6 Steps To Creating Customers With Word Of Mouth

by Rebecca Vogels

What are the talk triggers and how can companies use them to create more customers? Follow these steps to use the word of mouth and add value to your brand

What makes the Cheesecake Factory special? Is it their lemon chicken? The mythos of their family-run rags-to-riches origins? Or, dare we suggest it, their cheesecake? According to Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin’s new book, Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth it’s none of these things. Rather, it’s their menu. The 5,940 word long, 250 item menu contains 85 different chicken dishes alone. And this is at a restaurant named for cheesecake.

The menu of the Cheesecake Factory is a great example of a “Talk Trigger”. The vast and ever-updated menu of the restaurant – poke bowls, anyone? – is what customers remember. And it’s what they talk about. A delicious parmesan chicken dish isn’t gossip-worthy, but a 5,940-word long menu is a talk trigger and makes for a good story. So, how are talk triggers engineered, and how can you use them for your business? The answers are in Baer and Lemin’s most recent book.

What Are Talk Triggers?

Talk triggers get the conversation started . Why is this important? According to Baer and Lemin, 19% of purchases happen through word of mouth.

Talk triggers have to be memorable. They are not the same as a USP. A USP is a key feature of your business and a staple of boardroom discussion. A talk trigger, on the other hand, is an important added extra, a benefit that comes with a story. Baer and Lemin outline the difference between a USP and a talk trigger. They write:

“A USP is a feature, articulated with a bullet point, that is discussed in a conference room. A talk trigger is a benefit, articulated with a story, that is discussed at a cocktail party.”

A talk trigger directly relates to the core branding value of a company. The core brand value of The Cheesecake Factory is that they have ‘something for everyone’. The whole family can eat there, no arguments. No umming and ahhing about Mum wanting a burger, Dad wanting one of the 85 chicken dishes, Lisa wanting a Poke bowl, Bill a salad. Their talk trigger taps right into their one brand value.

How Doubletree Set the Scene

According to Baer/Lemin, another good example is Doubletree. Their number one brand value is hospitality and they want to give everyone a warm welcome. Double Tree’s talk trigger? Warm cookies. The Hilton hotel brand has quality bedding and service, a wake-up call at the right time, a restaurant on site. But these are features, not talk triggers. No good story ever started with “The mattress filling was spot on.”

A talk trigger is a “memorable differentiator”. Baer and Lemin write:

“It has to be inherently… interesting. It should be unexpected. It should be worthy of a story, meaning that it has to be intriguing enough to the recipient to be worth the exchange of time for information.”

In other words, it has to be worth talking about! And so, at Doubletree a warm cookie means a warm welcome. That’s the story. It’s a signifier, a way in, a memorable extra.

How To Create Talk Triggers For Your Brand

So how can you create talk triggers for your brand? According to Baer and Lemin, there are 6 steps every brand can take to develop effective talk triggers.

  • Gather Insights

First, gather insights into what it is your brand is delivering already. Why are customers coming to you rather than your competitors? What could you use to represent this in the form of a differentiator, and therefore a story?

  • Get Close To Your Customers

Do your research. Who is using your service? When and why do they use it? What are they already enjoying about it? Get close to your customers.

  • Create Candidate Talk Triggers

At this point, you and your team will be able to come up with some candidates or possibilities for talk triggers. If you have front of house or customer service staff, include them in this. They know your customers.

  • Test And Measure Your Talk Triggers

According to Baer and Lemin talk triggers should be remarkable, relevant, reasonable, and repeatable. This means they should be something that’s easy to test on customers, and get a measurable response to. Many talk triggers are just a particularly thoughtful and relevant freebie or extra.

  • Expand And Turn On

What could you add to your talk trigger? Find out exactly what it is customers like about it, and use that to make it even better. Once you’ve worked out what your ideal talk trigger is, roll it out!

  • Amplify Your Talk Trigger

Make some noise about it. A little bit of marketing here is what will turn your customer base into a marketing team in the future. They’ll notice and remember the talk trigger, and it will do its job. It’ll get talked about!

  • Create Your Next Talk Trigger

And that’s it! Rinse and repeat, and make talk triggers work for your businesses.

As is clear from both Doubletree and The Cheesecake Factory, talk triggers don’t have to be complex or expensive, but they do, of course, have to be the cherry on top of an otherwise excellent product or service. A cookie alone wouldn’t make up for a terrible night’s sleep, a huge menu wouldn’t make up for terrible service. But you know your business is providing what it should, so a talk trigger can help it go the extra mile. Same is lame. Same is forgettable. Think about what makes your business special, and how you could communicate that to your customers that with a talk trigger.


Rebecca Vogels is founder and CEO of the Brand and Story-Agency All of the Above. She is a Keynote Speaker, Forbes contributor and was named Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Tech by the California Diversity Council. She offers workshops about personal branding, story, and purpose. You can find out more about her #storyfirst approach here.