As a marketer, there’s so much to think about and focus on – SEO, content, direct marketing, emails, inbound strategy…but where on that list does word-of-mouth marketing rank as a priority? Maybe it’s not high enough. How do you get your customers to talk about you? What are the steps to create a word-of-mouth strategy for your business?
Today, we’re talking to Daniel Lemin, head of consulting at Convince and Convert and co-author of Talk Triggers. He shares how “same is lame” because consumers like different experiences and ignore average, as well as how talk triggers can turn customers into volunteer marketers and brand evangelists.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Talk Triggers focuses on customer-driven conversation; as the client or brand, become the content and give a story to tell
- Talk Trigger Example: The Cheesecake Factory’s over-sized menu gets ⅓ of its customers to talk about it – usually, in jest
- Another Example: DoubleTree hotel’s fresh, warm cookies; customers talk about the uniqueness and difference they offer – tangible part of experience
- Talk Trigger Criteria: Remarkable, relevant, reasonable, repeatable
- Get out from behind your desk to connect with customers and listen to them to uncover gaps in the customer journey
- Talk triggers often live between what a customer wants and what they really want
- Avoid surveys – don’t ask the customer what they want
- Talk triggers could be characters or animals that become an integral part of branding and familiarity with your product (i.e. Freddie from Mailchimp)
Eric: Word-of-mouth marketing, okay. Think of all the things as a marketer you have to focus on. You’ve got SEO. You’ve got your content and inbound strategy. You’ve got your direct marketing strategies around email. You’ve got influencer marketing you have to think about. A lot of shiny objects like chat bots. Okay, okay. On that list, where does word-of-mouth marketing fall when it comes to a priority?
What I’m about to tell you is maybe it’s not high enough. Okay? According to Convince & Convert, 90% of purchases are influenced by word-of-mouth, and by 2020, majority of purchase decisions will be based on a customer experience. How do we get our customers to talk about us? That is the theme for today’s episode.
My guest for this week’s Actionable Marketing Podcast is Daniel Lemin. He’s the head of consulting at Convince & Convert and the co-author of the new bestselling book, Talk Triggers. He wrote this book with the incomparable Jay Baer and this baby is a page-turner my friends.
Daniel’s going to talk us about why seeing is the […]. How we, as consumers, we love to discuss different experiences and we typically ignore the average. We’ll also discuss how a talk trigger can turn your customer into a volunteer marketing. Isn’t that the silver bullet? Finally, what are the actual steps? What are the actual steps we can all take to create a word-of-mouth strategy for our own business?
It is going to be a goody. I am Eric, Brand and Buzz manager here at CoSchedule. You’re absolutely going to love this episode with Daniel. Get ready to take notes because it is time to get amped.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen. I’m excited to welcome Daniel to the Actionable Marketing Podcast. Daniel, it is great to talk to you again.
Daniel: Eric, absolutely good to talk with you again too. It’s been a long time that I think since we last chatted or worked together.
Eric: Yeah, it was. I think it was 2015. You came to Fargo, North Dakota and you keynoted on one of our marketing conferences here. It was fantastic and so what a cool way to come back full circle a couple of years later to talk about your new book, Talk Triggers.
Daniel: Indeed. You brought me to Fargo the first time, but I’ve actually had the good fortune to be back a couple of other times. That is a lucky thing.
Eric: Yeah, lucky for you. I don’t know how often that happens that visitors come back. But we probably caught you at the right time of the year, I guess.
Daniel: Yup. Indeed.
Eric: Well, this is great. For our listeners out there, I certainly know you as the head of consulting at Convince & Convert and the author of Manipurated, but let our listeners know a little bit about yourself and a little bit of your background.
Daniel: You bet. I am a lifelong lover of marketing. I’ve been in the marketing business for all of my career. I started my career at Google on their corporate marketing team—their international corporate marketing team. I was there very early in the company. I was employee 400, at Google. I saw the explosion of the brand, and the product, and all of the crazy stuff that happened there. I have always had that startup mentality when I worked on projects.
