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Customer Experience Strategist | Researcher | Author | Keynote Speaker
Everyone in sales knows that word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to grow your business and improve your close rate.
Then why are companies still spending millions on advertising instead of turning their customers into volunteer marketers?
It’s because they’re selling a boring and expected product or service.
To have your customers advertise for you, you need to give them something to talk about – that means creating something unexpected and different.
In this episode of Closing Time, Jay Baer goes beyond the mundane to share five ‘Talk Triggers’ that will help companies execute on their word-of-mouth marketing strategy, generate more online reviews, and increase revenue.
Instead of relying solely on traditional advertising methods, businesses can leverage Talk Triggers to harness the power of their customers as brand advocates. This approach has stood the test of time, emphasizing that the most substantial growth occurs when customers become active participants in your brand’s growth story. While advertising certainly has its place, it often functions as a tax paid by unremarkable businesses. Successful companies, on the other hand, tend to advertise less because their customers willingly take on the role of brand promoters.
A Talk Trigger, in essence, is an operational choice deliberately designed to spark discussions and enthusiasm among customers. It’s the unexpected element that sets a business apart and gives customers something remarkable to talk about. Consider Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” effect – Humans are naturally inclined to talk about things that deviate from the norm and catch their attention. Nobody would remark about seeing a brown cow, but if they came across a purple cow, it would undoubtedly become a topic of conversation.
Here’s another, more realistic example: At DoubleTree, guests are greeted with a warm chocolate chip cookie upon check-in. What makes this approach remarkable is that each DoubleTree hotel has an on-site cookie-making oven at the front desk, ensuring that the cookies are freshly baked for every guest. This small but unexpected gesture has resulted in approximately one-third of DoubleTree customers sharing stories about their cookie experience. Before the pandemic, DoubleTree distributed an astonishing 75,000 cookies daily, translating into thousands of daily customer stories shared across social media, ratings, and review sites.
DoubleTree spends less on marketing and advertising compared to its competitors because its customers willingly and enthusiastically serve as advocates, simplifying the process of revenue extraction. Let’s explore Jay Baer’s five distinct types of Talk Triggers.
Everyone likes surprises, right? You may or may not, but your buyers do. That’s what Talk Trigger #1, Talkable Generosity, is all about – giving your customers MORE than they expect. Think complimentary cookies from DoubleTree or any pleasant surprise from a brand that customers aren’t anticipating. By exceeding customer expectations, you initiate conversations and leave a lasting impression.
In addition to surprises, customers also appreciate speed, whether it’s the time they spend in check-out lines or the wait time at restaurants – the faster, the better in the minds of buyers. This is where Talk Trigger #2, Talkable Speed, comes into play. Being FASTER than your customers anticipate gives brands a guaranteed leg up against their slower competitors. For instance, an accounting firm that guarantees a 5-minute or less response time in an industry where services usually take hours, days, or even weeks. This speedy service has garnered numerous positive Google reviews, emphasizing that delivering beyond expectations can set your brand apart and fuel conversations.
These Talk Triggers are particularly effective for businesses like accounting or law firms, where differentiating based on services alone can be challenging. After all, you won’t stand out by competing solely on factors like math for an accounting firm; you need that extra something to leave a lasting impression on your customers.
If you’ve ever watched the popular television show Shark Tank, you’ve seen first-hand the value of being innovative. Innovation uniquely solves problems, bringing unexpected value to consumers who are facing a unique situation. See where we are going here?
Talk Trigger #3, or Talkable Usefulness, offers customers more value than they expect, typically in the form of helpful information or utility.
An example is Joe’s Beanbags, an e-commerce business selling giant beanbags. What sets them apart is their innovative Talk Trigger. The giant cardboard box in which they ship the beanbag transforms into a play castle for kids within seconds. This unexpected utility has led to parents sharing their excitement on social media, demonstrating how being remarkably useful can generate conversations and enhance your brand’s image. It’s a clever way to make use of something you’re already providing – in this case, the shipping box – to create talkable value.
This strategy showcases how businesses can leverage Talk Triggers to create memorable and shareable experiences, even in unconventional industries like beanbag sales. By going beyond customer expectations and offering something unique and practical, you can make your brand stand out and fuel positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Buyers want to buy from brands they know, like, and trust. One undeniable way to show buyers that you’re a trustworthy brand? Be empathic.
