March 26, 2015
ASI’s Long Beach keynote speaker Jillian Michaels – an internationally known fitness expert who single-handedly built a healthy-living empire – was as down-to-earth as a friendly neighbor. While waiting backstage, she kicked off her high heels and showed our crew pictures of monarch butterfly caterpillars from her Malibu backyard.
She’s only 5-foot-2, but she radiates presence. And, she was so beautiful up close I was nearly mesmerized. Can you tell how much I enjoyed our on stage conversation? Right from the start, she enraptured our audience with her personal story of being an unhappy, overweight teenager who was bullied in school and yet managed to overcome it all, thanks in great part to her family’s support.
“As a kid, I was lucky enough to have two people who really believed in me,” she said. “Having people who support you and who believe in you is really critical.”
Through hard work and determination, along with a strong mentor and helpful clients, Michaels established a huge personal brand and starred in a hit reality TV show. I bet everyone who heard her positive, inspiring message left motivated to make changes in their life and in their business. I know I did.
Our conversation was a highlight of the ASI Show® Long Beach, held Tuesday, March 24, through Thursday, March 26, at the Long Beach Convention Center. Our show attracted 203 exhibitors and 1,643 distributors from 925 companies from 31 states and three countries. I was very happy to hear that the show also attracted 126 women-owned companies and 114 minority-owned companies.
We got great feedback from attendees like Rob Cunningham, of Uniflex (asi/92480), who said he really enjoyed the show. “We’ve had a lot of good traffic and great sales conversations with distributors.”
Distributor Bob Lewellen, of Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600), told us his company likes holding meetings in conjunction with ASI shows because they present good opportunities to meet face-to-face. “Our dealers like to come to the show so they can get product ideas and find new suppliers to do business with,” he said. “Plus, all of our dealers attend education – there is always something to be learned. The seminar choices give you a chance to focus on what’s important to you.”
There were lots of opportunities for fun, too, from networking events like dinner at Gladstone’s restaurant, to paddle boarding and beer tasting at our new networking clubs.
Hundreds of people also visited the ASI Promocar, a Mazda Protégé we covered inside and out with hundreds of promotional products donated by ASI suppliers. The Promocar (hashtag #ASIpromocar) is part of an ASI PR campaign called “Driving Serious Fun,” designed to drive attention to $21.5 billion promotional products industry and to spread the word about the industry’s creativity and ingenuity.
After Long Beach, the Promocar sets off on a 2,700-mile journey across 12 states. Make sure to follow the car along the way through pics and blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on ASI’s website, www.asicentral.com. The car already has 190,000 miles on it, so wish us luck!
March 20, 2015
At first, I didn’t think I had much in common with Jillian Michaels, an LA-based entrepreneur who built a successful business around fitness and motivation. Then I learned that she, too, was an overweight child. Now, I can’t wait to share the stage with her at ASI’s Long Beach show and to ask her about her incredible journey from unhappy childhood to creator of her own fitness franchise.
Our Q&A takes place Thursday, March 26, 9:30-10:15 a.m. And if you’d like to meet her afterward, there are still tickets available for a meet and greet before the show floor opens. I’m sure any entrepreneur or small-business owner who attends will come away inspired to put down the potato chips and grow their business (instead of their waistline).
The show is once again at the Long Beach Convention Center, in Halls A and B, starting with Education Day from 12-4 on Tuesday. Exhibit days are Wednesday and Thursday.
I’m delighted we’re also welcoming 10 distributor meeting groups that chose to hold their big gathering at an ASI event. I hope to see as many of you as possible in Long Beach, so if you see me dashing down the hall, please say hello. And don’t forget to tweet using hashtag #ASIlongbeach.
I know everyone will spend most of their time checking out the many classes and browsing the show floor for 2015’s newest products. For a refresher course on all that ASI’s ESP® has to offer, I suggest a brand-new Power Session called “Getting the Most Out of ESP: 20 Tips in 20 Minutes,” 4-4:30 p.m. Wednesday and 11-2 p.m. Thursday on the show floor with ASI’s Joan Miracle.
We introduced a number of new events at our 2015 shows, and Long Beach is no exception. Here’s a recap of some fun networking activities you can join to meet one-on-one with other distributors and suppliers:
Tues., March 24
Wed., March 25
Thurs., March 26
When you need a break, stop by our new Social Lounge in Booth 459, where you can kick back in easy chairs and view a big screen with all show-related social media posts and pics.
