Yes, a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is important but what’s equally important is a talk trigger. The problem with USP is that almost every company has a selling point and only a few of them are unique. Terms like good quality and good service are selling propositions, but they aren’t unique in any way.
“The truth is customers don’t trust companies as much as they trust each other. We’re living in an era where trust matters more than truth.”
Research shows more than half of the revenues of small and medium businesses come from referrals. But given all that data, today most referrals happen by accident. The goal of ‘Talk Triggers’ is to provide a structured way to harness the extraordinary power of word of mouth.
The Epitome of a Talk Trigger – Chocolate Cookies by DoubleTree
Hilton’s DoubleTree has been serving warm chocolate chip cookies to guests for more than thirty years. Today DoubleTree serves an astonishing 75,000 cookies every day across its 500 global locations. The cookies are baked every day, in each hotel.
The consistency of the cookie experience is astonishing too. The recipe is consistent worldwide and the cookies are baked unfirmoly. “We see the cookie really as a symbol of hospitality and a very strong symbol, which a lot of brands don’t’ have.” Said Stuart Foster, VP of global brands for Hilton. More than one-third of their customers say they’ve mentioned the cookie to someone else.
DoubleTree’s cookies are a differentiator behind ‘service’ and ‘cleanliness’. Service and cleanliness are clearly indicators of quality experience. Many companies are considered pretty good in these areas, and they’re not talk triggers. They’re selling propositions.
The 4-5-6 of Talk Trigger Framework
The 4 Requirements of a Talk Trigger
Remarkable and not just good enough
Relevant and tied to your core business
Reasonable enough to earn trust
Repeatable for every customer
Requirement #1 Be Remarkable
Being remarkable comes with the risk that you’ll turn off a segment of your potential customers. Sometimes a differentiator is like a neck tattoo – it definitely stands out but it’s not always accepted. Take for example, vegans aren’t flocking to DoubleTree for a cookie (although the hotel is testing a vegan alternative).
“Anytime you choose to take a different path, you’re going to turn some people off. One of the secrets to many successful brands is they have as many people dislike them as like them.”
Another good example is Umpqua bank. The most compelling in-store experience in each Umpqua location is a ‘silver telephone’. Customers can use this special hotline to talk directly to the bank president. Tweets from the bank and its customers indicate just how valuable this trigger is.
Requirement #2 Be Relevant
Your talk trigger should support your brand position and objectives. It has to make sense within the context of what you do, who you are and what you stand for.
Holiday Word, a family-owned amusement park in rural southern Indiana, has a very effective talk trigger – free food. It has more than a thousand reviews on TripAdvisor that explicitly mention about free drinks. “Nearly everyone brings up the free drinks, even children. Not everybody’s going to be a coaster rider. But everybodys’ going to want to get something to drink when they’re having fun and that’s something we give them.”, says Paula Werne, Director of Communications.
Requirement #3 Be Reasonable
Yoru talk trigger should be reasonable enough to be credible and trusted. If someone responds to yoru talk trigger with “It’s amazing”, you’re on the right track. Conversely, if they say “No way” “It can’t be”, your offer sounds too good to be true.
“A talk trigger should be remarkable enough to be a conversation catalyst but reasonable enough to be trusted.”
Five Guys aren’t your typical fast-food restaurant. Just about everyone discusses the chain’s talk trigger – extra fries. Order a small serving of fries at Five Guys and you’ll likely say “Wow, that’s a lot of fries.” The genius of this talk trigger is that the official portion sizes of the fries aren’t’ necessarily larger. The container in which an order is served is of normal portions. But the workers add a heap of bonus fries on top. Consequently, when you open your sack of food, all you see are bits and pieces of burger-wrapping aluminium foil blanketed with French fries, top and bottom.
Requirement #4 Be Repeatable
Your talk trigger should be repeatable enough that it serves all customers, not just random or your best customers.
A business that epitomizes the repeatable nature of a talk trigger is Penn & Teller, a magician duo. A meet and greet opportunity with large-scale illusionist David Copperfield is priced at a hundred dollars and additional forty dollars for a photo. A review on TripAdvisor warns “Do NOT purchase the meet and greet ticket,” because Copperfield spends ten seconds with each guest and tries to upsell his merchandise.
On the contrary, every single Penn & Teller performance creates a chatter. There are thousands of photos online about close encounters with the magician duo. Customers can certainly tell that Penn & Teller enjoy meeting them and that the magicians take the time to really interact with the fans.
So, there you go. The Four Rs. Now let’s move on the 5 distinct types of talk triggers.
The 5 Types of Talk Triggers
Empathy to see your customers’ world
Usefulness to draw crowds
Generosity to spread the words
Speed to surprise
Attitude to make it personal
Type #1 Empathy
Dr. Gorab calls each of his patient who’s coming to his office for the first time. His typical greeting is “Hi, this is Dr. Gorab, I know we have an upcoming appointment for you next week. I just wanted to call to introduce myself and ask if you have any questions prior to your appointment.” This simple, empathetic gesture really connects with his customers and sets him apart from other dentists.
“I’ve never been sued for anything. And I do surgery every day. I have complications. Some of them have been bad complications. But probably the reason why I haven’t been sued is because I understand that I care about them, and people don’t sue people they like.”, added Dr. Gorab.
Type #2 Usefulness
Spiceworks is materially about freeware for IT pros to make their lives easier. “We’ve never sold software.”, says Jay Hallberg, CEO of Spiceworks. Instead, Spiceworks monetize by selling highly-targeted ads. Spiceworks is also the first and by far the most popular online forum for IT pros to ask questions and interact on just about any topic. Spiceworks brand is to the IT community as retro eyeglasses are to the hipster community: a powerful and popular inclusion that creates conversation by being massively useful to its members.
