Episode 154:

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 different.

Daniel Lemin:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Or they have great people.

Daniel Lemin:

Great people.

Drew McLellan:

Really great people.

Daniel Lemin:

“Have you seen our beautiful office? Really great.”

Drew McLellan:

Yes. “We have a putt-putt course, or we have a basketball hoop, or we have foosball.”

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yep,

Daniel Lemin:

And look, all of those could be the seed of a talk trigger idea. If it’s a space for clients to come hang out whenever they want, that may be a very cool idea. But nevertheless, we don’t really think about our agency operations from a talk triggers perspective, so I think we all would benefit from going back and doing that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

In fact, just as an example, have you seen the actual hard copy of the book. I sent you the-

Drew McLellan:

I have the PDF of it.

Daniel Lemin:

PDF.

Drew McLellan:

I have the sneak peek version. Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

So I will tell you, the cover of the book has two very adorable alpacas staring at you. One’s kind of whispering to the other one. The reason we made that choice is we realized a book cover is generally colorful and has text on it.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Or it’s in color, right? We thought we wanted to do something a little different there, so we put alpacas on the cover because name me another book in the business aisle that has alpacas on the cover. Makes it pretty easy to point it out. So I think even sometimes in the way we deliver things in an agency setting, deliverables, they often look just like any other agency’s deliverables, may be a way set them apart that way.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And I know that you have, in some of the conversations we had, that you have some examples of agencies that actually are eating their own dog food. Can you give us one of those examples?

Daniel Lemin:

It’s interesting, so there are five general types of talk triggers we identified. One of them is attitude, talkable attitude. Obviously, that could be seen as a positive or a negative thing. You can have too much attitude, but talkable attitude shows up in places that I think benefit an agency. It’s your gestalt. This agency feels like a different kind of company. One of the best examples of that, a young guy in Toronto I know, Chris Farias. You may know him too. He is a creative genius. That guy is super creative. He and his partner actually started a… They just got married, and they became famous for going to a bakery in Toronto and ordering, they called it a gayke.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, right.

Daniel Lemin:

A gay marriage cake.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

It became a media phenomenon in Canada. The gayke is everywhere. If you’ve been on Instagram, you’ve probably seen it.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

It’s like a gay marriage unicorn cake. But he and his partner actually decided that they were tired of both working kind of in the business they were in and started an LGBTQ-focused agency called the Unicorn Rebellion. Of course, unicorns are everywhere on their branding. Their real talk trigger is that’s all they really do. It’s not necessarily just to serve the LGBTQ community, but also the companies that maybe feel strongly that they want to support that community. It’s sort of a-

Drew McLellan:

Or speak to that community, probably.

Daniel Lemin:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

It’s sort of just a gestalt. They’re very clear, if this makes you uncomfortable, go find someone else. That’s cool with us.

Drew McLellan:

Right, we’re probably not the agency for you.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned there are five types of talk triggers and one of them is attitude. What are the other four?

Daniel Lemin:

Attitude is one. I think agencies can tap into that very easily.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

The other four types, one is empathy. Dr. Glenn Gorab is a great example of that. If you’re just a little bit more empathetic than the next person, that may be remarkable in and of itself.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

So remarkable attitude, remarkable empathy. Remarkable generosity is a third. So the DoubleTree cookie is probably the best example we’ve talked about here. That’s just giving a little extra something that others don’t do. And then the other two are a little bit more esoteric, perhaps, at least from the agency perspective. So you have remarkable empathy, remarkable attitude, remarkable generosity. The other two may be a little bit more esoteric, it’s remarkable usefulness. We haven’t really talked as much about usefulness in this discussion, but a case can be made that if you’re just the most useful example of the thing in your category, that becomes a remarkable element. And then the other is speed, remarkable speed.

Drew McLellan:

And so back in FedEx’s day, when you absolutely, positively have to have it there overnight.

Daniel Lemin:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Would have been speed, right?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah. Domino’s 30-minute delivery, 30 minutes or less.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Which…

Drew McLellan:

Got them into trouble.

Daniel Lemin:

Caused them all kinds of accidents.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

But nevertheless is speed related.