It’s also where you can check out the ASI Promocar, a Mazda we covered inside and out with hundreds of promo products in a nod to the industry’s creativity. You’re welcome to sit inside, take pics – and post the hashtag #ASIpromocar. Wish us luck: After Long Beach, ASI’s PR manager, Dawn Marie, is driving the car about 2,700 miles cross country as a far-out example of our industry’s ingenuity. You can follow the Promocar’s progress on www.asicentral.com and ASI’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
All in all, Long Beach is shaping up to be an exciting show. And after the winter we’ve experienced here in the East, I know I’m looking forward to sunny skies and warmer temps. See you there!
March 4, 2015
I love nothing better than hearing “thank you,” especially from a business that’s acknowledging how much I mean to them as a customer or client. So I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a great big “thanks” of my own to everyone in the industry who’s completed a survey, participated in a focus group or sent me an email. I’d also like to express my appreciation for the over 2,000 ASI members who joined the ASI Marketing Research panel.
I literally could not do my job as ASI’s director of marketing research without help from every one of you.
With the information you so generously provide, ASI is able to prepare and share a ton of important data with the industry. The most important, perhaps, is the input you send us as we prepare for our annual Counselor State of the Industry (SOI) report, a mega-effort we’re kicking off this week.
The SOI study helps shape our understanding of the advertising specialties industry as a whole and provides a forward-looking view into what’s ahead. The results are always widely shared, in Counselor magazine’s special State of the Industry issue, which is dedicated to the study, as well as through numerous citations in newspapers and magazines all year long. In 2013, the issue even won a prestigious Jesse H. Neal Award, considered the Pulitzer Prize of business press – and the 2014 issue (see cover at right) recently was named a finalist for another one.
In addition to loads of stats and graphics, the SOI issue contains info designed to help any sized company plan strategically for the future, grow their business, streamline operations and tap new and emerging markets. Along with winning tips and tactics and growth strategies, the SOI issue also profiles that year’s Counselor Award winners – including the Person of the Year – and publishes the revenue and ranking of Top 40 distributor and supplier companies.
Here’s how you can contribute (and earn my sincere thanks once again!):
Counselor is currently polling professionals in the industry – both distributors and suppliers – to find out how the market did in 2014 and to get their impressions on where the industry is headed in 2015. Your input is invaluable. Please take 10 minutes to click the appropriate link below and complete the State of the Industry survey.
If you haven’t read the 2014 issue yet (available in print and online at www.asicentral.com/soi), please check it out. ASI editorial staffers spend months gathering and analyzing key sales, marketing and operational metrics used by most of you to provide useable info tailor-made for our industry. The accompanying graphics also provide valuable snapshots of what’s up, down and trending.
I’d also love to know if there’s a topic, trend or strategy we might have missed or not given enough attention to, so please either post a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Hear that? It’s me, thanking you in advance for participating.
– Nathaniel Kucsma, ASI’s director of marketing research
February 6, 2015
Troy Aikman, ASI’s keynote speaker in Dallas, had a great excuse for running a couple minutes later than I expected to our show on Thursday: He was dropping his two young daughters off at school, something the 48-year-old dad does every day, no matter what.
It says a lot when a guy worth an estimated $25 million drives his own car, runs his own errands and makes family a priority. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback even told us his favorite pastime when he’s not working as a FOX sportscaster is spending time with his daughters, aged 12 and 13.
“I don’t want to be corny, but I hang out with my girls,” he told the 600 people at the keynote at the ASI Show Dallas, which ended Thursday after three days at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, attracting 485 exhibitors and 3,435 attendees from 49 states and 19 countries, with distributor attendance up about 4% over 2014.
All told, a record 20 companies chose Dallas to host their sales meetings, an increase of 15% over the previous year. The show also attracted 270 female-owned and 230 minority-owned businesses, which I was very happy to see.
Aikman was not what I expected. When we first met backstage in the green room he seemed low key and almost subdued. But once he got on stage, he really came to life, telling fascinating and often funny stories about growing up in California and Oklahoma, where his family raised cows, horses and chickens on 240 acres.
I always find that when you ask someone about their upbringing, you learn fascinating things. In Aikman’s case, even though he took one of the most successful teams in the history of the game to the Super Bowl three times, he came off confident without being arrogant. That’s an admirable trait a lot of successful people can’t manage to pull off.
He also offered some insight into the Cowboys as an organization, and the tough but fair leadership of former Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson, who told him, “You don’t coach a player to what he is, you coach him to what you want him to be.”
Aikman expected his teammates to know their roles and treat professional football like the job it is. “People get fired for not knowing their assignments in the real world,” he said. “My job as quarterback was to do whatever it takes to win.”
Surprisingly, football wasn’t Aikman’s first choice. In high school, he also played baseball and basketball and only signed up for high school football so he wouldn’t disappoint his father. Even as he racked up success on the playing field in college and with the Cowboys he never stopped working hard.
