While attending an Internet marketing seminar in Las Vegas
recently, I decided to spend some time observing how those
with huge budgets market. I reasoned that in a city where
buildings often cost billions (with a B), they must know a
thing or two about effective marketing.
In this article, I’ll share just a few hours that I took
out from my day to tour a timeshare resort.
While walking through the casino where we happened to be
staying, my wife and I were approached by a casino
employee. He asked if we’d be interested in a few free
shows, and some buffet meals. My interest was piqued, and
I wanted to see how such a huge operation used a freebie
as a lead generator.
The employee steered us to a information counter where we
were told that to get the freebies, we needed to attend a
one-hour tour of a local resort… with no other obligations.
They did require a $40 deposit to reserve our spot on the
bus, and to ensure that we showed up.
At this point, the marketer in me “was game” even though
I considered my one hour… plus travel time, worth much
more than the value of the tickets and meals. However, I
wanted to compare their marketing to mine, so I went along.
At the appointed time, I showed up, filled out a short
form, that basically entered ALL of my contact info into
their funnel, and got on the bus.
On the bus, we were given a short survey to take that would
be used by the sales person to structure their pitch. The
survey asked about our opinions and travel habits. It also
was VERY leading… pointing out how much more sense it made
to stay in a 5 star resort condo for only $200 per week,
than it did to stay in a “ratty” hotel for $200 per night.
Getting off the bus, they collected our survey forms at the
door, and then seated us all in a large room that, among other
things, had a guy on a ukulele singing and providing mood music.
A sales rep walked into the room periodically and yelled out
one of our names. They’d then ask a few very brief questions
and tell us that a guide would be with us shortly. I suspect
that the purpose of that “little exercise” was to assess each
couple or prospect, and try to figure out which sales person
it would be best to match them up with. They were matching us
up with someone enough “like us” that we’d probably like them
… and maybe even want to help them make a sale.
They fully understood that “people prefer buying from people
that they know, like and trust.” People are also often more
inclined to buy from people that they feel are “like them.”
Our tour guide/sales person guided us into a large
presentation room where we were seated with our sales person.
Dozens of other couples were similarly seated in the room.
The sales person got enough preliminary information out of us
so that as we went around the room later, they could share
something special about each couple with the group. They
were somewhat creating a sense of community… or connection.
Next, one of the better sales people got up front and made
the first pitch, rolling in things such as scarcity, social
proof, consistency, authority… all of the things that I’d
read about in Robert Cialdini’s book, “Influence, The Psychology
As the presentation proceeded, people in the room frequently
clapped at certain statements. Most of these were sales people,
but before long the prospects were also clapping.
I reflected upon the fact that on comedy television shows they
overlay “laugh tracks” to que you as to how you are suppose
to feel and respond. Cialdini tells of how they even had
people in the opera whose job it was to stand up and start
clapping to trigger that same response.
I smiled as I observed how well they orchestrated the
psychological triggers that I somewhat understood.
During the presentation it was pointed out how rapidly phase
1 of the project had sold out and how likely phase 2 was to
quickly sell out. In the pit of my stomach, I began to sense
the urgency/scarcity of the situation.
They continued by pointing out how rapidly prices were indeed
increasing for property in Las Vegas, and how the cost of a
unit on that condo could very well double by next year. The
urgency continued to build, except that the salesman in me
was enjoying watching the crowd more than I was paying
attention to the message. There was a small voice in the back
of my head reminding me that I didn’t travel to Las Vegas
searching for property, and in-fact had never even considered
living in Las Vegas.
They mentioned all of the celebrities, politician, and “big
wigs” who were a part of the project. Our sales person also
mentioned that she was an owner from phases I. That played
on a number of psychological factors including authority…
and social proof.
As we wrapped up the group presentation, and our guide took us
on a tour of the property, it was repeatedly point out to us
how “it only made sense” to purchase if we took even one
vacation a year. That point was really hammered home… much
as many online copywriters point out how much of a “no-brainer”
certain decisions are.
As the tour wound down, the sales person asked what we though.
She did several trial closes and also looking for the decision
My wife deferred to me, and I said that I rarely made snap
decisions. She pointed out that some people would instantly
“see the value” and that others wouldn’t. She emphasized that
since Las Vegas saw million of visitors per week, it really
was “no big deal.” My mind instantly flashed back to sales
letters that I’ve read where they point out that “they’ll
eat steak that night regardless of my decision.”
As I declined “the deal of the century,” naturally the sales
manager and other “very likable people” were brought in to
They assumed that it was “a price issue” so they strove to
determine what monthly payment I would be comfortable with.
They enlightened me to the fact that this was the only number
that really mattered 🙂
As someone with a harddrive full of digital properties
(resale rights to ebooks, software, etc.) that I might never use,
I CERTAINLY saw no logic in buying real properties that I might
The sales person asked me what she did wrong… and pointed
out that her manager would be critiquing her performance so
she really wanted to know. I wasn’t sure if this was an
attempt at making me feel guilty… and to therefore reconsider,
or if it was a genuine effort to determine how to improve
The sales manager asked me similar questions, patiently
waiting for me to talk myself into reconsidering 🙂
In the closing room, whenever a customer said yes, they put on
a big show, to include having them spin a wheel for a big prize.
That offered more social proof, and gave them an opportunity
to build value by piling on the bonuses.
In the end, I didn’t purchase but did feel that I’d gained
tremendous value from the experience. I saw how many of the
very things that we used in our online marketing are used in
“higher stakes” offline marketing. Practically everything that
they did made perfect sense, and I could see that I was
dealing with a well-oiled selling machine.”
As they transported me back to my hotel-casino, I also smiled
at the fact that while they had indicated that it was a “now
or never deal,” they also had my mailing address, phone
number, email address, and enough demographic data to follow-up
with me forever… if they choose to. I’m certain that they
will, and so I look forward to continuing to hone my online
marketing skills by studying sales people trained in a
“billion dollar environment.”
I also appreciate the fact that they staunchly refused to
discuss my going home and “thinking about it.” That simply
was never acknowledged as an option. They framed is as there
will be millions more next week, so we will sell out soon.
They closed the door of too many options, and I’m sure that
that increased their closing rate (since most who say that
they want to think about it, are soon sidetracked).
As an aside, during the formal presentation, they showed
how hotel after hotel was being bought up, and then imploded,
so that they could build several billion dollars resort casinos
on the same land. They frequently tossed around “the B word,”
and I could see that they were both building value and doing
an “apples to oranges” sales pitch.
I was mildly impressed when they mentioned that hundred million
dollar building were often bought only because someone wanted
the parking lot!
My little excursion provided dozens of other marketing lessons
that, if you are really listening, PROVE to you how effective the
very things that you are taught online everyday can be. The
fact that I am a sales person also shows that when you market
in a niche that’s full of other marketers (such as Internet
marketing) you will face a tougher challenge than you would if
you were marketing to someone who didn’t analyze your every
Now I feel less guilty about skipping some of the seminar
presentations. As you can see, I WAS working. I was studying
how others practice my profession 🙂