To explore how talk triggers encourage customers to evangelize your business, I interview Jay Baer.
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The Social Media Marketing podcast is designed to help busy marketers, business owners, and creators discover what works with social media marketing.
Jay explains why talk triggers help your business stand out from your competition and on social media.
You’ll also discover the elements of successful talk triggers and ways they can generate word of mouth.
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Scroll to the end of the article for links to important resources mentioned in this episode.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Why Is Word of Mouth Important?
To start, Jay defines what “word of mouth” means to marketers. It’s when a customer tells somebody else about a particular business. This conversation could be face to face or online via email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, or any number of other media. Also, the conversation could be one to one or via a review site like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Angie’s List.
As Jay and co-author Daniel Lemin did research for the book, they found that 83% of Americans have engaged in word-of-mouth recommendations in the past 30 days. Sometimes you don’t notice you’re giving a recommendation. At a recent party, Jay listened to the conversations for 3-4 minutes and heard at least 8 recommendations for movies, books, software, and conference speakers.
Most research Jay and other engagement labs have done focuses on online word of mouth, which is anonymous or semi-anonymous. A Yelp reviewer doesn’t know who’ll see their review. When you tweet, you know only that you’re speaking to your followers in the aggregate. However, the newest research finds that online word of mouth accounts for only half of all recommendations.
The other half of all recommendations are offline and happen in face-to-face conversations or over the phone, so these recommendations are just as important as online ones. Also, in business, neither type of word of mouth is studied as much as it should be. Depending on your business and product, word-of-mouth recommendations influenced 20%-90% of every dollar that you have.
After outlining how important word-of-mouth recommendations are to every business, Jay notes that businesses typically don’t have a word-of-mouth strategy. Whereas businesses have an overall digital strategy and strategies for social media, public relations, and content, they approach word of mouth by assuming their customers will talk about them. But maybe customers won’t.
Jay draws a distinction between a word-of-mouth strategy and a viral post. Businesses welcome virality because it provides disproportionate reach, and they’ll try to produce posts they hope will go viral with a surprise-and-delight tactic. That is, the business treats a particular customer in a remarkable way, hoping the customer shares their experience on social and it goes viral.
Aiming for a viral post isn’t a strategy; it’s a stunt. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. Although delighting a customer in this way isn’t a bad idea, this approach isn’t a strategy because it’s not repeatable. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a viral post, you can’t grow your business with viral social media posts over and over.
To grow your business with an approach that’s scalable, you need to think about how you can encourage word-of-mouth conversations every day. You need to do something different in your company so that customers notice and tell their friends, who tell their friends. When businesses are doing this, they often aren’t doing it intentionally. The approach tends to be accidental.
Listen to the show to hear Jay discuss how Social Media Examiner has grown through word of mouth.
Why Social Marketers Need Talk Triggers
A talk trigger is something that you choose to do differently in your business, and that customers notice and talk about. It’s an operational choice that impacts every customer. You might give away a conversation-worthy item to every customer, or add something special to your ordering process or customer experience that customers want to talk about.
With a talk trigger, you can solve a common problem facing social marketers: You know how to do social media but don’t have anything to say. Nobody really cares about the features and benefits of your company. However, if you do something differently to create a talk trigger, you can create interesting and social content about it. You can use social media to amplify your core differentiator.
In an age where everyone is pumping out content on social media, talk triggers can prompt your customers to talk about your company, your product, or their experience in a positive way. This talk trigger prompts your customers to promote your business. On social media, this word of mouth creates a ripple effect through their networks of followers or connections.
Customer word of mouth is especially important on social media because content created by your customers is more trustworthy and persuasive than content the business creates and shares. Also, in the U.S., the social platforms most people use algorithmically give less exposure to company posts and more exposure to posts from real people, especially when those posts have a lot of engagement.
Jay emphasizes that talk triggers are fundamentally different from influencer marketing. With influencer marketing, you feed stories to someone who has disproportionate influence. A talk trigger is a story every customer can discover and has a chance to pass along. When that happens, your current customers recruit new customers.
Also, influencer marketing may not have the long tail that talk triggers can have. Influencer marketing might have a nice little burst in the period of time that it happens, but talk triggers can have a long-term impact. A talk trigger isn’t a 30-day marketing play, campaign, coupon, or contest. It’s a choice to operate your business in a specific way.
