Episode 156 | Posted on

Catalysts for Word of Mouth with Jay Baer

Would you like to learn how to encourage word-of-mouth systematically? If so, you’re in the right place. This is episode number 156. Our guest is Jay Baer. Jay’s been on the show already on Episode 78. We talked about Hug Your Haters. He is President of the global marketing consultancy, Convince & Convert, a Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker and Cohost of the Social Pros Podcast.


Jay, welcome back to the show.

It’s a return engagement. Here I am once again.

You’re one of the very few.

I’m honored. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

You’re welcome. You’re amazing, not anybody can make it into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame.

Not everybody would want to do that either I suspect because most people are terrified of public speaking. They did foolishly vote me into the Hall of Fame, which was a great honor. That particular Hall of Fame is interesting because the only way you can get into the National Speaker Association Hall of Fame is to be voted in by the existing members of the Hall of Fame. There’s no media vote like you might find in a sports hall of fame or fan vote or something like an All-Star Game. It really is your peers, which is a nice recognition.

Congratulations on that and congratulations on your book, Talk Triggers. I saw you at Content Marketing World and you knocked it out of the park as always talking about the concepts from your book. Let’s start by what are talk triggers?

Let me talk first about why it’s so important. Between 50% and 91% of all purchases are significantly influenced by word-of-mouth. If I asked the audience now to grab your wallet or your purse and lay it out in front of you on your desk or your car seat or wherever you happen to be, lay out in front of you all the money that you have. Look at that money and recognize that 50% to 91% of it is influenced by word-of-mouth in some way. It’s really important, yet it’s the one important thing in business for which we do not have a strategy. It’s quite a mystery. We have a marketing strategy. We have a content marketing strategy. We have a social media marketing strategy, a public relations strategy. You might have a hiring and recruiting strategy. You might have a crisis strategy and a whole desk full of strategies if you’re like me. The one thing you don’t have a strategy before is word-of-mouth. We take it for granted.

Between 50% and 91% of all purchases are significantly influenced by word of mouth. Click To Tweet

We assume that our customers will talk about us, that they’ll say something nice. Why do we make that assumption? What’s happened now for thousands of years is that businesses have taken a very hands-off laissez-faire approach to word-of-mouth and most of us do word-of-mouth on accident if we do it at all. What we’ve done in this new book, Talk Triggers, is give people a system for doing word-of-mouth on purpose. Having a strategy that you can use to create customer conversations every day and turn customers into volunteer marketers. The centerpiece of that system is to have a talk trigger, which is a strategic operational decision that you make in your business that makes word-of-mouth involuntary. It’s something that your customers notice so much that they cannot help themselves. They simply must tell somebody else about that special little thing that you do.

Like DoubleTree with their cookies.

Perhaps one of the longest running talk triggers for certain and many people, especially travelers, know this one, DoubleTree Hotels by Hilton has been giving out a warm chocolate chip cookie to each guest at check-in. They’ve been doing it now for 30 years. Each day they deliver 75,000 cookies to guests. It’s a lot of cookies. As part of the book, we did four distinctly different research projects. As of most of my books, we invested a tremendous amount of time and quite a bit of money on first party research. One of the projects that we undertook for this book was to survey hundreds and hundreds of DoubleTree customers. What we discovered was that more than a third of them have mentioned that cookie to somebody else without being asked or prompted in the last 30 days or so. What this means mathematically if you break it down, is on average 25,500 customers talk about that cookie every single day. A companion question, when was the last time you saw a DoubleTree ad? Probably not very often because the cookie is the ad and the guests are the marketing. Isn’t that the best way to build any business to have your customers do the building for you? That’s what a talk trigger can do for you when you do it well and you stick with it.

If you aren’t compelled to share your experience without being forced to, you don’t get hammered with emails. I had a customer service call with Verizon and it was fine. It was nothing amazing. I got the job done and then I start getting harassed via text message to do the online survey. It’s like trying to poke and prod me to be a happy customer. I don’t think that works.

I feel that we have largely lost our way in customer feedback collection in business right now. Either you are modestly satisfied and then the way feedback is asked for, makes you less satisfied, which is the circumstance that you described. The process of asking decreases satisfaction, which is probably not the way they want it to work or the whole thing becomes like this artificial show game. You see this all the time when you buy a car. On the way out the door, the salesperson will 100% of the time say to you, “You’re going to get a call from JD Power in a week or two. What can I do for you right now to make sure that you give me all tens?” That’s not the way to do customer feedback collection because what you’re trying to do is bribe, incentivize or psychologically browbeat customers. The reason that’s done is that the whole thing is set up on a system of false incentives. Car dealerships and many other types of companies are bonused based on average score, which is not how you should do it. I wrote about this in my previous book, Hug Your Haters. The way you should do it is not by an average score but by completion rate. What you want is more and more customers to want to provide feedback. What you want as a business is an honest feedback, not feedback that you have cajoled into being artificially high. That doesn’t do anybody any good, but that’s the way it is.

I love how you eat your own dog food. You do the stuff that you preach on stage that people need to do. For example, when you were promoting your new book, you sent out this shock and awe boxes. I heard from Tamsen Webster and all these different people that you sent these boxes to that there was a stuffed animal in there, the alpaca, which is on the cover of your book. There were some cookies from DoubleTree.

