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Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian, Idaho

March 2nd, 2007

If you have ever eaten at Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian, Idaho, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the experience is like none other. The food, ambiance, and service may be down home and arguably “unsophisticated,” but the charm and simple elegance of the friendly staff in combination with delicious Pyrenees-style cuisine are enough for me to make the 40-minute trek out to suburban Meridian.

As a native to the Treasure Valley, I have grown up surrounded by the Basque culture so Epi’s appeals to me from an emotional, nostalgic standpoint. However, Epi’s offers those unfamiliar with Basque culture and cuisine a fantastic venue to try exotic entrees of fish, mutton, beef, and pork along with a large selection of complementary wines that will certainly keep the curious and adventurous giddy with culinary excitement. Oh yeah, no Basque meal is complete without a generous appetizer serving of fried croquettes, absolutely delightful!

Although I’d love to continue on in regards to the wonderful attributes of Epi’s food, I’d like to devote the remainder of this post to how the restaurant thrives without having to advertise on television, radio, or print media.

In this day and age, just about everyone knows about word-of-mouth, referral, and guerilla marketing … but what so few achieve to comprehend is the fuel that drives these concepts. Although I could exercise my theoretical MBA brain and rattle off a litany of fancy words to impress you as to how Epi’s is conquering the universe through a 15-step approach, I will spare you the pain and narrow it down to these three simple principals:

1) Hard Work – Epi’s staff, from owner to line cook, go the extra mile to ensure the customer enjoys the ultimate Basque dining experience. This is accomplished by serving top quality food, complimented by outstanding staff members who bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. On a side note, the restaurant is spotless in the sanitary department, which scores points with the wife.

2) Being Different – As I mentioned earlier, there is no dining experience quite like Epi’s. Not only is the customer treated to a unique and tasty menu, but the ambiance of the venue can only be described as comfortable and inviting. The facility and décor rush you back to a different Idaho era that existed long before Flying-Wyes, Cheesecake Factories, and sky-rise condominium projects. Without a doubt, Epi’s has become a one-of-a-kind Idaho establishment.

3) Making Meaning – Along with being different, it’s easy to tell within minutes of entering the establishment that owners, Chris Ansotegui and Gina Urquidi, sisters by the way, truly desire the opportunity to serve you not as a customer, but as a family member or a close friend. Entering Epi’s is like going back to your grandmother’s home where she always had that wonderful food prepared on the table, waiting there just the way you liked it. It’s not uncommon to be waited on by either Ansotequi or Urquidi, and if you’re blessed to meet their acquaintance, you will be treated to an evening you won’t soon forget.

It is my best estimation that Epi’s has established itself as a successful restaurant simply by employing these three principals; which in turn fuel customer loyalty and testimonial activity like this blog. Over the past six years, I would guess that I’ve referred at least 50 people to Epi’s as a premier Boise-area eatery. I know I’m not alone in this referral effort, as it is a good idea to call ahead and/or make reservations to secure a table before driving to downtown Meridian.

In conclusion, Epi’s has succeeded where so many have failed and they haven’t had to rely on gimmicks, promotions, advertising, or compromise to do so. As business owners, we must continually strive to work hard, differentiate, and make meaning so as to build a fortress around the heart of our customers. If you own a startup or a small to medium sized business, please take these principals to heart … and don’t forget to try the croquettes!

iPhone Delivers Upon Market Need

January 12th, 2007

Once again, Apple has circumvented the status quo by developing the world’s most advanced mobile device, the iPhone. Unlike the OCR driven Blackberry or the stencil managed Windows device, the iPhone combines value-added features such as a fully functional Web browser, an advanced and functional MP3 player (iPod), and a true touch screen platform, which allows users the freedom from stencil-driven bondage.

So why is this iPhone device relevant to a marketing blog? Simply from the standpoint that Apple has revolutionized the mobile market in one swoop by satisfying a true market need, namely to develop a user-friendly hand held device that facilitates efficient and easy communication.

Unlike the Blackberry I currently carry, the iPhone provides the user a true interface for instantaneous communication via a phone, Web platform, and SMS texting. Plus, the iPhone only has one button, which has completely simplified the arduous process of data entry on mobile technology … no more stencils, no more miniature keyboards, no more gadgetry features that literally take weeks to figure out; the iPhone has enhanced userability through exceptional design. Trust me, as soon as my T-Mobile contract expires, I’ll be running to the Cingular store that very day so as to move away from the soon-to-be RIM paperweight.

So as professionals, what can we take away from Apple’s example? Namely, to not get caught up in product commoditization, but to strive to deliver on a true market need. Steve Job’s innovative leadership was simply a product of assessing what the ultimate aim is in mobile technology, namely convenience and functionality, and delivering upon it. As a result, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericcson were all caught off guard and have been scrambling over the past week to formulate a response.

Congratulations Boise State!

January 2nd, 2007

BSU, Hollywood aint got nothing on you. Surreal is a word that probably gets overused, but there’s nothing else that comes close to describing the iconic American-dream spectacle that BSU put on for us in their defeat of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl last night. Action, suspense, horror, and drama…it had it all—and then some. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, in the case of the Fiesta Bowl truth is exponentially more exhilarating than any screenplay that could ever be imagined.

If for some reason you missed the Fiesta bowl, stop what your doing and take a look at the amazing highlights of this game. Whether you’re a football fan or not has no relevance. If you’ve got a pulse, just a brief skim of the highlights will be guaranteed to quicken it. Here are few quotes from the sports world to give you a flavor:

“It’ll go down as one of the best college football games in history…an instant classic” – FOX News

“…it gives the game a legitimate case for being considered the greatest game of all-time … not just the greatest bowl game. As far as sheer excitement goes, it’s hard to vote against it. And 20 years from now this could be seen as one of the most important games ever…”
»Read full article
Pete Fiutak, CollegeFootballNews.com

“How do you sum up one of the most remarkable endings any of us will ever be fortunate enough to see? How do you sum up one of the most exciting bowl games ever contested? And how do you sum up what will one day be viewed as one of the most significant moments in the history of college football?”
»Read full article
– Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated

“…a dizzying, riveting, back-and-forth game that will be remembered as one of the most exciting in college football history.”
»Read full article
– Pete Thamel, New York Times

“At the end of a game unlike any college football has ever witnessed, two of the great female icons in American culture staged a harmonic, hypnotic, borderline hallucinogenic convergence. Boise State introduced Cinderella to Lady Liberty.”
»Read full article -Pat Forde, ESPN

So what does Boise State winning the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, a revered bastion of college football, have to do with marketing? Plenty, but I’ll let RisingLine principal, and BSU fan extraordinaire, Erik Warilia comment on that when he returns from Phoenix later this week. Until then, let me just say thank you Broncos for one of the most inspiring demonstrations of dedication and passion that have ever been seen in the history of sports.

Boise State Broncos and Grassroots Marketing

November 22nd, 2006

About a year ago, a handful of rabid Boise State fans, myself included, came together to help our beloved Broncos expand the athletic program via a grassroots effort. The idea originated from the perspective that the university seemed to be reaching out only to white-collar executive types for fund raising and support while the blue-collar average joe fan, like me, was being ignored.

Our committee was formed via an online message board at BroncoCountry.com, a site mainly for the hardcore blue-blooded fan, mainly with the aim to help the athletic department raise funds to expand Bronco Stadium. In our first couple of sessions, we tried to formulate a plan to approach the university to demonstrate 1) we had a legitimate aim to assist rather than scam them, 2) that we were organized and motivated, 3) our innovative ideas for fund raising, and 4) that we were willing to play within their rules.

After about 4 weeks, our group was able to schedule a meeting with the Bronco Athletic Association and the Bronco Athletic Department and we were absolutely blown away by how well our ideas were received. As it turns out, the officials were trying to build an existing electronic funds transfer program (EFT) called HorsePower that was created with the sole purpose of allowing individuals to contribute small funds on a monthly basis to help with summer scholarships for student athletes, facilities maintenance, equipment purchases, Title IX compliance, and other issues pertaining to Bronco Athletics.

After a very productive initial meeting, our small group reconvened and came back with an official agenda and Boise State gave us the green light to head up the promotion of the HorsePower program. The win-win for both sides is that Boise State could now focus their dedicated internal fundraising efforts on corporate sponsorships while HorsePower would be marketed toward the face painted, blue-collar, end zone seated fanatic who would be thrilled to contribute 10 to 20 hard earned bucks per week to his/her beloved Broncos.

Currently, we’re preparing to develop a brochure to distribute at local retail establishments within the greater Boise area. In addition, our committee will propose a referral program for HorsePower and other incentive packages to encourage participation in the EFT program. Also, if you’re a Bronco fan living in Boise, please be sure to ask your local retailer if they have any information on the HorsePower program and if they say no, ask them to contact me for more information – Email Erik.

In all, I am thrilled that Boise State took a chance with our small group of non-university affiliated fans. Since the program is still in its infancy, our grassroots efforts are tough to measure. However, this example should provide a great case study for institutions looking to mobilize a ground level group of advocates.

To conclude, I have personally witnessed the results of grassroots marketing and I’m more than confident the HorsePower program will become a resounding fundraising success. If your company is struggling with creating brand appeal and fostering growth, perhaps it’s time to explore your existing core of advocate customers. Our small group of Bronco fans congregated via an online forum, imagine if your passionate customers could do the same…

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