Type #3 Generosity
On a Friday morning, two ladies came in and ordered two Asian salads with chicken. Wahl said “ladies, I’m going to try something here. I’m going to fan out these playing cards facedown, and if you pick the joker, your entire meal is free.” One of them picked a card and boom, she picked the joker. Wahl recalls thinking, “This may be a terrible and expensive idea!”
On average, four customers win every day at Skip’s kitchen, meaning Wahl gives away approximately 2 percent of his orders. But when they win, the talk trigger pays off generously. The biggest bill he’s had to cover was $117.86 when a group of ten ordered many, many burgers.
Type #4 Speed
Equipped with only a tablet and a smartphone, KLM airline’s social media team completely changed the customer service from reactive to proactive. In case the passengers left their belongings onboard, the flight crew called the team directly instead of transferring the lost items to the KLM transfer desk.
On the tablet, they could look up a customer’s itneranty, and say, his next flight was leaving from gate 37 to Paris in forty-five minutes. “She rushes immediately to the gate, looks for Mr.Jensen, and tells him, ‘Could it be that you lost something?’ Mostly, they don’t even know they’ve lost it yet, and suddenly they have their iPad back.”, says Vogel-Meijer of KLM.
Type #5 Attitude
Uberflip is a B2B software company for marketers to create compelling content experiences using their motion graphics, blog posts and white papers. “At first, we used the typical generic-drip emails like ‘Hi, I’m Steve and I’m from the Uberflip team. Contact me and I’ll help you.”, says Frisch, the founder. Because people know these emails are automated and the recipients know exactly what the company is trying to do, Frisch and his team replaced the email with “Hi, I’m Katie. I’m going to level with you since you’re a B2B marketer as well. I’m not real, but a lot of thought was put into who I’m going to be by our marketing team. So, please enjoy the upcoming emails because our marketing team really thinks about every word that I’m going to tell you. We’re going to level with you and treat you with respect. You’re knowledgeable, so we’re going to throw everything out the table. Here’s why we think we can help you do your job better. Let us know if you want to talk.”
Your head may be swimming with ideas at this point. Now let’s put those ideas into action with six steps of creating talk triggers.
The 6 Steps to Creating Talk Triggers
Gather internal insights
Get close to your customers
Create candidate talk triggers
Test and measure
Expand and Turn On
Amplify Your Talk Triggers
Step #1 Gather Internal Insights
Arrange an internal talk trigger meeting, and nominate a worthy scribe to take notes. Here are some questions you should be asking:
– X percent of customers don’t have cars.
– X percent of our customers complain about ice cream being too frozen.
– We hear from customers they’d like more colors.
– Customers say packaging is too hard to open.
Step #2 Get Close to Your Customers
Let me ask you. “When was the last time you actually heard the voice of a real customer?” It’s so tempting to not waste time with just one customer, but what you learn from an individual experience can transform how you think about your own brand. Here’s another question, “When was the last time you experienced your own product or that of your competitors?” Going even part of your sales process or product can minimize the gaps between your perception and the reality.
Step #3 Create Candidate Talk Triggers
Create talk triggers by considering the four Rs.
- Remarkable – something worth spreading the words
- Relevant – fits the context of your brand
- Reasonable – doesn’t sound too good to be true
- Repeatable – available to all customers, not just selected and VIP ones
You can also deploy the five types – empathy, usefulness, generosity, speed and attitude.
Step #4 Test and Measure
As with many new undertakings, talk triggers need planning to be measured effectively. One question we should ask more to our customers is “How did you hear about us?” Your goal is to aim for “I heard about you from a friend / family.” That’s the response you can safely correlate your effort to an outcome.
To fully understand the results of your talk trigger, pay attention to both the online and offline world. Online conversations can be social media hashtags, ratings, reviews. Offline conversations can be customer surveys. Net promoter score, sales team anecdotes and a simple question such as “how did you hear about us?”
Decide ahead of time what metrics you’re going to use. And please know that talk triggers take time, just like every good thing in life. Five Guys, DoubleTree, Dr. Gorab all took time to pull the trigger before they saw any concrete feedback. So, give your attempts at least a couple of weeks.
Step #5 Expand and Turn On
As your talk triggers start to shine on your fan base, be sure to share early wins. Effective talk triggers create external brand experiences and worth internal celebrations. No matter how small, these celebrations can reinforce how meaningful a talk trigger is to your band.
Step #6 Amplify Your Talk Triggers
You shouldn’t underestimate the power of ‘because’. A specific thing being done for a reason will make your offer sound more genuine and authentic. DoubleTree gives guests a cookie because the hotel wants them to feel welcome. Five Guys gives more fries because it wants customers to feel like they got something extra. Penn and Teller greet every fan after a show because the duo wants them to feel like a community. What’s your ‘because’ statement?
Once you’re all set, amplify your talk trigger in every customer touch point – advertising, social media, call center, email campaigns and websites.
Talk Triggers Must Evolve
More often than not, you’ll find your talk triggers performing worse over time. What do you do when your talk trigger isn’t remarkable, relevant, reasonable and repeatable anymore? The short answer is wind it down and create a new one. You’ll want to go back through parts of the process (4-5-6), recollect data, insights and ideas before rolling out a new trigger.
Same is Lame
Good is a four-lettered word that doesn’t catalyze much conversation because consumers increasingly have high expectations on businesses. You need more than good quality and good service. You need a talk trigger to give your customers a reason to sing your praises with scale and impact.
You now know the four Rs, the five types and the six-step process to do the job. So, give yourself the permission to do something different, something talkable and something remarkable.
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Also check out other fantastic books by Jay Baer: