Finding ways to differentiate your massage business can lead to more recognition in your community and more clients. In this episode we discuss “talk triggers” and how they can be used to get people talking about your business.
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Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines.
Michael Reynolds And I am Michael Reynolds.
AH And we are so happy you’ve joined us today.
MR So happy.
AH Michael, what’s going on?
MR Well, I’m recording in my lovely home office, which I’m liking better and better every day. I’ve got some stuff on the walls. I’ve got sunshine coming in in the morning here. I just love my home office. It’s lovely.
AH Ah, I’m so glad. That’s really nice.
MR Yeah. (Indiscernible).
AH I’m recording from my bedroom.
MR And that’s how we do things, folks.
AH Because it is the room with the best breeze right now, and it’s a little stuffy out in the outdoor office, and we had crazy rainstorms and stuff last night, so it’s just super muggy out there.
MR Well, I’ve recorded this podcast from my car before, I think, so I think we’ve probably had lots of different [laughing] recording situations.
AH Excellent. Excellent.
So let’s jump right into it because Michael has a interesting, I think, topic prepared. He surprises me with topics sometime, and I love this. So what we’ve got here today is how to use talk triggers in your massage business. And I have no idea what that means, so I will be learning along with you and hopefully asking lots of semi-smart sounding questions.
Michael, what are we talking about? What are these talk triggers?
MR What is this talk trigger of which you speak? Well, let’s dig in.
So the backstory here is we talk a lot here at the Blueprint about kind of differentiating your massage practice, you know, niching, specializing, how to stand out, how to be different. And I think we’ve talked about niching until we’re blue in the face, and we’ll probably still talk more about it until we’re bluer in the face, and that’s okay because it’s really important and useful. But there are other ways to stand out that are kind of related to niching, or unrelated, and this is one of those interesting little tactics or ideas that I think could be really interesting for some of our listeners, and that is using talk triggers.
So let’s talk about what these are. We’re going to talk about kind of what talk triggers are, some examples, kind of the backstory of how they work; after halftime, then, I’ve got a few ideas on how you might use talk triggers in your massage practice. So and Allissa, you will probably have some ideas as well after we go through it.
So what is a talk trigger? So first off, I did not coin the term “talk trigger.” I give credit where credit is due. It was coined by a marketing author, speaker, and consultant named Jay Baer. I’ve met Jay. He’s a great guy. He does a lot of speaking on marketing, and he’s really focused on referral marketing, a lot of social media as well, and he recently came out with a book called Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth. And he’s got articles on this, and infographics, and we’ll put a lot of links in the show notes, but it’s really interesting because he talks about how to create these little unique aspects of your business that get people talking about your business.
So a talk trigger is really just something that, as the name implies, triggers people to talk about your business. And when you’re looking to differentiate your massage practice among all the other massage therapists in your area, it can be difficult to figure out how to do that. Everyone — we all do massage. We all charge around the same range. We all kind of look and feel the same from the outside. Our websites all kind of say similar things like — it’s kind of hard to stand out sometimes, and if you’re — especially if you’re not specializing or have a really tight niche.
So what are some ways we can stand out? So a talk trigger is a way to do that. So there are different types of talk triggers. I want to talk about just briefly kind of what the types are and then some examples that will kind of — or kind of illustrate kind of how they work.
So some talk triggers are based on empathy. Jay calls it talkable empathy, and this is where you treat your customers with more warmth and humanity than they expect. Now, in the massage therapy community, we’re not really usually accused of being unempathetic. Usually empathy talk triggers work better in more cold or less warm-and-fuzzy industries, insurance or whatever. So talkable empathy can be a way to differentiate.
Talkable usefulness is another way to use talk triggers, and this is where you deliver more utility than your customers expect. You’re delivering more usefulness. You’re giving them more value. You’re doing something for them that is useful to them that they wouldn’t otherwise expect.
Another example is talkable generosity. This is delivering more than your customers expect. So if they expect a certain level of service, maybe you deliver more, and you give them something above and beyond what they expected.
Talkable speed is another one. This is being more responsive than your customers expect. If you’re in an industry where customers expect to wait on hold for 30 minutes and people never get back to them and it’s really hard to do business with them, talkable speed would be an area where if you respond much more quickly and much more — are much more agile than others, then you would be memorable. I’m just making this up on the spot, but I can think of an example. Insurance companies. I mean, how often are insurance companies, especially health insurance companies, accused of being super responsive and easy to work with? Maybe that’s a talk trigger someone can use.