It’s a book about word-of-mouth. We were like, “We need to generate some word-of-mouth,” so we did send some introduction packages out to some folks and created some buzz that way, which was nice. That’s a marketing plan. A talk trigger is not a marketing plan, which is an important distinction. A talk trigger is an operational decision that happens for every customer every day forever. The way we launched the book, which was essentially an influencer marketing program is not a talk trigger. A talk trigger is something that happens in the way you do your business. It’s not a campaign. It’s not a coupon. It’s not a contest. It’s not a price. It’s not a product. It’s not a promotion. It’s an operational decision that you make. We do have talk triggers in the book itself. There are three. Talk trigger number one, the cover of the book features alpacas. There are very few business books that have alpacas on the cover. I think one is the sum total of that universe. When you see the book on the shelf, you’re like, “That’s an unusual cover.” That’s one talk trigger.

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth

The second thing is in the book itself, at the very back, there are tear-out referral cards that you can perforate it, tear out and give to a friend that says, “You’ll like this book, Talk Triggers.” We’re trying to facilitate referrals by giving people a literal, physical way to refer the book. Third and the one that’s perhaps the most discussed so far and this is intentional, on the book itself, on the cover on the back, it says in big letters, “SATISFACTION GUARANTEED. If you buy this book and do not like it, if you go to TalkTriggers.com and leave the authors a message, they will buy you any other book of your liking,” and we will. My coauthor Daniel and I absolutely will do that if you buy Talk Triggers and you don’t like it, go to the website and leave us a note. We’ll buy you any book you want. If you want a first edition Bible, we’ll track it down. We will figure it out. I hope that’s not your ask but we’ll figure it out if we have to. It is truly a no-risk proposition. I don’t think anybody has ever done that in the history of books. That is our talk trigger, the thing that people mention.

One thing that comes to mind here is Jay Abraham had a book that was $1,000 or maybe even more. What if they asked for that one?

We had that conversation. In the pre-launch marketing meetings that we were finishing up the book cover, many of the ideas were Daniel’s; the cover he designed it, the alpacas. This particular talk trigger was my idea. Not just, “We’ll give your money back,” but “We’ll buy you any book.” Daniel went on Amazon and did a sort by price or something and found a $10,000 cookbook, which sounds absurd but apparently, it’s up there. He said, “What if somebody wants this book?” I said, “Then we’ll buy it for them. You can’t make an offer and then not stand behind it. If that happens, I will have a press release written in ten seconds. That will definitely be talked about that the book authors make a bold guarantee, blows up in their face and will be a fantastic piece of media coverage.” I hope that doesn’t happen financially but if it does happen, we will try to maximize the talkability of that.

Speaking of Jay Abraham and Talk Triggers, I did something I think is a talk trigger. I’ve had Jay on this show twice. It’s one of those unusual episodes where I’ve had the same guest on twice. The second time I had him on, I had him interviewing me about SEO. Isn’t that cool to have somebody on your show that instead of being the guest is actually the interviewer and the usual host as being the guest?

It’s fun to do that and we do that as well on my show, on Social Pros. We had Adam Brown who’s my cohost interview me for the book launch, which was a blast. It was tons of fun.

If you get somebody like a huge public figure or somebody who’s known as a real guru or a thought leader in this space. Let’s say you get Brian Tracy to interview you about your book and not just your cohost but Brian Tracy, that’s pretty unusual that would be a talk trigger. I did that, and I just had Jay on again but not on this show. I had him on my other show, Get Yourself Optimized, which is all about biohacking, life hacking, productivity and personal development. We had the most amazing spiritual discussion. It was really powerful. He loved that interview. He said, “This is one of the best interviews that I’ve had in a long time,” and he wanted to blast it out to his list and everything. That’s a talk trigger. It’s hard to do talk triggers in a podcast that haven’t been done before but I haven’t heard of any examples like us.

I’ve got a good one. I was on a show and they sent me before the show an actual physical brochure essentially of the show. It was a kit like, “Here’s what’s going to happen on the show and here’s what the show is about.” A lot of people will do an email reminder of what’s the story, but they sent me a whole kit. We do one on my show, Social Pros, that is a little bit unusual. We send every guest a microphone with postage paid both ways FedExed. Sometimes people don’t have a great setup and then you don’t want to affect the show quality. People think they’ve got a better microphone than they do. You know the drill, it happens. We’ve always done that and people are typically like, “I didn’t know that that was something that people do.” The show I was on was the Unstoppable CEO Podcast and they sent me a whole kit in the mail with all the show info and here’s the audience. That was a nice touch and I liked it.

When we were at Content Marketing World, you told me about The Business of Story Podcast. After you were on their show, they sent you something. Do you want to share that?

The Business of Story is a terrific podcast hosted by my friend, Park Howell. We used to produce it for him. They produced it themselves now and it’s a show about business storytelling. Ironically, that’s why it’s called the Business of Story. After he had Daniel and me on the show, he was like, “We’ve got to have a talk trigger for our show.” It inspired him to create a thing. Now, after each guest is on the show, he sends a bottle of wine to the guest and the brand of the wine or the vineyard is the Story of Vineyard. Then he writes a little note and asks the guest to drink the wine and then create an Instagram post with them drinking a wine and talking about their story. It’s a nice call back to the show and the thesis of his show. It’s a good one and I like it.

The first part of a presentation gives the audience a glimpse of that speaker and what they are about. Click To Tweet

You were a subject of discussion on a previous episode, the Tamsen Webster episode on the show. We not only talked about the red thread and all that, but we talked about you.

I didn’t know that. What happened?

That’s how I knew about the shock and awe box and how she didn’t get the cookies. It was a great episode. Speaking of Tamsen, other seasoned speakers and speaker trainers, what would be your favorite tip or technique or strategy for speaking on stage that has the audience wrapped? They’re yours. They’re in the palm of your hand after that. Anything that comes to mind off the top of your head?

I feel like the key to the whole thing is to come out hot. As my friend, Kristina Paider, who does a lot of work with us at Convince & Convert, she’s a screenwriter and also is on the faculty at Heroic Public Speaking with Michael and Amy Port. What she would say is you introduce your character to the audience as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter what you do in your presentation if you don’t grab people in the first twenty or 30 seconds. Too many people, when they give a presentation, come up on stage without energy. There’s a lot of, “It’s great to be here. Hello, Cleveland. I appreciate the introduction, Bob,” which is a lot of extemporaneous extra stuff that takes away from making an impact right away. What a lot of speakers do well is they come on stage and in the first five seconds, they’re into the talk. The first part of the presentation gives the audience a glimpse of that speaker and what they are about. It’s why good stand-up comedians are excellent at this.

Most stand-up comedians are in a very intimate room, small room, low ceilings very close to the audience is how a stand-up comedy works. It’s an art form. What most stand-up comedians do is the first joke they tell comes right at whatever the audience is thinking, “That guy’s fat. She’s short. His voice is weird. That guy’s a slob. She’s got fancy shoes.” Whatever the most obvious conclusion that the audience draws, the comedians, the good ones, go right at that instantaneously. What it does is it creates, it introduces their character to the audience. Once the audience knows the character, is comfortable with the character, they’ll go along with you for the rest of the ride. I would say most speakers are not good enough in the first 30 seconds and that includes the walk on stage.

I learned this from Heroic Public Speaking. I was at HPS Live and a lot of speakers will just come straight at no angle onto the stage. Michael taught me to walk at a diagonal right up to the audience, not basically where you’re going to fall off the stage there but close enough that you don’t seem like you’re terrified of the audience.

That’s why in some ways, comedians have it easier than speakers because they have so much physical intimacy with the crowd because of the way the room is set up. What all speakers will tell you those who have been doing it for a while is that when you have a lot of gap between the stage and the first row, that hurts because you leak intimacy. Every speaker will prefer theater style to rounds. Lots of time, the room is set in rounds because there are meals before, after, during or whatever. Speakers would much prefer, and I certainly prefer theater style, people closer the better. I want standing room only, people sitting on the floor because it’s physically proven. You get a much better audience reaction that way because of the physical intimacy. It’s why comedy clubs sit people. What they want is elbows touching because when one person laughs, they’re so close it becomes contagious. When you have a lot of room in a physical environment, high ceilings, not enough people in the room, it’s hard to create that groundswell of emotion. I always prefer to speak in a smaller more packed room than in a bigger less packed room.

What if people are spread out and there aren’t as many people as there are chairs like maybe not even half, do you have people move and come up-front?

The key to the whole thing is to come out hot.

If I know that’s the case, if I’m like, “We’re pretty certain this is what the story is going to be,” what I will ask is to have the meeting organizers try and rope off the back so that people have to coalesce in the front. Sometimes that is not possible because they don’t know how many people are coming and there are fewer than they thought or whatever. In certain circumstances, I will read the room and I will ask people to relocate. I will say, “We all need to be closer together because I want to be able to pay attention to as many of you as possible. Right now, you’re so spread out, I don’t feel like I can do that effectively. I know it’s a hassle. I appreciate you in the back and the sides to come here to the middle section.” I don’t do that every time because you’ve got to read the room. Sometimes when you do that, the character that you’re introducing to the audience is a jerky-schoolteacher guy. You’ve got to play that by ear a little bit and have a feeling of how are these people? Where are they in the program? Is it late in the day? If you’re a paid speaker, they are paying you to do a great job. For whatever reason, your ability to deliver greatness is impeded by the lights, the audio, the setup, the AV guy and the lectern. You shouldn’t feel bad about asking for changes because it’s your job to deliver and that’s okay.

Have you been at Heroic Public Speaking as a speaker, trainer or anything?

I have been as an attendee and many of my team members at Convince & Convert who all speak as well have been many times and continue to go. Michael has not asked me to present there but one of these days we’ll make it happen.

At HPS Live, I get so many distinctions from that. Michael Port is one of the best speaker trainers in the world. He is incredible. He teaches some of the top keynoters.

He teaches me. I do a lot of work with him privately. He has made a huge impact on my career as is Tamsen. I work with three sets of coaches: Tamsen, Michael and Amy Port, Mark Scharenbroich and Eric Chester. Those are the folks that I rely on.

You don’t take your speaking career or any talent to the next level just on your own. You’ve got to get mentoring and coached by people who are world-class like the top of the top. You do that, which is amazing. Michael Port has been on the show as well as Tamsen. I signed up for his dual degree program. Michael and Amy Port will do this graduate program where you go to their headquarters four days a month for four months. They take you through their seven-step rehearsal process. You get all the stuff in your muscle memory. It’s pretty incredible from what I hear. We’re going to be doing that, my wife, Orion and I. We’re very excited about that. We just did the masterclass. We were VIP at Heroic Public Speaking Live.

