Jay Baer, Founder, Convince & Convert
How Jay Baer’s stayed at the cutting edge of online marketing, including with his new book on word of mouth, Talk Triggers.
Jay Baer has been working at the leading edge of internet marketing for most of his career. In fact, when he took his first job in the space back in the 1990s, the internet was just taking hold, and he had never even been online.
“They needed help with marketing, but I didn’t know anything about the internet,” Baer says, laughing. But he’s picked up a few things, and has become something of a pioneer in the field ever since.
In the early days of his career, Baer worked alongside the inventor of virtual hosting. He was part of a startup that created something a lot like Skype…in 1997. (It was called VisiTalk, and no one knew what to do with it.) Baer also worked for an internet company so early on in the popularity of the web that domain names were free and up for grabs. In fact, Baer’s company sold budweiser.com and guinness.com to the brands themselves (for 50 cases of beer and two trips to Ireland, respectively).
Since those early days, Baer’s built up quite a track record. He’s head of the Convince & Convert marketing consultancy, has started five multimillion-dollar companies, and advised on over 700 others—32 of which are now in the Fortune 500. He’s also an investor, and was one of the first to fund Buffer. It’s no wonder he’s become so influential in the field, and in this phase of his career, is perhaps best known for his work as a public speaker and bestselling author.
But marketing always remains close to Baer’s heart, and his latest book Talk Triggers is a super in-depth look at an often overlooked strategy—word-of-mouth marketing. If anyone knows how to get people talking, it’s Jay Baer.
The Early Days
Baer is a seventh-generation entrepreneur. That means his great-great-great-great grandfather was the first in his family to start a business. It’s in Baer’s blood. “When I was a kid, it wasn’t a question of if I was going to start a business, but what kind of business was I going to start,” he says. Nobody had actually asked him that, it was simply an unspoken expectation.
But Baer waited a while to start his business-building legacy. His first official job was actually in government, as a spokesperson of the Department of Juvenile Corrections in Arizona. “I essentially gave tours of the prison to media and political people,” he says. Unhappy with this role, he was actively looking for an out. One day, Baer happened to grab lunch with a few friends who told him about their internet company.
Baer soon quit his job and went to work as the VP of marketing for Internet Direct—despite having never been on the internet. “That made for an interesting first week.”
This was the mid-1990s, and if you wanted a website, you typically had to have a physical server. Internet Direct was one of the only companies at the time that could offer virtual hosting, something pioneered by Baer’s partner. “He invented the partitioning algorithm that allowed more than one domain on a single computer,” Baer says. “Other companies would charge $1,500 for a website…we charged $179.”
The company grew rapidly, adding almost 90 employees in 90 days. Baer was truly on the ground floor of the internet revolution, and he had no idea.
He and his partners eventually sold Internet Direct, and he went on to start another company—a co-venture between himself and a prominent media family in Arizona. They didn’t have an internet component, so Baer worked with them to build a content site and news portal. This venture got him into the web design business.
“It was the largest design firm in the southwest United States,” Baer says. “We sold the company for $450 million.”
Next, Baer joined another startup, VisiTalk, which was a very premature version of Skype. Unfortunately, the company was too early to the concept, and no one was interested. Due to that and some management problems, the company shut down.
After that, Baer arrived at his final destination: consulting. He originally planned on being a college professor, but with the market collapse in 2008, he rerouted his career back into marketing.
He started Convince & Convert 10 years ago and has grown it steadily every since. Today, he helps clients including Hilton, Cisco, Nike, and Walmart, among hundreds of others.
From Businessman to Bestselling Author
Today, Baer identifies as many things: entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, speaker, author, consultant, and pioneer. He currently invests in over 30 startups, including Sigstr, Rival IQ, and Breathr, and was an early backer of Buffer.
Baer always seeks to invest in entrepreneurs who have ideas, passion, and energy. “As someone who’s started a lot of companies, I know how much time and effort it takes,” Baer says. “ allows me to help and be a part of these startups, without having to run them.”
Baer also co-hosts the award-winning Social Pros podcast, with new episodes every Tuesday. As much as he admires other mediums like blogging and video, he feels that “podcasting is even more intimate.”
Known as a leading speaker on marketing, word of mouth, and customer service, Baer speaks worldwide on a variety of marketing topics. As a popular emcee, he’s hosted events for IBM, Oracle, and other major brands. In 2018, he was inducted into the Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame, which has fewer than 200 living members.
But despite his many identities, Baer first and foremost considers himself a writer. He majored in journalism with the intention to write for a newspaper. “I’ve always been a writer,” Baer says. “Writing is what’s most natural to me.”
Over the past eight years, Baer has authored six books on a variety of marketing topics, including social media, content marketing, dealing with customer complaints, and real estate.
When asked why he’s written so many books on so many topics, Baer says, “I write books in only one circumstance: When I see my clients ask the same questions over and over.” Baer then sets out to find the answer and write a book about it.
He figures that if his clients—some of the biggest brand names in the world—don’t know the answers to certain questions, a lot of other people probably don’t either.
Every book he writes is focused on how to use that topic to acquire customers faster and cheaper. “How do you outflank your competitors by doing one thing better?” Baer asks. To him, it’s not really about the specific tool or technology; it’s about how to solve a business problem.
He’s also found his consulting firm to be a “steady research and development lab.” Working so closely with his clients has allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s trending in the marketing world—and what’s untapped.
In the case of his most recent book, Talk Triggers, Baer noticed that while his clients had mastered how to do content and social media, they weren’t quite sure what to say. “ understood the mechanics but not the story,” Baer says.
Baer explained that most of today’s marketers didn’t understand that word of mouth is so critical for businesses. “We went to sleep on word of mouth because of the rise in social,” he says.
Thus, the idea for a book on word-of-mouth marketing.
Talk Triggers: The First Marketing Book with Alpacas on the Cover
Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word of Mouth, Baer’s newest book, is all about word-of-mouth marketing and how it can be the best way to grow your business.
He co-authored it with Daniel Lemin, another startup co-founder, advisor, and bestselling author. The system in Talk Triggers is also the same one Baer established and employs at his consulting firm.
“The best businesses give customers a story to tell,” Baer says. “ gives readers a system for doing word of mouth on purpose.”
Baer conducted a lot of research when writing Talk Triggers—four separate research projects, in fact. He found that, depending on the type of company, between 50 and 91 percent of all sales were influenced by word-of-mouth marketing.
“Nobody has a strategy for word of mouth,” Baer says, “and that’s crazy because you’ve got a desk full of strategies.”
He’s right. Entrepreneurs have strategies for email, for content, for social media, even HR strategies and crisis plans. Why not for word of mouth?
“We assume people will talk about our businesses, but why do we think that? What are we giving them to talk about?” It’s not good enough to offer adequate consumer experiences anymore.
“We make a mistake in business when we think that competency creates conversation,“ Baer says.
One key case study Baer explores in Talk Triggers is about DoubleTree Hotels. Every time someone checks into a DoubleTree, they receive a warm chocolate chip cookie for free. “That’s their thing, their talk trigger…their differentiator,” he says.
Baer and Lemin talked to hundred of DoubleTree customers to investigate the impact of these cookies. They found that 34 percent had mentioned that cookie to someone else in the previous 30 days. It was clear that the free cookie was very “talkable,” and had lots of “pass-along value.”
Another case study covered UberConference, a software that offers free conference calls. Their talk trigger is their hold music. “It’s hilarious,” Baer says. “It’s their differentiator.”
He explained that if you hop on Twitter and search “UberConference” and “on hold,” you’ll find people attributing their use of UberConference solely to the entertaining on-hold music.
“That was an operational choice they made. They could’ve had something else, but they chose to do something funny, and it pays off,” Baer says.
That’s the gist of a talk trigger—picking something in business that everyone else does in a boring or unremarkable way and choosing to make it exciting or entertaining or thoughtful.
“ a strategic operational choice that creates conversations,” Baer says. “It’s something you do differently in your business that customers notice and talk about.”
While defining your talk trigger takes time, it’s actually quite simple. But the way to do it isn’t by sitting around brainstorming in a boardroom—it’s by talking to your customers.
First, create a customer journey map. Outline all the touchpoints at which you interact with your customers. Get a good understanding of what they see, do, read, and feel as they move through the purchase process of your business.
Next, interview customers or, if you don’t yet have any, prospective customers. Ask them about their expectations at every step of their journey—when they visit your website or store, when they make a purchase, when they receive the product or open the box. Try to map out customer expectations along every step of the process.
“When you know what they expect, you know what they won’t expect,” Baer says.
Therein lies the “gap” for your talk trigger. “When you do something different, it works better if that thing is usually boring.”
He uses his own business card as an example. For over 10 years, Baer’s business card has been a metal bottle opener. “People come up to me every week and tell me they still have my card,” he says. This specific differentiator works because it’s both talkable, and it’s usually boring.
“What can you do that they won’t expect?” Baer asks. “Because that’s what they’ll talk about.”
Now, what about the cost analysis associated with word-of-mouth marketing? In the case of DoubleTree hotels, the company has to purchase the cookies and train the staff to hand them out. But compared to advertising, this strategy is very affordable.
“One thing that ties together these case studies is that they do something different enough that they don’t have to spend a lot on advertising,” he says. “The talk trigger becomes the ad, and your customers become your marketing department,”
Measuring the impact of word-of-mouth marketing is a gradual process. This strategy relies on customers to tell other customers, who then have to take action. One way to speed it up is to “amplify your differentiator,” such as through advertising or social media.
You can’t press a button and run a report on the impact of word-of-mouth marketing. There isn’t a traditional tracking or analytics method, unlike other digital marketing channels.”It doesn’t work like that, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.”
To learn more about Jay Baer and his new book Talk Triggers, visit http://talktriggers.com and http://convinceandconvert.com.
- The origin story of Convince & Convert
- How he came to work for an internet company before he even knew what the internet was
- How he sold the Budweiser.com domain name to Anheuser-Busch for 50 cases of beer
- His latest book, Talk Triggers, and why word-of-mouth marketing is so powerful
- How to create a word-of-mouth strategy that will win over customers
- DoubleTree’s genius strategy of giving a warm chocolate chip cookie for free to every guest (their talk trigger)
- Why small businesses are perfectly primed for a talk trigger
- UberConference’s on-hold music talk trigger example
- How to (and how NOT to) find your talk trigger
- Why Baer invests in several companies
- How to use content marketing and inbound marketing to grow your business
Full Transcript of Podcast with Jay Baer
Nathan: The first question that I ask everyone that comes on is, “How did you get your job?”
