sense in your funnel and your value ladder and with your strategy and your business?

So those are the things that you need to consider before you decide to do a paid challenge. And I think this is just a lesson, because I’ve watched people also…. And I guess, actually, the fourth thing to add here is, are you willing to make an investment in getting this to work? Because here’s the thing that you guys don’t see behind-the-scenes is, a lot of these big influencers, they have money to say like, “I can just spend $5 to $10,000 on getting this to optimize and testing it. And it doesn’t really affect me, because I have all of these funnels over here that are performing, and they’re working, and they’re bringing me in money. And so if I want to get this other thing working, I’m totally fine spending $5,000 to get it to work, and not really even getting my investment back right away.”

For most people, that’s not doable. Like, they don’t have that. They need to get their marketing working and be as strict and as strategic as possible. Yes, you might still have to make an investment. I’m not going to say you’re going to make back your investment right away. But try to choose the strategies and the options that will help you make that investment back as fast as possible so that you’re not $5,000, $10,000 into it and still haven’t made money back. But a lot of the big influencers, that’s what they do, because they have the ability to do that. The bigger you get, the more testing budget you have. And of course, they get their funnels profitable, but they have such an advantage over somebody who’s just starting, or somebody who hasn’t spent all that money in ads and hasn’t seen that return and ads yet, because they can just dump the money, get all the data, test it, and it just moves them a lot faster.

But if you’re in the beginning, you can’t do that. I know, because I know people that are there, and I’ve watched it, and so we’re trying to find, too, how do we get the ROI while also buying the data on a new funnel? And starting with something that requires a paid investment upfront is not the best strategy for most people.

So that is the problem with the paid challenges fad, same with “free plus shipping” funnel, this all applies. It’s where you just try to say, “I’m going to ask for money right up front.” Obviously for eCommerce, that works, for actual physical products. But for anything in digital marketing, it’s really hard to do that, unless you have a massive audience that you are leveraging. If you look at everybody who’s had success with a paid challenge and shared about that success, if you dive deeper, you’ll see they have those components. They have the warm audience of people, they have the audience that this makes sense for, and they have the product that this makes sense for… so dive deeper and question those strategies a little bit more when you hear them, and if you are considering a paid challenge, maybe rethink it.

Maybe everything I said in this [episode] is like, “Yeah I do, I check all those boxes, I have that. So I should do a paid challenge,” and then in that case, it might be a great strategy for you. Because I do agree with the concept of the strategy, it’s not a bad strategy! It’s just not a blanketed strategy that everybody should adopt in their business. And that’s where I have the disconnect, because it’s not being said, because it starts being taught, and then it’s like, “Everyone can do this! Buy my course on it, and sign up for my training on it,” when that’s not the case. And so that’s where marketing gets a little messy in the digital marketing space, is when people don’t clarify those pieces, and they end up with a bunch of students who aren’t getting results, honestly. And it’s sad, but we know it’s true.

So thanks so much for tuning in today, guys. I will talk to you all on the next episode, and if you want support creating this custom strategy, I can’t say it enough, that’s what my team really excels at is, looking at a business and being like, “This makes sense, this doesn’t make sense.” We have so much intel on the backend about what is making sense and what’s not, that we’re able to come in and kind of apply that to you, and it becomes this shortcut. So if you would like that support and that strategy, and then, of course, implementation in your marketing, you can go to HelpMyStrategy.com. Thanks so much. I’ll see you guys all next time.