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Juliet Stott
Jay Baer on creating word of mouth talk triggers
Juliet Stott
Oct 4, 2018

Word of mouth is by far the most important thing in business that everybody takes for granted. It influences between 50% and 91% of all revenue in every business but nobody has a strategy for it, says Jay Baer founder and CEO of Convince & Convert.

The New York Times bestselling author says that most marketers overlook word of mouth and take it for granted. “Everyone has a desk full of strategies, but nobody has a word of mouth strategy,” he says.

He believes smart companies do word of mouth on purpose, instead of word of mouth “by accident”.

Here, Baer talked to Content Magazine about his latest book, Talk Triggers, which outlines how businesses can turn existing customers into volunteer marketers.

He explained what a talk trigger is, how to create one and outlined why it will give your business a competitive advantage.

Content: What is a talk trigger and how is it different from a USP?
Jay Baer: A talk trigger is something that you do differently that customers notice, and then tell each other about. It’s an operational differentiator that compels word of mouth.

A USP is similar, but typically a little less interesting, a bullet point that you might discuss in a conference room; and a talk trigger is a story you would discuss in a bar.

Why do companies who deploy a talk trigger have a competitive advantage over those who don’t?
Every company wants to grow; and the best way to grow any business, regardless of size, is for the customers to do that growing for you.

When you have a talk trigger, and you have a consistent story that your customers tell one another about your business, it turns those customers into volunteer marketers.

A talk trigger gives you reach, persuasion, behavior, at no real cost, other than the cost of the talk trigger itself, which is far less than what you might pay for advertising.

You may have heard this phase that advertising is a tax on the unremarkable, and there is some truth to that. If you can get your customers to spread your message for you then you don’t have to spend any money doing that.

What’s the difference between online and offline word of mouth, which has the greatest impact?
The data shows that approximately half of all word of mouth takes place online, and about half takes place offline.

Word of mouth recommendations that take place offline, in a more intimate setting, such as face to face, or via personal emails, are more persuasive than recommendations that don’t have that level of intimacy.

But both are important and, certainly, social media has made word of mouth even more powerful than it has been, but it’s the actual offline word of mouth that has the most power.

Is that because of trust?
That’s certainly part of it.

Then the other part is that usually when you’re having a more intimate word of mouth exchange you, as the receiver of that recommendation, can ask follow-up questions.

So, you can contextualise the recommendation in a way that you might not be able to do if you just found it in a Yelp review, for example.

What are the requirements of a talk trigger? What must they do to achieve success?
Not everything works as a talk trigger, and not every differentiator will pay off day after day in the way that a talk trigger can and should.

So, it first has to be remarkable, meaning worthy of remark.

Nobody tells a story that says, “Let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I just had”. Nobody says that, because that’s a bad story.

So, the talk trigger itself has to be different enough to be memorable and to be talkable.

The second one is it has to be repeatable, meaning that every customer has access to it; it’s not just on ladies’ night, it’s not just on your birthday, it’s not just for your best customers, everybody gets a crack at the talk trigger.

The third differentiator is it has to be reasonable. So, it shouldn’t be so enormous, so outside the realms of expectations that people start to doubt the trustworthiness of it.

The fourth is it needs to be relevant, meaning that it makes sense in the context of who you are an what you’re about.

So, if your goal is just to create conversation, I can do that in a second; I can march a large gorilla through your office tomorrow, and that would create conversation, but it doesn’t make any sense, it’s like, “To what end?”

The talk trigger needs to tie into your brand.

Are there different types of talk triggers?
There are five different types of talk triggers.

Talkable generosity is the one that you see most often because it’s the easiest for companies to figure out, i.e. you give customers something a little extra or special.

Talkable speed, means you’re faster than customers expect.

Talkable usefulness, you’re more useful than customers expect.

Talkable empathy, where you’re kinder, warmer and more human than customers expect.

Talkable attitude, which is when you’re just a little wacky, a little strange, a little off-centre in general.

Can you give me your favourite example of a talk trigger, and say why you think it’s so successful? My favourite one that encapsulates this idea, and points out that it doesn’t have to be terribly complicated to be effective, is from a restaurant in Sacramento, California, called Skip’s Kitchen.

Its talk trigger is before you pay with cash or credit card, the server will pull out a deck of playing cards from underneath the counter, fan the cards out face down, and then say, “Pick a card.”

You pick a card, and if you get a joker your entire meal is free. Whether it’s for yourself or for 15 people.

Every customer gets a chance to play every time. It’s not only at lunch time. It’s not only on Monday. It’s not just on your birthday.

Now, Skip’s has been in business for 10 years. It has never spent any money at all on advertising, not one single penny, yet, there’s a line to get in almost every day.

USA Today newspaper just named Skip’s the 29th best hamburger restaurant in all of the United States.

What tips, tricks or rules can you impart about creating a talk trigger? One of the key tricks is not to just sit in a conference room and come up with a “good idea”, because if it was that easy you’d already have one.

The key is to really understand all the different interaction points that you have with customers, and what customers expect to happen at each of those points.

Once you understand what they expect, you can understand what they don’t expect, and what they don’t expect will be the talk trigger, which is what makes it talkable.

The key to doing it well is to do a lot of research.

We recommend conducting customer interviews, and interviewing those who are in sales or customer services inside your organisation, and doing a lot of analysis.

This is about creating a word of mouth strategy, not about sitting around and coming up with a fun idea.