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Delivering One-Click Confidence

Filed under: News About ASI

Safety and compliance is a paramount issue in our industry – whether it’s lead content in children’s products or simply knowing a product won’t fall apart when handled. After consulting with members of the ASI Safety and Legislative Advisory Board, we’ve made it easy for suppliers to add safety and compliance product certifications to their profiles in ESP.

Here’s how:

 All ASI suppliers who have password access to ESP Updates can add either PDF documents or links to safety and compliance documents. This info appears on the supplier detail pages, which are viewed by more than 35,000 distributors using ESP.

 Safety and compliance information may be added by clicking on Manage Safety and Compliance Documents on the ESP Updates–Update Center page or by e-mailing info to espupdate@asicentral.com.

 Distributors can find safety and compliance info on ESP Web by clicking on the safety and compliance tab on a supplier’s detail page.

 If you have any questions, we’ve got a great team ready to answer them. You can e-mail Liz Kennedy, ASI’s director of product and technical support, at support@asicentral.com or call 800-546-1350, option 4.

 It’s crucial everyone in our business understands product safety laws – it’s a major value add for you and your clients.

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

Move Over, Doom and Gloom

Filed under: Research

In my experience, the one trait shared by successful business leaders is confidence. The more confidence you have in yourself and your company, the more you inspire employees, clients and potential customers.

Confidence is so critical, it can even impact the economy, according to a recent government report. Even though the economy is creeping upward (retail sales rose 1.1% in September, exceeding private sector expectations of a 0.7% advance), consumer confidence remains gloomy.

A recent Q3 industry survey found much of the same doom and gloom. Even though sales rose for the 7th straight quarter, distributor confidence has dropped nearly 20 points in the last year.

In ASI’s Q4 2010 survey, 75% of all distributors felt sales for 2011 would be higher than sales in 2010. In our just-released Q3 2011 survey, only 56% of all distributors feel sales for 2011 will be higher than sales in 2010.

Overall, the industry news remains positive: During the third quarter, there was a 5.1% year-over-year increase in sales among ASI members, which translates to an increase in sales of $221 million over the third quarter of 2010. One-half (50%) of distributors reported an increase in the third quarter. Sales for the third quarter of 2011 were approximately $4.6 billion.

No one living through this extraordinary period is peering through rose-colored glasses – not in the face of declining incomes, high unemployment and government distrust. But whenever we feel our confidence shaken, it might be worth considering the good news that is indeed out there.

Keep investing in your business and your people and continue exploring new marketing opportunities and technology. In other words, stay as confident as our recession-busting industry allows. You have good reason.

And for more info, click here.

Let me know what your Q3 experiences have been – and what’s giving you confidence – by posting a comment or e-mailing me here.

The Gift of Education

Filed under: Members

Back in the ’80s, I got tickets to Dr. Ruth’s talk show and had a blast listening to the sex expert once described as “a cross between Henry Kissinger and Minnie Mouse” tackle questions.

More than 20 years later, I found myself sharing a table with Dr. Ruth Westheimer at a fundraiser for a NJ-based organization called Answer. The world-renowned psychotherapist was the event’s keynote speaker, and I can assure you Dr. Ruth is still answering important questions with her trademark wit and intelligence.

I was delighted not only with the speech, but also with the cool keychain Dr. Ruth handed out, which featured her photo and logo, and with the beautiful gift bag Answer gave everyone in the audience. It was packed with great promotional items like a coffee cup, pen, pad, mints and mouse pad.

The ASI distributor who put the gift bags together was Overture Premiums & Promotions (asi/288473), of Vernon Hills, IL, chosen one of Counselor magazine’s “Best Places to Work” in 2011.

The occasion was Answer’s 30-year anniversary, dubbed “Keeping It Up: 30 Years of Great Sex (Ed).” And although the folks at Answer clearly have a sense of humor, more importantly, they have a clear and critical mission: to reach nearly 5 million teens and more than 6,000 educators every year.

At the breakfast, I learned a lot about what’s working – and what’s not working – in sex ed today. And the fact is there aren’t many places kids can go to get age-appropriate answers to their questions.

But they – and their parents – do have Answer, a component of Rutgers University with a National Advisory Board boasting an impressive list of members. The organization offers parents tons of resources, including a list of reviewed and recommended books and websites to help them educate their children about sexual health and growing up.

So if you haven’t had “the talk” yet and need some guidance, I urge you to check out Answer’s website. I learned a lot and hopefully you will, too.