Listen to the show to hear Jay share more about why customer posts are worth more on social media than business posts.
Examples of Talk Triggers
To clarify what talk triggers are and how they work, Jay shares examples from a range of businesses.
DoubleTree by Hilton: For 30 years, this hotel chain has been giving each guest a warm chocolate chip cookie upon check-in. Each hotel has an oven, and altogether the chain currently gives out 75,000 warm chocolate chip cookies every day.
For the book on talk triggers, Jay and Daniel surveyed a thousand DoubleTree customers and found 34% of them mentioned the cookie in the past 60 days. They did so without being asked, either on social media or face to face. On average, these survey findings suggest 25,500 DoubleTree customers talk about that cookie every day.
Although giving each customer a cookie isn’t cheap, DoubleTree doesn’t invest in much outside advertising. The cookie is the ad. The customers are the marketing. Do a Twitter search for “DoubleTree cookie,” and you’ll see dozens of posts from people taking pictures of, talking about, or sharing a hilarious thing about the cookie.
Every once in a while, DoubleTree stokes the conversation by posting a recipe or making a little joke. These posts make sure everybody remembers what their talk trigger is.
Jay’s Book: As a book about differentiation and word of mouth, Talk Triggers has a hot pink cover with alpacas on the front and a satisfaction guarantee on the back.
The guarantee, which is meant to be a talk trigger, makes a unique offer: “If you don’t love this book unconditionally, send an email to the authors, and they’ll buy you another book of your choice.” The email address appears with the guarantee.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car: For decades, the Enterprise talk trigger was “We pick you up.” This promise was their slogan and Enterprise was the only car rental company that picked up customers and took them to a car rental office. This talk trigger created a lot of conversation until ride services with phone apps became common. Since then, few people need a ride from the rental agency.
Enterprise is an example of a company that had a great talk trigger but had to change with the times.
Westin Hotels: Westin Hotels offers another example of how competitors can co-opt your talk trigger and a business has to change its approach to stand out. Westin Hotels used to have a talk trigger called the Heavenly Bed and invested heavily in offering the comfiest bed of any hotel. But after other hotel chains jumped on the same bandwagon, Westin had to go back to the drawing board.
Today, Westin’s talk trigger is that you can get workout clothes. For $5, you can get a workout outfit that includes shoes, shorts, a t-shirt, and any other attire you need.
Small Businesses: Small businesses can find talk triggers especially helpful because they usually have a slightly better handle on whom their customers are. Also, encouraging those customers to talk to one another on a smaller scale is easier.
During an event in Seattle, an attendee shared an excellent talk trigger with Jay. A clinic that only does vasectomy surgery is named DrSnip, which is hilarious. After surgery, the patient receives a pocketknife that says, “DrSnip, Vasectomy Surgeon,” and lists the clinic’s phone number and URL. When someone uses the knife, they can share how they got it. It’s a fantastic talk trigger.
Skip’s Kitchen, a counter-service restaurant in Sacramento, California, is one of Jay’s favorite examples. After you order at the counter, the person who takes your order takes a deck of cards from under the counter and fans them out, face down, in front of you. The customer picks a card, and if it’s a Joker, their entire meal is free, whether you’ve ordered for just yourself or an entire soccer team.
Although Skip’s Kitchen has never spent money on advertising in the 10 years it’s been open, there’s a line to get in almost every day, and USA TODAY recently named it the 29th Best Hamburger Restaurant in America. The restaurant is always full, because on average, three people win the Joker game each day. When they win, they take patty melt selfies and go live via Instagram.
With the Skip’s Kitchen Joker game, you don’t have to win to tell the story. That’s another great aspect of their approach. Everyone has a chance to win, which is one of the key principles of talk triggers.
Listen to the show to hear Jay discuss the Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews of Skip’s Kitchen.
Four Elements of a Successful Talk Trigger
Although many books about word of mouth have been published over the past 20 years, Jay says those books don’t offer a specific plan for how to implement a word-of-mouth strategy. Jay and Daniel tried to create a book with a specific framework that any business can put into practice, based on conversations and working relationships with thousands of people, mostly small businesses.
To explain how to develop talk triggers, the book shares four things your differentiator must contain in order to work. Jay and Daniel also outline five different types of talk triggers and a six-step process for figuring out how to implement a talk trigger in your business. After outlining how the four elements work in the context of the book, Jay explains each one in more detail.