Today, I am, in addition to working on the consulting team with Jay Baer at Convince & Convert, I also am a co-founder of a new diet-based nutrition platform called Selectivor. Lots of things happening in addition to writing a book outside of that. But I work on primarily on the marketing side and the product side on that project as well.
Eric: That’s awesome. You’re a fascinating and busy man, Daniel, that’s for sure. Again, I was introduced to you when you keynote on Manipurated which really focuses on the online rating and review world, talking about customers, and giving feedback. For this next book, which is really what I want to focus on, you really kind of stayed a bit in that realm just in a different way, but really focusing on the customer experience. If you could lay the conception for Talk Triggers and how this book came to be.
Daniel: It is in that realm of word-of-mouth, and ratings, reviews, kind of the whole notion around customer-driven conversation is kind of the idea. Jay Baer and I wrote this book together. When we were both thinking about a topic in a very similar way—which was kind of the genesis of the book Talk Triggers—and one of the things we realized after working with all of our consulting clients and talking to people like you who are in the content generation space is, we’ve spent a lot of time helping them conceptualize content, in some cases create actual content, get it out in the world. We realized maybe we’re missing a step because what is content, why are we doing that?
We backed up a minute and said, “I think we’re missing a step here. What if, rather than just creating content and coming up with more stuff to talk about, we, as the client or as the brand, become the content? We are the thing that people talk about or at least one of the things that they talk about?” that was the whole notion behind Talk Triggers. It’s about customer-driven conversation, word-of-mouth marketing. Certainly, not the first book on that topic by any means, but what we tried to do is bring not just the wrapper of how important it is to readers but also, some real reality on how you do this.
There’s a system in there—the four, five, six system—which I think what sets the book apart really from a lot of other books on the topic of word-of-mouth, most of which are quite good books. We’ve actually referenced a good number of them.
That was the genesis of it is, we want to get customers talking about our brand. We know it’s important. The way for us to do that is give them a story to tell, give them some material to work with.
Eric: I can just imagine of that lightbulb moment. At CoSchedule, we’re looking for content to create that as parallel to the services we provide, but to stay back and say, “Hey, what if we were the content? How do we find that silver bullet?” I love the concept of the book. I love the idea of Talk Triggers and word-of-mouth marketing, and I think you’re right. I love that you give people steps, “Here’s how you can start to pragmatically approach creating a strategy around getting in touch with our customers and creating these Talk Triggers.”
If you could, for those listening to us right now and haven’t read the book, I know you guys lead with really good examples like The Cheesecake Factory and DoubleTree, if you could maybe give us an example of what a talk trigger looks like.
Daniel: There’s so many examples. One of the most fun things is when we’ve now had readers saying that now that they’ve read the book, they’re seeing Talk Triggers everywhere. They’re noticing it. It’s not that they’re all new, they just didn’t really notice them before. But one of the classic examples is The Cheesecake Factory. If you have been to a Cheesecake Factory, you know it’s just about all of America’s worst bits put together in one oversized, overstuffed restaurant that takes forever to get in. It’s large portions, it’s garish, it’s pretty much what I think most people outside of the US think of us.
Among the many things that you could potentially talk about at The Cheesecake Factory including the cheesecake, one of the talk triggers there is in fact the size of its menu. It is a remarkably long menu, in the truest sense of the word, remarkable, it’s 5940 words long actually.
Eric: It’s like an encyclopedia for food.
Daniel: Yeah. Jay had one of his interns count the number of words in the…
Eric: Of course, he did.
Daniel: …in the menu which is probably why he’s now trying to find a new intern. It is a remarkably long menu. It’s like 85 different ways of making chicken, blows your mind that there’s more than 20.
Eric: Yeah. I thought the Chinese food industry had that locked down, but really, it’s The Cheesecake Factory that has that, sure.
