The best folks to turn to for marketing advice may be the independent salespeople who represent your company. Not only are they most familiar with your product, they have firsthand experience of its reception in the marketplace.

Instead of plugging his products at meetings with his manufacturers' reps, Ed Muldoon, owner of Bivar, a $10-million electronics manufacturer in Irvine, Calif., tries to benefit from his reps' field experience. Prior to a recent two-day Bivar conference in Chicago, five longtime Bivar salespeople sent out surveys to fellow representatives, asking for input on product ideas and market analysis. At the conference, the group came up with responses and critiqued Bivar's sales-and-service support. Then the participants created a plan to put their ideas to work. Though the meeting was not cheap for Bivar, Muldoon claims it was worth it: Feedback was applied immediately, and the ideas will result in new products and marketing strategies.

Copyright 1998 G+J USA Publishing