Automate with ASI SmartBooks

Filed under: Guest Blog, News About ASI

When I was a kid, my main chore was dishwashing. Since this was before automatic dishwashers were popular, it meant running hot soapy water, scrubbing hard with a threadbare dishrag and drying each dish by hand before putting it away into the cupboard.

I despised dishwashing, much preferring playing on the swing, chasing the chickens, skipping rocks in the pond, even just watching the clouds go by. So getting the dishes done fast was a very important motivator.

My father, who flew jets off aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy, would occasionally get out the white gloves and inspect my work. His fastidious attention to detail often meant I’d have to start the process all over again until I got it right.

I enjoyed a eureka moment when I read “Cheaper by the Dozen” in school, authored by a child of efficiency experts who invented the concepts of time/motion studies in automation. The book explains how, when you have a dozen children, you have to plan carefully. The concepts of process measurement, time control and quality metrics are all explained in a way even a 10-year-old could understand.

Applying the same principles to my dishwashing, I determined the fastest, most efficient method with the greatest quality control.

Years later, I became part of a team at ASI Computer Systems, Inc. that applied these same automation concepts and delivered them as a software product for the advertising specialty industry: ASI SmartBooks, a new, industry-specific business management software that allows distributors to manage their entire business with a single, flexible, powerful business application.

To read our recent press release about ASI SmartBooks, click here.

The basic principles about “which is fastest” and “how do we maintain high quality” have been applied to this new piece of technology that should do for distributors and suppliers what “Cheaper By The Dozen” did for my dishwashing.

We started the two-year R&D process by taking our stopwatches and notepads out to scores of industry firms, watching what you do each day and asking lots of questions about how you get it done. These studies led us to some of the best practices in the industry that we tried to make fundamental to our new product, ASI SmartBooks.

Thanks so much to those who helped us understand how to quote, order, process, deliver and account for promotional products fast and with quality. 

With ASI SmartBooks, you can get out of the kitchen, so to speak, and get back to selling. For more information on ASI SmartBooks, contact Tara Barbatti at tarab@asicomp.com to find out more.

ASI Computer Systems is also offering ASI SmartBooks product webinars on October 13, 20 and 27, with additional webinars offered in November and December. To join the free webinars, e-mail ASISmartBooksInfo@asicomp.com. Click here to learn more.

 – Mark Bloom

Software Product Manager, ASI Computer Systems, Inc.

Are You Ready For Some Football (Products)?

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

Whether you’re betting on the Packers or the Bears, the Tarheels or the Cardinals, chances are you’re gearing up for some kind of NFL or college football party this season. Knowing how important football  and tailgating  is to millions of Americans, we conducted a survey on the use of gridiron-related promotional products.

Results show a whopping 66% of those surveyed have been given a free football-related shirt that also advertises a business.

The survey concerned tailgating habits along with the use of ad specialties in high school, college or professional football tailgating or parties. All told, 62% told us they’ve attended a tailgating event at a football game. So it’s clear that football-related promo products are a safe bet for businesses looking for inexpensive and effective advertising.

For a Joe Show demo of some cool tailgating promotional products, click here.

We sent out a press release with the survey results and it generated a lot of interest, including a story in the Big Lead Sports blog, which ranks No. 4 in the U.S. among all online sports properties in terms of unique visitors.

Other survey highlights you might be able to use to liven up a sales pitch:

  • In the last year, 62% bought a logoed football tee or polo shirt, followed by a hat (52%) and sweatshirt (44%).
  • Men eat more at football parties, indicating they’ve consumed hamburgers, sausage/brats, hotdogs, chicken and steak more often than women.
  • 72% participated in a football pool while tailgating.

Larry Basinait, our executive director of research services, also found the most popular NFL teams among those surveyed are Dallas Cowboys (10%), Chicago Bears (8%) and Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots (all 7%).

And like David Puddy in the “Face Painter” episode of Seinfeld, many tailgaters (17%) also report painting a part of their body before a game. In fact, nearly twice as many women as men have painted a body part for a football party (20% vs. 11%, respectively). That one really surprised me!

Fans surveyed about their favorite football-related item cited everything from an autographed Joe Namath helmet, Dallas Cowboys clock, Green Bay Packers Crock-Pot and stuffed Penn State Nittany Lion to vehicle flags, terrible towels, bobbleheads and custom golf carts.

Do you have a treasured souvenir? What’s the one product you always bring to tailgating events and games? Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here.