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Log On and Fan the World

Filed under: Community, News About ASI, Research

Half a billion people worldwide now use the social networking site Facebook to stay connected. If Facebook was its own country, it would be the third most populous nation in the world, according to PC World.

Here at ASI, we’re doing our part. I routinely blog, Tweet – you name it – along with numerous other employees. Our ASICentral.com team alone already has 2,130 fans, and counting.

If you’re not actively using these free online tools to generate interest in your company, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Facebook says half of its active users log on to the site on any given day.

So I was happy to answer some questions for Promo35, a Facebook forum for young industry professionals. The group is the brainchild of Charley Johnson of SnugZ/USA (asi/88060), who routinely posts interviews with industry leaders and movers and shakers.

Recently, Johnson turned his eye to me. Here’s our exchange:

1.  Are you cautiously optimistic about the 2nd half of the year or do you see it getting even better than the 1st half of 2010?

TA: Industry revenue, as measured by distributor sales, was up about 11% in the first quarter, according to our research at ASI. I expect the second quarter was up high single digits. But, that’s against a very weak 2009. If sales were to grow 5% annually, it would take about six years to get back to 2008 sales levels. So it’s going to be a slow climb out of a deep hole. I think 2010 will be up 5%-6% when the dust settles.

2.  Are we out of the woods with the economy or do you see a “double dip” recession headed our way?

TA: My degree is in economics, which probably makes me the least qualified person to answer this question! But I don’t see a double-dip recession. I think we’ll have a slow growth period, with frequent fits and starts. Don’t get scared – but don’t get cocky, either.

3.  Have customers become easier or more difficult to deal with due to everything that is going on in the world?

TA: It seems to me that people have gotten smarter – they expect you to deliver what you promise, and to prove what you say. That helps us because our magazines have an audited circulation (several in the industry aren’t audited), so advertisers can be certain we deliver what we say in terms of readership; we marry print and digital circulation (if you’re advertising in an all-digital magazine, ask for proof of readership); and we provide more metrics than anyone on digital advertising and usage.

4.  Do you see yourself changing the way you advertise in the future? 

TA: We deliver advertising messages in print (magazines, directories, catalogs, faxes), digitally (online, email) and in person (ASI Shows, Advantages Roadshows, Stitches Roadshows and regional association shows). Only a mix works, balanced for the types of people you’re trying to reach and ensuring they see the messages multiple times in multiples places. No successful brand only uses one form of media. 

5.  What question do you have in your mind that you would like people in the industry to respond to?

TA: ESP Orders would save distributors 30 to 45 minutes per PO and help suppliers get accurate, complete orders without making calls on 50%-100% of all POs they receive. That would save millions of dollars in time that could be used to prospect for more customers. So my question is, how do we get more people to use it?

Let me know how much time your business devotes to online networking by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The Gift Book: Christmas in July

Filed under: News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

When the thermostat hits 90 and beyond, it’s hard to think of winter, but now is the perfect time to plan for the fourth-quarter gift-giving season, when more industry sales occur than in any other period.

The Gift Book is the right catalog at the right time, providing loads of quality items for incentives and corporate gift-giving programs – some starting as low as $1.19. 

Order by August 31 and receive a free personalized digital version of the 2010-2011 Gift Book, plus free shipping. Distributors can also choose between two covers options: standard and a stylish, deluxe red version.

No matter what the occasion, or the budget, you’ll find what your clients need among more than 400 products from 60-plus suppliers. Searching is easy, thanks to special sections on food and drink, cards and stationery, and the ever-popular golf section. 

Looking for high-end thank-you gifts? Choose from a variety of trendy electronics, writing instruments, desk accessories, stylish watches and leather portfolios.

The Gift Book is just one of nine customized catalogs offered by ASI as sales-generating tools for suppliers to advertise a wide variety of products and for distributors to sell, market and promote their company. Best yet, distributors can personalize each catalog by imprinting thier logo and contact information on the cover in full color.

For more information, click here to read our press release.

And don’t forget – Saturday is the last day to nominate yourself or someone else for one of four ASI advisory boards. Nominations close July 31; voting begins September 1 and ends September 30. Names will be announced at the ASI Power Summit in November. Click here for more information.

Let me know how catalogs have helped you sell by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Keep Those Comments Coming

Filed under: Members, News About ASI

Being accountable to customers and responding to their concerns and suggestions is key to any business, which is why I encourage anyone reading this blog to comment on a post or email me.

