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How Magical Elves can Help Your Car Wash

3 minute Read
Jay Baer

“Advertising is a task paid for by the unremarkable.” This comment by Jay Baer during his Impact Session, “Talk Triggers,” would come up more than once – and made more sense each time he said it.  Trying to analyze it, at first, could almost cause you to look past his unconventional clothing choice, a rather loud, colorful plaid suit. But, by the end of the session, you didn’t just completely understand the statement, the plaid suit was starting to look pretty dapper. 

“I have a history of unconventional choices,” said Baer, partially alluding to his attire but also to what he hoped to impress upon the audience on Tuesday morning: “Make just one unconventional choice… That is how you will grow.” 

It all starts with doing things on purpose, he said. You have to have a strategy for everything and you have to do it on purpose. Except when it comes to advertising. “If you do it right, your customers will do that growing for you” via word of mouth. You just have to give them the opportunity -- and a reason. “Nobody has ever said to you, ‘Let me tell you about this adequate experience I just had.’”  We are wired to discuss things that are different and ignore things that are average, he said. You have to give them something they perceive as different. “That becomes the story they tell their friends.” Just don’t replicate the “We Buy Golf Clubs” video, especially the part about buying golf clubs. If you were there, you know exactly what I am talking about! 

It was different, but not in the way that would work well as a promotional piece, or a “talk trigger.”  A talk trigger is an operational choice that you make on purpose that causes customer conversations, said Baer. “It is something that you DO differently that customers notice.” 

There are four requirements of a talk trigger:

1.      It has to be remarkable. For example, CVS has massively long receipts on purpose. People post on social media about using them for blinds or as wrapping paper. “You almost can’t buy that kind of publicity.”

2.      Must be repeatable. For example, Skip’s Kitchen. They haven’t purchase an ad in nine years – and have a line out the door every day. How do they create that kind of traffic?  After you order, the counter person whips out a deck of playing cards and says, ‘Pick a card.’ If you get a joker, your entire meal is free. About four people a day win this game. “What makes it work is that everybody gets a chance at it.”

3.      Must be reasonable: For example, “You don’t need something big. When you do something that is too grand, it doesn’t create conversation, it creates suspicion.” It just has to be different and consistent.

4.      Must be relevant. “Think of something that is true to the spirit of your organization.” 

It all comes down to, “People don’t talk about good, they talk about different,” said Baer, giving the examples of free sunscreen at a water park, getting stuck in an elevator and Amtrak’s response 205 days later, a band of mummies and a Beagle that returns lost items at KLM airport. 

And the magical elves? They were part of the Angels vs. Elves story choice. The elves were the ones who would fix your car overnight. That’s magical – and a remarkable talk trigger! 

To find your own talk trigger, start with empathy. “Make your car wash the one that cares more.”  Use empathy to cause conversations. Don’t brainstorm. “The worst way to create a talk trigger is to brainstorm. 

“Make just one unconventional choice,” said Baer. “Give your customer a story to tell. That is how you will grow. That story is a talk trigger.” 

*  For free digital copies of “Chatter Matters: The 2018 Word of Mouth Report” and “The 6-Steo Process for Creating Word of Mouth with Talk Triggers” text TRIGGERS to 66866.


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