Drew McLellan:

So I know one of the things that you did when you were writing the book is that you did some research and you were sort of identifying, because somebody might be listening and saying, “These all seem kind of inconsequential that you’re giving them a cookie or you’re turning something around quickly or you are serving a specific audience.” But one of the things I found fascinating in the book was how often these things get talked about. So can you talk a little bit about the power and frequency of how these little things get magnified through the frequency of which they’re talked about.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, it’s an interesting thing because what we discovered is a talk trigger does not replace your marketing. You have to keep the rest of your marketing going and turned on. Word-of-mouth is not the only thing you get to do from this point forward. But at the same time, a third of your customers likely will remark on a talk trigger. All of the examples we looked at and studied, it came down to about 30%, 33.33% technically, of people talk about talk triggers. When we looked at kind of the threshold for a talk trigger to be beneficial to your business, it’s at about that 25 to 30% mark. If you don’t have that amount of people talking about it, it’s probably not moving the needle much for your business. But if they are, generally speaking, it’s working at that point.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

That’s an odd number for any marketer to be like, “That’s not very large, I don’t think 25% is a very impressive number,” but that’s just the threshold we discovered.

Drew McLellan:

And actually, I think it is a big number, because what you’re really saying is if you don’t give them something to talk about, they don’t talk about you at all. But if you want 25 to 33% of your customers to actively be talking about you in their social channels, with their colleagues, whatever, give them a cookie.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

When you think about the cost of… Or have an interactive, engaging mascot that’s baked into your software, or whatever they are. But when you think about it, the cost versus the gain, especially in a time when budgets are getting tighter on both agency sides and on our client side. We’re constantly trying to do sort of value add, and we’re trying to demonstrate… In social, it’s difficult to get a lot of engagement. Well, here you’re not only getting engagement, but the customer is starting the conversations, not even that you’re doing a quiz on Facebook and they’re answering it, but they of their own accord are posting a picture of the ooey-gooey cookie and saying, “This is why I love this hotel chain more than any other.”

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

I think the ideal case for an agency… Can you imagine a scenario where you did something amazing for the client, just an amazing campaign or program or product launch, and they are so excited. They’re like, “Wow, those guys nailed it for us. We’re super excited.” So they’re going to tell their boss about it. They’re probably going to tell some colleagues about it, “How did you get that award?”

“Well, the agency did an amazing job.” That’s a nice testimonial, but imagine just a little bit of an extra thing, “They did an amazing job, and you know what I love about them, all of the dogs in their office. Every time I go over there, I just love being around those people.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

It takes that same story about they’re really good at their job and turns it into a story. The only thing you have to do to make that happen is give people material to work with.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

That’s it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. You know we have an agency in one of our networks, and they for many, many years, decades now, they throw a blowout party once a year. They spend months on the invitation and it’s themed and they decorate the whole office and all of the food and beverages are themed to whatever it is. They typically do it in August. People are asking them now for the date of the 2019 party so they don’t miss it.

Daniel Lemin:

That’s crazy.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And they don’t talk business. They mix clients, vendors, prospects, all the employees are there. It’s a very adult party. It’s not a bring-your-kids party, right.

Daniel Lemin:

I think I would like to know the name of this agency.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, sorry. I will tell you offline, they’re awesome. That’s a great example of… And by the way, they probably land a chunk of business. I’m not going to say the number on the air, but I know they land a chunk of business at the party every year, because clients are talking to prospects, and they’re talking about how great they are to work with and all of that happens because they threw a party.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

But they didn’t just every once in a while throw a party, they made it a thing.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

And I think that’s part of what you’re talking about.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, and I know an agency in San Diego, they’re a B Corp, a public benefit corporation, so they’re about giving back to the community, even though they serve private clients, they serve big brands, they’ve sort of set it up as a benefit back to the community. There are so many different ways for agencies to differentiate themselves and give their clients material to work with.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I know you guys identified sort of four traits of what makes a talk trigger, so I want to take a quick break, and when we come back, let’s talk about the elements that you need to have in place to build a talk trigger for yourself and your clients.

Daniel Lemin:

Okay.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s take a break and come on back.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast and you find that you’re nodding your head and taking some notes and maybe even taking some action based on some of the things we talk about, you might be interested in doing a deeper dive. One of the options you have is the AMI remote coaching, so that’s a monthly phone call with homework in between. We start off by setting some goals and prioritizing those goals. We just work together to get through them. It’s a little bit of coaching, it’s a little bit of best practice teaching and sharing, it’s a little bit of cheerleading sometimes. On occasion, you’re going to feel our boot on your rear-end. Whatever it takes to help you make sure that you hit the goals that you set. If you would like more information about that, check out agencymanagementinstitute.com/coaching. Okay, let’s get back to the show.

All right, I am here with Daniel Lemin, and we are talking about the new book, Talk Triggers, that he wrote with Jay Baer. We had been talking about some examples of what talk triggers are and some things agencies can do not only for themselves but for clients, and right before the break, I had said that Daniel and Jay had identified sort of four necessary components that you need to bake into whatever your thing is to make it a genuine talk trigger. So Daniel, can you walk us through what those are?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, you bet. As you might expect, the first one is that for it to work, a talk trigger has to actually be remarkable.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

And the definition of that word is worthy of remark. If it’s not something that when you hear it you’re like, “Oh, hmm, I would tell someone else about that,” they won’t do it. It’s not going to happen. And sometimes that’s all about context. What’s remarkable in one context may not be in another. Drew, you were telling me earlier about you used to give cookies away at your agency.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, so what I was saying to Daniel before we hit the record button is my agency’s corporate colors are purple, green and orange. So we would order M&Ms just in those specific colors. For many, many years, before we moved to a different office, we had an office that had an oven in it. And so if a client came to our office for a meeting, at some point in the meeting, someone would bring in warm M&M cookies. Warm cookies was great, but at some point, and we never pointed out that the M&Ms were only our logo colors, but they were always facing big logs, our logo on the conference walls. At some point in the meeting, someone would go, “Wait, these are your colors.” And then there was a big discussion about that we specially make the dough and how we have to buy the M&Ms.

And I was saying to you that we had a client that left us for a period of time, and when they called to say they wanted to come back, what cracked me up the most was the very first question she asked me was, “Do you guys still do the cookies?” And I thought, “Wow. Okay, that’s working.” Right?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, that’s definitely remarkable.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

I love warm cookies. But that’s an interesting lead-in to the second point is that good talk triggers, they’re remarkable because they’re also relevant.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

There’s something about the experience of the DoubleTree cookie that makes it relevant. You’ve been traveling, you’re hungry, you’re tired.

Drew McLellan:

They want you to feel like you’re at home.

Daniel Lemin:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

So relevance is the second. The third is that a talk trigger isn’t a stunt or a gimmick, it has to be available to everyone. It’s repeatable.

Drew McLellan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Daniel Lemin:

So everybody who can possibly access that talk trigger should be able to. It’s not only your top 10% of your customers, not one out of 100. It’s not a drawing out of a hat, it’s everybody. Because if it’s not, then you get into this trap where people feel excluded.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

That’s sort of the negative of a word-of-mouth, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, and the example of Skip’s is they don’t have to win the big prize, but they have to have a shot at it, right?

Daniel Lemin:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So everybody gets to draw a card, and if they get the joker, they win, but they still get the experience of drawing the card.

Daniel Lemin:

Right, he doesn’t cap the number of jokers per day. There’s always two in the deck. Sometimes they’ve been claimed at the moment, but he doesn’t say, “Oh, we’ve had five today, that’s all for today.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

If there were a random day that he had 100, he would probably not be really happy, but he’d have a lot of very happy customers.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

So repeatable is a really important element.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

And then the fourth one is that they really do well when they’re reasonable. They need to be reasonable. Cookies, when you check in at a hotel, that’s reasonable.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Giving away an island, not reasonable. That creates a little bit of suspicion or dissonance. Those four, it’s remarkable, relevant, reasonable and repeatable, it’s a good way to measure an idea against.

Drew McLellan:

And do you find that if someone misses one of those in an attempt to create word-of-mouth… One of the things I kept thinking about, and you guys kind of mentioned, is I think everyone is sort of obsessed, and I have a lot of agency owners say, “If I have one more client say, ‘How do we make this go viral?’”

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

And so I think in their attempt to create something worthy of going viral, they sort of miss the point of some of these, perhaps.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah. You could probably make the case some talk triggers maybe miss one of those four, but it’s best when an idea meets all four of those objectives.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Another agency I know here in L.A. They’re a small three-person agency. They always have a dog in the office. It’s a different dog every day. Sometimes it’s person one’s dog, sometimes it’s person two, but they make a point that every day there’s a dog in the office.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

They do that because when clients come in, they kind of expect it at this point, and if like, “Oh yeah, she stayed home today.”

“Aww, I was looking forward to seeing the dog.” And so, for them, it’s a very subtle thing, but it’s every day. Every client who comes into the office can experience it. It’s a dog. It’s nothing crazy, right. It’s not a llama or an alpaca, it’s a dog in the office. So that’s kind of the thing about it, is consistency. It does matter.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting. A few weeks ago, I just recorded a solo cast, and I was talking about what agencies are doing to make themselves remarkable in this season of having a tough time attracting and retaining great employees. One of the things is that they are pet-friendly offices. So as I’m listening to you talk, I’m thinking about all of these talk triggers, and they not only make the customer happy, I would have to think that most of these talk triggers make it more fun to work there. They’re also a great retention tool for your employees.

So if I work at Skip’s, I could work at any restaurant, right? But I don’t get to have the fun of gamifying do you get your food for free at an IHOP, so I get it. And I’m sure at Cheesecake Factory, I know every time I’m there when they hand me the book that is the menu, even though I’m sure they’ve heard it a million times, I comment on it. And they comment on it like, “I know it’s 59 pages, but have we given you enough time to look through the menu,” kind of a thing. So I think it’s sort of an interesting idea to look at the talk triggers not only for what they do for the customers and word-of-mouth there, but that it does differentiate your workplace too.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, it really can. And in what other context does a place like Skip’s Kitchen do the employees get to put a smile on a customer’s face.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

If you got to McDonald’s, do you think they’re putting a smile on a customer’s face? It’s kind of a stretch, so it’s a fun thing for them to do too, “Oh wow, three of my customers won a patty melt today. That’s great for them.”

Drew McLellan:

So one of the things that agencies, one of the challenges for agencies today, is clients want to, and appropriately so, clients want to measure the effectiveness of everything. So if an agency were to introduce this idea of creating talk triggers, or if they are actually going to invest in it themselves, which I think they should do if you people are not listening to me, how do they know if it’s working? How do they know if it’s worth the investment, whether it’s the cookie dough or the free food or any of the examples you’ve given us? How do they know that it’s doing its job?

Daniel Lemin:

That’s a really important thread of discussion, actually, measurement. I think part of the reason word-of-mouth has been so overlooked over the years is it is actually somewhat difficult to measure.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

In our research, what we found was, at least in today’s media environment, you assume all of it happens on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. And indeed a lot of it does, about half of word-of-mouth happens online, which means half of it happens offline, outside the reaches of measurement instruments, and at least traditional measurement instruments. So that makes it difficult for us to just look at a dashboard on Cision or some other platform and say, “Wow, this is working.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

We have to sort of take a different approach. Some of the more old school ways of doing that, not surprisingly, involve talking to your customers.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Scary.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a novel concept, right?

Daniel Lemin:

You kind of have to do those touchpoints. The threshold we talked about earlier is a good one to keep in mind. If you look at the totality of conversation around your agency or your clients and their products, about a quarter to a third of them should be about the talk trigger.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

Or mention it in some context. And if that’s the case, it’s a very good indication it’s working. That should give some confidence that it’s working. In a short term, that’s probably not going to be the case. If you’re just starting a new talk trigger sort of initiative, so maybe 10% is a good place to start for the first few months. That’s one way of looking at it, then the other is how do you think about framing the outcome of a talk trigger? That’s one harder. If I spent $100 a year on my cookie budget, am I getting that much back in business? I think what you have to ask yourself in that case is more of a gestalt question. Is it worth my customers being able to tell a story about my business?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Is that worth $100 a year? Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

In some cases, because a lot of the talk triggers we’ve talked about here, and just examples you’ll start to notice, there are operational differentiators. They maybe aren’t actually spending extra money on something, they’re just doing something a little bit different. Skip’s Kitchen, they have to give them some kind of number to take food to their table. They have to end up using playing cards. By the way, they’ve never advertised in the entire history of Skip’s Kitchen. He’s never had to make an ad anywhere, so you could argue there are cost savings involved. Same for the Cheesecake Factory, they spend substantially less than Olive Garden on advertising.

Drew McLellan:

They do have a lot of cheesecake, so that probably helps them too.

Daniel Lemin:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So from an agency’s perspective, is it research that we would do to help… I’m just trying to wrap my head around if I’m going to suggest this to a client, I want to say to them, “And here’s how we’re going to measure its effectiveness.” So A, we might watch for social mentions. B, we might do some intercept research with customers to see if they talk about it, if they’re unprompted. Are there any other ways that you can sort of document the effectiveness?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, those two are places I would start. I think the social mentions and the intercept research is a good place to start. The other, not to be overlooked, is employee feedback.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

You want to get maybe an employee survey and see, do they talk about it? Maybe this is… A beneficial outcome can also be recruiting.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Absolutely, or retention because it adds an element of basically joy or fun into the work, right?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, we have an example somewhere in the back of the book. We’re talking about this exact point about measurement. I looked on Glassdoor, the job reviews site, I looked at the Cheesecake Factory’s reviews on Glassdoor. Several of them actually mentioned one of the reasons they liked to work there is the menu is exciting, the size of the menu. And so it actually has a bit of a recruiting benefit as well, which is a very good one to have in today’s environment, right?

Drew McLellan:

So can you give us an example of… Are talk triggers evergreen? If I come up with a talk trigger, whether it’s my agency’s purple, green and orange M&M cookies or whatever it is, are they evergreen? Can they last forever, or do I have to freshen those up every so often? Is there a point where they get stale and people are like, “Oh yeah, the cookie”?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, cookies can go stale.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s right. Yes.

Daniel Lemin:

DoubleTree, over the years, has reinvented the type of cookie, the whole drama around the giving of the cookie. It used to be turndown service, actually, so it was something they did at the end of the day, now they do it at check-in, and they’re warm. So they’ve kind of reinvented the cookie a little bit over the years.

Drew McLellan:

So they’ve sort of updated the cookie.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, and they’ve also added a gluten-free version and a nut-free version.

Drew McLellan:

Of course. Yeah, makes sense.

Daniel Lemin:

To account for people’s changing tastes. They want to make sure… Again, to the point about-

Drew McLellan:

Inclusion.

Daniel Lemin:

Is it repeatable and available to everyone. Right, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

A good example of a company that had probably a very viable talk trigger and it’s lost a bit of momentum is Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

For years, they advertised, “We’ll pick you up.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

We actually got really excited about that. We thought that was a talk trigger, so we studied Enterprise Rent-A-Car. It’s seventh on the list of things people talk about. And not like… It’s a distant seventh, it’s not a near to the sixth, it’s very far down the list. Ahead of it, customer service problems, reservations problems, cleanliness problems. I mean, there’s a long list of issues there. What happened there is just things have changed. We have Uber and Lyft, we don’t need to be picked up anymore.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

So there are talk triggers that-

Drew McLellan:

Well, but you know what, I also wonder if they didn’t have cleanliness issues, customer… Because it sounds like the things that they talked about before the talk trigger were complaints.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So that’s a great example of… And then I want to get back to a trigger can die down, but that’s a great example of a trigger is not a substitute for doing good work or serving your clients well or doing the basic thing, like having a clean bathroom if you’re a restaurant. Those are always going to trump a free cookie.

Daniel Lemin:

Of course.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Got to get the basics right.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So Enterprise, I guess I don’t even know, do they still talk about picking you up?

Daniel Lemin:

It’s buried. If you look on their website, I actually went in search of it to see if they even still do it, and it’s in the FAQ. So they will still pick you up, but not their hero message anymore.

Drew McLellan:

Right, interesting. Interesting. So as agencies begin to sort of think about all of this, and they think about it from their own perspective and for their clients, is there a story or two, especially on the B2B side, that you can think of that would allow them to help their clients sort of get how this works? So you talked about the physician, I’m looking for another B2B example that they could use to explain to their clients what they’re talking about.

Daniel Lemin:

Yep. You know another really good B2B example, it’s a company in California. They manufacture very high-end wood trim. It’s called WindsorONE is the name of the company. It’s the sort of trim that’s used in custom homes by very high-end carpenters, so it’s not a huge market. It’s very much a B2B market. They sell to lumber yards, homebuilders, barely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Daniel Lemin:

And on the back of every board, whether you buy it from WindsorONE or Home Depot, any trim board, there’s a stamp on the back. The stamp contains information about how to cut the board and so on. On the back of WindsorONE’s boards for many years it said, “Always prime your cuts.” Something I guess you’re supposed to do if you’re doing carpentry.

Drew McLellan:

Apparently so, I’m going to have to google that after we get off the call. Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

Always prime your cuts, also true if you’re eating a steak.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Daniel Lemin:

So they actually changed that message on the back. They put a message on there, “Call Kurt for a shirt.” So now it says, “Always prime your cuts,” and, “Call Kurt for a shirt” with the phone number.

Drew McLellan:

Huh.

Daniel Lemin:

And when you call Kurt, there’s actually a guy named Kurt. He apparently wears a kilt at the office.

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Daniel Lemin:

Kurt is an inside sales guy, so Kurt says, “Hey, what’s your name? Drew? Oh great, what’re you working on, Drew? Oh, are you using a trim A3-21. That’s cool. Did you know we’ve got some matching crown molding that would look really nice with that. That’s cool. Hey, what size shirt do you wear? Great, how about your crew? What size shirts does your crew wear? Great. Well, I’m going to send you out a whole bunch of shirts. I hope you like them. Check out our other trims.” So Kurt just got a chance to have a whole conversation about-

Drew McLellan:

Right, and upsell.

Daniel Lemin:

And upsell about their catalog, and it works. The other interesting thing about those shirts, they’re not just WindsorONE bland shirts. They actually are remarkable in and of themselves. They say, “Got wood,” so they kind of play on some common themes there.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

So it’s such a simple thing.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. But actually all of your examples, I think that’s one of the things I found remarkable as I was reading the book is none of these are complicated. None of these are expensive. None of these require 17 meetings to plan out and map out. It really is as simple as just, again, thinking about how to be remarkable, how to be relevant, one of those four things. And then figuring out something you can do every single day that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg but that is notable and is something that people will kind of revel in for a moment.

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, it just gives them material to work with the next time. They have a chance to tell your story, it’s actually like, “Hey, that agency’s really good at A, and they also have dogs in the office, I love them.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Yeah, awesome. Any parting thoughts as you think about our audience and agencies out there who are obviously always looking for ways to serve their clients better. Any thoughts about how to package this up or how to start talking about it with clients, before I let you go?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, you know what, I think the idea of doing talk trigger workshops and exercises with clients is a really nice value add for an agency that itself could become a talk trigger. Part of working with us, once a year, we’ll come in and just do a free word-of-mouth workshop for you, because we want you to win. So this isn’t a program we’re going to charge you for, we just do it because we love your business.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

I actually think it’s sort of a meta way of thinking about it, but there are obvious ways you could make this a service offering within an agency, but in other cases, the process of getting to know your client may help you uncover some of these ideas, and just offer them up for free.

Drew McLellan:

Right. I was just thinking about that, what if your talk trigger was that you help clients find their talk trigger and you did give it to them for free, and you helped them set it up. So that would be you could sort of talk about that and then you could list all of the talk triggers you’ve helped create, which becomes a talk trigger in and of itself, right?

Daniel Lemin:

Yeah, and by the way, we’ve done those for free.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Daniel Lemin:

For our clients.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, great. Daniel, this has been awesome. The book is fantastic, as I knew it would be. You and Jay always put out such great content, both individually and now together, so thanks so much for being on the show. By the way, guys, depending on when you’re listening to this, and we’ll give you some details on how to get a hold of Daniel and find out more about the book, but depending on when you’re listening to this, if you’re listening to it the week that it comes out, which is mid-September of 2018. The book is available for pre-order right now on Amazon or your favorite online bookstore. And it actually comes out what like October 4th, 3rd, something like that?

Daniel Lemin:

October 2nd.

Drew McLellan:

Second, all right so you will actually get it on October 2nd, and I’m guessing that it will be in bookstores either right before that time or at least on the 2nd if you choose to go to a physical bookstore and buy it there. So Daniel, if people want to track you down, if they want to learn more about you and your work or talk triggers, what’s the best place for them to start?

Daniel Lemin:

I’d say two things. One is we’ve got a ton of really good stuff on the Talk Triggers website.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Daniel Lemin:

So above and beyond the book, that’s a good place to go to get other resources. And I would love just feedback from listeners. What resonates with them, so I’m [email protected] is the way to reach me.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, awesome. Thank you so much for your time. I am sure you are on the talk show circuit, so to speak, so I appreciate you carving out the time to be with us today. Thank you.

Daniel Lemin:

You bet. Thanks, glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

All right, that wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Can’t tell you how much I love spending this time with you. Thanks so much for listening. Hey, speaking of thanks, another way we want to give thanks is we’ve built a new tool that I would love you to check out. We’re calling it the Agency Health Assessment. And basically, you’re going to answer a series of questions and based on those answers, the tool is going to tell you in which aspect of your business maybe you need to spend a little extra time and attention to sort of take your agency to the next level. We’ve identified five key areas that really indicate an agency’s health, and we’re going to help you figure out where you need to spend a little more time.

To get that free assessment, all you have to do is text the word ‘assessment’ to 3-8-4-7-0. Again, text the word ‘assessment’ to 3-8-4-7-0, and we will send you a link so you can do that at your leisure. Hopefully, that will give you some new insights and some direction in terms of your time and attention in the agency. In the meantime, as always, I’m around if I can be helpful, [email protected]agencymanagementinstitute.com, and I will be back next week with another great guest and more things for you to ponder. Talk to you soon.

Intro/Outro:

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