Top three marketing lessons in promoting any business. From Ed Moose, co-founder of SF’s “Washbag” restaurant

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Customer loyalty, customers/buyers, marketing, PR, social media
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previous Although he no longer ran the place at the time of this 2... Craig Lee / The Chronicle

Ed Moose applied social media long before the Internet

Everything new is old.  Everthing old is new again.  What the late Ed Moose did when he launched his legendary restaurant 37 years ago, the Washington Square Bar and Grill, in a town with no shortage of destination restaurants (yes, even then) sounds all-too familiar in today’s social-media driven world of word-of-mouth marketing.  My point: “word-of-mouth marketing” is hardly new.  What’s new is the speed and extent to which it can be generated today via the Web and the channels through which word spreads.  Pay heed to the lessons:

First and foremost, know the business you’re in.  If you’re shy on know-how, make sure there’s someone close at hand who knows the ropes. In Moose’s case, his partner Sam Deitsch was an experienced restaurateur.  Dietsch’s business chops, plus Moose’s instinct for promotion and service, added up to a whole that far exceeded the sum of the parts.

Second, cultivate patronage one influencer at a time.  The way San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte tells it, “Business was slow at first, and then, with meticulous attention to detail and careful cultivation of newspaper columnists, television types, lawyers and politicians, the Washington Square caught on. With good music and reasonably good food, the joint – as the owners always called it – became more than fashionable.”

The marketing take-way in today’s world: Sow your seeds in the most fertile ground and reap the optimum fruit of your labor.  Who are the “types” most likely to spread and amplify your message?  How do they like to be engaged?  What can you do for them?  Why would they care?  What would inspire them to care?

“It looked easy,” said Nolte,” but the owners worked at it. They put on book events, brought in good musicians and hired sharp public relations people.   Mayor George Moscone became a regular; so did Chronicle columnists Herb Caen and Stan Delaplane. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite would stop by when he was in town, and so did Tom Brokaw.”

(Note: D-I-Y PR can suffice if you’re on a budget, so long as you apply the best practices, but don’t stray from the rules noted here.)

Finally, create an experience that gets your customers to become your sales force. Look at your product through the eyes of your customer.  DO NOT look at your customers through the lens of your product.  This is what is meant by ensuring a great customer experience.   Nolte relates a classic example of how Moose created an experience and how it got customers to “evangelize” on his behalf:

“Deitsch knew restaurants; Moose knew people. He had a way of making people feel welcome, said (wife) Mary Etta Moose.

” ‘One night,’ she said, ‘Ed saw a kid come in with a girl. He could see that it was a first date. Ed could also see by the way the kid acted that he’d never been in the Washington Square before, and maybe never in a good restaurant. He could just tell.

” ‘Ed greeted them like they were old and valued customers, gave them a window seat and sent over a drink. He had this way; he knew what people wanted, what would make them happy.’ ”

Note “happy customers”, not just “satisfied” customers. In business, this is the secret to eternal youth.

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