Jay: I got this job because I ran a similar company in some ways, a consulting firm helping brands get better at digital marketing and I sold that company. And after my contract was up with the acquiring company, I was originally, Nathan, gonna go teach university. I was gonna go be a marketing professor and all that. And then at that point, it’s like 10 years ago, we had the simultaneous collapse of the real estate market and the stock market in the U.S. And I was like, “Yep, can’t afford to be a professor.” So, I have to start another company. So, I did. And I started this company, Convince and Convert, just working out of my house and we’ve grown it steadily and steadily and steadily and now we advise many of the world’s most interesting brands.
Nathan: Amazing. So, one thing that I found interesting about you also Jay is I know you mainly as a content marketing guy and a marketing guy. But, you’ve started quite a few companies. So can you tell me … take us back to the very, very early days of Jay Baer, ’cause you’ve done a lot of stuff, man.
Jay: Sure, I have. I come by it naturally. I’m a 7th generation entrepreneur. So, when my family first came to America, they started their own company. So, when I was a kid, it wasn’t really a question of whether you were gonna start a company. It was a question of what kind of company were you gonna start. You know what I mean? And nobody ever really said that to me, word for word. But, that was just kind of the unspoken thing that you did.
My dad started a whole bunch of companies as well and so I felt pretty comfortable with it. I waited a long time, though. I don’t know if I ever told you this story, Nathan. I should have done it earlier. I was lucky. I started in politics, right? That was my first company. I was the political campaign consultant and I did that for a while. But politics is a nasty business, you know? And so I got out of politics and I got into marketing.
And I started my second company, which was a very, very early internet company. So early, in fact, that domain names were free. You could buy any domain name you wanted and pay nothing for it, right? Because who would want such a thing? So I started that company and then we sold that one and then I …It was called Internet Direct. And so we built websites and did hosting and all that kind of stuff.
In fact, my partner in that company literally, this is true, invented virtual hosting. Invented it. Because back then, this was 1993, right? This was 25 years ago. Back then, if you wanted to have a website you had to have an actual server, like an actual box in a rack. He invented the partitioning algorithm that would allow you to run more than one domain on a single computer. So, what essentially partitions the hard drive and the DNS, so that you could run more than one website on one server.
So, for a while there, we were the only company in the world who could do that. And so everybody else would charge you like, $1500 a month for a website and we were charging you $179 a month for a website. And that was pretty crazy, so those were wild days. We went from 20 employees to 100 employees in maybe 90 days. And the stories that you hear about the early days of the internet, like literally people sleeping on the floor overnight next to the servers to reboot ’em? Because they’d go off in the middle the night. Like that kind of thing.
Domain names were free, as I told you, so we registered all kinds of domain names. And we sold Budweiser.com to Anheuser Busch Brewing, which is the big brewing conglomerate. And we sold it for 50 cases of beer. So, in our office, we were like, “We got such a good deal!” And in our office we had all this beer and we were totally psyched and then we’re like, “Okay, we’re not gonna sell that cheap again.”
So, Guinness came. You know Guinness Stout, Guinness Brewing came and said,”Hey, you guys have the domain name.” We’re like, “Yes, we do.” So, we sold that one for two trips to Ireland and two brewery tours.
But you know, it sounds stupid now, right? But, back then, nobody really wanted a website. It sounds hilarious today. But, we had something that really didn’t have that much value at the time and now obviously of course a tremendous amount of value. So, I started in this business at the very beginning and it wasn’t like I had some sort of, “Oh, I’m so smart, I see the beginning of the internet and this is gonna change the world.”
Nathan, it was not like that at all. Here’s the actual story. I was working at this time for the government. I worked for the government for about 20 minutes. And I was the spokesperson for the Department of Juvenile Corrections, which is the prison system for kids who are 18 years or younger. And my job was to give tours of the prison, to the media and members of the legislature. And that wasn’t great. And I had dinner with my friends and my two friends from university had started the very first internet company in Arizona, the company that I eventually joined. And they said, “Jay, this internet company’s Corrections’ a little bit bigger and we don’t know anything about marketing.” And I said, “That’s okay, because when you say the word ‘internet’, I don’t know what you mean.”
Because, this is when everybody was on America’s Online and CompuServe and Prodigy. The idea of the open internet was really weird, right? So, literally, true story, I quit my job ’cause, “I’ll do anything not to give another prison tour.” Quit my job, go to work as the Vice President of an internet company and I’d never been on the internet. So, that was an interesting first week, for sure.
Nathan: Wow, there you go, So, you built that company up, you sold it. What happened next?
Jay: So, I sold that company and then I went to start another company which was a co-venture between myself and a very prominent family in Arizona that owned a bunch of media. So, they owned several TV stations, several radio stations and a magazine. And again, this is still we’re talking early mid-90s. And they did not have any sort of an internet component. And they’re like, “We need to get in the internet business.” So, we did that together, built a very large content website, like a news portal, if you will. And sold a bunch of ads on that and also got into the web design business and became the largest web design firm in the southwestern U.S. and so I ran that firm for a while. And then they sold the whole company to a very, very large media conglomerate in the U.S. for $450 million or something like that.