In the year or so it took to develop our revolutionary new ESP Web platform, for instance, we reviewed hundreds of your suggestions to make sure we delivered a product that would help you improve your business. Recently, we announced even more enhancements to ESP – and we’re not done yet.

The ESP Web platform now features faster searches along with more than 20 other enhancements to help suppliers and distributors, including:

  • An advanced product search integrated into its revolutionary, intelligent search engine
  • The ability to add products to the shopping cart directly from customer presentations
  • Preferred pricing on numerous screens, including initial product-search results
  • Even more speed, so searches are faster than ever.

Sam Knox, vice president of Clever Advantage Inc., emailed us with an enthusiastic endorsement that we included in a recent press release, which you can read by clicking here. In short, Sam called the advanced search “awesome.” Thanks, Sam!

This week, I also responded to an email from a less than enthusiastic reader who saw our press release on the ASI Show in Chicago, where we attracted over 4,100 distributors. In that release, we mentioned the team at Harry & David (asi/59710), the well-known consumer brand that selected ASI Chicago to make its inaugural appearance as an industry supplier. 

The reader was unhappy we promoted a supplier that sells through a direct retail channel, and I’d like to share my response, below:

“Up to you on picking suppliers, but I wanted to let you know that we have worked carefully with Harry & David and they really understand the concerns you have.  For instance, they have created specific products for our industry – including a partnership with Leed’s for specific bundling and packaging – that aren’t being offered direct.  So your customers and prospects can’t do a direct compare. And they’ve also been thoughtful about making the ‘suggested retail’ for distributors no lower than comparable direct pricing, while providing 30 percent+ margins to distributors.

As I said, I don’t mean to defend particularly, but they really are being thoughtful and methodical and I didn’t think it fair not to let you know.”

If you have any more suggestions on our releases, ESP or anything else, please post a comment or email me here and I’ll respond as best I can. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

ASI Magazines Win Big

Filed under: News About ASI

The summer before my senior year at Ball State University, I scored a dream internship at the Dow Jones News Fund in Manhattan. The experience provided a solid foundation in journalism that’s impacted my entire career.

Today, I’m CEO of an organization that publishes six magazines. And, I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of an editorial team than I am right now.

The American Society of Business Publication Editors just honored ASI magazines with 14 Azbee Awards of Excellence in editorial and design. Wearables magazine, edited by C.J. Mittica, was chosen a Top 10 Business Magazine of the Year. 

Not only that, ASI publications are the only b-to-b magazines for the ad specialty industry so honored this year. Other winning magazines in the 2010 competition include Bloomberg Businessweek, CFO, The Hollywood Reporter, Macworld and The American Lawyer.

To read our press release, click here.

Day in and day out, our team of editors, reporters, designers, researchers and photographers – spearheaded by publisher Rich Fairfield and editor-in-chief Melinda Ligos – do a spectacular job.  As the largest media and marketing organization serving the industry, we have tons of readers relying on us to consistently deliver news and information that will help their businesses thrive and grow.

ASBPE judges choose winners based on a careful review of everything from quality of writing, reporting and editing to layout, design and value to readers. If they had a category for allowing a boss to realize his dreams of journalism glory, we’d have won that, too. 

To everyone on the team – which includes two Dow Jones-sponsored interns I hope are dreaming just as big as I did – I offer my most sincere congratulations.

Let me know how our magazines have helped your business by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Cool Products From Hot Sponsors

Filed under: ASI Shows, Using Ad Specialties

How do you determine what’s hot? Counselor magazine editors tackle that question every year when devising their annual list of the hottest people, products and ideas in the ad specialties industry.

Luckily, our editors have a lot to choose from, given the high “cool factor” inherent in this business. At the HOT Party, held this week at the ASI Show in Chicago, we got a look at a number of innovative products, including several from our party sponsors.