This is why Talk Trigger #4, Talkable Empathy, can be a total game-changer for brands. This approach involves showing more kindness, humanity, and warmth to customers than they expect. A prime example is Chewy.com, a pet supply company that competes in a well-established industry. What sets Chewy apart is their extraordinary level of care for animals – they go above and beyond by sending hand-written happy birthday cards to ALL of their furry friend customers and even oil paintings to customers who have lost their pets, offering comfort and solace that is uncommon in the business world.
Chewy’s humane approach to customer interactions has fueled their exceptional growth, with an astounding $600 million in revenue growth over the past six quarters. It’s a testament to the fact that connecting with customers on a deeply emotional level can generate stories and drive revenue, even when your products or prices don’t differ significantly from the competition.
Does your brand and employees have an identifiable attitude or brand voice? According to Jay Baer, it should. Brands with Talkable Attitude (Talk Trigger #5) spark conversation and are more memorable in consumers’ minds than traditional brands’ voices.
This Talk Trigger centers on infusing your interactions with a unique vibe or personality that exceeds customer expectations. It can take various forms, from humor to quirkiness or even an unexpected twist like friendly insults, as exemplified by Joe’s Crab Shack. Salespeople can also leverage this strategy by crafting distinctive and memorable personas in their client interactions.
For instance, showcasing personal interests or passions, like being a musician or a tequila enthusiast, can make you stand out and foster authentic connections with clients. This human touch makes you more interesting and memorable, enhancing your authenticity.
Businesses often miss Talk Trigger opportunities, particularly in B2B settings, where they opt for conventional approaches. However, creative thinking can turn routine processes into remarkable experiences. For example, a virtual consulting firm can transform the mundane act of sending a proposal via email into a memorable story by turning it into a cake with a frosting design mirroring the proposal cover. It’s about going beyond the expected to create lasting impressions and stories.
Are you getting the most out of your word of mouth marketing? Let’s talk Talk Triggers in this episode of Closing Time. Hi, I’m Chip House, CMO at Insightly. This is Closing Time, the show for go-to-market leaders. And I’m joined today by Jay Baer. Jay has been called the world’s most inspirational customer experience and marketing keynote speaker. He’s the author of six bestselling books, a seventh generation entrepreneur, and the founder of five multimillion dollar companies. Plus, he’s a certified Tequila. Sommelier and a lover of all things plaid. Welcome, Jay. Chip, thanks very much. Are we talking about tequila in this episode of Closing Time? It would go with talk triggers, the alliteration there with tequila would work well, Jay. But I’m afraid we are not. OK. Maybe a future episode. Tune in for a future episode, we’ll be talking about tequila here on Closing Time from Insightly. Exactly. So let’s get into talk triggers, though, Jay. So what do you mean by talk triggers? You wrote a book on it.. I did. So here’s the thing. The single greatest way to grow any business is for your customers to do that growing for you. This has been true since the first caveman sold an arrowhead to another caveman. It is still true today. Advertising certainly has its place. But advertising is a tax paid by the unremarkable.. Many of the best companies in the world, most successful companies in the world, advertise the least because their customers do that job for them. And if you want to get your customers talking about you, talking about your products and services, which makes your job as a go-to-market expert, a lot easier. The best way to do that is to actually give your customers something to talk about. Because, Chip, one of the huge mistakes that businesses typically make, and this has been true for generations of business people, is we convince ourselves, incorrectly, that competency will create conversation, that if we run a good business, our customers will notice that and they’ll talk about it, but they don’t. Nobody talks about competency because that’s what they’re paying for you to do. Chip, let me tell you a story about this experience I had last night. It was perfectly adequate. Nobody ever says that because it’s not actually a story. So a talk trigger is an operational choice that you make in your business that is designed to create conversations. And so can you give me another example? If I’m in marketing, what are some of the other things that I’d want to think about to kind of create the desire for my customers to mention me to other people? You know, one of the examples that I’m familiar with, I read a lot of marketing books is Seth Godin as well, talks about purple cow, right? Nobody comments if they saw a brown cow, but if they saw a purple cow, they’d tell people about it.. What other things can we think about? And the reason that’s true is that all human beings all around the world are wired psychologically in the same way we are wired to discuss things that are different and ignore things that are average. That’s the purple cow effect. We can’t help ourselves. So if you’re going to do something in the operations of your business