And then, I joined another startup company and was there for a little while. It was funny, we’re recording this on Skype and the company I joined was called, “Visit alk”. Visit talk. And it was literally, I can’t even emphasise this to you enough, it was exactly what Skype is. Exactly what Skype is, but in 1997. And it was way, way before Skype was invented and so we were super early to the game. And now Skype seems like no big deal, right? But, back then, nobody was like,”You know, what I want is a better telephone.” The old way of doing phone calls was not that big of a deal. And so we were way too early and the company had some management problems, as well. So, that one did not go very well and closed up shop.
And then I started my own consulting firm after that. And now this is my 2nd or 3rd one of those, also. I usually change companies pretty quickly. And the fact that I’ve been in this company now for 10 years is pretty unusual.
Nathan: Wow. And so, I’m curious why … ’cause it sounds like you’ve a pretty diverse background, which I don’t think most people would know about you. I thought that when we were talking about doing this and you said, “Oh no, I’ve done heaps of different things.” I just knew you as Jay Baer, this cool guy that knows his stuff when it comes to content. And you’re an O.G. man, so curious-
Jay: Yeah, I started in direct mail. I was a direct mail specialist back in the day and I worked in TV and I worked in radio and I worked in print. I just kind of happened to get into- and listen … I have a big consulting firm, right? We work with lots of big companies. And I think one of the reasons we’re successful, is I don’t give a shit about content. I don’t give a shit about social. What I care about is business. And if content and social is the right way to do business, well then it is.
But, I’m not in love with the tools. I’m not in love with anything. To me, it’s not about that. It’s about whatever today’s tools are, that’s fine. Those are the tools we use. But, ultimately it’s about creating whatever kind of business success you want. In fact, I’ve written six books now and somebody asked me the other on a podcast, they said, “Well, Jay, you wrote a book about social and a book about content and a book about customer service and now a book about word of mouth. I don’t get it. How come you’re not writing’ six different books about content? I’m like, “Well, these books are all the same in this way. Every book I write is about how to use that thing to acquire customers faster and cheaper.”
So, my first book was about how to use social to get customers faster and cheaper. My second book was how to use content to get customers faster and cheaper. The third was customer service. This one’s word of mouth. So, they’re all that money-ball approach. How do you, when faced with competition, how do you out-flank your competitors? By doing one thing better. So, for me it’s not about the tool or the technology, it’s just about how do you solve a business problem.
Nathan: Talk to me about your latest book, Talk Triggers. Because I find this interesting. One thing, when I started in the early days, for me, five years ago now, one of my mentors, he built a $300 million company that was boot-strapped. It’s one of the largest adventure travel companies in the world. He said to me, he’s very passionate about marketing. And he said, “Nothing beats word of mouth.” And I believe that to be true. But people don’t really talk about it that much. So, I find-
Jay: That’s why I had to write a whole book about it, man! It’s … Okay, here comes my rant, you ready?
Jay: Cue rant. We did tonnes of research for this book. I do for all my books. But this particular book, we did four separate research projects. Depending on your company, the data show that between 50 and 91% of all sales are influenced by word of mouth. That’s a lot of money! Except, nobody has an actual strategy for word of mouth. And that’s crazy because you’ve got a desk full of strategies. You’ve got a business plan, you’ve got a marketing strategy, you’ve got a content strategy, a social strategy, a HR strategy, a PR strategy, crisis strategy. You got a whole mess of strategies. But the one strategy you don’t have is a strategy for word of mouth, which is probably as important as any of ’em. We just take word of mouth for granted. We just assume that people will talk about our businesses, but why do we think that? What are we giving people to talk about?
Look, I don’t know all of your listeners. I know some of them for sure, but I’ll tell you this. Nobody listening to us, Nathan, has ever said, “Hey man, let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I just had.” We don’t say that. So, we make a mistake in business when we think that competency creates conversation. It doesn’t. Nobody says, “Hey, how’s that business?” “It’s good.” It’s not a good story to tell. So, what we did in this book, my co-author, Daniel Lemon and I, was create an actual system. It’s the same system we use in our consulting firm. It’s literally our playbook that we just gave away. It’s exactly how to create a word of mouth strategy that will get you customers every day, every week, every month, every quarter, every year.
Nathan: For free?
Jay: Well, essentially for free, yeah, I mean, sometimes there’s some cost associated with it. One of the case studies in the book is Double Tree Hotels, by Hilton, big global brand. The thing about Double Tree, is every time somebody checks in to the hotel, worldwide, they get a warm chocolate chip cookie for free. That’s their thing. That’s their “Talk Trigger”. That is their differentiator. We talk to hundreds of their customers in this research project and found that 34% of them have mentioned that cookie to somebody else in the past 30 days. So, it’s very talkable, lots of pass along value. So, they still have to pay for the cookies. So, it’s not free, ’cause you gotta buy cookies and you gotta train people to give cookies away. But in comparison to advertising, it’s super inexpensive.
You may have heard this saying, Nathan, that “Advertising is a tax on the unremarkable.” And that’s not entirely true. But, it’s definitely partially true. And one of the things that ties together the case studies in this book, is there’re companies that do something different enough that they don’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising. Because their Talk Trigger, their differentiator, becomes the ad and their customers become the marketing department.
