Business owners, especially those with smaller businesses, will tell you that one of the main ways they get new customers is through word-of-mouth.
However, very few of those same business owners actually do anything to purposely generate word-of-mouth. They’re just happy if it happens.
Think about some of your own experiences or maybe businesses that you’ve known. If you were to ask those business owners why their customers would say nice things about them, they would probably tell you one of the following:
- “We have great customer service!” Yawn … every business will tell you that, what makes yours different?
- “We have great products (or services)!” I hope so, otherwise what am I buying?
- “We’ve been around since 1941!” So has my grandma, but I don’t hear a lot of people talking about her.
Or maybe they’ll tell you how much integrity they have, or that they carry quality brands or that they have low prices. All of those are nice things, but I guarantee I can find all of those somewhere else. The reality is that it’s really difficult for most business owners to find a way to stand out.
Same is lame!
If you want people to talk about you (in a positive way), you have to give them something to talk about. In fact, it turns out there’s a bit of science behind this. Authors Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin have spent the last couple of years studying the ideas behind successful word-of-mouth marketing and they’ve shared their findings in their latest book Talk Triggers.
The 4 Talk Triggers Criteria
Based on their research and experience, it turns out that you have to meet 4 specific criteria if you want people to talk about you consistently.
Must Be Remarkable // It’s not enough to be good, that’s expected. You also have to be doing something that stands out, something that people will notice and want to talk about.
Example: Cheesecake Factory menu size. The menu is almost 6000 words long, and according to surveys, it’s the second-most likely thing that people will talk about (after food quality) when it comes to The Cheesecake Factory.
Must Be Relevant // Whatever you’re doing needs to tie back to your core business. People might talk if you’re giving away iPads – but unless you’re Apple or an electronics store, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with your business. You want them to be talking about something that reinforces what you do, who you are or why you do what you do.
Example: Warm chocolate chip cookies for all guests at Doubletree hotels. They make you feel at home, welcome and happy, which is what Doubletree wants to be known for (and people talk about them).
Must Be Reasonable // You need to make sure you’re not going over the top just to get attention. People tend to be very distrustful if they feel like they’re getting something that’s too big (what’s the catch?). So you want to make an impact, but do it in a way that matches up with the value of what you sell.
Example: Five Guys fries. Whenever you order any size of Five Guys Fries, they will throw in an extra scoop (or two). It’s not a free meal or even a free burger, but it’s a nice extra that people talk about.
Must Be Repeatable // You need to make sure that what you’re doing is something that you can do consistently and with all of your customers. Surprising the occasional customer with a cool experience is fine, but it won’t do more than a quick blip of recognition, and it runs the risk of appearing to be gimmicky.
Example: Magicians Penn and Teller. As part of their long-running Las Vegas magic show, comedians/magicians Penn and Teller close out EVERY show by running up to the lobby of the theater and greeting any and all fans. They stick around until the last guest leaves – and they do that for every show, which no other magician in Vegas does.
Effective word-of-mouth can be a game-changer for a business. The Cheesecake Factory spends almost no money on marketing compared with their peers because people voluntarily talk about their experience and the crazy big menu … and that’s enough to drive steady, strong growth for the brand.
Unfortunately, word-of-mouth doesn’t just happen. The four criteria above (Remarkable, Relevant, Reasonable, and Repeatable) are just the tip of the iceberg of what it takes to create a viable tactic. But it can be done – and smaller businesses are perfect for this kind of strategy – if they’re willing to take a leap and stand out from the crowd.
What do you think? Do you know of a business that does a great job with this? Have you read Talk Triggers yet? (Great book — it’s well worth your time.) We’d love to hear from you.
Shawn Kinkade, Kansas City Business Coach