My team has been in a masterclass.

It was 45 minutes getting private coaching from Michael and Amy while 500 and some people in the audience watch. That was so powerful. We both did that. We both got 45-minute sessions and you see our transformation throughout that 45 minutes as they made these little tweaks to our blocking and staging to the words that we used and the intonation, the pitch and all that. Back to talk triggers, let’s talk about how you operationally set yourself apart from all the other agencies, consultancies in your space; Convince & Convert has competition. How do you operationally set yourself apart? We talked a little bit about the shock and awe box being more of an influencer marketing strategy or campaign and this is built into how you service your customers if you’re talking about a talk trigger. What do you do?

Talk triggers are all about giving your customers a story to tell one another. Click To Tweet

The book itself is set up in the four, five, six system because it is a system. The whole point of writing this book is to give people the tools necessary to be able to do this in their own businesses. Daniel and I didn’t invent the concept that word-of-mouth is important. There are a ton of books on the shelf already that will tell you in a very powerful way that word-of-mouth is important. Contagious by Jonah Berger, Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz and Fizz by Ted Wright. All of those guys are sourced and quoted in our book as well. What we have added to the conversation we feel that wasn’t there before is not to say that word-of-mouth is important but to say, “Here’s the playbook, here’s how you do it.” There’s a four, five, six system. The four ingredients of a talk trigger, the five types of talk trigger and a six-step process for creating a talk trigger.

One of the five types is talkable speed or talkable responsiveness depending on how you want to describe it. That’s the one that we use most often at Convince & Convert. Generally speaking, we answer emails, calls, text, notes very quickly in our organization. We try to get back to people within a minute or two. When that happens, when somebody submits a lead form or sends an email and we get back to you in a minute, people can’t believe it. Clients all the time are like, “I cannot believe how fast you get back to us.” When people are current clients, when they’re on our client roster, we have a system that we call Now At. It’s a special email address. When people send an email to that, it goes to everybody in the company instantly. It’s a distribution list. Then whoever is the most available or most appropriate consultant takes it and handles it immediately. It’s almost like a bat signal for digital marketing consulting. Clients don’t use it that often but when they do, they are sure appreciative of it. Our talk trigger, and it is one of the five types, is talkable responsiveness.

How has that manifested in terms of word-of-mouth? Is that something that you see blog posts on?

Not so much of that one. This is true often in B2B. You don’t see as many public expressions of it. You typically see more public expressions of talk triggers in B2C. B2B is much more conversational. It’s from current customer to prospective customer and it becomes one of the things that intrigues them about us and they mention it to us in an intake call. On the more public facing side, the talk triggers that I have personally from my speaking business, you see more chatter about those publicly. My business card is a metal bottle opener and has been for years and years and years. There are lots and lots of blog posts, photos and videos of that and people come up to me all the time. It happened at an event in Las Vegas. This lady runs the AV for the Sands Expo Center in Vegas. She says, “Mr. Baer, you may not remember but you were here five years ago doing a program and I handled the AV. I still have your business card.” I was like, “That is the gift that keeps on giving.” That is an incredible talk trigger.

Then the second thing that I have that is my talk trigger is onstage, I’m always in like a crazy plaid suit as you know. That’s what I am known for onstage so much so that I didn’t know it was a talk trigger. I was somewhere like South Dakota or Wyoming, something in that ballpark and it was cold. It was winter. I wore a suit that most people would describe as crazy but for me, it’s the most boring suit I have. It’s not plaid. It’s a warmer suit, which is why I selected it. I came into the meeting for Soundcheck and the meeting planner said, “Where’s the plaid suit?” I was like, “Now, they expect it, okay, a different game.” I had to immediately call my suit guy because I’m like a Frankenstein shape, I have to have my stuff custom made. I called my suit guy and I was like, “From now on, we only make plaid suits. Everybody clear on that.” Sometimes that happens. Sometimes your talk trigger isn’t one that you necessarily set out to be like, “We’ve got this master plan that’s going to create a conversation,” but it ends up creating conversation. Then you’re like, “We should lean into this skid and make it more intentional and operationalize it.” Sometimes that happens.

You did intentionally come up with this crazy plaid meme for your outfits for stage presentations. You weren’t thinking this is a differentiator, that this will be a talk trigger? You just thought, “I like plaid.”

A little of both. I do like plaid. It’s easier to match I find because I don’t have to match. I knew it was a differentiator. Most people don’t wear those suits, but I didn’t realize it was going to be the thing. I didn’t think it was going to end up being on my website and be the thing that people come up to me and talk to me about all the time. Sometimes you’re like, “That’s a differentiator.” You think of it as a bullet point, not the thing. Then you realize like, “That is a thing.” That’s one of the reasons why in the six-step process that we wrote about the book, which is coincidentally the exact same process that we use at Convince & Convert when we do talk triggers consulting. When we help brands figure this out, it’s the same process. We took what we do and wrote a book about it essentially.

