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You Spoke, We Listened

Filed under: Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

ASI has long been committed to staying ahead of the technology curve, continually updating and improving our many products with one firm goal in mind: helping you close more sales.  To that end, we just announced significant improvements to ESP Web that should benefit every subscriber.

In many cases, you spoke and we listened, upgrading and adding new features based on your input, suggestions and feedback.

Distributors and decorators should find significant enhancements to ESP Web’s user interface that improve speed and workflow, making the industry’s most accurate and up-to-date supplier and product database even faster and easier to navigate.

Suppliers will find new advertising opportunities designed to help boost sales via trigger marketing and supplier specials.

Like any system upgrade, this one is the result of months of hard work on the part of numerous members of our team. Some of them even worked with a hurricane bearing down because they were determined to make their deadline and guarantee a smooth transition for everyone.

Now, it’s time for you to kick the tires and take it for a test drive. Please let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Distributors and decorators who need info on subscribing to ESP Web can contact Dan Dienna, ASI’s VP of distributor services, at ddienna@asicentral.com or 800-546-1295. Suppliers should call 800-546-1226 or e-mail Gene Rahill, ASI’s digital advertising director, at grahill@asicentral.com.

Move Over, Disney World

Filed under: Community, Members, News About ASI

If you enjoy lists, there’s one to fit every bill – from Best Films and Best Restaurants all the way to Best Lunchboxes and Best Blogs. But one of the most prestigious for our industry is Counselor‘s annual Best Places to Work, a compilation of the happiest, hippest workplaces.

All told, Counselor honored 85 ad specialty companies, with Seaena, a Las Vegas-based supplier that creates laser crystal promotional products, scoring the No. 1 spot.

How hip is Seaena (asi/47782)? When three Counselor editors hit Vegas during their cross-country tour of cool companies, they were greeted by a Seaena sales rep dressed in full showgirl regalia, blue-feather headdress and all, toting an Elvis costume and driving a convertible mini cooper down the Sunset Strip.

There’s no doubt Seaena is a hoot-and-holler kind of place,but that fun never stands in the way of profits. The company has grown its revenues by double digits in the past year and attributes the company’s teamwork-oriented atmosphere to its recent success.

To see videos, picture galleries and blogs from the 2011 Best Places to Work road trip, click here

To see all 85 companies on the list, click here. To read more about those companies, click here. And for a special Best Places to Work Facebook page, where each week a different company on the list is profiled, click here.

Let me know what qualities you think make a good company great by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Hurricane Recovery Update

Filed under: ASICentral, Community, News About ASI

I hope all of you, and your family and friends, are safe and secure as we recover from this weekend’s hurricane on the East Coast.

Like all of us at ASI (which was in Irene’s path), I know many distributors and suppliers are dealing with various stages of recovery – assessing water damage, trees down, travel issues and client and shipment concerns.

Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to assist, or if some special accommodation is needed. We’ll do anything we can to help.

We’ll post hurricane-related updates at http://www.asicentral.com/. If you have a business update for us to post about your situation, please email details to feedback@asicentral.com.

Our information products and services, including ESP and LogoMall, have been up during the entire storm, with our backup generators being used during one relatively brief period. We have fully backed up technology and power in our main offices, as well as at an offsite location near Atlanta.

In coming days and weeks, please let us know if any ASI materials (end-buyer catalogs, references, etc.) have been damaged at your homes or offices. We’ll replace them at no charge ASAP.

Please also let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you or another colleague. My personal e-mail is tim.andrews@asicentral.com.

I weathered the storm at my house in N.J. and came through relatively unscathed with a power outage and flooded basement. Luckily, I had a generator from an ice storm two years ago and a friend who came to help out – who then got stranded when the water rose. He’s since made it home to his family, which is what I hope for all of you.

Let me know how you and your business fared by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Let the Countdown Begin

Filed under: Members, News About ASI, Research

Everyone has their own definition of what makes a great place to work. For some, it’s salary all the way. For others, it’s great benefits or a fun corporate culture.

To learn what rates in our industry, Counselor magazine conducts an annual Best Places to Work survey. And starting today, you can check out the countdown of the top 85 companies employees deemed “best.”

Every day we’ll reveal another set of companies on the list, leading up to the big No. 1 “reveal” on Monday. To check out the countdown, visit the home page of ASI’s website.

How’d we do it? A total of more than 4,000 employees answered an in-depth survey conducted by outside research firm Quantum Workplace. Counselor Editor Andy Cohen said three themes run through the 85 companies that made the list: teamwork, recognition and fun.

Inside Counselor, which should hit your mailbox soon, you’ll discover story after story of winning corporate cultures that benefit employees, customers and the bottom line. As Andy says, “The employees and management are so engaged – not just with their jobs, but with the whole organization – that they’re willing to do anything for customers. Roles are defined, but those roles are meant to be broken – always for the betterment of the company.”

While researching for the Best Places to Work issue, three Counselor editors drove cross-country in a rented SUV visiting a number of top companies and no doubt keeping an eye out for America’s craziest roadside attractions. To see videos, picture galleries and blogs by Melinda Ligos, Andy Cohen and Joe Haley, click here

What do you think makes a superior place to work? Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Schoolhouse Rock

Filed under: News About ASI, Research, Using Ad Specialties

Over the next few weeks, nearly 50 million students will head off to approximately 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools, along with about 19 million college students bound for halls of higher learning. In the face of such huge numbers, it’s no wonder the education market rose to No. 1 in the industry for the first time, according to ASI’s State of the Industry 2011 Distributors Report.

Education accounted for over 12% of total ad specialty revenues – or about $2.16 billion – in 2010. The report, highlighted in a special annual issue of Counselor magazine, offers great advice on tapping into the lucrative books-and-pencils market. One suggestion: Volunteer at a school first, sell later.

