Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

What does an alligator and rattlesnake have in common? On the face of it, not much, alligators and rattlesnakes can both be dangerous and I wouldn’t want to cross paths with either of them, but other than being reptilian, that is where the similarities end. What they do have in common is that they both make pretty darn tasty sausage filling, a tasty fact I discovered on my recent visit to a gourmet sausage place in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t claim to be an expert and I don’t write restaurant reviews so you can take my opinion for what it’s worth. I do write about what’s on my mind, and for the past three days, all I can think about is rattlesnake and rabbit sausage topped with sweet peppers and spicy mustard.

My new client is a sausage aficionado and took me to his favorite place after a particularly successful meeting. Wurstküche, which means sausage kitchen in German, sells three things: gourmet sausages, French fries and good beer…which is enough to make the place a hit. We arrived at 1pm on a Friday to find a line fifteen people deep—I was surprised to see so many people lining up to eat encased meats, since LA seems to cater to vegetarian models and actresses who don’t eat anything more than lettuce and the occasion grape for dessert. After looking over the list of traditional sausages made with pork and turkey, I settled on rattlesnake and rabbit with twice-fried fries and a German beer. We took our number and headed for the dining area, which consisted of a bar on one side and large open space filled with long picnic style tables covered with butcher paper and benches, and found two spaces between a group of bankers enjoying lunch and two hipsters staring at their iphones.

I won’t give you a bite for bite description of the meal, but you should know that it was the finest sausage I have eaten outside of Germany. I even ordered a couple of brats to go so I could share them with the family. The whole experience was so memorable that I have told half a dozen friends and as many clients about the place and a few of them have made the journey to sausage Mecca for themselves. Which brings me to the marketing lesson of the day—word of mouth works. When you have a great concept and you execute it well, people will flock to you. They will stand in line for you. And, most importantly, they will tell their friends, family members and colleagues to do the same. So, before you plan your marketing strategy, make sure your product or service is rock solid, because when you have a great offering, your marketing plan will get a boost from word of mouth. That’s why, even though they don’t run ads, use direct mail or send email blasts, Wurstküche frequently has a line out the door.

Well, I’m off to pitch a potential new client an old marketing guru so I’ll leave you with one final thought. If, as Alan Patrick Herbert says, “A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso,” then a marketer looks at a Picasso and thinks about how to sell it to the masses.