Talk Triggers: Word Of Mouth Marketing with Daniel Lemin

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TSP 182 | Word Of MouthEpisode Summary:

The more people talk about how remarkable your business is, the better it is for you economically. This is a fact that almost everyone in marketing knows. There is an economic impact to what we call “word of mouth”. Daniel Lemin, CMO and co-founder of Selectivor, trusted advisor and bestselling author on reputation management, digital marketing, and social media customer service, shows his expertise on this subject as he takes us into Talk Triggers. Sharing what he learned as one of the earlier employees in Google and how he got into marketing, he tells us why it’s important to be memorable to get someone to see you and talk about you. He gives us the four Rs that go into that: remarkable, relevant, reasonable, and repeatable.

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Talk Triggers: Word Of Mouth Marketing with Daniel Lemin

I am thrilled and honored to have Daniel Lemin. He is a startup co-founder, trusted advisor and the bestselling author on reputation management, digital marketing and social media customer service. He was an early member of Google’s global communications team. Daniel led the launch of products in North America and around the world. He is the CMO and Co-Founder of Selectivor, a food intelligence startup that helps people stay healthy through personalized eating. His book with co-author Jay Baer, Talk Triggers, is going to be a New York Times bestseller. It explores word of mouth marketing and lays out a framework so you can build that in your own organization. You want to have something that’s memorable and Talk Triggers gives you those ways to do it. He’s an expert commentary on television. He has got that anchorman smile. He’s smart and handsome. Daniel, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

Take us back to when you were growing up in Ohio. You can go back to your childhood, high school, college, wherever you want, when you said, “I’m going to get into high tech.” Obviously, Google when you were younger that didn’t even exist. I’d love to hear what your background was of how you got into what you’re doing.

To some degree, I don’t know is the answer. That’s true for many people. You look back and think, “I’m not sure how I got into doing the things I’ve done, but I’m grateful I did.” Part of it though, I’ve always been a curious kid and also a kid that had a curious mind. I always wondered how things worked, why things worked and I tried tinkering with things to make them work better. I was always drawn to technology for that reason. I enjoy the challenges of it and also the gold rush. There’s always something new and bigger. There’s always a moon shot happening somewhere in the tech world, including several happening right now. There’s always been that curiosity for me. I always assumed that I would work in marketing as a kid. That was the only thing I was ever good at. I tried doing other endeavors, but none of them anywhere near with success.

If you are assuming that your best chance to captivate a customer is to be the best in your category, then you’re going to struggle for a long time. Click To Tweet

Tell us what it was like to be one of the early members of Google. What was that atmosphere like? What can you say looking back, how the culture has evolved?

I was employee number 400 at the company. I worked on this scrappy little marketing communications team. There were about eight of us in total at the time. The fun part about that was seeing the company explode around us in all different areas, from employee size to new markets, launching internationally new products, and new product space. They’ve launched so many innovations when I was there in the first couple of years.

Nobody ever talks about average so you need to be remarkable. Click To Tweet

It solidified for me, in my mind, the value of never resting on your laurels. You never assume that everything is done. The work is never done. You always continue to change things. You continue to think about ways you can do something better. That’s in part how I’ve approached my career after Google in marketing. It’s always looking for better ways to do things. It was a good training ground for me from that perspective. It was also an amazing place to work.

That has led you to your own startup, Selectivor. You’re applying AI intelligence to helping us all get healthier.

The broad mission is to help people stay healthy and well through whatever diets they may be following, both health and personal guidance. We’re building a whole host of AI tools to do that. We’ll help you find recipes that work for you. We’ll help you find restaurants and things that work for you. That’s the mission and the broad story behind that are personal struggles that both I and my co-founder had trying to stay on our diets. In the context of eating with other people, sometimes that conversation’s uncomfortable. You don’t want to tell them about your dietary needs. This has been the biggest buzzkill in the world, “I’d love to go on a date with you. I can’t eat this and I can’t eat that. I don’t eat this and I won’t eat that. Aren’t you looking forward to meeting me?” It’s extracting some of that social friction out of the equation in the process of doing that.

I’ve read some research that if you tend to have overweight friends, you are more likely to be overweight and vice versa. If you tend to have fit, healthy friends, you’re more likely to be fit. Since you’re an expert in data and software, does that ring true? Are you incorporating that into your company?

