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.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing