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Marketing is hard and there is so much advice out there about it. Should you be doing long form content? YouTube is a a huge market, but what about writing books?
Before you decide what type of marketing to do you need to understand the goal of this whole marketing thing? It’s to sell yourself. Even if you’re in a job, you’re selling yourself to your boss, proving that you’re worth the salary they’re paying you.
For those of us that sell other services, we’re working to build up trust so that we can...sell you those services.
This intersection of trust and marketing is where Talk Triggers, by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin comes in to help you. Specifically the book is designed to help you build word of mouth marketing and referrals through that word of mouth marketing.
Baer and Lemin say that word of mouth marketing works because of the era of trust that we’re in. Namely that people trust their peers more than they trust what your company says about itself.
We’re in an era where trust matters more than truth, and the truth is that your customers simply don’t trust you as much as they trust each other.
Talk Triggers was written to address this trust factor in the form of word of mouth marketing. Specifically because 100% of businesses care about referrals and less than 1% of businesses have a plan to implement a repeatable referral process. In the eyes of the authors, the most reliable way to do this is to have a talk trigger that makes your company stand out from the competition.
A talk trigger would be my story of Chaco replacing my sandals. I had sent a pair in to have the sole replaced because I had worn it out. They accidentally glued the straps in place so I couldn’t adjust the sizing of the sandal. It still fit, but I could no longer make it tight enough to work on the river. When I called them they sent me a new pair of sandals for free and I got to keep the pair I had in my hand.
Yes I’ve told that story lots. Yes it’s sold sandals for them. Yes, 10 years later I’m still wearing Chaco sandals almost every day of the year. The great warranty service of Chaco is a talk trigger.
Talk Triggers is broken up into four sections. Section one shows us the importance and impact of talk triggers. Section two introduces us to the four criteria something needs to meet to be a talk trigger. Section three is about the five different types of talk triggers that the authors identify. The final section gives us a six step process to find and implement a talk trigger in our business.
One of the biggest thoughts that caught my attention as Baer and Lemin talked about why talk triggers matter is that same is lame. If you’re the same as your competition, then you don’t stand out. When you don’t stand out, the only way to compete against the competition is based on price.
Here is how they say it.
If your product isn’t talkable, then cost becomes the sole basis of comparison.
That begs the question, can your business model survive a race to the bottom? Can you cut your price much lower than it is now? Can you survive on less profit and more hours?
The answer for most industries is no...you can’t do that. To combat this race to the bottom, you need to dive in and show that you’re different than the competition.
A second great idea in the first section is that your talk trigger can’t be generic. They use the analogy of hotels that started talking about their amazing beds. This was a talk trigger at first, and then the competition quickly had the same differentiator, so it became the minimum level for entry instead of something that makes you stand out. You stand out with something that can’t be reproduced easily by your competition.
The final reminder that stood out to me is that social media is not the main thing that you need to focus on. Most people understand that social media is all the highlights, and all the highlights aren’t talkable. Social media may be part of a good marketing campaign, but it’s not the whole thing.
As Baer and Lemin start to introduce us to the four talk trigger criteria, they remind us that just being different is not a talk trigger. If I had a large purple mohawk, it could not be used as a talk trigger for my business because it gives me no business advantage. I’m just different, in a way that doesn’t help my business.
The four talk trigger criteria are:
Now let’s take a minute to dig into each one.
Being remarkable is not the mohawk I just talked about, it’s the huge menu at The Cheese Cake Factory. A menu that is huge is a talk trigger for a restaurant because it gives a business advantage. Someone can come and find something that they want to eat when there are so many choices.
According to Baer and Lemin, this even works on the skeptic consumer. That customer that assumes you’re doing something for some marketing reason and sits there jadedly thinking it won’t affect them.
Being remarkable is so effective that it encourages people to talk about you even when those same people fervently believe being remarkable has no effect.
The second criteria for a talk trigger is that it has to be relevant to your business. If you’re talk trigger has nothing to do with what you do, then it doesn’t matter. As the author’s say:
To be a differentiator, your talk trigger needs to be relevant. It should support your broader company positioning and objectives. It has to make sense within the context of what you do, who you are, and what you stand for.
