Ann Withey, owner of Annie's Homegrown, a $3.5-million Sausalito-and-Boston-based macaroni-and-cheese manufacturer, boasts a database of 75,000 customer names. How does a company that never sees the customers face-to-face achieve this? Here are a few ways that Withey connects with her customers.
Coupons. Annie's encourages word-of-mouth marketing by sending discount coupons to customers' friends. Withey writes back to 25 customers a week and sends form letters in response to approximately 1,500 customers each month. Customer information from the letters she receives is entered into the database.
Annie's home number. "We want people to realize there's a real Annie," says Deborah Churchill Luster, president of the company. Withey gets about 50 calls per day from customers. She asks callers for feedback about the product and about in-store promotions.
The Internet. Annie's Web site lures almost 400 visitors and collects approximately 30 E-mail messages every week. The Web site address (URL) is printed on the package.
Packaging. "Until recently, the only advertising we did was on the box," says Luster. Last spring the company started running radio and bus ads, and it now publishes a company magazine.
Gift offers. Free bumper stickers spread the company's environmentally conscious message, get people to pick up the product, and encourage customers to write in.