Looking for a big customer to boost your business? Sometimes you can find sales leads and contact names on product labels or direct mail pieces, as Steven Hoeft did.

Struggling along for a few years doing small projects, Hoeft knew he needed a major account to put his direct marketing agency on the map in St. Louis. When a big bank sent him a mailing that he could see needed improvement, Hoeft seized his chance. He called the person who had signed the letter and offered a little advice for free. "I could improve everything -- the envelope, the letter, and the offer," Hoeft said. His initial chat was followed by six months of writing proposals and attending meetings -- and in the end, S.R. Hoeft Direct landed its largest client. Hoeft's company projects $17.5 million in 1998 revenues.