Customers are suspicious when businesses promote something that seems too good to be true, because they’ve learned that it often is.
Unfortunately customers have learned that an offer that seems to good to be true often is. I had my internet provider call me a few months back and offer me a much cheaper plan, with more speed and more bandwidth. I spent 10 minutes asking questions to ensure that there wasn’t some catch before I said yes.
Those 10 minutes were all coming from my years of experience with telecommunication companies. From the times I’ve looked at current plans to find that they offer more speed, more data, cheaper prices...or something that I’m not getting because I didn’t watch their site every day to take advantage of a new rate.
You need to bring forward a talk trigger that seems reasonable, or you need to have built up enough trust to support that outlandish one that people can’t believe.
The final criteria for a talk trigger is that you must be able to repeat it. If you can’t systematize your talk trigger, then it’s a publicity stunt.
Any differentiator that happens circumstantially is a publicity stunt, not a word-of-mouth strategy.
This is like the story of a forgotten stuffed toy that is mailed back with pictures of the extra vacation that the stuffed animal took. Not every customer can have this experience, so it’s not a talk trigger. It’s nice, and we should look out for opportunities like this, but it’s not a talk trigger.
Section three is here to introduce us to the five types of talk triggers that Baer and Lemin have identified. Before we dive into the types of talk triggers the authors give us a great bit of wisdom about what a talk trigger is.
The gap between expectation and reality is the fuel for the stories that create word of mouth and in turn produce new customers.
They also outline that you must hit all four of the criteria of a talk trigger, but only one of the following items. You don’t need three types of talk triggers to qualify, only one that hits all the four criteria for what makes a good talk trigger.
Baer and Lemin use a debt collection agency to show talkable empathy. Instead of the common tactics of belittling and menacing people that have a debt, this company is nice. They understand and work with people without berating them.
Yes they collect a much higher percentage of debts. Yes, many of the employees were former debtors that interacted with this company.
Meeting your customers where they are at, and empathizing with any struggles they have can make you stand out.
Useful talk triggers are items that your customers love to use. I thought of the headline analyzer from CoSchedule. Talk Triggers talked about the sky couch on Air New Zealand. This sky couch makes the flights of people so much more comfortable. It bucks the trend of airlines squashing us into as small as seat as possible.
Have you ever had your coffee paid for by the person in front of you in line? How did that feel? Amazing right?
Talkable generosity is all about offering your customers something above and beyond the expectations they have for your services. This is the zoo that has a conference center. When you book a conference, every single one of your attendees gets a free zoo pass for the day.
Baer and Lemin mention a busy restaurant that has you choose a card from a deck as you order. If you get the joker your whole meal is on the house. Yes even that baseball team that showed up could pick a card and get the whole meal for the whole team for free.
One of the things my wife loves about Lulu Lemon is the speed of delivery. She’s ordered stuff late Thursday night and had it show up Friday. That type of speed is what they’re talking about with their fourth talk trigger.
Baer and Lemin say that the biggest problem with speed is that everyone can get fast and that people change their expectations of speed.
Speed is a moving target that you will consistently need to invest to protect the remarkability of your talk trigger.
To use Lulu Lemon again, talkable attitude is the message on the bands of my workout shirts. One says “Do it for the bacon”. I enjoy the messages and they show attitude.
My own attitude is shown in my “not” Christmas cards. I don’t send cards out during Christmas, I do it some time in January and call out that I’m not late, I made a choice not to get shoved under the other cards everyone sends.
If you’re looking to build your attitude, then Badass Your Brand, is one of the best books I’ve read on how to develop a brand that stands out. Pia Silva fills an excellent book with ways to build this brand that is you, and doesn’t conform to the crowd.
The final section walks us through the six steps that Baer and Lemin say we can use to build our own talk trigger. Before we dive into the six step process they remind us that it takes work to build something worth talking about.
To be effective with initiatives like talk triggers requires both great process and great mindset. It is exceptionally rare for a great idea to be born and immediately thrive. Talk triggers behave a lot like products: They need constant evolution, optimization, refinement, and user feedback.
