Can't afford a marketing staff? Borrow one, the way Tom Klein did. The CEO of $6-million NorthWord Press, a book publisher in Minocqua, Wis., asked six marketing pros from other companies to be his advisers. At quarterly brainstorming sessions, the advisers weigh strategic issues such as pricing and product development. Their feedback helped NorthWord drop a line of books at odds with its market niche.
A former marketer of health-care products chairs the group, which includes a veteran market researcher and four customers from key distribution channels. All live within driving distance and were flattered to be asked to help. Klein pays each a small per diem and hotel expenses. The cost: $10,000 a year. "I need only one product idea to cover the costs," he says. His total marketing budget is 1% of sales -- half of what's typical for a small company. -- Susan Greco