How I Stayed 3 Nights at Trump International Hotel for FREE!

I just checked into my hostel Casa Areka in Panama City after spending 3 luxurious nights at Trump International Hotel for FREE! It’s not a huge difference since I’m so accustomed to staying at hostels for cheap during my adventures. You may be curious how I could afford to stay in a $200 room while traveling on a shoestring budget. The short answer is lots of hard work building my photography portfolio over a few years and email marketing combined with lead generation.

Here’s the steps I took to arrange a free stay at Trump Panama.

Note: I’m not a supporter of Donald Trump or his political policies.

1) Build your email list.

Your net worth is your network! An email list is the most powerful asset available to you. Email marketing is truly the most effective and efficient way to reach new potential clients.

If you’re not convinced, consider these statistics:

More than half (58%) of Internet users check their email first thing in the morning, before looking at social media.
 The average open rate for an email is 22%, while Facebook organic reach has decreased to about 6%.
 Over 66% of online cusumers made a purcahse as the results of email marketing.
Email marketing acquires 40 times more customers than Twitter and Facebook combined!

There are many ways to grow your network without a lot of work. You should definitely be collecting emails on your website and send a regular newsletter. However, this is usually a painstakingly slow process unless your website is ranking high in search results. There are faster ways to grow your email list. For example, LinkedIn is the most active social network of professionals in the world in which you should be actively growing your connections. It’s simple to export all your contacts into a spreadsheet to use for email marketing purposes. It’s important that you include an unsubscribe link in the footer of all your emails to conform to CAN-SPAM Laws. If they don’t want to receive further correspondence, they can simply unsubscribe. They weren’t your ideal customer anyway. I also wrote a web scraper script to automatically create spreadsheets in different target markets and locations. I then used email marketing to actively reach out to my contacts in travel, tourism, and hospitality.

2) Make your value proposition.

Your email script must have a very clear value proposition. The best way to figure out what to offer of value to your potential client is by constantly refining your pitch. Your subject line is the most important aspect of any successful email campaign. It should create a sense of anticipation or curiosity to open and read more. I will typically include an emoticon to stand out from the other emails vying for their attention. Ask yourself, how will you stand out from the competition?

3) Choose a clear call to action.

You must find a clear call to action, otherwise people will simply read your email and move onto their next task at hand. What is your goal of this particular email campaign? My goal was to arrange travel assignments or free accommodation in exchange for professional services. Try not to forcefully sell your product of service. Your work should ideally speak for itself. I usually take the angle of collaboration to demonstrate an interest of mutual benefit. For example, I recently sent an email campaign to my top 250 Instagram photographers. My subject line was, “Would love to collaborate!” The open rate on this particular campaign was 80%… way above average! The marketing message is simply a means to grow your list of opportunities to work together with individuals, non-profits, or businesses. My call to action is providing a link to my online calendar to set up a phone call. This will provide an outlet to discuss your big picture concept in more detail and increase the chances you will close the potential client.

4) Use an effective email marketing platform.

MailChimp is the most widely utilized platform today. It’s a great option if you need custom templates. You can send emails to 2000 subscribers on the free plan, then the monthly rate goes up. I’ve used MailChimp for years until l recently got banned for unsolicited emails. I’ve been using MailShake ever since and haven’t found a better solution yet! It has all the important features you’re looking for in a platform at a very affordable price. So far, I’ve imported over 5,000 subscribers and it’s still the same monthly price. Highly recommend checking it out!

This is the marketing strategy in a nutshell I used to arrange a complimentary stay at Trump International Hotel in exchange for my professional photography services. The only expense was a pay-per view movie and a few international calls I placed without thinking. I accidentally forgot to return my key card, so I will most likely sneak into the pool deck a few more times before flying to my next destination. I’m traveling through South America on a shoestring budget for the next few months… If you’re interested in learning more about how to travel for cheap, I highly recommend reading Vagabonding and The 4-Hour Workweek.

Do what you love, the money will follow!

Aerial photo of Trump International Hotel in Panama City.

Aerial photo of Trump International Hotel in Panama City.