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How I Learned The Importance of an Elevator Pitch [Hint: It has its ups and downs] - Part 1

I've been in the digital marketing world for half my life. I'm only 30, so that's not saying too much, but 15 years in this industry is a lifetime in some slower-moving markets.

Despite this, and all of my personal growth in the past decade-plus, one of my strongest marketing lessons learned comes from a job I had in my very early 20s.

The Job

From the ages of 19 to 23, I worked about 30 hours a week at a large casino in the mountains of North Carolina. The views were amazing, looking over the Smokies from just about every room, and the customer service training was some of the best in the country.

casino hotel

The job I did the most often was as a bellman in the casino's hotel. 1,100 rooms, 21 floors, so lots of time spent in elevators. It was here that I learned the importance of a true elevator pitch in the most literal way possible.

The Elevator Pitch - Check In

When assisting guests, the best tips typically came when guests could check right into their room, and the bellmen could assist them immediately with getting their bags into their room.

In the times we were able to do this, we would get what is literally a 30-second elevator pitch conversation. It was here that I gained my chops, and learned that this interaction was one of the most important in someone's entire experience.

elevators

Not when they pull their car up to the valet area. Not when they head inside and check into their room. No, it was in the elevator, the one-on-one experience with the "resident expert", where a $5 tip could turn into a $20 tip with proper, clear, concise information.

The Standard Process

When we were trained, we were told a few things that were beneficial to gain rapport with guests and get them in the proper frame of mind for a positive gaming experience. For the most part, it boiled down to:

  • Ask the guest where they are from and try and make a connection
  • Tell them about the restaurants onsite, any upcoming concerts, or slot tournaments/table game tournaments going on
  • Talk about something generic (weather, sports, recreational activities in the area, etc)
  • Upsell some kind of service

My Modified Process

I threw this out the window almost immediately. From what I observed firsthand, guests didn't want to talk about where they were from. They were there to escape that reality and step into a world of blinking lights, ringing bells, and hopefully jackpots.

bellman

Over 85% of our guests were repeat customers, so they know about the restaurants, and had very likely received promotional mailers regarding concerts and tournaments. They did not want to be entombed in a moving coffin with a commercial for the place they were already at. And this meant they didn't want a random upsell for something they likely weren't going to be interested in.

While each hotel guest is different, there is a standard process that I liked to use with all guests. I tried to keep things informal, give them a somewhat random fact, show that I was an in-the-know person regarding property information, provide a "secret" of some kind, and keep small talk interesting and brief.

An Example Interaction

Note: I haven't worked this job for a long time, but this is a good mishmash of how I tried to make my interactions with guests from the start of the elevator to their hotel room door. Also, note that this was entirely time-dependent on their floor and how busy the elevators were.

I press elevator up button.

"The elevators have been pretty busy today, but I think we are at a sweet spot before a rush of check-ins"

Elevator arrives, let other guests out, I hold the door for my guests, carefully pull bell cart into elevator. I hit their floor button and the door close button simultaneously.

"In the elevators in this hallway, if there is nobody in the elevator with you, you can hit your destination floor and door close and hold them both, and get right to your floor without stopping at any other floor."

This typically surprised them.

bellman2

"What are your plans for the weekend? Just hitting jackpots?"

At this point, they will say a few words about what they plan to do, that they hope to win, that kind of thing. Most of our players were slot-focused, however, there were some table games players.

"Here's a quick tip to cut down on your walking time. If you go left from your room instead of right, and take that elevator down to 3, there is a side sky bridge that'll dump you right at the nonsmoking penny slots. Keeps you from needing to walk half the day to get to where you want to go."

Elevator door opens, we walk down the hallway to their room. I point out the ice and vending, which way the pool and gym are, and then stop at the housekeeping closet on the floor, which is always unlocked.

"Oh, hold on just a second."

I would stop the cart, pop in very quick, grab four bottles of water and a handful of extra coffee supplies, prepared in advance.

"They never give enough of these things."

At their room, I use their keys, not my master key, to show that their keys are working properly. That's typically underlying anxiety that some guests have off the bat. I'll note that their keys work, position the bell cart right outside the room, and then set the doorstop.

hallway

"Take a couple seconds, check out the room. I'm going to grab you guys some ice and I'll be right back. Let me know if you find anything concerning."

I take the ice bucket from right inside the room, put a bag in it, and literally jog down the hall to fill the ice, then walk back. I ask them to check out the room as a distraction, so they don't try and unload their bags themselves, negating the entire reason they wanted a bellman.

"Any issues?"

I set down the ice, grab their bags, and put them either on the luggage rack, the desk, the countertop, anywhere but the bed. Most guests typically want to lay down for a minute after a long drive and before they head out to start gambling.

If there are issues, I radio down to see if I can rectify any of them. If not, I grab their bell ticket, write my name on it, and conclude my "run".

"Well thank you guys for the great guest experience. My name is John, I've written it down on this ticket. If you need anything at any time, think of my as your concierge. Give a call down to the desk and ask for me and I'll get you taken care of."

At this point, in almost all cases, I would hand them the ticket and they would hand me a tip. For the reasons above, while most bellmen there averaged $5 a run, I'd average $11 to $12.

"Thank you very much! You both have a wonderful evening, and remember, when it comes to getting to your slots, "left is right"."

bellman opening door

The Takeaways

Here is what I made sure to include in a more generalized sense with all interactions similar to the above (which would typically total less than three minutes of actual guest interaction):

  • Did not commercialize the experience with high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Made the entire run about things I was able to do for them to make their stay more comfortable and their experience more efficient.
  • Provided extras without needing to be prompted to do so (coffee, water, ice).
  • Made them feel like insiders (elevator trick, side route to slots).
  • Ensured that they were satisfied with their sleeping quarters, and tried to assist if not.
  • Promised further high-value interactions (leaving my name and telling them to contact me if needed).
  • Kept things brief.

I took these tactics above and have applied them to my digital marketing prospects, which I will cover in-depth in Part 3 of this guide.

Next Steps

Next week, I will cover how the check-out experience differed, and how I utilized a similar elevator pitch for guests who, instead of being new to their stay, to (in I'd guess 70% of experiences) in a negative mood after losing money.

  1. 2

    Nice job writing this. I'd hire you in a second!

    You already said it but to reiterate there are "expectations" which usually entail just doing your job and there are "extras" where you go above and beyond the call of duty. I especially like the "secret" that you shared. That really sets you apart.

    One thing I like to add when I'm doing an elevator pitch is a declaration that I won't take up their time. A lot of times people have the expectation that you will go on and on. This causes them to not listen. When you say, "I know you want to get right to it so I'll keep it short", they usually let down their guard against overbearing intrusions. Then they'll listen.

    I'm impressed! Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2

    Great article! Sounds like you worked at a pretty great place. Did anyone else try to learn from your techniques regarding your tip numbers?

  3. 1

    To relate this all to indie Hacking and marketing - the companies advice about what to talk about was really misaligned with where these customers were in the funnel. They were in the middle of the repeat customer portion of the entire lifecycle. You definitely added personalization to the service and gave them something of value in advance (your tips and info). In the end, though the upsell was actually for your tip though, so it was a win for the customer, your company, and also for you.

    Since you made yourself available to the customers personally What percentage of them followed up and contacted you or interacted with you later by name?

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