There really is no end to the products that can help schools, sports teams and clubs raise much-needed money and boost school pride. You can even get an actual model made of your school! For a “Joe Show” video demo with some fascinating stats you might be able to use in your own sales pitch, click here. To read the press release we issued about the state of the industry report, click here.

An interesting side note to consider is the uptick in corporate sponsorship of schools, clubs and teams, with most guidelines allowing for sponsorship as long as the product itself is educational in nature. USA Today says schools in about half a dozen states already sell ads displayed on school busses as a way to counter education budget cuts. Other states are considering allowing it as well, which is not a bad way to raise revenue during tough times.

Other highlights of our State of the Industry report include:

  • Automotive was up to 6.6%, its highest level since 2007. 
  • Manufacturing rose to nearly 9% as the U.S. economy picked up steam throughout 2010.
  •  Health/medical/hospitals fell to second with 10.4%. 

Lucky for those who hate being sick, but not so lucky for the health sector, there was no spread of swine flu, which positively impacted sales in 2009 of logoed hand sanitizers and related products, according to Larry Basinait, our executive director of research services. Also, industry sales overall fell in 2009, so health care didn’t necessarily decline, but its portion of sales was lower.

What’s been your experience this year in education and other top markets? Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Brave New World for Sales Pros

Filed under: Industry Initiatives, Member Benefits, News About ASI, Research

ASI took another giant step forward this week with an announcement about our upcoming launch of ASI SalesPro for suppliers. Powered by Oracle exclusively for the ad specialty industry, our latest sales and marketing tool will help suppliers close more sales and increase profits.

We’ve spent a year developing ASI SalesPro and committed millions. It’s money well spent. The plug-and-play business platform will integrate Oracle’s cloud-based technologies with all of ASI’s products to create a unique, highly secure platform.

ASI SalesPro will feature:

  • Maximum efficiency. One location for management of all customer, contact, lead and opportunity information, with 5,000 top distributors preloaded into the program.
  • A 360-degree business view. The digital marketing component allows you to send e-mails, track opens and easily follow up with prospects.
  •  Cross-team collaboration. Tools for reporting, forecasting and real-time analytics, as well as lead generation and customer ranking, for sales managers and inside and outside sales reps.

 To be the first to receive ASI SalesPro when it becomes available sometime in the fourth quarter, e-mail salespro@asicentral.com or call 800-546-1226. For a video demo, click here.  Receive ASI’s new CRM complimentary as part of your CreditConnect Prospect Hunter subscription, or as a stand-alone product. 

If you want more information, click here to read our press release. And stay tuned for launch details on SalesPro and the upcoming launch of ASI SmartSales a customized Oracle-powered technology platform designed exclusively for distributors and decorators.

If you’ve seen the demo of either SalesPro or SmartSales, let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Stitches Named Magazine of the Year

Filed under: Guest Blog, News About ASI

Last week, I was back in the Windy City for the second time in two weeks (ASI Chicago was indeed just two short weeks ago) with ASI Editor-in-Chief Melinda Ligos to attend the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ (ASBPE) conference and awards ceremony.

The ASBPE honored Stitches magazine with its top “Magazine of the Year” award in its 33rd annual Azbee Awards of Excellence competition. In addition, Stitches won five national awards, including “Best Feature Article” for our November 2010 Stitches Golden Needle Awards coverage, “Best Feature Series” for “Mentor of the Month,” “Best Original Research” for our annual May State of the Industry survey by ASI Executive Director of Research Larry Basinait, and “Best Regular Department” for “Look Book.” The ASBPE honored ASI publications with a total of nine national and 11 regional awards of excellence for writing, editing, research, design and photography. In the pic below mine, Melinda shows off one of editorial’s many awards.

When I was a graduate student at Penn State studying creative writing, I had the great opportunity to teach undergraduate writing classes. I’d walk from my apartment on Hamilton Street three times a week toward the main campus going over my lesson plan in my head (the pithiness of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry or artfulness of Mark Doty’s memoir). I loved the nervous tension of these walks, thinking about whether I could get my students excited about writing. My head is still always wrapped up in the beauty of words and the art of communication, and to have Stitches recognized with these awards was truly an honor.

For the Magazine of the Year Award, ASBPE’s judges told us that Stitches stood out from the competition with strong writing, understanding of its target audience and intriguing design. In particular, they said Stitches is “brightly written and designed” and “easy to read and aesthetically pleasing,” showing “a real engagement in the industry you don’t always see.”

In Chicago, not too far from the brand-new Marilyn Monroe statue with her iconic white dress flying up, I had the opportunity to stand in a lecture hall in the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center, presenting to other B-to-B magazine editors at ASBPE what it is we’ve done over the last five years to revitalize Stitches.

I talked about our complete magazine redesign in 2009; our commitment to hard-hitting content (we recently spent the day in Montana Women’s Prison’s embroidery shop to learn whether it was a great rehab device or a way for outside shops to exploit cheap labor); the way we’ve built a community for readers (we’re on Twitter, @asi_stitches; and Facebook, www.facebook.com/stitchesmag; we have a social site; www.stitchesmagsocialsite.com); and our must-read yearly issues (May’s State of the Industry and November’s Golden Needle Awards coverage).

After my presentation, I talked with other editors about what it’s like to be able to do what we love every day and be so close to the written word, but also create these bright vehicles and communities to serve our industries. For me, this Magazine of the Year award was thrilling and humbling, because, really, in the magazine world, you can never sit still – it’s always about moving forward.

Stitches Editor and ASI Director of Education  Nicole Rollender

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