Episode 154

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Word of mouth is nothing new. For generations, it’s been talking with your neighbor over the fence, at the local watering hole, or telling your co-worker about the latest movie in the breakroom. As a business, word of mouth is sparked by those things that you do that separate you from the pack. These talk triggers are so memorable and unique that your customers can’t help but talk about them.

My guest Daniel Lemin gives plenty of examples that show us that talk triggers are rarely very expensive, and they tend to be operational differentiators rather than gimmicks or flash in the pan activities. Think Doubletree’s complimentary cookie when you check in or the Cheesecake Factory’s epic novel of a menu.

Daniel has co-written a book with Jay Baer about this powerful marketing technique appropriately called Talk Triggers. In this episode, Daniel and I chat about what he and Jay learned in their research and the insights they gleaned for all marketers. These B2B and B2C brands (large and small) are following a specific pattern as they create and execute their talk triggers and Daniel will walk us through that as well.

We look at this topic from many angles – from how agencies can leverage this phenomenon and, of course, how we can put it into practice for our clients.

Daniel Lemin is a startup co-founder, trusted advisor and bestselling author on reputation management, digital marketing, and social media customer service. As an early member of Google’s global communications team, Daniel led the launch of products in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific, and edited the Google Zeitgeist weekly research report featured in over 40 markets worldwide.

His new book with co-author Jay Baer, Talk Triggers, explores word-of-mouth marketing and lays out an indispensable framework for building them in your own organization.

Daniel regularly provides expert commentary on TV and in high-profile publications such as the New York Times, USA Today, CBS Radio, and Fox News, and speaks and leads workshops across the nation. In 2015, he released his first book, Manipurated.

A native of Ohio, Daniel earned his MA in communications and leadership from Gonzaga University. He lives in Los Angeles with his cocker spaniel Truman and enjoys the simple joys of gin martinis, jazz, and eating his way around the world—he’ll try nearly anything as long as it doesn’t bite back.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to put structures in place to create WOM talk triggers
  • Why it’s got to be remarkable to be a talk trigger
  • How something as simple as a cookie or a deck of cards can get people talking
  • Why talk triggers are so often about operational differentiation
  • Why talk triggers need to be available to everyone—it’s not about exclusivity
  • The best examples of word of mouth are never complicated or expensive
  • Why metrics for word of mouth are more complicated than other marketing metrics
  • What metrics you CAN use to measure the impact of word of mouth
  • An unexpected benefit of well-done talk-trigger campaigns—they make the workplace more enjoyable for employees

The Golden Nuggets:

“For a talk trigger to work, it needs to be remarkable.” – @daniellemin Click To Tweet “In terms of documenting the effectiveness of word-of-mouth efforts, social mentions and the intercept are a good place to start. The other not to be overlooked is employee feedback.” – @daniellemin Click To Tweet “I think part of the reason word of mouth has been so overlooked over the years is it is actually somewhat difficult to measure. You have to take a more old-school approach and really connect with customers.” – @daniellemin Click To Tweet “Good talk triggers have four common traits: they are remarkable, relevant, repeatable, and reasonable.” – @daniellemin Click To Tweet

 

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Intro/Outro:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is Drew McLellan, your host, owner of Agency Management Institute. Today I want to talk to you about word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is not a new concept for us in the agency space. Long before agencies even existed, word-of-mouth was a powerful driver in terms of helping people decide who they wanted to do business with. It used to be chats over the picket fence, and then obviously as media came into play, it became testimonials, and now today with social and digital access and ratings and reviews and all kinds of other things. There are all kinds of ways that our clients, and we as agencies, can trigger word-of-mouth.

But I think a lot of agencies struggle to help clients understand what it is to kind of package it in a way that it is tangible, so that we can set realistic expectations for clients. I think all of us have had a client say, “I want to do a video that goes viral,” or, “I want to do this where it gets a million views,” or, “Why can’t we get more people to talk about us on Facebook,” or whatever it is. I think it’s difficult with such a sort of nebulous topic like word-of-mouth. It’s sort of big and squishy to really help clients wrap their arms around it.

