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The redeeming value of "starting at" offers.

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Most of the time I can’t stand the words “starting at” in marketing.

As a marketer, I know it’s a great way to get someone’s attention. But as a consumer I’m regularly annoyed when I click on such an offer only to find that 99.9% of options are priced much higher.

Speaking of my own behavior, however, I have noticed a redeeming quality about these hooks compared to other ways of resorts communicate lodging/skiing deals.

The Story
Last week I was doing some research for a piece on how lodging offers were promoted on websites. I’d pulled up some random resorts, gone through their pages, found some interesting ideas, and was starting to write when this happened in my head.

Okay, I need some examples to support this point.

Let’s see, there was that early stay for $139…




Let me go back and find those.”

Here I’d looked across a half dozen resort pages containing probably 20-25 different offers, and the only one I could remember was one of those blasted “starting at” campaigns.

Let’s quickly contrast the offer I remembered and one of the 20+ I didn’t:

REMEMBERED: “Early Week Stay: Starting at $139* with lodging and lift tickets. [link]”
DIDN’T REMEMBER: “Book three nights of lodging and lift tickets and the fourth day is FREE! [link]”

What the first does is subtle but important. It takes a complex thing – a ski vacation – and it boils it down to something that’s 3 things simultaneously:

  1. One simple number.
  2. Something I can easily compare with other offers.
  3. A number that’s very “close to checkout”.

That last term is one I just made up, so let me define that before we move on. When I book a ski vacation I’m combining quite a few pieces of information including:

  • Dates
  • Rooms
  • Tickets
  • Rates

Which is important, because here’s how those offers really start to differ.

The first offer (“…starting at $139”) crosses all but the dates off that list. In other words, all I have to do (in theory) is pick my dates and I can check out. Thus, I’m much “closer” to pulling out my credit card from the get go.

The second offer (“…fourth day free”) requires that I coordinate EVERYTHING before I can check out. Not just the dates, but the room, tickets, and rates to earn the discount and, therefore, get to the point I can pull out my credit card.

It’s like the difference between a frozen pizza a homemade one.

Both require a choice of topics before they go in the oven, but one is ready to go in now and the other comes with an asterisk of *some assembly required.

Anecdotal, Take 2
So far this is me deconstructing anecdotal evidence to figure out an explanation for my behavior.

And now I’m going to do the same thing again. Because after I walked myself through this mental exercise, I gave myself one last cranial task: recall all ski+lodging offers I’d seen in the last week.

I thought…and thought…and come up with two.


See a pattern? Hard to miss.

There are dozens of ways to talk about deals. But over and over again I find it’s the ones with a single, specific number that I remember. A number that turns complexity into simplicity and makes me feel very close to turning the idea into reality.

Some anecdotal food for thought.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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