Winning Customers with Commitment
Gary Hirshberg learned about running a business as the C-E-Yo of Stonyfield, now the world’s largest organic yogurt producer. In his book, Stirring It Up--How to Make Money and Save the World, he tells how the company grew from seven cows in a New Hampshire barn to a business with more than $330 in annual sales. Now he is sharing what that experience taught him in a series of brief, practical lessons on profiting from a sustainable enterprise. This one is about earning customers’ trust and loyalty.
I can’t claim that Stonyfield’s founder, Samuel Kaymen, and I gave up conventional marketing through a reasoned decision. Short on money at the outset, we had no other choice. But what we had was worth more than billboards and magazine layouts. We had Samuel’s yogurt recipe, pieced together from Yiddish yogurt masters in Brooklyn, and the simple conviction that our stuff was so good we need only persuade people to try it to win them over. Our first customers would spread the word--but how to get their attention? When running a startup, you use whatever resources you have. A family friend who owned Stop & Shop supermarkets in Boston asked his dairy buyer to let us stock our yogurt and hand out samples in five stores for 12 weeks. If we couldn’t make a dent in the market by then, we’d be out. So most every evening for 12 weeks, one of us visited one of these supermarkets, evangelizing....