I think today’s guest is going to give us a framework that we can use to talk about word-of-mouth differently and to help clients understand not only what it is, how to do it, but the incredible value of doing it. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Daniel Lemin has been on the show before. He was on episode 56. Daniel, by himself, is a very impressive guy. He is a startup founder. He is a bestselling author on reputation management. He is a digital marketing and social media and customer service expert. He was a very early member of Google’s global communication team, and he led the launch of products in North America and all over the world, as well as editing one of their weekly research reports that covered over 40 markets worldwide.

He has done all kinds of work all over the world and continues to do that today. He also, interestingly, is the CMO and co-founder of a food intelligence startup called Selectivor, and we’ll include that in the show notes, that helps people stay healthy through personalized eating. But the reason that Daniel is with us today is because he has co-written a book with Jay Baer, from Convince and Convert, called Talk Triggers. Talk Triggers explores word-of-mouth marketing and really lays out the framework for building them in our own organizations and for our clients.

The book is brand new, hot off the shelf. If you are listening to this live, it actually is not out yet. It comes out on October 2nd. If you are listening to this after the fact, after October 2nd of 2018, you can go to your local bookstore or online bookstore and find it. But even if you’re listening to this live, you can go and pre-order it so that you get it on the 2nd on your Kindle device, or if you are still a book reader, in the mail. The book is amazing and it really does break down these talk triggers, and so I am excited to explore this topic. I am going to have Daniel help us frame up exactly how we would construct this for clients, how we would construct this for ourselves, and the value proposition as we talk to clients about it. So I don’t want to talk anymore, I want to get right to the conversation with Daniel, so let’s do that.

So I just want to welcome Daniel to the podcast. Daniel, thanks for joining us.

Daniel Lemin:

Glad to be here, Drew. Thanks for having me back, actually, it’s my second time on.

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Daniel Lemin:

Build a Better Agency. Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Happy to have you. I’m guessing you’re doing a ton of interviews and things around the new book, right?

Daniel Lemin:

We are. Our new book, this is Talk Triggers we’re talking about. I wrote it with Jay Baer. To market this book, it’s a book about word-of-mouth marketing. And we thought while it’s a great book, we decided to create an additional media hook with it, so we did a second research study with Susan Baier, and we are actually talking about not just the book, but also that research study called Chatter Matters. It’s a study about word-of-mouth marketing.

Drew McLellan:

Cool. We’ll dig into both of those.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Word-of-mouth is not a new thing, right, we’ve been talking about it forever, so why write a book about it today?

Daniel Lemin:

It’s not new, and that’s really the curious thing about it. In our research, we kind of peeled back the layers of the onion to look at how meaningful is word-of-mouth actually to the decisions people make every day. What we found is it’s, for many cases, a top driver of customers, and in all cases, if you look across categories, 20% of purchases that consumers make are directly caused by word-of-mouth. The crazy thing about that is that no one has a plan to ignite word-of-mouth.

Drew McLellan:

Right, I was just going to say. What kills me is on both the client side of my world, the agency side of my world, but also the AMI side of my world, when I talk to my clients and I say, “How do you get customers?” They say, “Oh, you know, referrals and word-of-mouth is best.” I say, “Great, what are you doing to make that happen?”

“Oh, we just do good work.” Right?

Daniel Lemin:

We hope and pray.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

And that’s not, obviously, a strategy. Prayer is wonderful for the soul but not great for a business.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

We set out to not only fully investigate word-of-mouth and its drivers and sort of its levers, which is a topic a lot of people have written about, quite successfully, but also to put some real structure in place about how you create word-of-mouth, how you create what we call talk triggers, sort of those igniters, those fire starters. The book is not only about the importance of word-of-mouth, it has an entire system in it to help any kind of business figure out how to do this.

Drew McLellan:

So did you guys, when you started sort of pulling together data for the book and you started sort of thinking about the book, had you already identified that there were these igniters or these talk triggers, or was that something you discovered as you were doing the research to pull together the content?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, in our just general experience, when we started talking about talk triggers, Jay and I started seeing them everywhere. When you actually pay attention to what causes word-of-mouth within yourself, gosh, they really are sort of everywhere. DoubleTree Hotel, any one of us who have traveled have probably stayed in a DoubleTree. They’re famous for their chocolate chip cookie that you get.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

That’s 75,000 times a day, it turns out, that they hand out those cookies. The Cheesecake Factory, another example, it’s the size of the menu that is the talk trigger there, so we kind of started seeing them in a lot of places. We thought, “There’s got to be a deeper reason here, some broader context,” so it was really fun for us when we set out and started looking at these to start seeing them in so many places. It’s kind of the interesting thing about talk triggers is you do see them in multiple places.

Drew McLellan:

So define a talk trigger, so what makes the cookies at DoubleTree… Which I think you’re right, what I love about that story is not only are people super excited about it, but man, if they check in late and there are no cookies left. It’s amazing how disappointed someone is about not getting a cookie.

Daniel Lemin:

Two things about the cookie that I find interesting. One is it’s a cookie.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Daniel Lemin:

It’s not magic unicorn dust, it’s a cookie.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

And yet we all talk about it. That’s kind of interesting, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And a reminder that it doesn’t have to be something monumental.

Daniel Lemin:

Well, and that’s actually just the point. Things that are too grand sort of cause us to be suspicious. If it’s like, “Hey, every time you check in, you get an island.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

I don’t know how many islands DoubleTree could give away. It’s too grand, it’s too big, but a cookie is a cookie. The notion with talk triggers we settled on is that when they work best, they tend to be operational differentiators. So DoubleTree has its cookie, Cheesecake Factory has its menu, and all of the other examples in our book are generally operational in nature. It’s a thing they do in the matter of the course of their business versus a stunt or a gimmick.

Drew McLellan:

So in the book I know you talk about talk triggers as being sort of these strategic operational differentiators. Do you think most of the companies that are in the book, because you guys have a lot of great examples, do you think most of them came upon those talk triggers on purpose, or do you think it was accidental?

Daniel Lemin:

To be honest, I think it was probably accidental.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

They created them with a gut feeling for what they might be able to do. I’ll give you an example of that. I think it’s a nice basic, practical example we can all relate to. There’s a restaurant in Sacramento, California called Skip’s Kitchen. It’s not a very remarkable restaurant actually, it’s just a few tables. They serve patty melts and fries, nothing all that remarkable. I mean, the food is good, but it’s sort of table stakes, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

But the thing Skip’s Kitchen does that’s interesting, first, if your name happens to be Skip, you get a free T-shirt. You only get the T-shirt if your name is Skip. That’s kind of a side order of interesting, but only if your name is Skip, so it’s not really a terribly broad talk trigger. But the thing they actually do that’s interesting, when you place your order, Skip decided to try this idea of trying to create a little gamification moment in that experience. You place your order and instead of just giving you a number to take to put on your table, he decided to use playing cards.

So you place your order, they fan out the cards on the register and they say, “Pick a card, any card, that’s your card.” And when you pick the card, if it happens to be the joker, your meal is free. On an average day, about three people pick a joker. What happens when you pick the joker, you go crazy. I mean, you tell everyone you know that you got a free meal at Skip’s Kitchen because you picked the joker. In Sacramento, actually, Skip’s Kitchen isn’t known as Skip’s Kitchen, it’s known as “that joker place.”

Drew McLellan:

Huh, interesting. Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Is that something anyone can do? Of course, it’s like why didn’t I think of that?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Which is kind of a common thread with talk triggers like, “Why did I not think about that?”