Talkable attitude is another one. Be a little bit different than your customers expect. Are you a little more zany or quirky or have some sort of different attitude? This ties a little bit into differentiating on a perspective when we talk about niching, so it’s a little bit related there as well.
So Jay has a great infographic we’re going to link to as well that kind of goes through these examples of how they work and the different types of talk triggers, so you can check that out in the show notes as well.
So Allissa, I want to play a game with you. I’m going to talk about different companies, and I want you to tell me what you think the talk trigger is for them. Ready?
MR Okay. Cheesecake Factory. What’s memorable about Cheesecake Factory?
MR Okay. Beyond the cheesecake.
AH A menu the size of a phone book.
MR Exactly. The menu the size of a phone book.
AH Ding. I got it.
MR Everyone talks about the menu. When you think of The Cheesecake Factory, what do you think of? This massive menu that has so many different choices on it that it’s just ridiculous. It’s gone to the extreme of being so ridiculous that people talk about it. Now, it’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing. I mean, some would argue that having too much choice is bad or not enough choice is bad or whatever. The point is it’s so unique that people talk about it.
Okay. Next, DoubleTree, DoubleTree Hotels. This is a harder one because I don’t really stay at Double Trees too often. I’m not sure if you do, but DoubleTree —
AH I don’t travel except with you, so.
MR [Laughing]. So DoubleTree, every time you walk up to the front desk, there is a plate of warm, delicious (indiscernible) chocolate chip cookies.
AH Oh, they’re the warm cookie people.
MR The warm cookie people. Yup.
MR The DoubleTree has made a name for themselves by — people are — remember the fact that when you go to a DoubleTree, you walk up, and you’re greeted with warm smell of chocolate chip cookies, and you can take one, and they’re delicious. And that fits with their brand as well because hotels have this brand that they want to be warm and inviting, right? Well, what says warm and inviting like warm chocolate chip cookies? So that’s something they’ve done as a talk trigger.
This is a little bit more — not many people are going to know about this, but I think you know this company. Ruby Receptionists.
AH Perky. Perky and happy.
MR Yes. I’d argue they have a couple, actually. Yeah. Perky and happy is one. They are super perky, super happy. They’re based in Portland, Oregon, where everyone is perky and happy, apparently.
MR But the other talk trigger, I think, is as a customer of theirs, or a previous customer of Ruby Receptionists — by the way, they’re a reception service, so you can actually have them answer your phones and then direct calls to your business. So that’s what they do. They answer the phones for you. But what I’ve noticed is, when you’re a customer of Ruby Receptionists, they are very attentive, and they listen for stuff going on.
So when I had my marketing agency, my team members would take a call from Ruby Receptionists, and they would say something, oh, yeah, that’s so and so; yeah, we’re having a rough day with them. And Ruby would be — the receptionists would be like, oh, sorry to hear that. Then a few days later, they would get some hilarious coffee mug or like a — I mean, one time, I think one of our team members said, oh, yeah, you know, I — we’re trying to — something about predicting the future or wondering what’s going to happen in the future, and they sent him a crystal ball, like a literal crystal ball [laughing] that was this really nice handcrafted thing that he could set on his desk. They listen for really unique stuff going on in your company, and they send you little pick-me-ups. And it is amazing because you never forget that stuff, and everyone talks about it. So that’s a really cool talk trigger that they’ve come up with.
All right. This one, I think, is warm and dear to our hearts, Allissa. Five Guys burgers and fries.
AH Oh, peanuts on the floor and delicious burgers.
MR Yup. Peanuts on the floor, delicious burgers. Also, the fries.
AH Oh, my God. The fries.
MR What do they do with the fries?
AH So many fries.
MR They jam the bag to the brim with fries. You get so many fries, and you always know that you’re going to get this plethora of fries overflowing. So that’s one example of giving more than you expect.
So this one, I think, nobody knows because it’s very specific, but I wanted to kind of talk about it. Lockbusters is a locksmith in New York City. Apparently, the locksmith industry is really, I don’t want to say shady, but difficult to work with. They keep their pricing really hidden, and they kind of prey on people that are vulnerable in these “in-a-pinch situations,” and they take advantage of you and stuff. The reputation is there among the industry. So Lockbusters, by contrast, first of all, they’re very transparent with their pricing and very easy to work with. But what they do is every time they complete a service call, if they get you into your home or car when you’ve been locked out, they give you a free security audit of your home, and they oil all your hinges.