One of the steps in that process is to test your triggers to say, “Here’s a differentiator that we think people will talk about. Let’s roll it out to a segment of our customer base, every third customer or only customers in Idaho or only customers of this product,” or whatever your business will allow for segmentation. Then you listen and watch. In some cases, this requires a survey. You measure the talkability of that thing. Then if it’s like, “People do like really it,” then you lean into it and roll it out across the business. That’s what happened with me in the suits. Not in a formalized way like we wrote about in the book but that’s essentially the process that happened to me. I was like, “Let me see how this works.” Then it worked and I was like, “Now, I have to do it. I can’t show up on stage without this suit. It’s a different story.”

Sometimes your talk trigger isn’t the one that you necessarily planned to create a conversation, but it still ends up creating conversation.


How many crazy plaid suits do you have?

It’s like a dozen or something like that. I get about three more every season. It’s a proliferating collection.

The metal bottle opener, how did that idea come about?

It’s the same thing. This started when I first started Convince & Convert. I was like, “I need business cards.” This was in the early days of South by Southwest and Pubcon where you would see people hand out a business card that said, “Tweet me,” or whatever. It was that era where people were trying to be clever with their business card. I was like, “What if it’s not a card though? What if it has some function?” I don’t remember where I saw it somewhere online. I was doing some browsing of a specialty item catalog and I found these bottle openers that are metal that almost looks like a credit card. I was like, “Why couldn’t you print a business card on that?” I talked to a buddy of mine who runs a specialty item company and he was like, “We could totally do that.” I did and as far as I know, I was the first one to do it. Other people have done it since. I started handing them out and I’ve handed out thousands and thousands of these cards at $3 apiece in the last years. People don’t throw them away. They keep them in their golf bag, their boat or wherever. I’m like, “I don’t care where you keep it but if you know where my business card is and all of your possessions, my work here is done.”

The fact that you get a brand impression every time they use it to open a bottle, that’s genius.

I always use the same joke too, which is the more beers you drink the better my blog is. It works for everybody. It’s a win-win.

This probably doesn’t count as a talk trigger because this is at the beginning. It’s not influencer marketing. It’s more prospects, indoctrination or something. We would send these FedEx Tubes to prospects. This was with my previous agency, Netconcepts that I had sold in 2010. We’d send out a FedEx Tube to somebody we met at a trade show conference or whatever and it would include a pair of Cabela’s socks, wool hunting socks. Then there was a cover letter included that explains why they got some wool hunting socks, “We helped our client, Cabela’s, get to number one in Google for wool hunting socks. We can help you too. We hope you enjoy these socks. Winter is coming.” We’ve got so much positive response from that. We closed some pretty big deals from sending a $10 pair of socks plus the shipping. The thing that differentiated us wasn’t necessarily the pair of socks, it was the FedEx Tube. How often do you get a FedEx Tube?

I didn’t even know they made FedEx Tubes until you said that. I guess I’d probably knew that but that is definitely unusual. There was an agency in Phoenix, Moses, every season they take a prospect list and send out three-pound giant bolognas, an actual bologna, a full-sized one that you’d get in a grocery store. They put a mailing address on a bologna with a little card attached. It’d be like, “If you want an ad agency that’s not full of Bologna, we are your guys.” I was like, “That’s pretty crazy.” Somebody will put a full-sized bologna on your desk with your name on it and you’re like, “What is going on here?” Especially if you’re a vegetarian.

Once you know what people expect, you by definition then know what they do not expect. Click To Tweet

That’s where you need to understand your audience.

You do a little research. When you talk about speaking business, it’s very common either to give meeting planners or to give speakers, there are a lot of times gifts of alcohol. There is wine. You’ve got to be a little careful about that because some people don’t drink and don’t want to drink. You’ve got to be a little cautious about some of those things sometimes.

You can also give gifts not only to the meeting planners if you’re a speaker but if you’re on TV like I did thirteen TV appearances over the last couple of years, you give the TV producer who booked you on the show a gift after you’ve done your TV appearance. You hang around until they have a moment to talk and you say, “Thank you. Here’s a little gift. I appreciate it.” Maybe give them a pitch for another TV appearance. It works best if you know something about that TV producer or meeting planners like a hobby or a particular interest or something. This one guy runs the Tucson morning program called Morning Blend and he’s into gourmet hotdogs. I’m a vegetarian.

How did you discover that? How did you track down his gourmet hotdog love?

I asked my coach who hooked me up with this particular TV station and show. It was Clint Arthur who was on this show in the past talking about how to get on local TV. I took his training and he got me some initial TV appearances. I did the pitch and then they said yes or no. This guy from the Morning Blend said yes. I did a TV appearance and I asked Clint, “What should I give him as a gift because I don’t want to give him something boring?” This guy has got a huge personality. He’s hilarious. He told me, “He’s into hotdogs, not just any hotdogs like gourmet hotdogs. He goes crazy about them.” When I got to Tucson, I went to the local grocery store and I found some Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. I don’t know if they count as gourmet. I don’t know very much about this area being a vegetarian. I don’t even go into that part of the store. I found the hotdogs and I was like, “These seem as gourmet as I’m going to get from a local grocery.” Then I wrapped them up on a pretty special wrapping paper and everything. I gave it to him after my TV appearance and he loved it. He was over the moon. He even took a photo of it after I left and posted it to his Facebook.

