Sometimes, the most efficient route to reaching a customer is not the most direct. For instance, the publisher of FamilyEducation Today, a newsletter advising parents on how to get the most out of their children's schools, discovered that piggybacking on large companies was much more effective than selling direct.

Jonathon Carson, founder of Boston-based FamilyEducation Publishing, discovered that it made more sense to call on CEOs than to launch a massive direct-mail campaign to parents. When he tried a mailing to the Weekly Reader list, he got a low 2% response. In contrast, when marketing through a corporation, he found that 10% to 15% of a company's employees typically sign up to receive the newsletter. "We offer a visible benefit that positions a company as family-friendly and concerned with education," says Carson. The newsletter is distributed nationwide to 40 corporations--Bristol Myers-Squibb and Work/Family Directions, among others, purchase it for their interested employees.

So far, some 60,000 parents (and grandparents) of school-age kids receive the complimentary publication eight times a year. The employer's name appears above the logo, and issues can be customized to include, for example, CEO interviews. Companies pay $7 to $18.95 per employee for subscriptions, depending on volume.

Carson knocked on many corporate doors before his big break: The newsletter was handed out at a board meeting of the Business Roundtable, whose members top the Fortune 500.