1. The Bait
Provide the mark (the victim of the con – but we don’t like to think of them as ‘victims’) a promise of some great benefit. Stress how easy it is to get that benefit, or how many people have received it before. It doesn’t matter if you could ever provide the bait, or even if it is totally imaginary, you won’t ever have to deliver.
Make a point of saying that the way to achieve the benefit won’t be hard work. No. The benefit is theirs for the taking easily. The only thing they are lacking is knowledge of how to get it, or the right skills, or the right contacts. In each case, you can supply those easily, and once the deal is done, everything is in place for them to receive their reward. Emphasize how little they’ll have to do.
2. The Sweetener
Anyone will be sceptical of the bait. So time to play the sweetener. Get a small commitment from the mark. It must be a real commitment, but can be pretty trivial. Get them to meet you somewhere, or go to some event, or pay a small up-front fee, or to register their details, or spend some time finding out more. This commitment has two benefits: it generates a sunk cost, and it provides a reason to give them a sweetener.
When the commitment is made, give them the sweetener: a disproportionate benefit up front. Whatever it is you are offering, give them a good chunk right now. This will leave you down on the deal – you’ll have given away more than you gained from the commitment. But they will now be ‘in the funnel’.
3. The Ratchet
With your mark in the funnel, it is time to ratchet them. This involves one or more cycles that are similar to the sweetener. You ask for a commitment, and you provide a return.
If the mark is still suspicious of the con, you may need to run more sweet cycles: providing them with benefits beyond their commitment. But very quickly you need to go sour: drop the return and increase the commitment so you are deriving real benefit from their involvement.
You continue to stress both the promise of the final reward and how easy it was to get the sweetener. For just a little more commitment, you say, they can catch hold of that ultimate prize.
4. The Play-On
Your mark will still be telling themselves the story of the big reward, and of how easy it was to get the sweetener. They will be keen to commit whatever it takes to complete that deal. At this point many cons play a dumb hand. They ratchet the mark as hard as they possibly can, extracting as much as possible and returning little or nothing. This burns the mark and ends the con. This is fine, as long as you’re good at filling your funnel, or if you are the only one who can fill the funnel.
A better move here is to play-on. The aim is to provide the mark with the resources to draw people into the funnel. Make this part of their required commitment, or a way to receive even more benefit.
Have your marks find other marks, and run the first two stages of the con for them. Have the marks themselves provide the sweetener for further marks, so you don’t have to invest in stage 2 any more. Your marks, still with the reward big in their eyes and the story of the sweetener on their lips, will be the best convincers for other marks, and your con will become self-sustaining.
Spanish Prisoners, 419 Scams, Ponzi schemes, Salting, Wire Scams. All follow these rules. As do most network and affiliate marketing schemes (a la Amway).
But how about Religion?, Alternative Medicine?, Employers?, Elected Officials?, Lovers?, You?
Is it actually a fundamental narrative of social interaction?