Nathan: I see. One thing I heard, I’m not sure if it’s true but a …Tesla…anything on advertising, their issues word of mouth
Jay: Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think they’re a good example of a company that’s so differentiated, even at the entire premise of the company, that they don’t have to do too much advertising. I actually drive a Tesla and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve given people demos or people have asked to go for a ride. Hundreds of times, right? I think every Tesla driver, other than the handful who’ve had problems with the car or whatever. But every satisfied Tesla driver becomes an advocate almost instantaneously. It’s just kinda part of the deal.
Nathan: Yeah, I think as well what really helps is they’ve got a clear leader, somebody with a strong personal brand, as well.
Jay: Definitely. It’s definitely helps. For good and bad, right? Recent times maybe not the best, but I think it really helps. What will be interesting, Nathan, is to see if Tesla continues to be as talkable when this next generation of other electric cars from prominent manufacturers really hits the street. Audi right now has the E-Tron coming out, you’ve got the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche and Mercedes both have really prominent electric vehicles coming soon. So, there’s gonna be a lot of actual competition for Tesla and it’ll be interesting to see if it’s still as strong word of mouth.
Zappos, for example. Zappos was maybe not the first company, maybe they were, but certainly the first known company to do the free two-way shipping. You don’t like it, you can send it back and they’ll pay for it. Well, now a lot of people, almost everybody in eCommerce does free two-way shipping. So they had a talk trigger. They had differentiator that everybody talked about but now they don’t, because everybody does it. And sometimes that happens in business. You pioneer a thing better, like “This is our baby and people are gonna talk about it.” And then your competition comes in and says, “We’re gonna do it, too.” And then you have to reinvent yourself a little bit.
Nathan: Talk to me about that way of differentiating yourself and obviously delve into the system, but for people that are listening right now and perhaps just launched their business that just hit and looking to get customers, they’re bootstrapping, they haven’t’ raised any capital. What are some things you can do? Because when you think of word of mouth, it was interesting when I said before, “free”, and you said, “Oh, can be sometimes.” It’s an inexpensive way to scale acquisition. But it is hard to scale. It is hard to see when you’re scaling it. Right?
Jay: Yeah, I think that’s fair. You can’t press a button and run a report on word of mouth. Especially, so many startups are so digitally-focused and well they should be, that the nature of it in many cases today. But there is no Google analytics for word of mouth. It just doesn’t work like that. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
The other thing is that it tends to work a little more slowly, because you have to rely on a customer to tell another customer, who then there’s some gap of time there. And then the person who receives that information also then has to take action to give you more money and they have to tell somebody. So, that’s why when I say that advertising is a tax on the unremarkable, that’s true. But, even I, who just wrote a book about word of mouth, would not suggest that you only do word of mouth. And in fact, there’s a whole chapter in the book about how to amplify your differentiator. ‘Cause you kind of need both sides of it.
But, you’re exactly right that new companies, small companies are exactly best positioned to do this kind of thing because … And I know this ’cause I’m an investor in 35 startups … because you don’t have to undo anything to do a talk trigger. And let me first define a talk trigger, which I think will help. A Talk Trigger is a strategic operational choice that creates conversations. It’s something that you do different in your business that customers notice and talk about. It’s not a marketing campaign. It’s not ads. It’s not a promotion. It’s not a contest. It’s not a discount. It’s not even a loyalty programme. It’s something that you do differently that people notice and talk about.
You may know these guys, some of your listeners will for sure, the company Uber Conference. Uber Conference does free conference calls. Lots of companies do free conference calls. Uber Conference has a Talk Trigger, in that their on-hold music is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. It was actually written by their CEO and it is their differentiator. If you actually go to Twitter and search “Uber Conference” plus “on-hold”, you’ll see tweet, after tweet, after tweet, after tweet, after tweet of people saying, “The only reason I use this service is ’cause the on-hold music is so hilarious. That was an operational choice that they made. They could’ve had super-boring smooth jazz music, but they chose to do something funny. And that pays off for them like a slot machine.
So, that’s what you’ve gotta do. Find one thing in the operations of your business that everybody usually does boring and you do it not boring.
Nathan: Ah. So, for example, with Virgin. They have a different kind of customer experience. They try to shake that up.
Jay: Yeah, I think so. Although Virgin, that is a little bit broader than a Talk Trigger, because that customer experience constitutes a number of different elements of the overall experience. An airline example, the one we actually have in the book, is Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand has this product actually on the planes called the Sky Couch. And the Sky Couch is like a row of seats that they configure like a futon, where you can take a nap or let your kids play around and it’s awesome. And it looks really different and it’s really comfortable and cool and people talk about it all the time, because they’re like, “What is this? How did I get this? This is amazing.” So that’s their differentiator, their Talk Trigger.
Nathan: Gotcha. For somebody listening to this and they’re looking for an inexpensive way to generate more customers organically, difficult to see but can work tremendously well could be potentially your number one source of that customer acquisition but you won’t even know until you try. They need to look for an operational … something they do operationally that could be jazzed up or done differently.
Jay: Yeah. And the way they get at that, Nathan, is this: The worst way to do it is to sit in a conference room and brainstorm it. ‘Cause if it was that easy, you’d already have one.
