CEO's Notebook

Steve Hoeft, president of direct-marketing agency S.R. Hoeft Direct, in St. Louis, struggled along for a few years doing small projects. But he knew he needed a major account to put his company on the map. 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 from the envelope, to the letter, to the offer," Hoeft said. His initial chat was followed by six months of writing proposals and attending meetings--but in the end, he landed his largest client. Hoeft, whose company projects $7.5 million in 1996 revenues, hasn't repeated that sales approach. "Luckily, we haven't needed to," he says.