that your customers will then tell their friends about proactively, that thing you do has to be something that your customer doesn’t expect. It has to be outside the frame of their anticipated operational circumstances. Right, so it’s got to be something different. That doesn’t mean it has to be wacky or frivolous or bizarre in some way. And in fact, oftentimes when you try to create word of mouth with something that’s frivolous or wacky or bizarre, it doesn’t work because the customers like,. I don’t really get this. Why did Chip rent an elephant and march it down the main street of Minneapolis with a banner on it that says Insightly? Like, I don’t understand why it’s an elephant. Right? It just creates too much dissonance in your mind. It has to make sense but still be different. So there has to be context, you know, so there has to be uniqueness for your brand or for how you’re going to market. But it has to have context in the buyer’s head. Can I give an example? Yeah. So there’s five different types of talk triggers. Five ways that you can execute on this word of mouth strategy. And it’s incredibly important that marketing and sales and operations and customer service the entirety of the organization has to be aligned around this, because if they’re not, then, you know, marketing’s going to do a thing. And then a prospect mentions it to a salesperson, what are you talking about? It just the whole thing falls apart. So this really has to be a company wide effort to lean into word of mouth. One of the most famous examples of a talk trigger is from DoubleTree Hotels, Chip. Now, you may remember, many people remember that DoubleTree Hotels famously gives each guest at each hotel a warm chocolate chip cookie when they check into the hotel. Each and every DoubleTree. Hotel worldwide has a cookie making oven in the hotel right at the front desk. And you check in and they reach behind them, get a warm cookie, put it in a paper sleeve, hand it to you. The hand to hand pass is the brand standard. And there are millions of mentions of these cookies all around social media ratings and review sites. So I actually partnered with Hilton when I wrote the book, and they allowed us to do a research project where we surveyed actual DoubleTree guests and we discovered that 33%, fully one third of their customers have told somebody else a story about the cookie. A third. One in three guests.. Before the pandemic, I don’t know what the numbers are now, but before the pandemic, they were handing out 75,000 cookies a day. A day. So if a third of those are a story that’s 25,000 customer stories a day. Companion point, Chip, DoubleTree spends less on marketing and advertising than any other hotel brand at that price point, because the customers do the advertising for them. They make it so much easier to extract revenue because the customers are out there proactively telling the story and every business can do this. And as a salesperson in particular,. I would be stoked if my company had a talk trigger because it makes my job so much simpler. That’s incredible. And I’m sure it’s maybe difficult to sell to the CFO on the front end because they see it as an expensive creating cookies. Right, right. Yeah, how much are we spending on chocolate chips? You’re kidding me. Well, yeah, but if we’re not spending, if our conversion rate goes up, and our average deal size goes up and our net marketing spend goes down, then what’s the problem exactly? Yeah, it’s an investment. It’s an investment, not a cost. Yeah. And not to mention the smell in the lobby, right. Which you cannot argue with at all. So, Jay, you said there were five. So what are some other thoughts you have here? So the first one is talkable generosity. You just give the client more than they expect, you get a free cookie. OK, talkable generosity. Second one is talkable speed. When you’re just faster then the customer expects and anticipates. There is an accounting firm not far from me in Indianapolis that responds to all their clients within 5 minutes. Five minute response time from an accounting firm, which is like, you know, unheard of. And they have dozens of Google reviews, first of all, which I’ve had, I think, I don’t know, eight, nine accounting firms in my career. I can’t imagine writing a review. I got my tax return back, Chip, all the numbers added up, five stars like what are you going to write? But they’ve got tons of Google reviews for an accounting firm, and almost every review mentions that they’re faster than customers expect. So that’s the second one, talkable speed. Super cool. And that, you know,. I would never think of that, but if you’re like you said, if you’re an accounting firm. If you’re a law firm. Yep. Differentiating on something sort of unexpected. Right. Creates an unusual, remarkable experience. That’s it. That’s it. You’re not going to differentiate on math. It’s an accounting firm, right? So it’s got to be something else. Third one is talkable usefulness. Where you just provide more value than the customer expects, usually informational value or helpfulness. That’s when it works there. There’s a great one. There’s a beanbag company, right? Joe’s Beanbags and they sell giant beanbags and beanbag chairs. Cool. Interesting to be in the beanbag business. And it’s an e-commerce beanbag business. So you go on their website and they send it to your house and it’s this giant box.. It’s a big beanbag, right? It’s like a refrigerator box. So here’s their talk trigger, Chip. The box itself, it’s like