The process that we lay out in the book starts like this. I won’t go through the whole process, it’ll take too long. But, the process starts like this. First, create a customer journey map. Figure out all the touch points that you’re gonna have with your customers, before, during and after sales. Create a journey map. Then, the best thing to do is to interview customers. And if you don’t have customers yet, interview prospective customers. And what you want to do is walk them through that journey map and say, “Okay, when you go to the website, to think about buying our thing, what do you expect will happen?” Well, after you buy our thing and we send it to you in the mail, what do you expect will happen? After you open the product, what do you expect will happen?”
See, what you’re trying to do is map out customer expectations at every step in the process. Because once you know what somebody expects, you by definition know what they don’t expect. And that gap, between what they expect and what they don’t expect is where your Talk Trigger resides. That’s where the gold is. That’s where the conversations are created. And what’s interesting about that is when you do something different, it actually works better if that thing is usually boring.
I’ll give you an example. We haven’t had the chance to meet in person yet, but my business card is a metal bottle opener. And it has been for 10 years. Other people do it now, but I was the first one to do it, I’m pretty sure on that. And people come up to me, Nathan, every week and say, “Jay, I met you at a conference seven years ago and I still have your business card. It’s in my golf bag or I keep it on my boat or whatever.” And the reason that works is that A. It’s talkable, but B. You take something that’s really, really, really boring, a business card and you put a little twist on it.
So, that’s the key. Figure out your journey map and then figure out what your customers expect and then figure out at one of those points, what could you do that they don’t expect. ‘Cause that’s what they’ll talk about.
Nathan: Gotcha. And it would delight them.
Jay: Yeah, that’s it. On-hold music. What is more boring than on-hold music? It’s a short list, right? Not that many things. So, if you make the on-hold music super funny, the gap between what they expect and what you deliver is really high. And the bigger that gap, the more talkable it is.
Nathan: Challenging the status quo.
Jay: That’s it. It’s an expectation. It kind of shakes people up. There’s a story that I heard about recently. It’s not even in the book ’cause I just learned about it. I would have put it in the book but the book was already written.
There’s a doctor in Seattle, Washington. He’s a surgeon. He only does vasectomies. You’re probably too young for that, Nathan. They go in there and they give you the cut so you can’t have babies. Everybody’s clear? Everybody knows what a vasectomy is, listening to this show? Everybody’s good? Okay. His name is Dr. Snip. So, that’s hilarious, number one. But that’s not his Talk Trigger. Here’s his Talk Trigger. When you leave a doctor’s office, what do you expect will happen? Well, typically they give you a piece of paper that says how you should handle yourself afterwards, get some frozen peas or take aspirin or don’t go to work. And they’ll give you, maybe in the U.S. at least where we handle healthcare, they’ll give you a bill or a receipt for your credit card charge, or whatever.
They might give you a little prescription to go get some pain pills. They give you a handful of paper. Well, at Dr. Snip they do that. But, their Talk Trigger works like this. When they leave the office, every single patient is given an engraved silver pocket knife. A pocket knife. So, you can imagine, you’re with your boys and you’re watchin’ footie, or you’re drinkin’ beers or whatever and you open a beer and your guy’s like, “Nathan, bro, where’d you get that sweet knife?” And you’re like, “Where’d I get this sweet knife? I got it from Dr. Snip, the vasectomy surgeon.”
Nathan: How could you forget?
Jay: That is gold. Or at least it’s silver. That is an incredible Talk Trigger.
Nathan: Love it, man. So, look. I think people got a lot to start with. When’s your book come out? And I want to switch gears and talk about some other things about you and your life, and see what’s goin’ on.
Jay: The book is out now. You can get it all the places and ways you can get books. If you go to Talktriggers.com, that’s the main site for the book. There’s tonnes of free stuff there, too. Infographics, research, free downloads. You can get a lot of stuff for no cost at Talktriggers.com, people love it.
Nathan: Amazing. So, want to switch gears and just talk about everything. That’s a good question that the other report caster asked you, why so many books? I’m curious now. How come you like writing books?
Jay: I’ve always been a writer. I’ve been a writer my whole life, I started as a writer. My original career, I was a journalism major. I wanted to write for a newspaper. That’s what I wanted to do. It comes really naturally to me and I’m a podcaster too, I do a lot of videos and a speaker. But, the writing thing was the one I started first and was the most natural to me.
But, I write books only in one circumstance. When I see my clients ask the same question over and over, I say, “Well, if my clients, who are some of the biggest companies in the world, don’t know the answer to this, a whole shit-load of people don’t know the answer to this.” And then I go find out the answer and write a book about it. Every time. That’s how it works. That’s why it’s so great to be a consultant and also write books, because it’s like a steady research and development lab.
So, in this case what happened was all of our clients were saying, “Okay Jay, thanks to you and your team for helping us figure out how to do better content marketing, how to do better social media marketing, whatever. But the challenge we’re having is not really the execution, it’s what do we say? What do we … What are we putting in content? What are we doing in social? And so what I realised, the challenge was they didn’t understand the story. They understood the mechanics, but they didn’t understand the story. And so I started to realise that there’s this storytelling gap and that people didn’t really understand that word of mouth is so critically important and that we went to sleep on the importance of word of mouth, because of the rise of social.
