How Contractors Can Use Talk Triggers To Ignite Word Of Mouth Marketing

by Corey Philip
October 12, 2018

Does the cherished ‘word of mouth’ just happen from doing a good job time and time again?  Most contractors think it does. Be professional, be prompt, make the customers happy, repeat, and the market will talk.  That’s the adage. While it may get you a referral from a customer, when prompted, savvy marketers know there is a strategy behind word of mouth.  

Supercharged word of mouth advertising that propels a business to another ‘zero’ on their income statement doesn’t just happen.  Rather, it is the result of strategic tactics to igniting conversations amongst the target audience. Jay Baer calls them Talk Triggers and very recently published the book eloquently called Talk Triggers.   

Although the term ‘talk triggers’ was unknown to me, I’ve personally been using a talk trigger secretly in my patio contracting company for a few years.  While I share many marketing strategies on this blog my use of a talk trigger is one of the marketing strategies I’ve kept to myself. But first…

What Is A Talk Trigger & How Does It Affect Word Of Mouth

I couldn’t find a specific definition for ‘talk trigger’ so I’ll take a crack at it based on my understanding of the subject.  A talk trigger is a specific unique action or addition related to a product or service that is intended to create conversation.  In other words, something unique that makes people talk about it.

While luxury cars and experiences on tours are naturally conducive to ‘talk’, contracting is not.  Nobody really wants to talk about the contractor they hired or be associated with the brand except for when they have a need — usually a painful and pricey need that they don’t want to be reminded of.  

That is why contractors and other trades business owners should be particularly interested in talk triggers… they take the focus off a non-glamorous service and induce a buzz by putting that chatter on something else.  

Talk Trigger Examples

Starbucks misspells names on the coffee cups.  Nope, they weren’t idiots with that one!

Double Tree hotels give a damn good chocolate chip cookie on checkout.

LockBusters owned by Jay Sofer is the highest-rated locksmith in Manhattan on Yelp. His talk trigger has helped him achieve that rating.  What is it? after he finishes working on your locks, he does a security audit of your premises, and oils every door and window lock for free.

A local screen enclosure contracting company in SWFL leave a decoy owl on the top of the screen enclosure after performing services.  The decoy owl usefully keeps birds and rodents, that frequently damage screen mesh away, and leaves a lasting conversation spark about “that fake bird at the top of the screen enclosure”.

The conversation goes two ways;

*”Other” represents the person engaging in conversation with our customer.  I’m not sure if it is the best word, but it does suffice!

Customer: “I had some work done and the screen company put this fake bird on the top of my enclosure to keep the birds away”
Other: “Oh that’s interesting.  What company did the work?”


Other: “You have a bird hanging out up there”
Customer: “Oh that thing is fake is.  The Screen company put it up there; it keeps away birds and rats”
Other: “Oh that’s interesting.  What company did the work?”

BOOM.  Our boring projects have become a topic of conversation!

Yes, I just gave away my secret talk trigger.

4 Key Elements For Your Word of Mouth Marketing Talk Trigger

After reading this list, there’s no doubt you can see the value a talk trigger has in word of mouth advertising.  Here are 4 key elements to keep in mind when considering a talk trigger adapted from Jay’s appearance on EOFire (podcast).

Remarkable.  Your talk trigger needs to unique; something that nobody else is doing.  If you’re an HVAC company, throwing in a free replacement on every service, that is isn’t going to cut it.  Neither is a handwritten thank you note. While a nice gesture that may earn some repeat business, nobody is going to say “this company sent me a nice thank you letter”.  You need something that is going to stand out.

Repeatable. You need to be able to repeat your talk trigger for EVERY customer.  Just dropping your talk trigger for select customers here and there won’t cut it.  Everyone that initiates your service needs to get the talk trigger and thus you need to be able to repeat it quick and easily.  

Reasonable.  Ever heard an advertisement or claim, like a car dealer offering a chance at a ‘free car’, and think “who’s actually going to get that?”  You’re not alone. Your talk trigger needs to be something reasonable that every customer can expect. That’s good news however as it doesn’t mean you need deep pockets to pull off a talk trigger strategy!

Relevant.  The talk trigger used by my own company ads value and prevents damage to the services/product rendered.  It’s relevant. Lockbusters, giving away chocolate chip cookies like a hotel chain wouldn’t work because it is not relevant.  Not to mention, you aren’t going to want a cookie off the fingertips of a greasy hand.

Leveraging Your Talk Trigger To Get Maximum Exposure

In boring trades businesses, organic social media exposure is tough to come by.  Trades services aren’t glamorous and usually aren’t enthusiastic purchases; no one wants to share about the ordeal of having thousands of dollars of unexpected repair bills.  As such, rarely does the customer base take to social media, except to complain.

This gives way to a huge opportunity for your talk trigger in social media content.  A remarkable talk trigger will be referenced in reviews and comments on social media.  If photographable, encourage your customers to take pictures and share on Facebook.

With organic content in hand (or on the wall), it’s time to get more eyes on it!  Paid advertisements work wonders here.

Going Forward With Word Of Mouth Marketing

Stop playing the game of ‘hope and wait’ for word of mouth.  Get creative and identify a talk trigger your business can use to propel the word of mouth.  Once a talk trigger is in place, leverage it up with social media. Get your customers to mention or share images of it online, then crank up the paid ads to get more eyes on it!  


About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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