Daniel: When we looked at it, we actually did some primary research to study this because we had some assumptions about who talks about what with The Cheesecake Factory. It turns about a third of their customers actually talk about the menu size without being asked. It’s just kind of a proactive conversation, “Hey, I was at The Cheesecake Factory. You know what’s crazy? The menu is so big.” That to us was kind of crazy because it’s not actually a tangible part of the experience. You don’t eat it, you don’t take it home and have it for leftovers, and yet, we still talk about it.
That’s a really good tangible example of a durable talk to your people, can’t help but talk about the menu. It’s one of the reasons from a business sense, if you look at it the economics side, that they can sustain their business while spending 5X less on the advertising than some place like the Olive Garden of Darden Restaurants. Hey, it’s got some economic impact too, which is a bonus price.
Eric: I agree. I’ve been to The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve experienced their menu and I absolutely talk about it. I don’t know if it’s not in a great light, but I mean it’s like, “Ugh, this thing is huge.” But what’s the sentiment of the conversation? Does that play into a talk trigger?
Daniel: Generally, with The Cheesecake Factory, it’s typically done in jest. I guess it depends how you rank sentiment. If you think that’s a positive conversation or neutral conversation, but it’s often done in jest of the menu. There’d be people who will tweet stuff like, “My daughter had to do 1000-pages of summer reading, so I took her to The Cheesecake Factory and handed her a menu.” That kind of stuff. It’s always a little bit tongue and cheek. I think for The Cheesecake Factory, for them, for their brand, that’s totally fine. They welcome that. Not every brand is in that same position, of course.
Eric: I think another one you guys quoted is the DoubleTree which everyone knows, I’ve stayed in DoubleTree and I love the warm, fresh cookies. It seems like a simple act of gesture in customer service but transcends the experience to get at even maybe a more expensive hotel because you’re just like, “Oh, I want that cookie.” Something that I pulled out is that—maybe this is a quote in the book—but nobody remembers or talks about adequate experiences. It’s always the differentiation or the uniqueness of something that really is what people talk about.
Daniel: What we found is, in fact, a lot of the talk triggers when you see them, they don’t live at the brand levels. It’s not like, “Oh, their logo is really cute.” Even with Geico with its little gecko thing. Although that’s a talk-able thing, it’s not really where a lot of talk triggers live. It’s more at the operations level. Stuff their doing in the delivery of their product—DoubleTree with its cookie, Cheesecake Factory with its menu, we have so many other examples. It’s because it’s such a tangible part of the experience, it becomes almost like, “Of course we want to talk about that. Yeah, the cookie is crazy, it’s a crazy good cookie.”
Eric: That’s really interesting. I didn’t think about that. You’re not really seeing these things as part of the marketing mix of what they’re doing because then I might feel a little inauthentic. But if it’s part of the operation or the experience, it seems more organic. Is there some truth to that or am I making this up wildly here?
Daniel: It’s totally right. Part of it is that since it really lives inside the part of the experience, it’s a little bit more, I guess, authentic—I don’t love that word—but it is authentic. I think that’s part of it. The other thing is of course, you can market your talk trigger. DoubleTree talks about its cookie all the time, they have a blog about it and yet, that’s not how they really position it. It’s more of the operation side. Every business has a chance to do that. We all have different operations touch points with our customers, finding them is both the fun part and the hard part.
Eric: Hey, we’re at the half-way point. What a cool, cool interview and discussion with Daniel Lemin. So much fun talking about talk triggers and we’ll get back to that in just a second. I have some fun news to announce. I’ve done this, two or three times before, but I can’t stop shouting it from the rooftops because I’m so excited to announce that you can now catch the Actionable Marketing Podcast on Spotify as well in addition to iTunes and all the other favorite platforms you have for listening to podcasts.
Also, if you’re an iTunes listener, when you get a moment, I would love a review and rating from you on this podcast. If you’ve done so, just send us a screenshot. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m going to hook up with a really cool CoSchedule swag back. It’s going to be great. Okay, enough about that. Let’s get back to Daniel.
There are certain criteria that make up what a talk trigger is like, remarkable, relevant, reasonable, repeatable. If you’re thinking of, “Boy, how do we start to create one?” What’s the best way to start to define it?