So, I started to do a bunch of research and we started to do more and more consulting on this topic, as well and really helping other brands figure out their Talk Triggers and then we developed the system and then gave the system away in the book.
Nathan: Talk to me around, you said you’re an investor in about 30 different companies. How come you invest too, man?
Jay: As somebody who has started a lot of companies, I know how much time and effort it takes to do that. And I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’m Corrections’ too old for that shit, man. So, now I’m like, “Let me take some of my proceeds and reinvest it in other entrepreneurs who have great ideas and a lot of passion and a lot of energy. And it allows me to help some of those organisations and be a part of it without having to do that. Not having to run an early-stage fast-growth start up, which I know what that requires and I don’t have any desire to do that again. So, I really like the Angel Investor role and advisory role and I do a lot of it.
Nathan: Can you tell us some of the companies?
Jay: Yeah, sure. I was one of the very first investors in Buffer. I’m an investor in Terminus, which is a fantastic account-based marketing organisation. I’m an investor in Sigster, which is the email signature file company. Rival IQ, which is social results tracking software. Breather, which is a big, oh great love those guys.
Nathan: We use it a lot
Jay: So there’s a whole bunch of ’em. Some of ’em you wouldn’t know, but a lot of them, you’re listeners would. I really enjoy it and like anything else, some of ’em are gonna do great and some of them aren’t and that’s the way it works.
Nathan: For sure. Another thing as well is I’m curious around the whole content side and the way you see it around social and content. You produce great content and a lot of people do, but that’s not enough these days, I don’t believe. You can’t just bang out a great piece. It is becoming more and more increasingly competitive and a lot of people are going deep on content marketing. How do you think people should be approaching using content and inbound these days, to grow their company, as another inexpensive way to grow their customer acquisition channels?
Jay: You’re right, it is more expensive than ever and more competitive than ever in some ways. There was a time when quality was all that mattered. If you had the best content, then you’d have the most success. It was a pretty simple formula. But I’m not sure that’s true anymore, for a lot of reasons. So today, I think you have to focus on a couple things. One, as you said, going deep, having a tighter niche. In the speaking business, there’s a saying that nays, “There’s riches in the niches.” And I think that’s increasingly true in the content game as well.
So, instead of having a content programme that’s about entrepreneurship, have a content programme that’s about entrepreneurship for college students. Or about entrepreneurship for people who want to start only mobile apps, or whatever. Just tighter and tighter and tighter. So you can be the definitive source of information around that one particular community. That’s certainly one way to do it.
And I think the other way to do it is to create your content in as many formats as possible. You certainly do a great job of that at Founder. You’re a company that’s incredible at Instagram, but also have a print magazine. Those two things don’t go together, but yet they totally do. Because some people really want to engage on Instagram and some people want a magazine. And some of those people overlap, but some of ’em don’t. That’s the thing.
You have to understand, whatever format is the format that you like, that’s great. But some of your audience doesn’t like that format as well. And that’s why I think the best content creators are super swiz army knife. They do video, and they do podcasts. and they do writing and they do speaking, and they do Instagram. However you want do consume my stuff, I’m gonna give you it in that format. I think you just have to do that. And that’s a shit-tonne of work for sure, but I think that’s just the way it is.
Nathan: You stuck a cord with me, around different formats. I think what it comes down to is, if you want to build I believe a sizeable audience, you have to cater to your audience that love all the different learning modalities. Whether it’s written, whether it’s audio, whether it’s video. That’s how I’ve broken it down. That’s how we think about it. I think that’s really key, but that is a lot of work. And it is, I believe, once you start involving video, I think it can get pretty expensive, pretty fast.
Jay: Yeah, depending on the quality of the video. I just finished an ebook this week, with Text meth, the guys who make Camtasia. A terrific, easy video editing software. And it’s all about how to do video DIY, without breaking the bank. I interviewed Amy Landino and Sunny Lanarduzzi and a bunch of other really awesome video people for that book. It doesn’t have to be that hard, but I’ll tell you this little tip. What I tell my clients and the companies that I’m an investor in. You should, whenever possible, start with video. Because if you have video, you have text. Just transcribe it, clean it up. If you have video, you have audio. Just strip out the audio file. If you start with video, it makes it way easier to down sample to other formats, as opposed to the other way around.
Nathan: I agree 110%, and that’s what we’re working towards. Just doing a lot of video and then working it down. So much to the point that, because we’re based … we have a remote team … One team’s here in Melbourne, that I actually want to set up a studio just to shoot, like in two studios, east and west coast, just to shoot content out. That’s where we’re actually starting in the future with the interviews. So, it won’t be me just talking to you on Skype, we’ll have a professional interviewer that’s been doing this for 20 years, and they’ll be talking to you in the east coast and the west coast space. Then, we start from working on the way down.
But, not everybody has that luxury. You talk about DIY video, you don’t do DIY video, no? You must have a full time videographer and and whole team, yeah?
Jay: I do a lot of DIY, actually. I do a lot of stuff myself, just phone, on my desk and I do a lot of my own editing as well. Then occasionally, I have a crew come in and shoot some stuff that’s a little more high-end, just for different projects. Partially because we’re all virtual, so it’ only me here. I work out of my house, so does our whole team. I got people all over the world, but they’re all out of there house.
So I can’t really have a whole crew. And so I do a lot of DIY. It’s just faster and easier and certainly, especially in the social game, so much video is … The half-life of a video is an hour. And then it’s gone. And then nobody’s gonna watch it again. So, you’re like, “Okay, what’s the investment payback curve on really bringing in a crew to do it?” So that’s how I think about it. “Alright, is this video gonna be watched three months from now? Well then we’re gonna crew it. If this video’s not gonna be watched a week from now, well shit, I’m gonna shoot it myself on my laptop.”
Nathan: That makes sense. The thing I like about YouTube, that’s a platform that really excites me, that’s the next once we’re gonna conquer, is you get really good long tail with YouTube video. Someone could be watching your video three, four years from now.
Jay: Absolutely and that’s the thing that people don’t understand very often, or not enough I should say, is that people say, “Well, isn’t Facebook video and YouTube video the same?” I’m like, “No. The use case is so different.” Facebook video is like flippin’ through the channels on the telly. You’re like, “What’s on, what’s on, what’s on … oh Buzzfeed, oh a video from Nathan.” YouTube is a search engine. Period. I know they’re tryin’ to do YouTube Red and YouTube TV and all that, that’s fine. YouTube is a search engine. Don’t forget it .
People watch videos on YouTube when they’re looking for something specific. That’s not how Facebook works. That’s not how Instagram works. That’s not how Snapchat works. That’s not how Linkedin works. So YouTube, the use case for YouTube is much more like the use case for Google. People don’t go to Google and say, “I don’t care, surprise me, take me to any website.” That’s not how it works. And YouTube’s the same way. People go there because I need to know how to clean the seats on my boat, which is the last YouTube search I did. And I was like, “Oh, this is how I clean the seats on my boat. Thanks, YouTube, that’s dope.”
Nathan: Yeah, 100% man. Well, I’m a big fan of video, and I’ve seen instances where it helps more than ever from a conversion standpoint as well, and I don’t know what your thoughts are on influencer marketing, but in one of my other companies, we’ve seen relentlessly that if we work with an influencer that has a YouTube channel, versus does not or an influencer that has been on TV versus, does not or an influencer that has been on TV quite prominently or one that has not, always the one who has the video always converts. Always. And by multiple times. It can be extraordinary, the difference. They could have a significantly less following on the social platforms, but just the video, that trust, the relationship-
Jay: Yeah, that’s it.
Nathan: It’s just so much stronger.
Jay: Yeah. It’d be interesting for you to test, it doesn’t surprise me at all, and YouTube in particular is useful because when you post a new video, people get alerted. There’s that email alert function, to YouTube subscribers that really powerful, that we overlook I think, sometimes. It would be interesting for you to test if you get the same effect for somebody who does podcasting, but not video. Because I always feel like podcasting is even more intimate than video, because usually you’ve got longer episodes and there’s just something about hearing it in your earbuds that’s a little more intimate than watching it on screen. So, I’d be interested if you ever test that, to see if you get that same kind of conversion effect, for somebody who doesn’t necessarily have video but does maybe have a podcast following, regardless of what their social following is.
Nathan: Yeah, I think that is a good one. My gut would tell me, just because you can see that person … but, yeah, I don’t know. That is an interesting one. The thing is with podcasting, I guess podcasting seems a little more nerdier. Yeah?
Jay: Yeah, I think that’s true historically, although the research suggests that that’s changing a little bit. It’s becoming much more mainstream, because of all the new ways to access it. Back in the day, when you had to master a mobile app to figure it out, yeah, it was kind of nerdville. But now, you can just ask your Alexa or your Google home to play the podcast or a lot of people have podcasts in their vehicles now more and more. So, you’re starting to see a lot of other ways to get at it, which then opens up new listeners. So, podcast listeners are starting to get older, they’re starting to get more female and certainly less technical, I guess would be the right word for it.
Nathan: I’m not definitely bashing podcasts-
Jay: Oh no, I get it. We’re on a podcast!
Nathan: Yeah, massive fan of podcasts. Eventually I want to create a podcast network. I think that’s where it’s at. It’s an interesting one. But I’m on the video camp, same as you, back to your first statement. If you can’t start with your content strategy, start with video and filter down and repurpose all that stuff and turn it into different formats.
We have to work towards wrapping up. Super mindful of your time. This has been a great conversation, Jay and hopefully like a different one than probably what you’re used to speaking about. That’s what I wanted to tackle with you.
Jay: Yeah, it was a blast.
Nathan: I want to say thank you so much for your time and once again, if people want to find out more about Talk Triggers and yourself and everything you’ve got going on, where should people go?
Jay: Talktriggers.com for the book and for everything else, Convince and Convert, my company. We have 4500 blog posts, about 500 hours of podcasts, couple hundred hours of video, bunch of research projects. Go to Convinceandconvert.com
Nathan: Amazing. Awesome, man. Well, thank you so much again. I really appreciate it.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Jay Baer
- Jay Baer’s latest book, Talk Triggers, is now available wherever books are sold (just look for the hot pink book with alpacas on the cover).
- Visit TalkTriggers.com for tons of free downloads, infographics, and research.
- Check out Baer’s consulting firm, Convince & Convert.