Even his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, when the team won only a single game, taught him a valuable lesson. “It served me well later in life,” said Aikman. “I never forgot how hard it is to win. I never forgot what it was like to lose a game.”
Not surprisingly, he said, “My career surpassed my wildest dreams. I can’t complain at all.” How many among us can say that – and mean it?
Upcoming 2015 ASI Shows are Long Beach (March 24-26), New York (May 5-6) and Chicago (July 14-16). To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2015, contact Karen DiTomasso, vice president of sales, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 28, 2015
Since I live and work so close to Philadelphia, I’ve become a big fan of the Eagles football team. In 2005, I was even lucky enough to watch them play in Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots in Jacksonville, Florida – a very big deal for someone whose high school was too small to support its own football team.
Now I’m gearing up for a Q&A with one of the greatest players of our time, three-time Super Bowl champ and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who graciously agreed to step in as a last-minute keynote speaker at the ASI Show® in Dallas. I’ll interview Aikman, an Emmy-nominated FOX sportscaster, Thursday, February 5, at 8:30 a.m. at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, on the final day of our three-day show.
If you have any questions for Troy, please post a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Most recently, Aikman jumped into the fray over the “deflategate” controversy, going so far as to call for severe punishments for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick for those deflated footballs. I like a guy who speaks his mind and can’t wait to see what else he has to say about life on and off the field.
Aikman is sure to have some great stories about working for one of the most recognizable brands in the world and how he transitioned from one successful career to another without missing a beat.
In addition to the Q&A, Dallas offers a ton of other highlights:
Click here for the complete schedule with times, etc.
If you see me in Texas, please be sure to stop me and say hello.
January 14, 2015
Earlier this week, I sat down with a group of distributors to discuss an informative 30-minute program ASI has aired on a few cable stations that we hope captures the excitement of this business, the power of promotional products and its importance to marketers. The distributors’ concerns and questions over the program echo some online discussions making the rounds, and I appreciated the opportunity to share my own feelings and answer some questions.
Our main goal in airing the program was to communicate why we’re all in this industry and what it can do for others looking for an interesting career and a new way to be successful. Through initiatives like this program and ASI’s long-running education and PR outreach, we’re hopeful business-minded people and entrepreneurs – and especially more women, young people and minorities – will get interested enough in our industry to learn more. Maybe they’ll join as distributors, become account execs for a current distributor, or even start buying promo products to get the word out about their own business.
The very closely focused test with the program is nearly complete, and we won’t be able to judge for several months if it was worth the investment – measured by people who respond for information, attend some follow-up online educational sessions and other metrics for these types of programs. In terms of the test, it’s been run in a few markets, airing weekends or late at night to a few thousand viewers, similar to a direct-mail campaign that any distributor, supplier or decorator might conduct.
To put this test into perspective, we haven’t been airing the program during the Super Bowl to 100 million people. We deliberately chose to air it over specialized cable networks like CNBC and Fox News with visibility only to entrepreneurs and people looking for a career switch or a second career – people likely with business acumen that would add to our industry. We worked with outside experts to identify the couple of channels that would include entrepreneurial business types and specifically exclude general consumers.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, more than one person at the table of distributors in Vegas told me they got into this industry after learning about it through word of mouth, from a friend or through a distributor they met at places like church. Today, social media and video are the new word of mouth and the ways friends keep in touch and share new ideas.
For over 60 years, ASI has worked hard to communicate the excitement we all feel about this business, scoring numerous positive stories in major national outlets like the Wall Street Journal and on networks like MSNBC. Equally as important, we’ve worked to protect the integrity of the industry by championing a strong business model that supports the success of both suppliers and distributors. We’re not about to change now.
But everyone doing business in today’s world is facing new challenges and with them new opportunities. Now more than ever, we need to work together to keep the industry healthy and viable – and growing. Worries about possible competition should be outweighed by the need for a strong, diverse, growing work force. And more and more people understanding our $20.5 billion industry provides great ROI for invested marketing dollars.
At the same time, it’s as important to us as it is to you that anyone joining the industry is interested in sourcing products for resale to prospects and customers. From time to time I hear from a current distributor that someone who isn’t qualified has joined ASI. Often, this is a bit of a story passed down the lane, with no direct information. But in other cases we’ve been provided hard contact information and always fully investigated the situation. Sometimes the rumor isn’t true. But in the few cases when it has been, we’ve kicked them out for misrepresentation. If you ever have any questions about someone’s true intentions, please let me know. We’ll investigate to make sure they meet ASI’s qualifications, which remain the same for new distributors no matter how or when they join – without exception. And we’ll let you know the outcome.
