Owners of small companies usually figure that if they can prove themselves with a few smaller clients, they'll be able to attract bigger accounts. Not Jeremy Barbera. He started at the top, then worked his way down.

Barbera, founder and CEO of Marketing Services Group, located in Manhattan, helps clients design databases and implement direct-mail campaigns to attract new customers. When he started his firm in 1987, he decided to go after high-visibility "class acts" such as orchestras and museums. After Barbera set up an appointment to see a new prospect, he researched the company extensively to discover its specific marketing problem, then devised a solution to present at the first meeting. With his prospects prepared to explain their problem, Barbera impressed them by beating them to the punch.

Once Marketing Services Group had signed a big name, wooing others in the same field became easier. When Barbera won the account for Carnegie Hall, in New York, other major auditoriums signed on, such as the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, in Boston. After he snagged Crain's Chicago Business, several smaller business magazines followed. "If you can get number one," he says, "numbers two through 10 are a lot easier."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing