The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing

My friends Akemi and Brian from SXSW V2V. We all enjoyed this amazing sushi experience!

My friends Akemi and Brian from SXSW V2V. We all enjoyed this amazing sushi experience!

Below, I share the story of my visit to a sushi restaurant in a bad part of town that surpassed my expectations tenfold. Kabuto restaurant is located in an obscure strip mall in Chinatown fifteen minutes off the Las Vegas strip and pays its marketing team nothing. The marketing messages are stronger than any billboard from the greatest chefs in the world because it is the purest and most powerful form – word of mouth. With more than 150+ reviews posted on Yelp and hundreds of other posts on other sites, this humble restaurant has capitalized on something that thousands of business owners overlook – attention to detail, great service and creating an experience. These details are the most powerful ways to maximize word of mouth marketing.

Kabuto

While at SXSW V2V, I met two entrepreneurs (and now friends) who invited me out to dinner for sushi. Being a sushi lover I graciously accepted to join them at Kabuto. I visited Kabuto’s website to learn more about the various menu items only to discover nothing about its food or pricing. I hopped on Yelp and was surprised shocked to learn that the typical price for a multi-course meal here is about $80 dollars! The reviews were outstanding and despite the price, my interest was piqued.

Figuring it was Vegas, and wanting to learn more about my new friends, I decided to go all in and experience sushi, Vegas-style.

TripAdvisor

More than 150 reviews have been made on Yelp for this obscure, off the strip restaurant. 82 Reviews on UrbanSpoon, and 13 reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor ranks Kabuto 49th out of 3,366 restaurants in all of Las Vegas.

More than 150 reviews have been made on Yelp for this obscure, off the strip restaurant. 82 Reviews on UrbanSpoon, and 13 reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor ranks Kabuto 49th out of 3,366 restaurants in all of Las Vegas.

The Arrival

My new friends (Brian and Akemi) and I met in the hotel lobby to catch a cab to the restaurant. Akemi gave the cabbie the street address and off we went. We enjoyed great conversation on the way over, but I noticed the glittering lights of the strip were now miles behind us. I had assumed that this restaurant would be in one of the big hotels / casinos on the strip. I was partially right. We were eating on the strip – a strip mall. We were in Chinatown and based on what we had read versus where we were, I was certain the cabbie had made a mistake. There was no signage for Kabuto. We got out to look around  and I noticed a massage parlor next to the address we had… believe me, there were no massages going on in this place! The front door of the establishment next door opened and an elegantly dressed Japanese lady (seeing we were obviously lost) welcomed us in. As we entered, she bowed holding her hands together in a praying position. She showed us to our table (one of three in the entire restaurant). We took our seats and were immediately impressed by the simple, but beautiful decor. It was refined, VERY clean and beautiful to the eye.

The decor of Kabuto. Simple and elegant.

The Experience

As we looked over at the sushi bar, we saw four sushi chefs busily preparing different varieties of fish. It was clear that they weren’t prepping food at all. They were creating art. The level of care and attention to detail was something I’d seldom seen in any restaurant. They exhibited pride as they handled the fish. Nothing done carelessly. Every cut with precision and efficiency. It was evident that there was decades of training behind every movement. The presentation, absolutely perfect. THIS WAS DIFFERENT. I marveled as I watched the chefs work their artistry.

Care and attention to detail went into the making of our sushi. The chef took great pride in all he did to provide the best sushi possible.

Care and attention to detail went into the making of our sushi. The chef took great pride in all he did to provide the best sushi possible.

Having placed our order, the food came out quickly. Before delving in, we each took pictures of our plates first. We knew we were about to consume some of the best sushi of our lives. The server explained to us where each piece of fish came from. She pointed out that “this tuna has been flown in from Japan and this salmon was caught and shipped from Seattle, Washington”…and on she went explaining what we were looking at and what far away city it had arrived from that same day. I was dumbstruck. This small detail only added to the great appreciation we felt to eat something that had been handpicked from choice fish caught in different oceans spanning the globe. As expected, this was indeed the best sushi I had ever eaten. Course after course had each of us making lots of food loving noises…mmmm, oooooo, aahhhh…hey, try this…and so on. It was extraordinary!

On my next visit to Las Vegas, I will be returning to Kabuto for the experience as much as the food.

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THE TAKEAWAYS

1. Provide an Experience – As I reflect on my meal, I realize that the $80 course was really not for the meal at all. It was for a dynamic experience that I would gladly pay for again. The fact that the food was outstanding was secondary to the overall experience. Had the food been amazing, but the experience surrounding it been mediocre, I doubt that I would return. I felt privileged to be at this restaurant and that is rarely felt when dining out. If you take the time to read the reviews on the various review sites, you will note the word ‘experience’ mentioned over and over again.

2. Embracing Word of Mouth Marketing – How does a company located in a bad area of town, away from the major tourist attractions, charging a premium price, be so successful? How do people learn about such a company amongst the thousands of restaurants in Las Vegas? Kabuto delivered three important details that few restaurants are able to combine when separating themselves from the competition. A. Excellent Service. B. Excellent Experience C. Excellent Food. Because of this combination, Kabuto’s customers have become brand loyal and have become the marketing mouthpieces for this obscure restaurant. Utilizing the apps at their fingertips (UrbanSpoon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews and more), Kabuto is running a profitable business with NO advertising expense. They don’t need to.

As consumers, we are attracted to passionate people. Under promising and over-delivering will garner fans, and fans will want to tell the world!

3. The Details – There were several points of contact that I had with the restaurant before ever walking through its doors and quite frankly, I wasn’t impressed (website, location, lack of signage). The magic of the evening began at the moment when I was greeted with respect and reverence. The foundation for delivering great marketing begins with treating people well. I was treated better than any other restaurant I had EVER been to. The details do matter. Everything was exceptionally clean and the chefs were meticulous to wash their hands before and after touching everything. The servers were incredibly attentive and well-educated on everything served. It was clear that they had been well-trained and I appreciated it as it stood out from more than 90% of the restaurants I had visited in my life.

Summary

Good marketing creates a call to action that attracts customers to your business. The true challenge is converting new customers into life-long loyalists who unknowingly become part of the marketing team utilizing social media like Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Google Reviews and TripAdvisor to spread the word. People become loyal to a company because of passionate people  delivering excellence with enthusiasm. To gain loyalty from consumers, the shopping experience has to be just that – an experience. What is felt when visiting a business is as important as the end product or service. What experience are you providing for your customers? We can no longer afford to not AMAZE THE CUSTOMER!

Sushi

 

About James

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.


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