So not that hard to do — they probably spend an extra 15, 20 minutes in your home giving you the audit and oiling the hinges, but you remember that. It’s like no other locksmith does that. Most of the locksmiths are going to show up and be hard to work with, and they’re just going to probably be grumpy or whatever. But this — these guys, they show up, and they give you extra service beyond what you’ve asked for, and people talk about that.
So those are some examples of talk triggers. Allissa, do you have any examples of businesses you’ve worked with that have talk triggers?
AH I was actually thinking of the place I bought my — not my most recent car but the one before that. It was essentially a used car dealership, but they didn’t haggle prices. They didn’t do that. But if you looked up the price that — their published price of every used vehicle they had on their lot and you compared it to the Blue Book value and what it should retail for, it was reliably like $500 less than what the highest price is they could get for the car.
So you — I went in there having researched the car that I knew I wanted to test drive, I test drove it, my mechanic checked it out, and I bought the car for the price that was published, which was a good deal. I didn’t have to haggle. I didn’t have to be uncomfortable. I didn’t have to do a whole thing to get a fair price for a good car. And even my mechanic — I was like — when I told them how much they were charging for the car, he was like, that’s a really good deal; can you talk them down, though? And I was like, I don’t need to talk them down; this place doesn’t do that, and it’s a good deal. So you could feel comfortable that you were getting a good car at a good price. Everybody was getting a good deal here. They were making money off of it, I was getting a good car [laughing] for a good price, and we were done.
And I remember that — remember Saturn? I mean, they’re not around anymore, but that was Saturn’s shtick. They sold new cars. They sold Saturns. They didn’t haggle prices. Ultimately didn’t work for them, but that’s what they were known for for a long time, and that’s the reason I — part of the reason I chose the car place that I did when I bought my car. They had the vehicle and the model that I was looking for, and it was just — it was an easy experience as far as buying it, and I didn’t get screwed.
So that’s — is that a good example?
MR Yeah. And now you’re telling people about it.
AH Yeah. I am.
MR Because it was memorable for you.
AH Yeah. So yeah. I think that covers that. That’s my example. [Laughing].
MR So for talk triggers to exist, Jay Baer goes on to say that there are four mandates. The four things a talk trigger must be are repeatable, which separates it from a “surprise and delight” kind of thing, so you’ve got to be able to do it over and over consistently. It has to be remarkable in the true sense of that word, which means it’s worthy of remarking, worthy of being talked about. It has to be relevant, which means it has to make sense in the context of your business, so it can’t be something completely detached from business. It has to be something that is really relevant and aligned with what your business does. And the last one, it has to be reasonable, and the reasonable one means that you don’t want to make it massive or some huge gesture.
Go back to DoubleTree. A cookie is a gesture. It’s not overwhelming. It’s not something where you have to — you’re not spending a ton of money on it. It’s not over-the-top. It’s just a simple cookie, but no one else does it. And it’s that little tiny gesture that people remember, not the cost of the cookie that it costs you or whatever or the fact that it’s something huge or small. It’s just the fact that it’s something — a little extra gesture. So those are kind of the four things that you want to remember when you’re coming up with a talk trigger for your massage practice.
So let’s do halftime, and then after halftime, I want to kind of talk through some example ideas of what you might think about if you want to implement talk triggers in your massage business.
So who is our halftime, Allissa?
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MR Yay. We love Acuity.
AH We do. I use them in my own massage business.
Okay. So let’s talk about what you can do in your massage practice to implement talk triggers if you so desire. So remember the four things. It has to be repeatable, something you can do over and over consistently; it has to be remarkable, something that is worthy of being noticed; relevant in your practice; and reasonable, something that is reasonable enough that you don’t — it’s not going to cost you a ton of money, and it’s not going to be so over the top that it’s high maintenance.
So I thought of a few examples. I’m sure Allissa may have some insight and examples as well, and you as the listener may have more examples than I can think of here, but a few things I thought of are — one example would be a special gift after each session. Now, not like a huge gift, but like some little object or some little thing that you give people. Maybe it’s — I don’t know what it would be, I haven’t really got as far as giving specific examples because it’s unique to your practice, but is there something you can give people after a session?
