Ten Things I Learned About Making Money (at Las Vegas Conference)

by Larry Chiang on December 13, 2009

Larry Chiang gets access to the best business conferences. If you liked “10 Things They Don’t Teach You at Business School “, How to Work a Cocktail Party” and “Mark Cuban’s ‘Two Step’ Path to a Street Smart MBA”, you’ll like his newest submission.

By Larry Chiang

Las Vegas, Nevada — January 14th –I love commission.

There is no clearer measurement and reward than the payment of a “sales commission”. Every cent I have earned is on the sale of SOMETHING.

There’s an industry of people called affiliates that make commissions when they sell for websites. This past week in Las Vegas, I crashed their conference called, “Affiliate Summit” (ASW09). Here are 10 things I learned that cost me a grand or three but will only cost you nine minutes;

-1- Hide Your Advantage.

I have this theory that 10 guys at Affiliate Summit make what the rest of the 3200 conference attendees make. You’d never know it by asking them cuz they sandbag their business method / sales / profits / business model / how they started.


My mentor, Mark McCormack, who wrote the book, “What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School“.

Sandbagging is when you understate and aww-shucks your way past a compliment. Alpha affiliates sandbag when you ask them how they run programs.

-2- Parties Have an ROI Too

Parties at ASW09 don’t promote, they reward. Industry parties in developing industries promote and HOPE for traction. At Affiliate Summit, parties are to reward their best affiliates (sometimes with topless women). If a party is worth throwing, it is worth throwing for money.

-3- Sex Sells.

The biggest short-cut to getting product moved is incorporating sex into an offer.

Sprinkle sex into a legit offer and boom, you’ve gotta hit on your hands. 

I am not kidding about the CEO… He’s hecka hot.

-4- Pre-Rolls to Promote.

At Affiliate Summit, it’s all about promotion. Pre-rolls are when a person makes a long winded statement BEFORE they ask their question during speaker Q&A.

For example, after an @JayBerkowitz session, I’d say, “hi, I’m Larry Chiang of BusinessWeek fame. Yeah, SHUCKS, I also started the largest company that sells credit cards to college students, UCMS. My twitter name is @LarryChiang. ANYWAY, I had a question about my current project duck9… how do you manage podcast question archiving using ‘T7’?

Just Kidding, I really said, “Hi Jay nice job! what the eff is T7?!”

I took this as I was getting the dance floor going. Yes, the three girls behind the glass were topless and getting painted at CX Digital’s Swaree at the Palms. No, I didn’t hook up (there).

-5- Access is Multi-Layered.

Every event at ASW09 was layered and measured. Badges were Silver to Platinum. Even after you get a wristband, there were layers and layers of crowd control barriers and bouncers. Read and “character compass” the gatekeepers to whittle away layers.

-6- Half the Attendees Didn’t Read “How to Work a Conference”

I read this great great post on “How to Work a Conference“. It listed out 21 lucky tips. This really good looking guy wrote it. Holy Ducky!, did I just say something gay?!

Read it because 85% of the time it works all the time.

-7- What the Eff is a Blogger?!

“Press is nice but hey I’m making money so I definitely don’t need to kiss blogger ass” was the predominant attitude at Affiliate Summit. I saw an older fellow sporting his bright orange CES press badge from the weekend before. Here at ASW, we just worry about one thing… real money and maybe mainstream press, but definitely not a blogger with a cute pink press ribbon.  To her credit, Julie Vazquez made the best of the blogger room.

-8-Silicon Valley Come Lately.

The poster child for Silicon Valley is Facebook’s CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg. This new kid on the block did something smart… it hired an ex pay day lender and Affiliate Summit veteran, Sarah Smith, to lead the affiliate push. Previous to fBook, Smith was at Swish Marketing, a top three payday lender located in Palo Alto, California.

You might have two Crunchies (three if you count last year) but you stubbed you toe in clear examples of how NOT to sell a credit card.

Until I can buy lead number one for UCMS or Duck9, Facebook will serve only as a social networking purpose.

-9- Swinging Smart For Singles.

If you buy leads for $4 and sell them for $7, you have got a REAL business. Swinging for the massive homerun (Twitter) where you fundraise $4,000,000 in VC (venture capital) and get valued for $15B is tough.

Gary Vanerchuck, in his keynote, recommends swinging for a homer. Do what Gary does and not what he says. TRANSLATION: Gary motivates YOU to swing for the fences, but he himself hits solid single after solid single.

I’ve been doing research and I found out that 100% of companies worth $1B, all used to be worth $10mm.

-10-  Set Aside Your Need to Make Short Term $.

When you’re in a room full of people that love money, they behave cliche-ly. How?! They all chase money in all of its easiest forms.

I got to siddle up and get mentored by a couple of the richest guys in the conference… they all set aside their need for short term money and built something great.

BONUS #11: Wars Aren’t Won From Ivory Towers

Did you know Chruchill’s war room was the size of a shoebox?! He was the alpha male in London when the Axis Forces were running multiple bombing missions. Ivory tower theorists abound in my city by the bay (SF).

Wars are won on the front lines of business and in the gritty hand-to-hand combat of a conference. They’re won over one party at a time – – one coffee at a time. For example, the mighty and powerful Facebook produced a sub $300 event in a college-like fashion by hosting office hours at an effen Starbucks in the hinterlands of Rio’s conference center. Welcome to the trenches Mark Zuckerberg… the water’s warm.

BONUS #12:  Bingo is Played By the Cool Kids.

Gary Vanerchuck (@garyVee) hosted bingo during his keynote. I love Bingo too. Gary kicks keynote butt, but I bore so I used Bingo as a crutch at iMedia’s Finance Marketing Conference.

Twitter coverage at Affiliate Summit West 2009 was under ‘#asw09‘. Don’t know what Twitter or a hashtag is?! Read my Twitter article(s) here, here and here.

I’ll be in my Palo Alto cubicle earning my next commission check, so text me 650-283-8008.


Larry’s book comes out 09-09-09. Preview chapters for free.

My office hours: 11:11am OR and 11:11 pm give or take 15 minutes. I am also on Facebook in the Austin TX network… why Texas?! It is because I started ‘Austin Secret Society of Entrepreneurs’ (#asse9). If you see a typo or grammatical error, email me! larry@larrychiang.com :-)


Larry Chiang is the founder of Duck9, which educates college students on how to establish and maintain a FICO score over 750. He has testified before Congress and World Bank on credit.

He is a frequent contributor to Business Week’s blog on “What They Don’t Teach You at Business School“. For fun, he plays basketball on college campuses and eats on campus by crashing dorm cafeterias and sorority houses.

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