It’s amazing that you’re handing out hotdogs. The point is well-taken that this idea of doing the research and making it customized and special is terrific. It has such a bigger impact on people. I did an event series for Chase Bank. I’m still doing it and it’s a twenty-city tour. The lady who’s in charge of this program is absolutely terrific. She’s a spectacular person. I wanted to get her something as a thank you because getting twenty speaking gigs is no joke. Like you, I social media stalked her and found on her Facebook profile that the only movie that she’d ever liked on Facebook is Grease. I was like, “That’s not an accident. If you’re only going to like one movie and it’s Grease, there’s a statement of intent there.” I went out and got her a signed cast poster of Grease. It was like John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and whoever else. I framed that up and sent it to her office. Not only was she psyched about it but then she was like, “How did you know that?” because we never had that conversation. I was like, “You liked something on Facebook.”

Let’s talk about the four, five, six process, what are the steps?

The four ingredients of a talk trigger have to be remarkable, meaning it’s worthy of remark. If you’re doing something that customers have seen before, they’re not going to talk about it very much. Nobody says now, at one point they did. Nobody would talk about now like, “This Taco Bell is open 24 hours,” because lots of Taco Bells are open for 24 hours. There was a point in time when that would have been a talk trigger. Not anymore. Sometimes you can’t make it stick for 30 years the way DoubleTree does. It’s got to be remarkable.

If you’re doing something that customers have seen before, they’re not going to talk about it very much.


Are you thinking in terms of remarkable like worth remarking about like that Seth Godin’s definition?

Worthy of remark because talk triggers are all about giving your customers a story to tell one another. They’re not going to tell that story if it’s boring or has no actual interest to it.

A lot of people think that remarkable means they have to be the best in some way, the most useful or something.

Number one it’s a pretty high bar to clear and number two, competency doesn’t create conversation. Nobody says, “Let me tell you about this adequate experience I just had.” That’s a bad story. It’s not interesting. It’s got to be remarkable. It has to be repeatable, which is what we talked about where every customer gets a crack at it, like the guarantee in our book. It should be reasonable. Sometimes in business, we fool ourselves into thinking like, “What we need to do is we’ve got to make it bigger. We’re going to have a contest and one of you is going to win an island.” We’re like, “We need to rent an elephant. We’re going to walk into that conference room.” That doesn’t work either because if it’s so big, people start to doubt the trustworthiness of it. Thinking about DoubleTree is a huge success, gigantic word-of-mouth success but it’s just a chocolate chip cookie after all. You don’t have to overshoot it. It’s got to be reasonable.

Do you remember the airline, WestJet, where they won some crazy prize and they filmed the whole thing? They made a huge production out of it and it was just one person or maybe it was a few people. As I was watching I was like, “That’s cute. That’s over the top and clearly not relevant to me because I’m never going to win that.” It was Christmas time. They’ve got these amazing gifts and they were opening them up and the video crew doing professional video.

That is a shock and awe example, surprise and delight and very well executed but it’s not a talk trigger. A talk trigger is something that works every day, every month, every quarter, every year. That’s a campaign. It was intended to be a campaign. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. I’m not suggesting you don’t do that. I am suggesting that you don’t think that’s a word-of-mouth strategy because it’s not. That is a publicity stunt. That is a lottery ticket that happened to pay off for them. You should think about that. That should be part of what you do. A talk trigger is an operational decision that you make that you stay with as long as you possibly can. This is something that your PR firm dreams up, not the same thing.

The fourth one, it has to be relevant. You want your talk trigger to make sense in the context of your overall brand. For example, we talked about DoubleTree and the cookie. There are fourteen brands in the Hilton portfolio worldwide, Doubletree is one of them. DoubleTree’s brand and position however, is the warm welcome. They want to own that eight minutes between when you step foot in the hotel and you then step foot in your room. They want to be the best at that. They spent a lot of time and money on lobby design. They train their front desk staff quite considerably and the cookie presentation ceremony is a big part of that. It is a ceremony. The front desk clerk turns, goes behind them to an oven, pulls out a warm chocolate chip cookie, the warm welcome, puts it in a bag, turns back and hands it to the guest hand to hand. It’s not a pile of cookies on a desk. It is like a Japanese tea ceremony but with a lot of calories because it’s an American company. That’s part of their whole thing.

Imagine it was a different story. There’s a locksmith in New York City that we talked about in the book. His name is Jay Sofer and he’s a great locksmith. He’s the highest rated locksmith in New York City. He’s one of the highest rated locksmiths in the world. His talk trigger is when he finishes working on your locks, he does a security audit for free and then oils every single door and a window lock in your house for free. Imagine these two stories were switched. Imagine Jay Sofer finishes working on your locks and then says, “Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie I made in my locksmith’s van?” You’d be like, “No. I don’t even know what a locksmith van cookie is like but I want no part of that.” Conversely, imagine if DoubleTree says, “Before you go to your room, Mr. Spencer, would you like us to do a security audit of the premises?” You’re like, “If that’s required, perhaps I’d like to check out right now.” Your talk trigger has to make sense. It has to be relevant.

Sometimes your competitors copy you or technology changes, and that hurts your uniqueness. Click To Tweet

The five are the five different types of talk triggers. We talk about responsiveness, which is the one that we use at Convince & Convert. You have talkable generosity, which is the most common. That’s giving away a chocolate chip cookie, giving away a security audit. It’s when you’re more generous than customers expect. Talkable responsiveness, talkable generosity. Talkable empathy where you are more human, kind and warm than your customers expect. Talkable youthfulness, you are more youthful than customers expect is the fourth. The fifth one is talkable attitude when you’re a little wackier than customers expect you to be.