It completely rings true. There’s a famous landmark study from the ‘60s, the Framingham Heart Study. They wrote about it in that book, Connected. It’s a landmark study looking at how communities impact the health of its members. Obese communities tended to remain obese and lose weight together when they started. It is truly that connected. In fact, one of the things we’re building into our product is the ability to challenge yourself and others to do something, stay on a diet, drink more water, and eat more watermelon, whatever it might be. That notion of challenging each other is a much more playful way to do things together. It impacts how we think about the product.

TSP 182 | Word Of Mouth

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth

Let’s dive into Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word Of Mouth. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my advertising background is word of mouth is much more powerful than any paid ad and commercial. Getting these brand ambassadors to talk about you and spread the word, the trust factor is huge. How did you and Jay Baer decide to work together?

I’ve known and worked with Jay for a decade, even more than that. I hired Jay at an agency I worked at in Downtown Los Angeles. I hired Jay there to help us on the agency side with innovation and bring some outside thinking. I liked working with him so much that I decided to leave that agency and work with him. I’ve worked with him on the consulting side since 2010.

This is a big collaboration with a lot of insights together. The cover of the book looks like two llamas nestling each other. What animals are those?

They’re alpacas nestling. They’re from Peru.

What is the significance of that picture?

It’s a simple story. The first version of the cover from our publisher was less than remarkable. It wasn’t terribly exciting. Widely panned might be a phrase I would use to describe that. We were looking for something that people would remember and talk about. Have you seen another business book with alpacas whispering to each other on the cover? It’s unique. It’s also hot pink. It’s connected to one of the case studies inside. That’s the story behind the cover. We’ve taken it to a ludicrous extreme. We’re all over now alpaca GIFs and memes. We’ve even been to an alpaca farm together, Baer and me.

The premise is you want to say something that triggers a conversation, which is what a good pitch does. The second part for me, from what I can tell that you’re offering people, does not only do it trigger a conversation but it triggers a memorable conversation. Can you give us an example?

The hero insight that led us to write this book was that the economic impact of word of mouth. The things we say amongst ourselves as buyers, investors and consumers of things, the economic impact of that is much more massive than we might assume. 20% of every purchase decision that’s made is directly driven by word of mouth discussion or recommendation. The challenge is few companies have an actual strategy to make word of mouth happen. They assume that it happens. You probably know from a gut feel as well as we did, that doesn’t happen. It’s a gamble you take that someone’s going to talk about your brand. We started looking at examples of companies that do something a little bit different in the delivery of their surface.

Listen to customers to find the gap where a talk trigger can happen. Click To Tweet

For example, the UberConference. What’s great about UberConference is if you’ve ever been on a conference call from UberConference, you may be familiar with their country, Twain-y hold music. It’s a hilarious song. It’s all about being on hold. You can go check it out, Google UberConference hold song. You’ll quickly find it. The impact of that when you’re on hold and then end up on the call nearly every single time someone says, “Did everybody else here that hold music? That was amazing.” In fact, if you go on Twitter, even on Google and search for UberConference hold music, people go crazy for that song. What they have done is nothing magical. They built in a slightly different way of filling a customer experience gap, in this case with hold music. That was the spark. That is an actual idea. That’s a Talk Trigger. It generates some material for a consumer to work with. It gives them a story to tell. That’s the hero insight behind it.

It’s an interesting thing that something could be so engaging that people would go listen to hold music while they’re not on hold.

UberConference hired Postmodern Jukebox to do a remix of it in multiple different genres.

You give keynote talks on this topic as well. Who is your ideal audience that needs to know how to have Talk Triggers?

The interesting thing is it spans all industries, even as individuals. We can all benefit from having a personal Talk Trigger. Jay Baer, if you’ve seen him speak, he wears crazy plaid suits. He’s always dressed impeccably. As individuals, we can benefit from it. I do a lot of work with associations, small business owners and corporate workshops to companies looking to try to figure out the best type of Talk Trigger basically to deploy. It’s a wide range but a lot of work with small business owners who frankly can probably benefit from it the most.

To me, it seems with the problem you’re solving here is many of the people that I work with, whether I’m giving a keynote talk on how to be a better storyteller and therefore increase sales is this concept of objection around price. You’re a commodity. We don’t see the value in paying your premium price. I don’t care if it’s food you’re selling or a design of an architecture firm. People have a lot of trouble justifying a premium price. How does your keynote and Talk Trigger help people with that particular challenge?

TSP 182 | Word Of Mouth

Word Of Mouth: The economic impact is more massive than how we assumed it to be in terms of the things we say amongst ourselves and buyers, investors, and consumers of our products.


Part of that is if you are assuming that your best chance to captivate a customer is to be the best in your category, you’re going to struggle for a long time. Even the best restaurants in the world, from a technical perspective, still struggle to get butts in seats. What is the reason for that? Is it the price? Maybe, but is lowering the price going to get them across that chasm? It might even hurt you in the end. Robert Cialdini always talks about this, the Pre-Suasion. If by the time someone calls you, comes into your restaurant or opens the door to your store, they’ve already decided they like you. They’ve already decided that they’re willing and able to do business with you. That is a massive benefit to the business.

The way to break in and get someone to see you, to get invited to the pitch, is to have some memorable Talk Trigger. You say there’s a 4-5-6 learning system in the book. Can you walk us through what that is and use the MailChimp example?

We put this learning system together. Many authors have written about word of mouth over the years. Certainly, it’s not a topic that’s new. We wanted to bring a little bit more structure to it to give business owners, companies and even individuals an actual framework for how you can make these Talk Triggers. Generally speaking, sometimes it just happened by accident in companies. We thought there’s got to be a better way for this, it’s so important. The 4-5-6 system wraps itself around a few elements. The 4 is the four mandates for a Talk Trigger, four things that must be true for something to be Talk Trigger worthy. There are five general types of Talk Triggers, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The 6 is the six-step system that you can use to build them, create them and deploy them.

There’s always a moon shot happening somewhere in the tech world. Click To Tweet

I’ll briefly go over the four. They’re a good place to start exploring Talk Triggers. The four mandates or musts for a Talk Trigger, number one, it must be remarkable by definition. It must be something worthy of talking about. No one talks about average. You don’t say, “Let me tell you about this perfectly adequate salad I had for lunch yesterday.” It’s not remarkable. It has to be a remarkable element in the customer experience or the sales experience. The second is it has to be relevant to the customer experience. Relevance is vital to the delivery and reception of the Talk Trigger by the consumer. If it’s out of left field, it feels almost like a gimmick or a stunt, and that’s not the best way to get people talking about us.

The third is it needs to be reasonable. By reasonable, we mean not over the top. If you go to any DoubleTree Hotel anywhere in the world and check-in, they give you a warm chocolate chip cookie that they baked in the hotel. 75,000 times every single day people get this cookie. It’s a reasonable gesture. People talk about that cookie. It’s a remarkable Talk Trigger for the simple thing that it is. It’s a cookie. It’s not a baby alpaca in your room that you can use while you’re at the hotel. It’s a cookie, but it’s relevant to the product experience. The fourth of the mandates is that it has to be repeatable. This is where we often get trapped. Sometimes we think about Talk Triggers being available to our VIP customers, our top customers and top 10%. If it’s something that isn’t available to every single customer every single time they interact with your product, it can cause dissonance. It can cause frustration and disappointment, which is the negative of word of mouth.

Imagine if I went to a DoubleTree and they’d run out of homemade warm chocolate chip cookies and I’ve been looking forward to that. I might be even angry as opposed to if I had no expectation of it, then that’s fine. If I’ve heard word of mouth and they’re out, it’s not good.

Just say, “I’m sorry, your room rate doesn’t include the cookie because it’s too cheap and you’re a bad person.” It creates this letdown, “Terms and conditions. While supplies last,” and all of that stuff is the enemy of word of mouth.

Don’t you see some of the airlines starting to do that? “That seat doesn’t let you have a free snack,” or whatever they’re doing now. Not only is it crowded but you do have to pay to put a bag in the overhead.

It’s almost like they’re paying someone to tell them how to make this experience worse. That’s what they’re hiring in consultants to do at this point, “Can you help us make this the worst experience for at least a small part of our customers?” We’ll talk briefly about MailChimp. I like this example because I’m a software guy myself. It’s often a little bit harder for us to imagine what you can do in a software environment that’s a Talk Trigger. If you’ve used MailChimp, you know their little chimp. It’s everywhere in the product. He is their mascot, he is their voice. He has a name. His name is Freddie, which a lot of people don’t know.