Now, a lot of us give water, that’s pretty standard. So what can you give beyond the glass of water or the bottle of water or whatever? Maybe it’s something branded. Maybe it’s not something branded. DoubleTree gives cookies. Maybe you’ve thought of something else. So is there something you can give people that gives them something to hold in their hand that gets them talking about your practice, that’s very unique?
Maybe a unique theme for your massage practice in your office. Is your office decorated as a Star Trek — the bridge of the starship Enterprise? Is it a 50s diner theme? Is your audience really into sports? Maybe it’s a whole sports memorabilia kind of thing. Maybe it’s something else. So if you have kind of a hobby or a passion, or maybe your clients have a similar passion or something — I love Star Trek, so the first thing I always go to is how do I decorate my office like Star Trek or whatever. But whatever makes you unique, maybe lean into that.
Maybe say, you know what, I’m going to — every other massage therapist has an office with Zen stuff on the walls and waterfalls and whatever. You know what? I’m going to decorate my office to be full of, I don’t know, baseball stuff — I’m just making stuff up here — but baseball stuff everywhere, memorabilia and posters, and my clients are really into sports, or maybe it’s just sports in general or whatever it is. Maybe it’s some unique, wacky theme — tropical theme. I don’t know. Something that gets people talking when they come to your office and they get a massage, they go tell their friends you’ve got to go see so-and-so. Her office is amazing or his office is amazing. It’s got all this stuff in it.
Another example — maybe a unique part of your service that’s just built in. A lot of spas, they upsell salt scrubs or eye cucumbers or scalp treatments or whatever. Maybe you make something like that just part of your normal massage. Maybe every massage you get, someone gets a ten-minute scalp treatment with some special product after every massage or whatever it is. I’m just making stuff up here, but I’m sure that you can think of something that you could add on to your massage sessions that most people would consider an upgrade that you can just kind of build in and make it a nice little perk.
Personality in your communication, this is more of an attitude talk trigger. So where many people are very kind of buttoned-up and professional and kind of just standard and nonremarkable in their language they use, maybe your website you’re using kind of zany personality, and maybe your voicemail greeting matches it. Maybe your emails leading up to the appointment are cheering people on for the great decision they’ve made to take care of their health or whatever, and then the follow-up email is — have kind of a tongue-in-cheek or a fun-spirited follow-up message. Maybe your personality is something you bake into every touch point that helps you stand out.
Maybe it’s simplicity. I love Chipotle. Everyone knows this, I think. [Laughing]. I go to Chipotle all the time, and one thing I love about Chipotle is their menu is so simple. You can get three things. You can get tacos, burritos, or a bowl. That’s the main things you can get, and they have like seven ingredients all there in front of you, and all you have to do is say, I want that, and I want these things, and I’m done. It’s so easy. It’s the antithesis of The Cheesecake Factory menu, right? So Chipotle’s simplicity is something that makes them really easy to work with, and people talk about that.
Allissa, I noticed that you are making some notes here and that you’ve added some things as well. What do you got?
AH Yeah. So I — and this might partly be like a branding thing but whatever. No tips. Not taking gratuities is absolutely a talk trigger. It is the thing you repeat because it applies to every client, it’s remarkable because it’s different than many other people are doing, it’s relevant because pricing is a big factor of massage, and it’s reasonable because I’ve priced my services in a way that it’s totally fine.
So it doesn’t — it’s not a huge thing, but it’s a little bit about my business that is absolutely a talk trigger, and it’s — oftentimes when someone is referred to me by a current client, they come in, they pay for their massage, they try to hand me money on top of that, and I say, thank you so much, but I don’t take tips. And they’re always like, oh, yeah, Susan told me that. Or they’ll start to pull out of their — something out of their wallet because they know it’s the traditional thing to do, but they’ll say, so they told me you don’t take tip; is that true? It’s like they need to do the gesture to feel like they’re doing the polite tradition thing, but it’s a huge talk trigger.
Also, little things that you add to your service like Michael mentioned, like maybe a little gift at the end, but also parts of your massage are talk triggers. The fact that you don’t utter a word during a massage — if you’re a very silent therapist — I mean, one of the number one problem — it’s seriously in the top five massage complaints is that their therapists talk too much, so if you don’t talk, then that’s a big deal, and that’s a talk trigger. Not talking is a talk trigger, there we go, or offering a warm pillow under the neck. And I love the timing on this because our next episode next Friday, people, is all about tips and tricks to improve your massage business, and it is a ton of ideas, many of which could become or are already a talk trigger in your business. That’s what I have to say.