Remarkable: Your talk trigger has to be remarkable because you want people to talk about it. The reason is in the definition of the word: worthy of remark. People don’t say, “Hey, let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I just had.” When your business has a remarkable talk trigger, you help people tell an interesting story, whether that’s face to face or on social media.
Repeatable: This characteristic goes back to Jay’s earlier point about the difference between a post that goes viral and talk triggers. A talk trigger has to be available to everybody. Everybody gets a knife, a chocolate chip cookie, or a chance to play the Joker game. A talk trigger isn’t a theme night, only for best customers, or a birthday special. It’s for everybody.
Reasonable: To break through the clutter, marketers often try to do something big and bold, like the prize for a hashtag contest is an island. In this race for bigger and better prizes, the hope is that people pay more attention to your business. Although you get that attention, it’s fleeting. After you give away an island, what are you going to do next?
Also, these big gifts create suspicion. The conversation a bold giveaway creates isn’t about what makes your business stand out; it’s about your terms and conditions. People want to know what the catch is.
A talk trigger needs to be different enough that people want to talk about it, but not so big that it’s suspicious.
Relevant: An effective talk trigger is also relevant to your business. For instance, Jay Sofer is the highest-rated locksmith in Manhattan on Yelp. People talk about his small business on Twitter and Facebook because he offers a talk trigger that’s highly relevant to his work. After he finishes working on your locks, he does a security audit of your premises, and oils every door and window lock for free.
If Jay Sofer offered customers a warm chocolate chip cookie he baked in his van, customers wouldn’t want that at all. The cookie works for DoubleTree because their whole brand positioning is a warm welcome. They focus on the experience you have once you step through the front door and then you step into your room. In that context, the cookie makes sense.
I ask Jay if the toothbrushes and mouthwash in the bathrooms at Social Media Marketing World would be a talk trigger, because we’ve heard so many people talk about them. For many attendees, these toothbrushes are big deal because they save them a trip back to their hotel.
Jays says this is a good example of a talk trigger we’ve created accidentally. He also notes that in the six-step process, probing what people talk about is an important step in developing a talk trigger for your business. When you analyze online and offline chatter, you learn what people are already talking about. That conversation gives you the raw materials for your next steps.
Listen to the show to hear Jay explain why the original songs at Social Media Marketing World are also a talk trigger.
Five Types of Talk Triggers
When you develop a talk trigger, you can choose from five different types: generosity, responsiveness, empathy, usefulness, and attitude.
Generosity: This type is the easiest to envision and execute. You simply do something more generous than customers expect. The free toothbrushes, a free cookie, the security audit and lock maintenance, and the pocketknife are all examples of generosity worth talking about.
Responsiveness: This talk trigger involves working faster than customers expect or being more on top of things. To illustrate, at a recent event in Indianapolis, Jay learned about a small, two-person accounting firm. The firm’s Google and Facebook reviews mostly talk about how these accountants answer the phone on the first ring. You don’t expect that from an accountant.
This example reminds me of my time working at Sears, in the early days of its computer department. Employees had 3 seconds to acknowledge and welcome a customer when they walked off the main aisle and onto the carpet. I ask Jay if this tactic counts as a responsive talk trigger. Jay says it’s a terrific example, especially if people notice it enough to talk about it.
Another example Jay shares is Paragon Honda, a Manhattan auto dealership with a vehicle repair and service center. In Manhattan, the traffic makes getting cars to and from the dealership a huge challenge. The dealership considered building four other service centers in corners of the island, but that’s pretty expensive. Instead, they decided to work on cars while people were sleeping.
With a 24-hour service center, the dealership can pick up your car from your house, work on it at night like elves in a workshop, and bring it back to your house before you go to work.
Empathy: These days, we’re running a bit of an empathy deficit. Jay discovered this while working on an earlier book, Hug Your Haters. In the past, we treated customers with respect, dignity, humanity, real care, and nurturing. Sometimes there was an exception because a customer was a jerk. Today, that’s not the case in business or in the world around us.
When your brand is particularly empathetic and great at handling complaints on social media, people are surprised and tell their friends because it happens so rarely. To visualize this, if someone gets extraordinarily good treatment from a local merchant or at an airport, they’ll tell that story over and over.