I’m pretty youthful. I’m turning 48 years soon and you would never guess that I’m soon to be in my 50s. A lot of people guess I’m in my early 30s. I’ve had some stem cell therapy. I’ve got good genes and I take good care of myself. That’s the impetus for my other show, Get Yourself Optimized, because I went through this huge transformation. Years ago, you would guess that I was already 50. If you go to my before-and-after photo on getyourselfoptimized on the About page, you’ll see the before and after and you’ll be like, “That was Stephan?” People didn’t recognize me after I went through a transformation. I’d come up to a group of people at a conference because I was in the speaking circuit back then too, and they wouldn’t recognize me. I started having a conversation and then they’d look at my badge and they’re like, “Stephan Spencer? No way.” It was hilarious, fun. How can I use my youthfulness as a type of talk trigger? How can I leverage that beyond what I’m already doing with having a podcast on that topic of biohacking and personal development, personal transformation? I’m also working on a self-help book on the topic of personal transformation. What will be some talk triggers that I could insert into my SEO consultancy around youthfulness? Any ideas?

Let me answer that by telling you a little bit about the six-step process. The single worst way to create a talk trigger is how we try to create one, which is to try and brainstorm one. If it was that easy, you’d already have one. The best way to do it, the right way to do it, the way we recommend how to do it in the book is you create a customer journey map. You document all the touch points that you have with customers before or after the sale. You’ve got your list of touchpoints. Then you interview three groups of your customers: new customers, longtime customers and lost customers. Those that you never closed and those that were with you and then left. You interview a handful of each of those groups.

In each of those interviews, the questions you’re asking are, “At each of these steps of the process, what did you expect will happen?” Once you know what people expect, you by definition then know what they do not expect. The difference between what they expect and what they don’t expect is where your talk trigger lives. I’ll give you an example from a consulting business. We don’t do this that at Convince & Convert but I’d want to and I’d be happy if you did it on the SEO side. In the consulting game at some point, one of the key inflections between you and the client is a proposal. You create a proposal, you give the client a proposal, they consider the proposal then they give you money. What clients expect when you interview them typically is that you will create a proposal as a PDF and email it to them as an attachment. That is the natural order of things in this modern age. It is a very perfunctory way of doing it but that’s typically how it’s done.

What if instead you sent your prospective client a sheet cake and the frosting of the cake was made to look like the cover of your proposal? The proposal itself was printed out on actual paper and put in a laminated sleeve. That laminated sleeve was located underneath the cake. In order to access your proposal, your prospective client had to eat a sheet cake. Would that be something that they don’t expect? Would that be something that they would tell their friends about? All of those things are true. From an SEO standpoint, I could argue that you could pull that off from a personal transformation, be healthier, live longer. Perhaps not the right talk trigger but that’s okay. That’s how we go about this in our company. We document the expectation map and then say, “What are the three or four different places that we could do something that people don’t expect?” Then we put it through the filter. Is it relevant? Is it repeatable? Is it reasonable? Is it remarkable? Then we test candidates and then test the ones that we think will work.

I’m going to ask a small favor on behalf of my audience. Could you share that expectation map that you documented when you went and talked to all those new and lost customers?

I don’t have an expectation map that I can share because they’re all proprietary. If you’re going to TalkTriggers.com, we have this six-step process that you use to create a talk trigger. We also have a PowerPoint presentation that you can use in any organization to discuss the power of word-of-mouth. We have group book discussion guides. We have infographics. We have a research report. We have a handful of videos. There are so many resources available completely for free at TalkTriggers.com. Certainly, I would hope that people would want to buy the book, especially because there’s no risk as I’ll buy any other book. Even if you don’t buy the book, if you just go to the website, there’s so much stuff there that will help you put this into practice and I hope that people do.

You’re very generous with your information.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype

That’s why I wrote a book about Youtility, which is take everything you know and give it away. I still believe that because that book’s been out for years and it’s maybe truer now than ever before. People tell me all the time, “Jay, I don’t want to give away what I know. I want people to pay me for that.” I’m like, “A list of ingredients doesn’t make somebody a chef.” I can tell you how to do talk triggers and probably many of our audience will go ahead and do that. That’s great. I hope you do because I know it works. Maybe some of our audience will say, “We need some help and maybe Jay can help us.” Somebody will call me and say, “Can you guys help us?” We will.

You’ve got that talkable generosity. Would you say the Talk Triggers book is the epitome of that generosity where it’s got essentially the whole blueprint laid out for somebody they can execute a talk trigger type of transformation in the organization from that book alone?

I certainly hope so. That’s the idea. That’s what we set out to do, which was let’s write a book that people can use to make this happen. If they need some help, they want to call us, work consultants that’s fine but that’s not why we wrote it. It was like, “Let’s put the focus back on word-of-mouth,” where frankly probably all we should have been. Let’s try and make that happen. It’s working. The usefulness of the book has stood out to a lot of people. You probably know Bob Burg who’s a terrific author, podcaster, thought leader and professional speaker. Bob who’s a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He was voted into the Hall of Fame with me in the same class. He said it is his favorite business book ever. That’s a pretty high praise. I wouldn’t say that myself, but it’s a book we’re proud of because we know it will help people.