MR Nice. I like it. How timely.
AH Right? This is really neat. This was a very interesting — I admit it was more interesting than I thought it was going to be.
MR [Laughing]. Gee, thanks.
AH So thank you.
MR I appreciate the vote of confidence in advance. [Laughing].
AH Well, I skimmed through your notes, and I’m like, ugh, this sounds so boring, and — but it’s not. It’s absolutely not. It was really interesting, and it’s a really important thing to think about, differentiate — differentiation? Different — yeah.
AH Yeah. That thing, and what people are going to say when they talk about you. How are they — what are they going to feel and think when your business — whatever — when they drive by your sign or whatever?
MR So a couple of things I want to add as we wrap up on this is one, a word of caution. I — I’m not — I don’t want to discount the warm pillow kind of idea, but you want to make sure that your talk trigger is memorable enough. So I would argue that the warm pillow, for example, would be kind of a more mild end of the spectrum. So —
AH You are incorrect based on feedback and things I hear from current clients and people who are referred to me.
MR Really? Oh.
AH Yup. It is just as remarkable as the no tips thing in that —
MR So no one else does a warm pillow?
AH Very few people. Very few people. And even — and if you go in the massage franchises — if your experience is at a franchise or a spa where they’re trying to keep costs down, they’re not going to give you a pillow because it means laundering a pillowcase or an extra towel. So the pillow — and even leaving a towel for a client to wipe any oil off at the end of their treatment, that’s not something that a lot of therapists do. I know it seems really standard, but only if you’re used to a certain level and type of massage.
So it just depends on the consumer education and experience of your client, but I can guarantee you that even of my regular clients who experience this every week, every month, whatever, for years, when I put the warm pillow under their neck, there is always a sigh or always a, oh, that’s so good. And I have had new people come in referred by current clients, and I have put that pillow under their head, and they’ve said, she told me you did this pillow thing.
MR Oh, people do talk about it.
AH It’s freaking magical. It is magical.
MR Okay. I stand corrected.
AH So, I mean, maybe in other areas where there’s — if there’s saturation of the market and there’s lot of therapists doing this kind of thing, but it’s not a thing we were taught in massage school, and of all the massage therapists that I’ve been to in my area, there’s a very small percentage of us who do it. I mean, I’m sure it’s growing because a million people are listening to our podcast and getting all of this advice from us, but — and people online are —
AH — I’m just kidding — but are sharing tips and stuff and — but it’s small things. And you can figure these things out by going to other places and feeling what’s missing and also exploring other therapists and modalities and seeing what they add that you could add or you could adapt and add to make your business a little more personalized.
MR That’s good.
AH So I’m fighting you on that —
MR That’s fine
AH — because it actually is a big deal. Or even a heating pad on people’s feet in the winter. Huge. Huge. A thing they talk about.
MR So the other thing I wanted to mention is that I’m giving you kind of an out if you just are resistant to niching. We talk about niching and specializing a lot, and I believe in that very much, but some people are just not comfortable doing it, or they have a reason to not do it, and that’s okay. So if you would like a kind of a — an out or another path to take if you don’t want to specialize your massage practice, a talk trigger can be an alternative to that because it’s another way of differentiating your practice. You can still be a generalized practice where you see a large variety of clients. You’ve got — you don’t really have a particular specialty. You can remain a generalist if you want to and use talk triggers to differentiate your practice in a different way. So I’m not saying you should not niche because we believe in niching here, but this is a great alternative that you can consider, so I wanted to leave you with that.
AH Sweet. Well, thank you, Michael. That was really great.
AH And everyone, if you’ve got follow-up questions for Michael or you’ve got some questions for another podcast episode, you can email us at email@example.com. If you find us helpful, hey, leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts. There’s review options on all the platforms, and it would help other people find us if you love to review. And if you don’t like what we’re doing and you think that we stink, you can email us that feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MR Hey, I see what you did there.
AH [Laughing]. And we are always happy to hear from you, and we really do take all feedback seriously. So thank you, everyone, for listening. Have a ridiculously successful and fun day.
MR Thanks, everyone.