score and there’s little instructions, like click, click, click. The giant cardboard box becomes a play castle for your kids in like 30 seconds. No kidding. And it’s amazing, right? If you go on social media, you’ll see all of these parents like, yeah, frankly, nobody cares about the beanbag, but the kids sure do love this castle. Right? And it is so smart. They’re shipping the box anyway, talkably useful. There’s something about boxes. The kids will always play with the box rather than the toy itself. We should be doing the show in a beanbag. That’s next episode. Fourth one is talkable empathy. Talkable empathy is when you just display more kindness, humanity, warmth than customers expect. A good example of that one. I think you know this brand, Chip,. Chewy.com, the pet supply company, right? They sell pet supplies like people have been doing that forever. Like, huh? So what? But they do it with such incredible care. They send all kinds of oil paintings to customers whose pets have perished. And it’s just it’s a level of comfort and solace and humanity that you just don’t see in companies. And it powers their growth. I mean, they’re up $600 million of growth in last six quarters or something insane like that. And it’s just, you know, do they have better dog food? No. Do they have cheaper dog food? No. It’s just they reach people on a human level in a way that creates stories and that creates revenue. And the last one, which I love for salespeople, is talkable attitude. This is when you just got a vibe, man. You’re funnier than customers expect or you’re wackier than customers expect or I don’t know, maybe you’re angrier than customers expect. You could try that. In fact, like Joe’s Crab Shack, right? You know those brands, right? Where you go in and the waiter insults you the whole time. Like, that’s that’s talkable attitude. Like, that is a great example of how that works. But as an individual, a go-to-market person, you could actually use that, you could you could create sort of a character, if you will, for your interactions with clients and make it really unusual and memorable and that could most definitely work. For example, Chip, you’re a very accomplished musician. I know that. I’ve known you for a long time and maybe some Closing Time viewers know that and some Insightly customers know that. But if I were you,. I would be leaning into that more. This is why I have a whole TikTok account and Instagram account all about tequila because that’s my thing. And yes, people know that I’m a marketing and customer experience expert, but they probably asked me more questions about tequila than they ask me about marketing and customer experience. Right.. It’s talkable attitude. Yeah, I love that. And the cool thing about you sort of volunteering that personal thing about yourself, Jay, is because it makes you more interesting, it makes you more remarkable and it makes you more authentic, right? And if there’s ways that individuals on a go-to-market team can do that, that’s super compelling in addition to just whatever the brand is doing, right? Yeah. And there’s a lot of things that happen in a go-to-market organization, Chip, that are so anti talk trigger, right? It’s you know, B2B doesn’t mean boring to boring, but you’d think it did because, you know, talk triggers in B2B work so well because nobody ever has the guts to try them. So somebody asked me other day, it’s a consulting firm. They said, Jay, Well, how can we have a talk trigger, right? We’re a virtual consulting firm. We don’t see our clients in person. What can we do? And I said, well, when you pitch a new business, how do you do that? Well, we write a proposal and we make a PDF and we send the PDF. How do you do that? Via email. I’m like, Well, that’s what the client expects. That’s what everybody does. That is ipso facto not a story. Oh, I got a PDF via email. Let me tell you a story about that, said nobody in the history of the world. But what if, Chip, you took your proposal and you called up a bakery nearby the office of the company that you’re trying to sell to and you sent them a picture of the proposal. They then, using one of those frosting machines, put a sheet cake and the frosting of the sheet cake looks like the cover of your proposal. Then you had them print out the actual proposal, put it in a plastic sleeve, put the proposal in the plastic sleeve underneath the sheet cake, and then have it delivered to the office of your prospects such that the only way your prospect could access your proposal is to eat an entire sheet cake. Now, that would cost $100 and it would create stories for a lifetime. One of the reasons companies don’t get into word of mouth is because they’re too damn lazy. Yeah. Jay, I like that you commented on my love for music right? And I’ll be writing a blog at some point on why I think drummers are the best marketers in the world. So, thanks for that idea.. I can’t wait for that. Good. But, Jay, any final thoughts for us? Look, every single business can do this. Every single go-to-market team can do this. Every single individual sales leader or salesperson can do this. You just have to understand, what does your customer or prospect expect? And then do just one thing they don’t expect and do it consistently. Great advice everyone, from Jay Baer. Jay, thanks for joining us. My pleasure. And thanks to all of you for joining us on today’s Closing Time. Make sure you subscribe, tick the bell so you don’t miss any episodes. And we’ll see you next time’s Closing Time.