Dr. Glenn Gorab, an oral surgeon, is a great example of empathy worth mentioning. His practice works with patients in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Tri-State area, so the region has hundreds of oral surgeons. Dr. Gorab has the highest reviews of all of them.
He admits he’s a good surgeon, but not the best. However, he has strong relationships with his patients because he’s remarkably empathetic. At the end of each week, his staff gives him the names and phone numbers of first-time patients scheduled for surgery for the upcoming week. He calls each of those people and asks if they have any questions.
Although many doctors call after you have a procedure, it’s rare to receive a call beforehand. These calls are a talk trigger for his practice. People have told Dr. Gorab they drove 12 miles out of their way to see him because he’s the doctor who called their friend before they ever came to his office. In his profession, this empathy is important because people often fear dentistry and oral surgery.
Usefulness: This type of talk trigger is similar to the topic of an early book Jay wrote, Youtility, which focused on being more useful than your customers expect. You might create terrific content or do something else that’s incredibly useful in the context of your business.
I note that providing exceptionally useful information to your customers seems like a great way to do this. For instance, although I’ve worked with home security systems before, I spent days trying to figure out the technology for a new system in my home. Eventually, I found some videos that helped, and I would have appreciated the manufacturer directing me to the videos in the first place.
Attitude: This type may not be doable for every business because it involves doing things in a way that’s a little funny or wacky. Not every business can carry that off culturally, but if you can, if that’s sort of in your DNA, attitude can be extremely effective in getting people talking.
An example from Jay’s book is UberConference, a conference-call service. Their on-hold song isn’t the regular smooth jazz. It’s hilarious, super catchy, and creative. Everybody hears this song, and it has propelled the UberConference business. On Twitter, people tweet about the song and say things like, “I will only use this conference call service because the on-hold music is so funny.”
One of Jay’s favorite remarkable attitude examples is the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge, a tiki bar in Great Falls, Montana. The town is out of the way, even by Montana standards, but the bar has been around for 58 years. Last year, GQ named it one of the Top 10 Bars in America that you should fly to.
The bar’s talk trigger is a mermaid show. Behind the bar is a giant swimming pool framed to look like an aquarium. Every night, from 9 PM to midnight, live human mermaids swim behind the bar. If you go to this bar, you’re going to mention mermaids to somebody.
Discovery of the Week
MoviePro is an iOS video recording app with outstanding tools and features for vloggers.
In addition to the typical video recording features, MoviePro lets you select a resolution for recording (720p, 1080p, 4K). You can also monitor the audio with Bluetooth headphones like AirPods, which means you can ensure the audio doesn’t cut out if you turn your head, move away from the camera, or angle your phone to show viewers a scene of a crowd or an important moment.
MoviePro has a partner app called MoviePro Remote Control. With MoviePro Remote installed on a separate iOS device that’s connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the device using MoviePro, you can control the phone recording with MoviePro from the separate device.
MoviePro costs $5.99 and MoviePro Remote Control costs $4.99. You can find them both in the App Store.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how MoviePro video recorder works for you.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- Visit the Talk Triggers web page for podcast listeners to download the six-step process for free and learn how to buy the book.
- Follow Jay on Twitter.
- Learn more about Jay on his website.
- Check out Jay’s company, Convince & Convert.
- Read Jay’s other books including Hug Your Haters and Youtility.
- Discover more about Jay and Daniel’s research for Talk Triggers.
- Read Jay’s blog post about a word-of-mouth strategy versus a viral post.
- Discover how Peter Shankman popularized the surprise-and-delight tactic.
- Learn about DoubleTree’s warm chocolate chip cookies and how DoubleTree stokes conversation on Twitter.
- Check out other examples of talk triggers such as Westin’s workout clothes offer and the DrSnip pocketknife.
- Discover how customers review Skip’s Kitchen and Lockbusters on Yelp.
- Find out how Paragon Honda demonstrates responsiveness with its 24-hour service center.
- Learn more about Dr. Glenn Gorab, the oral surgeon who demonstrates remarkable empathy.
- Check out the discussion-worthy attitude of UberConference and the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge.
- Record videos with the MoviePro and MoviePro Remote Control apps for iOS.
- Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on Crowdcast or tune in on Facebook Live.
- Download the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
- Learn more about Social Media Marketing World 2019.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on word of mouth and talk triggers? Please share your comments below.