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Triggers, Points of Leverage & Impact Marketing

April 30, 2023

This article is inspired by Taylor Swift.  Specifically her (rather macabre, even for her) song “no body, no crime.” 

While the song’s story is quite brutal, there’s a nugget of marketing gold buried in it: pattern disruption, used correctly, is an incredibly powerful thing. Take these lyrics as an example: 

“Este’s a friend of mine | we meet up every Tuesday night for dinner and a glass of wine….Este wasn’t there | Tuesday night at Olive Garden, at her job or anywhere… He reports his missing wife | And I noticed when I passed his house his truck has got some brand new tires.”

So, how does a tragic disappearance in a pop-country song connect to marketing? 

Simple: it highlights how powerful deviations are as an indicator – a trigger, if you will – that action is needed. 

Points of Leverage & Triggers


In the song above, a (rather brutal) series of events is triggered by a deviation, namely: Este breaking a pattern of behavior (going to Olive Garden on Tuesdays for dinner & a glass of wine).  

Now, this is an (admittedly) extreme example. But there are many more common ones: 

  • Personally – I get Thai for dinner (the *same exact thing*, from the *same* restaurant) every Friday. When I moved, I stopped ordering. If you’re wondering: the owner actually called me the next day (Saturday), just to make sure I was OK. 
  • Professionally – I used to use Adalysis to manage Google Ads accounts. I log in every single day, until one day, I decided to try Optmyzr. I didn’t make a decision, but my ordinary pattern of behavior was interrupted. 

The list goes on and on. 

The reality is that we are all creatures of habit; certainly not in all things, but in specific facets of our lives and our interactions with brands. We follow patterns. We have routines. While that’s not particularly interesting in and of itself, it is what makes triggers so interesting and powerful. 

All of the above are examples of a “Deviation from the Expected” (DFE) trigger: a user taking an action (or not, as the case may be) that is a departure from their habitual practice. From a marketing standpoint, determining DFE triggers is easy: create a model of your customer’s behavior (either at a persona level or at a user level), set a threshold for deviation, configure the appropriate events, and voila! 

Even more interesting: there’s a second kind of trigger I’ve begun experimenting with: Deviation From Desired (DFD). This is particularly relevant for start-ups, category builders, SaaS and longer sales cycle brands (think: cars, mortgages/home purchase, home services, senior care, credit cards, travel). In each case, there’s a well-defined customer journey that the brand would like the user to follow; the reality is that most users get off-track. That represents a golden opportunity for a targeted, personalized intervention – an opportunity that most brands simply squander with horrid segmentation and bland flows/outreach. That isn’t just a bad experience; it’s a conversion rate killer. It’s a profitability killer. And it doesn’t have to be. 

Fundamentally, marketing is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. And as marketers, we’ve gotten pretty good at the right person + right message (though some of us still need work on that). 

Speaking broadly, the pain point tends to be identifying the *right time* – the point at which a given intervention/communication has the maximum probability of positively influencing subsequent actions/behavior. Triggers, used properly, are an invaluable tool for identifying the right times. 

The Point of Leverage:

But triggers are only half the equation. We know (and studies have shown) that marketing has the highest probability of being successful (either at acquiring new customers or retaining existing ones) when it is both deeply personal (targeted to the individual) and insanely relevant. 

Once you’ve identified the deviation, the next step is simple: design a targeted intervention to correct it. 

A new subscriber not using your platform? Stop the standard onboarding flow + send a personalized communication with recommendations just for them, or a quiz for how they can get the most from your tool, or a case study about how a person similar to them used your platform to do X. 

Fundamentally, this is about doing things that shouldn’t scale, but do.

Using this in your marketing: 

I firmly believe that every brand can benefit from incorporating Triggers & Points of Leverage into their marketing strategy – both for acquisition and retention. I’ve included 7 strategies that can dramatically improve your marketing’s effectiveness, all at no-to-very-little cost: 

  1. Competitor Shopping – Google Ads allows you to upload a list of your current customers and *target and bid* against them if they search for specific keywords. If your current customers are checking out your competition, that should be a major trigger to either (a) get in touch to keep them happy and/or (b) remind them why you’re better. This doesn’t have to be limited to competitors, either – if current customers are searching for a service that you offer, that’s a perfect opportunity to remind them of as much.
  2. Non-Boarding – Have a new customer / subscriber who isn’t completing their onboarding or using your product (i.e. subscribed but hasn’t taken action in X time)? That’s a perfect opportunity to remove them from your standard onboarding process (which clearly isn’t working) and enroll them in a personalized onboarding. Bonus points if you have a customer success team that can reach out directly. 
  3. Stop Use – This is ideal for any subscription-based product (B2B + B2C) – identify the period at which someone not using your product is concerning, subtract 25% from that duration (so if it’s 1 month, trigger at 3 weeks) and use SMS/Email/Phone to re-engage them. 
  4. Running Low on Product – For the D2C people out there, this is a stupidly high-converting SMS flow that can dramatically improve LTV: identify customers who have made a purchase of a product with a clear usage horizon (for instance, 30 multivitamins has a 1-month usage timeline) and prompt them with a personalized SMS with re-order call-to-action 7-10 days before they’ll run out.
  5. Finicky Decision-Making – For high-consideration sales (B2B or B2C), identify lost-in-maze triggers (for instance, downloading a content piece or informational packet, but not scheduling a call) and a tailored intervention, such as a quiz or pre-recorded Loom. 
  6. The Upsell Prompt – If you’re a brand that has a core product with a relatively long usable life (for instance, a mattress) and supporting products with much shorter usable lives (mattress protectors, sheets, pillows) – send a “reminder” with a tailored offer (“Did you know a pillow can have over 100,000 mites after just 6 months? If yours need a refresh, here’s $25 off your order.”)  
  7. Online To Offline – Have a user who completed an initial web form, but hasn’t responded to email/SMS outreach for 2+ weeks? Rather than let them languish (and churn out of your sales process), transition their re-engagement to an offline platform (because who doesn’t love mail?) How? Push a list of those who have triggered the rule to Scribe or Ignite Post (among others) and send them a personalized, handwritten letter (to scale this: integrate ChatGPT).    

These are just a few examples of how identifying triggers can help you get more from your marketing AND deliver your customers a better experience. It’s not rocket science, but it’s incredibly high-impact.