Photo of book cover

What’s a talk trigger, and how can a company use one to strengthen its brand and drive business? Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, co-authors and marketing experts, tackle this phenomenon in their aptly-titled book Talk Triggers, which demonstrates the importance of word-of-mouth marketing through a diverse collection of case studies and analysis. Talk Triggers is an enjoyable read that abounds with pop culture references and personality, and provides readers with inspiration about how to apply this technique to their own businesses. Here are a few key takeaways from the book.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing is Hugely Relevant

In an age where customers, and most notably younger generations, distrust the corporate voice, authentic peer-to-peer conversations about businesses are a critical contributor to brand value and sales. The most impactful conversations are often spurred by a talk trigger, which the authors define as “a built-in differentiator that creates customer conversations.” In the case of The Cheesecake Factory, the talk trigger is its enormously expansive menu, and for the Doubletree by Hilton hotel chain it’s the warm chocolate chip cookies served during check in. These aspects are so unique and memorable that they generate buzz — and these are the ones customers are most passionate about in person and online.

A Talk Trigger is a Story

Talk triggers are not USPs, or unique selling propositions. Sure, talk triggers and USPs both differentiate a business from its competitors, but that’s where the similarities end. Baer and Lemin express this point succinctly in the book, writing, “a USP is a feature, articulated with a bullet point, that is discussed in a conference room. A talk trigger is a benefit, articulated with a story, that is discussed at a cocktail party.”

The 4 R’s

The authors propose that there are four main traits a talk trigger possesses, in the form of the 4 R’s. A talk trigger is remarkable, or interesting enough to generate conversation, relevant in its relationship to the company’s mission and purpose, reasonable enough to be a promise a company can follow through on, and, finally, repeatable, so a company can provide it to each customer every day.

The 4 R’s are embodied in another case study: Five Guys Enterprises. The restaurant chain’s talk trigger is the large quantity of extra fries they provide to their customers, a quantity that is so generous that leadership Chad Murrell says, “I teach my managers that if people aren’t complaining, then you’re not giving them enough fries.” It’s easy to see how the provision of these “bonus fries” follows the 4 R’s in that it is exciting enough to fuel conversation — in alignment with Five Guys’ goal to provide superior quality food and customer service — and is easily deliverable and implementable.

B2B Applications Abound

A study by Blanc & Otus and G2Crowd revealed that word-of-mouth marketing is even more impactful in a B2B arena versus a B2C one, which is attributed to “the considered nature of most purchases, the high average prices, and the limited number of total customers” in the B2B space.

A strong example from the book about a B2B business successfully implementing a talk trigger is Americollect, a debt collection company, which brands itself as “Ridiculously Nice Collections.” Americollect uses empathy and kindness in the collection process to yield faster results, instead of engaging in aggressive dialogue and constant calls that cause people to feel scared or ashamed. This pleasant experience is one worth talking about, with many customers even requesting for their debt to be transferred to the agency.

You Can Generate Talk

The authors detail a six-step process to creating a talk trigger, which rests fundamentally on understanding the customer, researching and testing the potential talk trigger, and rolling it out with certainty.

6 steps to talk triggers

This process should be spearheaded by the company’s so-called “Triangle of Awesome” — marketing, sales, and service employees — all while ensuring company-wide buy-in.

So, get out there and find your talk trigger!

By Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin.
258 pp. Portfolio/Penguin

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