Your first step in building a talk trigger is gathering the insights of your team. They propose a “triangle of awesome” as you build your team. This triangle is built out of someone from marketing, sales, and customer support. Each of these realms will bring unique insights about your products, and what your customers are already talking about.
With your team assembled, you have them do some homework. Marketing brings information on brand positioning, current trends, and market research to the table. Sales has information on win/loss, mega fans, and churn. Support has call logs, customer anecdotes (maybe bad ones). Armed with this information you start sifting through for possible talk triggers.
Next, you use your team to get close to your customers. This is not some survey, because it doesn’t go deep enough and there is not enough relationship with a survey. Ask your team, how do customers purchase your product right now?
Use your team to talk to the mega fans, and the disgruntled customers, to find out what matters to them. Why are they fans, or why are they disgruntled? Ask your customers all they ways they use your products right now. You won’t be able to predict every way, so which ones surprise you?
Another key is to make sure that you use your own product. What is your experience with it? Was it easy to use? What were your snag points? What would you talk about in your experience, and is that good or bad?
Armed with all of this information your team comes together to create some candidate talk triggers. Then you test them. Unfortunately, Baer and Lemin don’t provide a great framework for testing here. The best I’ve seen is found in Traction.
With the Traction Bullseye Framework, you identify the single metric that matters. Then you test everything in a manner that allows you to track it’s impact on that single metric. Eliminate everything that’s not working, and stick with the two or maybe three that seem to do the best. Invest even deeper in their testing until you have a clear winner. Stick with that clear winner.
Talk Triggers, does remind us to keep our candidate ideas easy. If it requires a wholesale change of the infrastructure of your company, maybe it’s not the best one to start with. It needs to be easy enough that you can pull it off, because otherwise it probably doesn’t qualify for the repeatable criteria of a talk trigger.
By definition, word of mouth takes time to flower because it relies on one customer telling one other potential customer (or a few) about you.
One of the big problems with word of mouth marketing is that it takes a while to catch on. Where we can measure ad clicks and cross-reference that with ad spend, talk triggers take longer to show fruit.
Baer and Lemin don’t give us a specific timeframe, but they say that you should be aiming for 25% of the conversation about your company to deal with the talk trigger. If you’re sitting at 15-20%, then tweak what you have and measure how it affects the percentage of conversation.
Step five is about implementation of your talk trigger. Once you have something that works, roll it out and measure how it’s being implemented in your business. Baer and Lemin don’t provide a huge structure for this, because that’s a whole book on it’s own. If you’re looking for ways to implement change in your business then you should read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.
Talk Triggers does tell us that our employees should love our talk triggers. They need to live them if we want them to have affect on our bottom line and what our customers talk about. They say to hire for alignment with the company mission, not just the skills that a potential employee has.
The final step is getting our talk trigger as far and as wide as we can. This is not just about getting attention, as Baer and Lemin say:
Doing something just for the attention it gets you might land you a reality series — but it won’t win you many long-term fans. Media interest is a side effect of great talk triggers, not a goal.
This is not a referral program either. It’s a talk trigger that is so refined and clear that a child could understand it and see it’s value.
The book finishes off by reminding us that after we’ve built our first talk trigger, we need to start thinking about the next one. When Google Maps started satellite imagery was a talking point. Then many maps had it, and street view became a talking point. The point is that they kept rolling out technological talking points to stay talkable.
Once you have a talk trigger, keep measuring it and start looking to the next one.
Talk Triggers is a good overall look at what it takes to stand out in the marketplace. There are individual books that may cover a single chapter better, like Badass Your Brand does for talkable attitude, but overall Talk Triggers does a great job of introducing an idea and leaving you with tools to implement it.
If you read Talk Triggers and want more, then I suggest:
If I had to pick one to start with, then I’d pick The 10x Marketing Formula followed by Talk Triggers. Then the other two depending on which need is the most pressing for your business.
Overall, Talk Triggers is a good book to learn about how to build and implement word of mouth marketing.
Photo by: pasukaru76