For a look at the sponsors’ products, click here to watch my Tim’s Take video, which features:

  • Military distressed visor cap. From Otto International Inc. (asi/75350). A snappy-looking cap made of washed pigment and cotton twill with a matching fabric adjustable hook-and-loop closure.
  • Soft mesh-back cap. Also from Otto. Since it features a soft, low-fitting crown, this cap pulls down and looks really nice. And I love the pro stitching on the front.
  •  16 oz. glitterware pint glass. From Sabina (asi/84470). This is a terrific addition to any party. Our guests had great fun checking out the effect that liquid has on the inside mirrored finish.  
  • Personalized M&M tin. From MY M&M’S|Mars Direct (asi/68888). You can imprint anything on these candies, from faces to quirky sayings, which makes for a wonderful leave-behind, as we found out at the party.
  •  Full-color custom-labeled energy drinks. From BamBams (asi/38228). Perfect mixers for any event. Customizable and very cool.

 Let me know your favorite cool products by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Chicago Rocks!

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

We just ended our show in Chicago and I’m delighted to share the news that we attracted 4,100 distributors, representing 1,755 firms – the most since 2007.

The number of firms represents an increase over last year of 2.5% and is the second-highest number of unique firms that have ever attended ASI Chicago.

The show at the McCormick Place Convention Center featured 630 exhibitors – including 137 that didn’t appear last year.

To read more, please click here for our press release.

There’s good reason we love the Windy City – it delivers. The show launched the key second half of the selling season with dozens of free education sessions, informative speakers and a show floor that was busy from the opening on Day One to the final reception on Day Two.

That means distributors and suppliers are more prepared than ever to head into the crucial holiday season armed with the latest products, fresh leads and new ideas.

Today we featured Tom Searcy, nationally renowned author, master sales motivator, CEO and founder of Hunt Big Sales, who delivered a high-energy keynote called “Your Biggest Deal Ever,” designed to help distributors land lucrative deals in highly competitive markets. The keynote was sponsored by Bullet (asi/42424).

The best part is we received awesome feedback from participants. Here’s a sampling:

  • Danon Middleton, VP of sales for Harry & David (asi/59710), the well-known consumer brand, says the team selected ASI Chicago to make its inaugural appearance as an industry supplier.  “We’ve spent good, quality time with distributors,” she says. “And we’re excited about that.”
  • Leanne Finney from Leed’s (asi/66887): “ASI Chicago has been great. We are previewing our new holiday line at the show, and it’s been fantastic. There has been a lot of interest from distributors. This has been a really good show for Leed’s.”
  • Glen Hersh from Admints & Zagabor (asi/31516): “The show’s been great. A lot of traffic, a lot of high-quality people and great conversations. We’re really excited.”

Distributors also left Chicago in “go” mode for upcoming holiday sales.

  • Sadie Schlief from American Solutions for Business (asi/120075): “What a great show. We appreciate the opportunity to take advantage of great education, exhibits and stellar networking events. We all leave energized. Thank you, ASI.” 
  • Houston Hale from HALO/Lee Wayne (asi/356000): “The ASI Show in Chicago is a good venue for all our regional people. It allows them to see products that they might not have seen since the first of the year and to find items that are fresh and new to take them through the balance of 2010.”
  • Rachel Dawda from Promotional Products & Apparel (asi/301090): “This is my first big show and I love it. I’ve met with a lot of new suppliers and found some exciting products for my clients. I’m leaving ASI Chicago with lots of new ideas.”

It’s never too early to register for the ASI Holiday Preview Show in Las Vegas September 13-14.

Let me know if you enjoyed the show by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


School’s Out – But School Products Are In

Filed under: ASI Shows, Using Ad Specialties

It’s never too soon to stock up on Back to School items, and I got a terrific preview of fun products this week at ASI’s Chicago show.

Click here to watch my Tim’s Take sampling of the many products I discovered browsing a packed show floor. Here are just a few:

  1. Recycled paper pen. From Sweda LLC (asi/90305). It looks like a pencil but writes like a pen. Made of recycled paper with a large color eraser.
  2. Eco-cube. From Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125). Made of 100% vegetable-based material and biodegradable. It’s a cube – and memo holder, pen stand and paper clip dispenser.
  3. Scrubs notebook or hoodie notebook. From Gordon Sinclair (asi/57800). This is the coolest thing ever. An 80-page notebook with three front pockets with a cover that looks exactly like hospital scrubs. Perfect for doctors, nursing homes, medical staffs. It also comes as a hoodie (pictured) – which any student or educational market will love.
  4. Brown baggin’ it lunch bag. From Leed’s (asi/66887). It’s water-resistant, wipeable and fully insulated. Great for any educational or office market.

Let me know your favorite product from the show floor by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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