Jay Baer’s Advice on Creating a Powerful Word-of-Mouth Strategy

On April 8th, our ‘Inner Circle’ members were joined by Jay Baer as our newest ‘Book Club’ guest author to discuss how to create a powerful word-of-mouth strategy for your clinic.

Jay is a Hall of Fame speaker and emcee. New York Times best-selling author of six books. An Internet pioneer. A 7th-generation entrepreneur. And the founder of five, multi-million dollar companies.

Jay’s book is Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word of Mouth. Published by Penguin Portfolio, Talk Triggers is the complete blueprint for growing a business by giving customers a memorable story to tell.

He was interviewed by Phil about his book and his key ideas for how Inner Circle members can create more conversations and impactful patient stories.

Here are some key highlights:

What is a Talk Trigger and why is it so important?

In Jay’s words, a Talk Trigger is an operational choice that you make in your business that is designed to create conversations.

As opposed to being a marketing strategy per se, Jay sees a talk trigger as a more experiential and operational way of doing business that creates experiences that support a marketing strategy.

Jay explains that the best way to grow any business is for your customers to grow it for you. He tells us his favorite quote from Robert Stephens:

“Advertising is a tax paid by the unremarkable.”

Many of the most successful brands in the world advertise the least because their customers do the job of advertising for them – and they do it for free. So the least expensive and most effective way to grow your business is for your customers to bring in new customers for you.

Why did Jay decide to write a book on word-of-mouth marketing?

After a career mainly in digital marketing, writing a book on word-of-mouth marketing didn’t seem a natural choice for Jay. But after discovering how few companies actually have a word-of-mouth strategy at all – in fact fewer than 1% according to March’s guest author John Jantsch – Jay knew it was the best way of getting customers, but nobody had a plan. And so he decided to write the book to help them.

The danger of assumption

Jay asks us to pay close attention to this sentence: Competency does not create conversation.

“If we just run a good business people will notice and tell their friends.” Incorrect. If you’re not different, or remarkable, or worthy of somebody telling a story, you will not create referrals.

If you want your customers to tell a story about you,
you have to give them a story to tell.

Jay explains that executing well, offering good service or having great people isn’t enough. It has to be something different, special and that the customer doesn’t expect.

Turning the unremarkable into the remarkable

He then tells us about an example of a run-of-the-mill accounting firm he came across. They were, on the face of it, unremarkable. But after introducing a 5 minute response time to ALL calls and emails, they created something customers didn’t expect AND ended up with 70 Google reviews as a result.

An even more fun example is one about Jay’s love of plaid. He doesn’t love plaid, but he loves that he is the only one wearing it. And he goes as far as to offer meeting or event bookers the choice of outfits for him to wear in his appearance and they LOVE it. Now that’s something to tell people about!

The caveat

It’s important to note that being competent IS a pre-requisite to being remarkable. It isn’t enough to be different. You must first be able to deliver a great product and service and meet expectations. THEN you can add your unique touch.

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The 4 criteria for a Talk Trigger

Jay introduces the 4 Rs. But first emphasizes that as much as it’s great that people will go away from this and note down some great ideas for Talk Triggers. But he wants everyone to understand the 4 criteria that will make your differentiator work as a Talk Trigger:

Remarkable – worthy of remark or a conversation worth having. Proactively.
(Jay’s next example of a vasectomy surgeon is both genius and hilarious. Engraved silver pocket knife anybody?)

Repeatable – something that you can offer repeatedly – not as a one-off. You need to be able to maximise the number of conversations that take place. To do this you need to expose all customers to the Talk Trigger.

Reasonable – Don’t be tempted to go too far with the shock factor or make it unbelievable. Do people really believe that they can win $10million? You may spend that in trying to convince them it was real.

Relevant – Talk Triggers work best when they are aligned with who you are and what you’re about. Different for the sake of it doesn’t work. People need to be able to see why this is your Talk Trigger.

The 5 types of Talk Trigger

Jay then discusses the 5 types of Talk Trigger with some examples to check back against the 4 criteria.

  1. Empathy – In an era of “empathy deficit”, empathy is somehow no longer expected, but it IS a huge opportunity. How can you treat people with more empathy and kindness than they expect? How can you show you care even more?
  2. Usefulness – When you are offering something of informational value that supersedes your core product offering. How can you help people in a way that isn’t “transactional”? For example, creating an email newsletter with a guide to local walking trails suitable for seniors.
  3. Generosity – How can you give more than is expected? This can be as small as a cookie. This is not necessarily always the best, but it’s one of the simplest to implement. Jay’s example of making cardboard packaging for a beanbag chair into a play castle with instructions.
  4. Speed – Expectations of speed are constantly evolving, so you need to be prepared to adapt if you offer a speed promise. This is normally because of new technology or just a constant competition to be the fastest. For example, can you offer temporary hearing aids while theirs are repaired within 24 hours?
  5. Attitude – This is when you are typically more light-hearted than customers expect. Can you be the funny, irreverent hearing care practitioner? This ONLY works if it’s in your DNA – you can’t fake it if it really isn’t you.

Transforming the new client introduction experience

Phil observes that the Talk Triggers add to the “like” factor of “know, like and trust”. And he and Jay then go on to look at an example for the hearing care industry of opening hours.

What if the one reason somebody would never visit a hearing care practitioners because they are only ever open on weekdays within office hours? So what if they stayed open until 10pm on a Wednesday? Not 7pm – but a time that is “extreme” enough for them to take notice and feel there is plenty of time, even if their appointment is at 6:30pm.

The most important person to influence

Phil puts it to Jay that the most important person we are influencing with a Talk Trigger as a new customer in hearing care is often the loved one such as their spouse. Then Jay goes on to say that following the very first appointment, it’s the patient that you may want to send a personalised video to as a follow-up and a perfect and east relationship building.

The 6th part – Implementation

Jay reminds us that the worst way to implement is to brainstorm it. The best way is to talk to your customers through interviews with long time clients, new clients or past clients. Here’s how he approaches it:

  • Tell me about the key milestones in the relationship? They tell us the story of their customer journey.
  • At each of those milestones we ask, when that happened what did you expect and did anything happen that you didn’t expect? You have learn what they expected to be able to give them something they don’t expect.
  • Then we analyse all of the data around customer feedback such as surveys, emails, call transcripts – everything customers have ever said. We’re looking for words that come up that could form part of Talk Triggers.
  • Next we look at which of the milestones make most sense to introduce a Talk Trigger – using the 4 criteria
  • Now we test it by exposing it to selected customers to test how talkable it is amongst that test group

You can get access to resources and help to build out a Talk Trigger for your organization at www.talktriggers.com.

A challenge from Phil…

Phil suggests that we consider buying and gifting a copy of Talk Triggers as a way to help someone else, but for that very act of generosity to become a Talk trigger that results in the recipient mentioning your name and your business.

The book itself has a set of referral cards in it so that you can easily recommend it to others.


These are just some of the key notes from an 80-minute interview with Jay Baer. The full interview is only available to “Inner Circle” members, but you can view the highlights below.


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