You need Jay Baer’s “Talk Triggers” to make your business spread and grow

There’s this book called Talk Triggers by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin. It has alpacas on the cover. And you should buy it, because it’s really useful.

If you’re in an agency, or in marketing, you’ve probably heard clients say “We want to create something viral.” It’s practically a meme. And it’s insipid. You cannot go out and create something viral. It’s a long-shot, like writing a bestselling novel or recording a hit record, and you can’t plan it. And even if you do it, what does it have to do with your business?

Talk Triggers is about something far more fundamental — and achievable. It is about how to embed an element in your business — a small but fundamental element — that people will share and remark upon in a positive way. That’s a talk trigger. It creates word of mouth. And word of mouth is a powerful way to generate growth — more powerful, and way cheaper, than any other form of marketing.

Word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, WOMMA, was founded 14 years ago. There have been dozens of books on the topic.

But this is different.

First off, it isn’t about marketing. It’s about embedding a talk trigger into your culture — and how to invent one.

What kind of triggers are we talking about here?

You know, like the warm cookie you get when you check into a DoubleTree hotel. I asked my wife, who is not a marketing expert, what she thinks of when she thinks about DoubleTree hotels. She’s probably been to three of them in the last 20 years.

“The cookie,” she said. That’s making an impression. Do you remember and talk about any other hotel you’ve been to? Probably not, unless they disappointed you. (The leopardskin robes at Kimpton might be an exception.)

Or Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, a theme park where you get free drinks. No catch. Just all the soft drinks and soda you want, for your whole visit.

Or Americollect, a medical collection agency where they’re ridiculously nice to you, they listen, and they’re sympathetic. Yes, a sympathetic collection agency.

Describing these examples is fun. But this book is not just about describing examples, which any dope can do.

That’s where the second point of differentiation comes in. This book is practical.

Word of mouth seems magical. Some companies just seem to be able to do it, and some don’t.

Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin aren’t about magic. They’re about science. There’s an actual plan here. They call it the 4-5-6 method.

The “4” is the four things your talk trigger needs to be:

  • Remarkable. Something unusual that stands out, that you’d remark on.
  • Relevant. Something that pertains to your business. An ice cream store that gave out free Lactaid pills would be delivering something relevant (why don’t they do that?). An ice cream store that gave out free rain ponchos wouldn’t.
  • Reasonable. Oprah giving a car to everyone in her studio audience is not reasonable. (And stuff like that isn’t affordable on a regular basis.) We’re talking about something small that makes a difference, like a cookie, or Paragon Direct, the New York City auto repair shop that picks up your car, fixes it overnight, and brings it back to you.
  • Repeatable. Giving a free checkout to every ten-thousandth customer isn’t repeatable. The talk triggers in this book are things that touch every customer. The companies deliver them consistently. Like the free shipping and free returns for Zappos.

The “5” is the five types of talk triggers — talkable empathy, talkable usefulness, talkable generosity, talkable speed, and talkable attitude.

And the “6” is the six steps to build a talk trigger: research; customer interactions; brainstorming; testing and measurement; scaling up; and amplifying.

If you get the impression from this description that this is a systematic program, you’re right. It’s not easy, but it’s universal. Anybody can follow this.

Baer and Lemin have created the simplest possible guide to doing what your business ought to do to stand out and grow. As they say, “Same Is Lame.” But different is risky. This book takes most of the risk out of it.

Jay and Daniel’s talk trigger is that they’ll buy some other book for you if you don’t like it

You’d be right to be skeptical if these guys didn’t use their own methods. What is the talk trigger for Talk Triggers?

It’s that if you don’t like the book, they’ll literally buy you any other book you want. I’d use this to buy my kids’ vastly expensive textbooks, except that would be dishonest. Because I liked the book. And you will too.

Disclaimers about my review

Here’s what you need to know about this review.

Jay sent me the book to review. I didn’t have to pay for it. The package came with a container of DoubleTree cookies and a stuffed alpaca. The cookies were really good.

I’ve known Jay a while and interviewed him a bunch of times. I’ve seen him on stage. He’s a force to be reckoned with. And he really knows his stuff. I like him. Even though his suits are too loud.

He’s interviewed me on his podcast.

But I promise, if I didn’t think this book was great, I would have just said nothing, or done a cute little Facebook post with the stuffed alpaca. I wouldn’t have written all this stuff unless I thought it was worth your time, (Besides, if the book isn’t as useful as I say, he and Daniel are going to be out a lot of money from people asking them to buy other books.)

One more thing

I also admire this book from an author perspective. It’s a perfect example of how to write a thought leadership book. I’ll be describing that on Monday.

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  1. A question: Does the book talk about how to inculcate the company’s talk trigger throughout the workforce? (The DoubleTree cookies wouldn’t work, after all, if every third front desk clerk failed to understand the importance of the cookies to the chain’s identity.) I was once asked to develop a new “identity” for the IT organization that supports a large health system, and in working through this with leadership, I came to the conclusion that there was no identity I cold latch onto, and I told them they had to figure out who they wanted to be when they grew up before we could come up with the message we wanted their staff to convey.