This reminds me of what we’re talking about the interview I had with Joey Coleman. The parallel between your book, Talk Triggers, and Never Lose a Customer Again. He was very talkably generous. In his book, he wanted to lay out the entire blueprint so you didn’t have to hire him or his company. You didn’t have to attend any of his trainings or anything. You could implement purely from the book his 100-day methodology and transform your business and not lose these customers through attrition and things like buyer’s remorse ever again.

I love that book. It’s one of the best books certainly published. His podcast is terrific. It’s called Experience This! We used to produce it. He produces it himself now but we invented it with him. It’s a terrific podcast with a much different format than most and it’s a joy to listen to.

I’m curious if you could tell me in a handful of words what do you think the talk trigger is for Zappos? The reason why I ask is I had worked very in-depth with them over multiple years. They hired me to help them with SEO and I love their culture. I love their leadership. I love their customer service and their dedication to the customer. I love everything about them. 

Originally, it was talkable generosity because if they didn’t invent, they certainly popularized two-way shipping which is now you know de facto. I don’t know what I would say their talk trigger is now but certainly, at one point it was two-way shipping. That’s an interesting lesson. We talked about this in the book that sometimes your talk trigger can last for 30 years like DoubleTree and the cookie and sometimes it doesn’t. People are like, “That’s such a good idea. I’m going to do that too,” which is exactly what happened to Zappos. For a while, they were fundamentally the only two-way shipping guys and now everybody does two-way shipping. It’s no longer remarkable. It’s no longer worthy of remark. You’re not like, “You won’t believe what Zappos does, they ship everything two-ways for free.” That conversation doesn’t happen anymore because now it’s expected.

I would argue that at least from my perspective, they’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure out what is their next talk trigger. We have a whole system for how to do that in the book as well because that does happen. The other example we use is Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which for a long time, dozens of years, their talk trigger was, “We’ll pick you up.” It was even their slogan. They will be the only rental car company that would pick up your car or drop off your car. That was a pretty good talk trigger until Uber. Now I can press a button and somebody can pick me up whenever I want, so why do I need the weird rental car kid to pick me up? It doesn’t make any sense anymore. Sometimes your competitors copy you like in the case of Zappos and that hurts your uniqueness. Sometimes technology changes and that hurts uniqueness like in Enterprise’s case. You don’t know what the shelf life of your talk trigger is, which is why in the process we always recommend coming up with four or five six different ideas. Then you take the one you like the best and try that but keep the other ones in reserve. If all of a sudden, the one that you used to have no longer works you go back and consider the ones that were the semifinalists to begin with and say, “Maybe we should go to this other one.” That’s the right way to do it.

You have to be ready to reinvent yourself when the talk trigger gets tired. For example, I don’t hear anymore so much talk about how the Zappos culture is so mind-blowingly amazing and how they care for their customers so deeply. It’s a table stake to be expected these days. I remember there was this viral blog post. A blogger was treated with such care and love by the Zappos customer service person. The customer had lost her mom and she wanted to return a pair of her mom’s shoes that were never worn. It was way past the return by date. She took it back. She sent flowers and a handwritten card to the customer. This was a blogger who was so touched. She wrote this I Heart Zappos blog post and it went crazy viral. That was beautiful and a real differentiator but I don’t think it’s a differentiator anymore.

That’s good news, bad news. It’s bad news for them. It’s good news that people feel more and more companies are behaving that way. I’m not certain that’s true.

There’s perception and there is the reality. If somebody wanted to reach out and work with you or work with your company, how would they get in touch?

TalkTriggers.com for all things of the book. Our main site with thousands of blog posts, thousands of hours of podcasts and webinars and tons of free stuff, ConvinceAndConvert.com.

Thank you so much, Jay. This was so much fun. You’re so brilliant.

Thanks for having me back. I appreciate it. It was a blast.

I can’t get enough of Jay Baer. To our audience, it’s time to take some action. Go through the things that we talked about that are action items that you can apply in your business and get some stuff done.

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Understand the importance of talk triggers. It’s somehow taken for granted yet the majority of all purchases are significantly determined by word-of-mouth.

☑ Focus on client’s completion rate when getting feedback instead of the average scores.

☑ Recognize that talk trigger is not a marketing plan. Jay says it’s an operational decision that happens for every customer every day forever.

☑ Pay attention to how I engage with my audience. Introduce and get my audience comfortable with my character in the first 30 seconds of our conversation.

☑ Research more on the importance of word of mouth. Jay mentions books such as Contagious by Jonah Berger, Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz and Fizz by Ted Wright.

☑ Learn the four ingredients of a talk trigger. It has to be remarkable, repeatable, reasonable and relevant.

☑ Identify the five different types of talk triggers: talkable responsiveness, talkable generosity, talkable empathy, talkable usefulness, and talkable attitude.

☑ Know my client’s expectations by creating a customer journey map. Document all the touch points before or after the sale then interview three groups of my customers: new customers, longtime customers and lost customers.

☑ Don’t be afraid to constantly reinvent my talk triggers. My customer’s expectation evolves over time so I have to be flexible and prepared even before it happens.

☑ Grab a copy of Jay’s book called Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth and know the four, five six system for creating talk triggers.

About Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a 7th generation entrepreneur, best-selling author of six books, and the founder of 5 multi-million dollar companies. He is President of the global marketing consultancy Convince & Convert; a hall of fame keynote speaker; co-host of the Social Pros podcast; and co-author of the new book Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth.

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