Summer 2019




entiator, has to be remarkable in the

true definition of that word, which is

worthy of remark.

Take CVS Pharmacy. Baer said many

people have experienced the CVS talk

trigger without even noticing it. Think

about it. What is remarkable about the

CVS experience?

Well, CVS has massively long receipts

on purpose. And customers notice it and

talk about it. One customer, after visiting

a CVS, went on social media to express

that he had run out of wrapping paper

for presents so he used a CVS receipt

to wrap presents. A sort of inside joke,

it got a lot of attention on social media.

Another customer had a window blind

break in his bedroom, so he used the

CVS receipt to replace the missing link.

The social media post received 57,000

retweets and 256,000 likes. CVS couldn’t

buy that kind of publicity. It’s an operational

choice that the company made on

purpose to create conversations, or a story

worth telling.

The second thing Baer said that your

talk trigger must be is repeatable. Baer

explains that the best way to create a talk

trigger is not for special occasions or people

on their birthdays or a certain day of

the week but for everyone all the time.

“All customers must have access to

your bonus because you are trying to maximize

the number of people who will tell

your talk trigger,” Baer said. “Business, a

lot of times, they think…we’ll just do it on

their anniversary or their birthday or for

our best customers. I understand why we

think that way, but you are then reducing

the number of talkers.”

Baer tells the story of a restaurant

in Sacramento, California called Skip’s

Kitchen. The restaurant is by no means

remarkable from a curb appeal standpoint,

it’s just a simple family-owned

business that makes good hamburgers.

According to Baer, Skip, the owner, has

spent a grand total of zero dollars and

zero cents on advertising in nearly a decade

in business. And yet there is a line to

get in to the restaurant almost every day.

Every person

gets a crack

at it. It’s not just

on Wednesdays

when business

is slower. It’s not

just on a person’s

birthday. It’s not

ladies night.

It’s everybody.

How did they accomplish that in a

saturated restaurant market? How do

they create that kind of traffic without

telling anybody about the business?

“It’s because their customers do that

for them,” Baer explained. “Their customers

are volunteers marketers. And it’s

because they have a story to tell. They

have a talk trigger.”

Here’s how it works. Skip’s is a counter-service

restaurant, meaning that you

order from a menu board placed behind

the cash register then wait for your food

to be brought to your table. Except at

Skip’s, after you order but before you pay,

the counter person whips out a deck of

playing cards, fans them out face down,

and says ‘pick a card.’ If when you select

a card you turn over a joker, your entire

meal is free.

“Approximately four people a day win

this game,” Baer related. “Everybody

gets a chance, but about four people win.

And when they win, they go crazy. It’s

like winning the lottery. The Patty Melt

lottery. They are taking patty melt selfies.

They’re calling their mother. They’re

putting reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor

-- it’s a whole thing. And it’s so successful

that in Sacramento, despite the fact that

there’s a big sign outside that says ‘Skip’s

Kitchen,’ most of the people in Sacramento

call it ‘that joker restaurant.’”

Now that’s an effective talk trigger.

But, as Baer stresses, one of the reasons

it’s so powerful is that every person gets

a crack at it. It’s not just on Wednesdays

when business is slower. It’s not just on

a person’s birthday. It’s not ladies night.

It’s everybody.

“Consistency is the key, especially

when you’re trying to create word of

mouth because you want them to tell the

same story to more and more people,”

Baer concluded.

The third thing your talk trigger must

be is reasonable.

Baer said a lot of times business owners

think that in order to get attention,

or get new customers, they have to do

something over the top, like hold a contest

where the winner gets a new car or

something crazy like that.

“We think that we have to blow people

away or we have to shock them,” he

said. “You don’t need something big. In

fact, it shouldn’t be big and here’s why.

Because when you do something for customers

that’s too grand, it doesn’t create

the kind of conversation we think it does;

rather, it creates suspicion. What they say

is ‘wait a second, what’s the catch? When

is the other shoe going to drop? This

can’t be true, they are not really going

to give somebody a car.’ Also, it’s like the

Publisher’s Clearinghouse effect. People

think ‘I’m not going to win that, so I’m

going to throw it away because it’s too

big, it’s not reasonable.’”

According to Baer, you don’t have to

make it big; it just has to be different and

consistent. Consider, he says, Double-

Tree Hotels by Hilton. The hotel chain

has given every guest a warm chocolate

chip cookie at check-in every day for

30 years. (Now that’s a talk trigger with

some staying power!)

“They hand out an incredible 75,000

chocolate chip cookies a day,” Baer said.

“How effective is that? I conducted a survey

of thousands of DoubleTree guests

while consulting Hilton and found out

that 34% of them -- more than a third --

have told a story to somebody else about

that cookie. What that means is that

22,500 stories today will be told about

that chocolate chip cookie.”

Baer follows up with a simple question.

When is the last time you saw a

Double Tree advertisement or TV commercial?

It’s not very often because the

cookie is the ad and the guests are the

sales and marketing department, he said.

“It’s not a car, it’s not a trip to Hawaii,

it’s just a chocolate chip cookie, but

people talk about it all the time online

and offline,” Baer said. “People are making

hotel decisions based on a chocolate

chip cookie!”

Baer cited another example pulled

from the story of a tire shop owner he

met in Kansas. In this businessman’s

hometown is located an artisanal root

beer company. The man loves this root

beer. So, when you take your car into his

shop for maintenance, or to purchase

tires, or for tire rotation, and you pick

up your car after he services it, every

customer finds in their passenger seat a

two-liter bottle of this locally-made root

beer with a little note that says thanks so

much for your business.

“In that town, he is known as the

Root Beer Tire Man,” Baer said. “You

don’t get free tires. It’s not something big.

It’s just root beer. But it’s consistent and

it becomes the story people tell.”

The fourth and final thing your talk

trigger must be is relevant.

“It has to add up,” Baer said. “It has

to make sense. The Root Beer Tire Man

makes sense because he likes root beer

and the root beer is made in that town. It

must speak to who you are and what you

are because then the story is easier to tell.

There’s not a lot of follow-up questions

that have to occur.”

As another example, Baer points out

a locksmith in New York City who is the

highest rated locksmith in New York

City, and also one of the highest-rated

businesses of any kind and all of New

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