Drew McLellan:

Right. So most of the examples that you’ve given us have been B2C examples. I think it’s easier, because as consumers we see them all the time, to come up with talk triggers in the consumer space. Most of my listeners, I think the lion’s share of them, primarily serve B2B clients. So if they wanted to wrap their arms around this idea and help their clients really amplify their word-of-mouth by creating talk triggers, can you give us an example or two from the B2B space?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah. There are plenty of them. One of my favorite examples, it’s not actually in the book, but it’s an example worth talking about. It’s MailChimp. If you’re an email marketing person, you’re familiar with MailChimp, and you also know CRM and email software is about as exciting as your tax return.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Nothing terribly talk-trigger-worthy, but if you’re familiar with MailChimp, you also are familiar with their little chimp.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, their logo or their mascot. Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, his name is Freddie, by the way. They actually give him a name. But what’s interesting about Freddie is not just the brand image, it’s built into the product, so Freddie is very present in the design of their software. If you take actions in MailChimp, he gives you a high five, a huzzah, a good-on-you, that kind of stuff.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

People talk about Freddie a lot, especially the small business owner, their primary audience, they’re talking about Freddie a lot, because it’s unexpected. In their case, they don’t have the chance to give out a cookie or a playing card, they actually do something in the design of the software. So that’s kind of a cool one. I like that one a lot.

The other one that’s interesting. I guess you could make the case it’s B2B or B2C, it’s a physician in New Jersey, Dr. Glenn Gorab. The real interesting thing there, as something I think we all can learn from in the agency business, it’s about empathy for our patient or our client. What Glenn does, if you’ve had oral surgery, you probably know that, typically, most doctors will call you after your surgery to say, “Hey, are you dead? Are you still with us?”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

“How is your pain?” That’s great. That’s a good service, but Glenn thought it would actually be helpful to call his patients before they come in for surgery, thinking they might be anxious or worried or have questions. And so that’s what he does every Saturday, he calls patients and says, “Hey, you’re coming in for surgery. Do you have any questions I can answer?” That little change has made him one of the most sought after surgeons in New Jersey, oral surgeons, which is not an easy task.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

People go out of their way to go see him.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting, too, I think if he called during the week, it would be less impactful.

Daniel Lemin:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

The fact that he’s giving up part of his Saturday, and actually is probably having better luck actually reaching his patients, that combination makes it even better.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

And I always think, for agencies, how much our clients value those touchpoints with us.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Daniel Lemin:

We forget to call them. We forget to show up for them.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

So that’s a good reminder.

Drew McLellan:

In fact, in the AE bootcamps that we teach, that’s one of the big points I make is, I think especially younger AEs are so caught up in the email cycle of communications, and they really never take their rear-end off their chair. They never spend face time with their clients. For them, an email, because I guess they grew up in a digital space and time, that feels as personal in some ways. That’s one of the things I point out is, you’ve got to actually pick up the phone or go see your client. That feels very different to us.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, I think really part of standing out in B2B right now in our climate is just showing up.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, physically, literally. Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

You show up. Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So speaking of B2B, I also think that this is probably something… Again, as I mentioned, when I talk to agency owners and I say, “How do you get your business?” Oftentimes, they talk about referral and word-of-mouth. So a lot of times we, as agencies, teach or talk about something, but the truth of it is we don’t actually practice it. It’s the whole cobbler’s children have no shoes thing, that sentence is the bane of my existence. So how can agencies employ talk triggers for themselves?

Daniel Lemin:

That’s a really good question. I’ve known you quite a long time, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Daniel Lemin:

You and I have known each other for a number of years.

Drew McLellan:

And it’s longer in agency years, that’s like dog years.

Daniel Lemin:

Right, yeah. That’s more like 100 years.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

I’ve worked with and directly for a number of agencies over the years. The interesting thing is we never eat our own dog food.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

We never actually do the thing we tell our clients they should do.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

And I think with talk triggers… And there’s a lot of reasons for that, but with talk triggers, what we’re overlooking is exactly what you just said. In our business, it’s all about word-of-mouth.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

You get clients primarily from other clients. Good people help you find more good people. And by overlooking and not doing some sort of a talk-trigger-worthy idea at the agency, why are we even in business? Why are we even doing this? So I think the opportunity is very high. I also think the bar, because not a lot of agencies do. If you ask one agency, “What makes you different or better, or different at least?” It’s difficult-

Drew McLellan:

“They’re a full-service, integrated agency.” That’s what makes them diff