During my chat in Vegas, the distributors also suggested ASI reach out to colleges and college students and introduce budding entrepreneurs and marketers to an industry they might not even know exists. Business students learn about buying and using TV, radio and Internet advertising, direct mail and everything else under the sun, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and their incredible ROI.
We’re already on this, but are looking to do even more.
For two years, ASI has worked with Babson College to help business students and budding entrepreneurs gain work experience in the promotional products industry. (For more info on that program, click here). We’re now expanding that outreach to other schools, hoping to encourage other business colleges to join us in helping teach tomorrow’s entrepreneurs about this exciting, creative industry.
If you have any ideas about other partnerships we can pursue, or schools we might contact, please let me know. Personal connections make these types of trials and introductions much more effective.
As always, I do want to know what you think. So please email me here to further discuss these or any other issues. And certainly feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment to this blog.
January 7, 2015
Here’s another great example of the strange new times we live in: I’m walking with Apple co-founder and ASI keynoter Steve Wozniak soon after he blew away 1,000 people at our Orlando show, when we pass a table of five convention center employees – all buried in their phones. They never once looked up from their devices, missing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet face-to-face with the man who invented the industry that made those cell phones possible. Incredible!
I loved Wozniak, an engineer who single-handedly kick-started the personal computer industry in the 1970s by inventing the Apple I and II computers. He’s the only person I’ve ever met who speaks not in complete sentences or even complete paragraphs – but in book chapters. To actually sit on stage with the inventor of an entire industry and ask him questions was unbelievable.
And I’m happy to report he couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious, posing for photos with everyone who crossed his path (if they bothered to look up from their phones, that is). He even gave out his email and signed show badges, books – and dozens of iPhones and iPad, including mine (pictured, in the #ASIPromocar). He made a thousand new friends on Tuesday, the closing day of ASI Show® , which started Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center.
He was energetic, likeable and low key, riveting everyone with insider stories about founding Apple with Steve Jobs in 1976. “I never wanted any fanfare,” said this lifelong engineer, who’s always preferred inventing to marketing. “The builders are the important people in my mind.”
I especially enjoyed it when he said he loved promotional products, recalling a branded insulated travel mug one of his companies gave to employees that miraculously kept beverages hot for two days. As he told us: “It’s a great way to get the word out.”
After the Q&A, Wozniak also toured the show floor (pictured, center of top pic, with ASI vice-chairman Matthew Cohn, at left), surprising attendees and happily posing for photos and gathering so many samples we had to get a bag to carry them in. Kristen Beck, of Alligator Events in Sebastian, FL, made a point of thanking Wozniak, a former teacher, for his inspiring words about the importance of education. “He was awesome,” she said. “It surpassed my expectations.”
What a guy. What a show! For more, click here for an interview with Counselor magazine editor Andy Cohen.
Wozniak was just one of many highlights of ASI Orlando, which kicked off the 2015 selling season with 745 exhibitors and 6,084 attendees from 49 states and 22 countries, with distributor attendance up 8% over 2014. All told, a record 27 companies chose Orlando to host their sales meetings, an increase of 35% from the previous show.
The show more than delivered quality attendance and top-performing salespeople, exceeding all of our expectations. And, there were a ton of new features, making the experience wholly unique. In addition to the “Marketplace!” showcasing featured products from five of the most popular money-making industries, and the Social Lounge, with huge comfy recliners so people could settle in to watch a live feed of show photos tagged with #ASIOrlando, we hosted a “Minute to Win It” game show. People went crazy competing for prizes by playing outrageously fun games onstage.
Distributors and suppliers also came together at new Networking Clubs, where they ate together, downed martinis, did yoga and even wakeboarded.
To add to the fun, we also brought the #ASIPromocar to the show, putting it on display for people to take photos and sign the inside. No one could believe we’d driven a car covered in hundreds of promotional products over 2,000 miles so far – without losing more than a few pens. For proof of the resiliency of our industry, look no further than our “moving billboard.”
Monday night, ASI’s Counselor® magazine also announced the winners of its 2015 Distributor Choice Awards. I was very pleased to announce Ariel Premium Supply (asi/36730) as our Supplier of the Year. As I told the crowd, Ariel enjoys a 0.4% internal error rate – which means this $30 million company is near perfect when it comes to pricing, sourcing, personalizing, decorating, packing and shipping. No wonder they won the top prize. The enthusiastic group that accepted for Ariel is at right.
For complete coverage of the show, visit www.asicentral.com.
Onward to Texas!