Daniel: It starts with those four elements you just mentioned. An idea for it to really work as a talk trigger, it has to be remarkable—that’s pretty obvious. It has to be worthy of remark. If you’re painting something with a slightly different shade of blue, you might think it’s remarkable but no one’s really going to notice it. That’s the first. One is, it generally needs to be relevant to the experience. When you check-in at DoubleTree, and they gave you a panda, you’d be like, “What the heck? Will I now have to pack this panda? I don’t know what to do.” There’s some relevance to the cookie, there’s some relevance to The Cheesecake Factory with the menu, so relevance is one.
Third is that it generally, there are gestures that are pretty reasonable in nature. They’re not over the top, “Win and island or a Ferrari. It’s a cookie.” It’s kind of authentic for that reason. That’s not seen as grandiose.
This last one is actually a really important one. It could be something that not every customer can have access to if it’s not repeatable and delivered to every customer every time, what happens is it creates this, almost like a class society within your brand. Some people get the cookie and other people don’t. “If you booked on Expedia, you don’t get the cookie, you have to book through us direct.” In doing that, you create suspicion and distrust and anger and that is not really a sign that it’s a good talk trigger. Those are the four requirements or the model for how talk triggers behave.
Eric: Let’s say we want to start thinking about how we create these talk triggers for our organization. I’ve heard Jason is and maybe it was an interview somewhere or on one of the blog posts he’s done, but he said the wrong would be to say, “Hey, let’s get all of our marketers. We’ll all get into a room and let’s just start brainstorming on what our talk trigger should be.”
I think for me, the biggest learning that came out of this book is that marketers need to get out behind their desk and really connect with customers and maybe listen in a way that we haven’t. Because we love to talk about our value prop and we find all our little differentiators, but we don’t often listen to the customer enough. That’s really what stood out for me. With that in mind, what’s your recommendation for, where do we start? Is it simply listening? Is it interviews? What do we do to get to start to think about our customer experiences and what they might want?
Daniel: As you’re saying this it makes me laugh because I realized, I have been working in the marketing business for a long time and also, I’ve worked on the agency side as varying points. How many of those meetings have I been in? “Hey, let’s get everybody in a room and let’s come up with a new campaign idea.” Based on what? Are we doing this exactly as a hunch, I guess? How the wind is blowing today? It’s not necessarily the best way to create. What we found was something very scary for marketers. The best way to do this is to go out and talk to your customers.
I can’t tell you how many companies we’ve talked to, their marketing people are like, “We’re not even really empowered to do that. We don’t talk to our customers. We’re marketing, not sales or customer service.” To me, that’s kind of weird. Why would you not talk to your customers? But only in doing do you uncover some of these interesting little gaps in a customer journey. It might be the cookie gap. It might be the menu gap. We’ve so many other ways you can deliver something just a little bit different, but you’re only good at them if you really understand what the customer goes through to get to your front door and what they go through when they sit down at your restaurant or your hotel lobby. It’s an interesting exercise. In and of itself has immense amounts of value.
Eric: I was reading through and this sentence really, really caught my attention. It’s probably a, I don’t think it’s quoted anywhere but for some reason, it just really stood out to me. I’m going to quote it right here. It was talking about creating talk triggers and it says, “The shadowy space between what customer wants and what a customer really wants is the exact space for talk triggers often live.” I don’t think that’s just a really genius way of putting it, first and foremost, but how do we get into that space, Daniel?
Daniel: It doesn’t happen by doing surveys. I can say that. There’s a really great moment, we quote Youngme Moon who wrote a really great book on this topic called, Different. I think it’s a quote we pulled from her which is that, “You don’t get to an understanding of what a customer wants by asking them.” Because if you say, “Hey, what can we do to make your visit with us more memorable?” They might tell you things like, “Well, you can lower the prices.” Or, “You could give me bigger portions.” Or, “Deliver it via gymnastics or interpretative dance.”
People don’t know what is memorable to them until they see it. It’s kind of this constant game of cat and mouse really. It’s just something that people will talk about as memorable to them and will it stick with them. You can’t necessarily ask a customer that. Although this customer conversations are vital, you have to then go back and look at your sales and operations side, your customer service side, and do some internal soul searching to find the gaps.
Eric: I’m going to imagine that there are some people listening right now, maybe they have the book and they have heard some of the examples about DoubleTree and The Cheesecake Factory,a nd are like, “This might work for them, but this wouldn’t work for me.” I know you guys have gone on your way to give a lot of good examples that work in both the B2C and the B2B. Is there another example that might be, we’re thinking more of a B2B world that an example of a talk trigger that maybe our listener might relate to better?
Daniel: One of my favorites, it’s not in the book, but one of my favorite examples is MailChimp. If you’ve used Mailchimp’s software, you’re no doubt familiar with the chimp element of the MailChimp experience, his name is Freddie. What’s interesting about that is Freddie is not just the mascot for MailChimp, although they use him that way, he also is inside the product. When you take an action at MailChimp, you get a high five from Freddie. They’ve all these great little animations. It becomes as much part of the experience as the software itself.
What’s curious about that is it gets customers talking. If you look on Twitter, you can find people talking about Freddie. There’s a lot of affection for him. In fact, they just went through a redesigning MailChimp and took him largely away and I’m devastated by it. To me, it’s their greatest asset. He’s such a part of their brand and their identity. I think certainly, from a software perspective, there’s all kinds of opportunity there like that with customers.
In many cases, you have customers spending hours every single day logged in to your platform. There must be a moment within that journey that you can delight them. You can do something memorable for them. That’s the kind of thing when we think from a B2B perspective, we’re looking at, not necessarily cookies, but what is the experience your customer goes through.
Eric: Speaking of characters and animals, I got to ask you about the alpaca on the front of the cover. Is there some talk trigger in that? Where did that come from? I’m curious. Of course, the big drama between is it an alpaca or is it a llama. I love it, I love it.
Daniel: To clarify, it is an alpaca, so we’re told. That has been confirmed for us by handlers of both llamas and alpacas. They are alpacas on the cover. What really happened there was our publisher send us a design for the cover and it wasn’t bad by any means, it was just not great either. It’s a book about being different about word-of-mouth. “Look, we have to do something. We can’t just put text on there. That’s not going to be memorable.” I actually designed the cover of the book. I thought, “Well, let’s do something different.” so we came up with the alpacas because they’re just adorable and they stick out on the business aisle. If you’re walking down the business aisle of the bookstore, it’s pretty much guaranteed the only book.
Eric: Behold. Right. The only animal that will be on the cover let alone an alpaca, right.
Daniel: Right. We thought that it was super cute that they were whispering to each other, but it has been since pointed out to us by a reader that this is actually not a whispering gesture that they’re doing, it is a territorial gesture. One is spitting on the other, marking its territory. They’re spreading the word, I guess.
Eric: What a great narrative that has become. I love it. Well done. I would expect nothing less from both you and Jay. Daniel, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show, Listeners, if you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy of Talk Triggers, stop doing what you’re doing right now, put The Cheesecake menu down, and go grab yourself something better to read.
Daniel, where can they find it? I’m assuming now Amazon and everywhere else you can buy a book, but anywhere you want to direct them to?
Daniel: Yeah, all those places, and we have a bunch of really great free stuff on our website too, talktrigggers.com. there’s downloads and all kinds of things there that people can grab. We’re not even asking for an email which is probably a mistake but it’s all there for free. If people want to have a look into it a little bit more before they buy the book, they’re welcome to do that. I’m on Twitter as always, @daniellemin, all one word, pretty easy to find there.
Eric: Fantastic. Thanks again so much, Daniel. I’m going to work on trying to get you Fargo for a third time, third time is a charm. We’ll make it happen somehow.
Daniel: I like it. Sounds good.
Eric: Alright, thanks so much for your time. Have a great day. Thanks, Daniel.