Imagine my surprise in mid-October when I opened my e-mail account and found this greeting from an apparent big time Internet Marketing guru: “I’m giving you FREE tickets to a world-class Internet Wealth-Building Workshop, being held in Seattle . . . “
As if that were not enough, the guru then offered to enter my name into a drawing for “a FREE 30-Minute Consultation (valued at $798) with one of my personal team of Internet marketing specialists who work on my $60,000,000 businesses . . . “
Wow, can you believe someone would charge $798 for a 30-minute consultation? I wondered how much of the $798 per half hour the guru would pay his marketing specialist who did the consulting for him.
The guru pointed out that a seminar of this caliber would normally cost $1,500 to $4,950 for the two-day presentation.
Now this was not some “puny” guru making only $100,000 a year on the side (generally working only one or two hours a day), or even some more successful guru knocking down a million a year in revenue with an automated system that allows him to be practically vacationing year around on some exotic island.
No sir, some would consider this guru to be the guru of gurus. Sixty million dollars in revenue (not net income) is an impressive figure, unless, of course, your operating costs are $61 million. Clearly, this guru is recognized as very successful at what he is doing, and I do not doubt it.
After being reassured in his e-mail that “There’s no catch, your tickets are 100% FREE,” how could I miss? I did what any good, unsuspecting newbie would do, I clicked on the link to claim my FREE tickets (I knew they were really free because he kept putting the word free into all caps, as in FREE).
Immediately I was taken to what is called a sales page (in this case, sales pages as the offer went on for 32 pages). I was thankful I had set aside some reading time to take advantage of the offer.
After being reassured that I would learn “How to Grow A Wildly Lucrative Internet Business In 45 Days Using A Favorite Hobby Or Job . . . And Make An Extra $8,750-$12,500 Per Month Investing As Little As 10 Hours Per Week” I was encouraged to register immediately in order to qualify for the “30-Minute Consultation” as the first 100 people to register would be automatically entered in the drawing.
This urge to register was followed by a clever countdown device that showed the estimated time left to qualify for the consultation, and you could feel it counting down in the days, hours, minutes and seconds left to qualify (I am sure this had nothing to do with pressuring the prospect; obviously this was only intended to make the prospect aware of a lost opportunity).
It all sounded really great, and apparently anyone could do it because there followed three personal stories and testimonies by “Unlikely Entrepreneurs” who had made it happen. “So, What’s The Catch?” asked the e-mail. Answer: There is none, “And yes, your ticket will be 100% FREE!”
A detailed explanation of the material to be shared in the 11 Wealth-Building Sessions followed, and then no less than 13 more testimonials about the wonderfulness of it all, followed by another 10 prominent mentions of the fact that the tickets are FREE, the last one saying “So there’s no catch. Your tickets are 100% FREE!”
And then this: “All I ask is that to keep tire-kickers who have NO intention of coming from filling seats, you must please reserve your seat with a small $97 deposit which will be promptly refunded when you attend the event!
“I’m sure you’ll agree this is both a fair and reasonable request, since I’m spending over $57,592.82 to host this event.” (At the $97 rate, it would apparently take 594 marketers registering to cover his up front costs. I think I am being made to feel bad if I do not pony up for an event he chose to offer and fund.)
After being admonished again to sign up NOW if not sooner, I click to the registration form only to learn that “I agree to pay a small refundable seat reservation deposit of US $97 per ticket to prove my commitment to being there. I know that, as promised – I’ll get back my full $97 per ticket after I attend the seminar!”
(Did I just understand the author to say that my $97 deposit will be refunded after I attend the seminar, and it is over? No, silly. I think he said that after attending his seminar, learning and retaining the information received, I will more than recoup my $97 seminar investment in the profits I will make when applying his techniques and secrets.)
So the actual ticket to his seminar is free, but it is not free. Friend, you are not going unless you pony up the $97. I had thought the word free meant without charge. Maybe that was just where I grew up.
The last paragraph of this 32-page sales pitch had this in its disclaimer: “if for any reason we need to cancel this event (for example, because of bad weather or because only a couple of people registered) we will refund your seat reservation fee, but we will not be held responsible for any additional expenses you many incur preparing to attend this event (like making hotel reservations, taking a day off of work, or renting a car to attend).”
It got me to thinking that if the seminar is in fact worth $1,500 to $4,950, $97 would seem to be a very reasonable price. Why not just say so up front, instead of lulling people along before you bring down the hammer?
Perhaps because saying so up front would immediately cause a lot of marketers to move on without reading the entire 32-page sales pitch? All of which proves, I guess, that if you use the word FREE enough times, marketers will read 32 pages of whatever it is you are hawking.
This marketing formula for writing a sales pitch is hardly unique. Almost any marketer can open his or her e-mail tomorrow and read the same formula repeated in 100 different sales pitches for another opportunity to provide a product, service, or attend a seminar. The pitch will be in English, the language will be in doublespeak.
Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley