Ken Hawk, CEO of $5 million 1-800-Batteries, in San Jose, Calif., did it by targeting customers off the trade show floor. Unable to wrangle a booth at his first major computer industry show, Hawk promoted his rechargeable-battery business by enlisting the help of a local cab company.

He asked drivers to hand out catalogs for 1-800-Batteries to any passengers who were attending the trade show. In return, Hawk and some coworkers acted as "mystery riders" and awarded a $100 bill to every cabbie who gave them a catalog. Four drivers won.

Hawk says the unconventional marketing effort generated 275 orders worth $14,794 in sales. "We spent $400 and got some great exposure that we couldn't get any other way," he says.