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Word-of-Mouth Still Rules

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Word-of-mouth will never die. In fact, with all the tools, review sites and channels online, it is only getting more amplified. Some call it “word-of-mouse” but it’s really the same thing. Getting our customers to talk about us online—and off—is a crucial tool in our sales tool belt. 

How can you tap your unpaid but highly effective sales team through word-of-mouth? Are your current customers talking about you to their friends and family? Are you giving them anything to talk about?

I'm currently working through the book Talk Triggers by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin. Word of mouth is directly responsible for 19 percent of all purchases, and influences as much as 90 percent. Yet even today, fewer than 1 percent of companies have an actual strategy for generating these crucial customer conversations. In that book, Baer and Lemin argue that a strategic, operational differentiator is the key to providing a standout customer experience—and generating organic word-of-mouth. The idea of a “talk trigger” is an experience or a service that is so exemplary, customers are absolutely compelled to tell someone they know about it.

Coming up with a solid talk trigger is much harder than I ever imagined! As I’m working through ideas and brainstorming with my team, I have set a pretty high bar:

  • It can’t be expensive
  • It has to be highly repeatable and easily doable
  • It can’t be cheesy or gimmicky
  • It has to tie to a core value

Here are a few things that I’ve done in the past that come close to being a talk trigger:

1. I had a metal business card. Since our industry mostly works with metal, I thought it fit. I used to hand it out at networking events and referral groups and it would always get a reaction. Also, it’s harder to throw away something with that much weight and value.

2. We used to give away swag bags at the end of every job. This was our attempt to make our customers feel like "rock stars." It was filled with a tire pressure gauge, key chain, water cup with straw (fit in a car's cup holder), and a T-shirt that read, "I got this shirt by accident" and had tire marks imprinted across the front like it was skidding. 

3. Our on-hold message was read by a woman with an English accent. I can't tell you how many people (mostly men) said "Hey, put me back on hold! I loved her voice!"

These simple things were great at getting a quick response. I got a lot of, “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” But they never really generated any buzz outside the moment. They triggered interest, but not much chatter. It makes sense; these were perfect add-ons for the customer service experience and certainly made us memorable, but they weren’t enough to truly make a statement about who we are or give a compelling reason for why a customer should come back or send others our way.

Ultimately what I want is for our customers to leave the shop after interacting with us and say to whoever they meet next: "You won't believe what just happened to me at the auto body shop." And as the family member or friend settles in, expecting to hear how they were taken advantage of, they say, "They were so generous, or caring, or fast.” 

We still haven’t landed on our talk trigger. We’re brainstorming and searching every day. I’m hopeful that something will emerge and I’ll more to report in a future column. Please stay tuned! 

Better yet, I’d love to hear your ideas or what is working for you. Just shoot me an email (at and let’s start a conversation about how we can get our customers talking.

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