Freddie has a place in the product. When you submit an email to be sent through MailChimp, you get this big high five from Freddie. He says, “Good job.” He’s everywhere in the experience of the product. People talk about Freddie all the time. The reason it’s interesting is email software is the pits. It’s basically the airline of software. They’ve found a way with Freddie to make the experience better for you and because of that people talk about Freddie. I’m sure it has downstream benefits for them from a loyalty perspective and a lifetime value perspective, but most certainly from that Pre-Suasion perspective. If you’re looking for email software, HubSpot, Emma or MailChimp, some people may have an affinity right away for MailChimp.

Never assume that everything is done. The work is never done. Click To Tweet

We have an emotional connection almost like Colonel Sanders. There’s a person with the brand. Let’s go through those four Rs and how MailChimp is doing something remarkable. The fact that there’s a playful tone to the culture with this Freddie, you could say that makes them more remarkable than other email companies that don’t do it. Would that be fair?

That’s fair. SurveyMonkey also has a monkey as its mascot. It’s not used to the extent MailChimp uses Freddie. Freddie is in the product, as part of the product experience. From that perspective, it’s remarkable that they’ve done that.

It’s not a one-off, it’s integrated. It’s relevant because the concept of having a bunch of monkeys working for you in the background, it’s fun and it creates a visual image for me anyway.

Often, small business software is painful to use. Not only is it a relevant brand vision, but it’s also slightly better to use, which feels relevant to you at the moment.

It’s easy a monkey could do it maybe. It’s reasonable, it’s not over the top. It’s not this huge gorilla or something intimidating. Finally, it’s repeatable. That monkey’s there come rain or shine.

He gives you a little pellet award every single time you send an email.

That is remarkable to me because we know how our brains are wired. That’s why people keep playing Words With Friends or keep the addiction to the phone or gambling. It’s the, “I’ve got a little ding. I’ve got a little award.” To incorporate that into the software, to me, triggers the same addictive behavior in a good way.

On the Selectivor side, we are building a cute little dinosaur named Oliver. He’s going to have a lot of that same presence like Freddie does because it’s a little bit more fun to use.

TSP 182 | Word Of Mouth

Word Of Mouth: If it’s something that is not available to every single customer every single time they interact with your product, then it can cause dissonance, frustration, disappointment, and negative word of mouth.


Are there any tips besides buying the book that if someone’s saying, “I know I need a Talk Trigger and I understand the four steps of these Rs. What could I do? What’s my next step besides reading this book and seeing how other people are doing it?”

I may be biased but reading the book is helpful. Start looking for them in your everyday life. Think about your own experience in places and look for Talk Triggers because you start to see them in different ways and in different places. It’s fun to spot them that way. It’s educational for yourself because for the most part, almost all of them is in the category of, “Why didn’t I think of that first? That’s crazy. It’s so simple, it’s stupid.”

One of the things that you have in the book Talk Triggers is the six-step process for creating them. We’re not going to go into all six, but give us a little teaser. What’s the first step?

The first one is one almost no company does enough of, which is listening to your customers. We go into a meeting room, a conference room, we sit down and we say, “We need to build a viral campaign to launch our new water flavor.” What few people take time to do is to talk to customers, to get their opinion, to see how they use the product, and to talk to your customer service people about what are they hearing from customers. The first step in that six-step process is a listening tour. You go deep on the listening exercise. What you start to see are these little tiny gaps that you aren’t seeing in formal surveys, you’re not seeing in email feedback, but they are actual gaps where a Talk Trigger can fill.

Word of mouth is much more powerful than any paid ad, commercial, and brand ambassadors. Click To Tweet

I tell people all the time, “If you listen to what your customers are saying and put it in your marketing messages, then your potential customers feel like you’re inside their head.” The example of that is I was working with an architecture firm. They were trying to decide whether they wanted to hire me to come and give a talk and a workshop to them. They said, “The problem is we’re tired of coming in second. We’re not winning enough pitches.” I said, “I can help you with that.” Now, part of my whole pitch is, “Are you tired of coming in second?” and then people go, “We are.” That’s a great example.

It totally changed the entire conversation. If you’ve given people a reason to trust you, like you and want to do business with you, I know they understand where I’m coming from and that makes me feel good.

How can people follow you on social media?

It’s Daniel Lemin there on social media and is where all of the other stuff is. We have a special little bonus for our audience. If you go to, we’ve got a little download there. You can get the six-step process for free.

Thank you so much for being on. It’s exciting to watch you and Jay launch this book. It’s got a great alliteration, a great cover and great colors. How can it not be a hit? It’s going to be fantastic and entertaining at the same time.

I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.

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