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Online Learning Center Earns A+ Praise

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Education, Guest Blog

Distributor Stephanie Jackson is usually up and out of the house by 5 a.m. six days a week to work out. But on quiet Sunday mornings, this serious athlete has made it a habit to relax, coffee in hand, and take classes in ASI’s Online Learning Center.

After taking a few courses and “actually learning important information about the industry and our products, I got even more committed,” says Stephanie (at right), who went on to earn her Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information. What’s more, she has the distinction of being the first distributor to complete her certification requirements and pass her final exam on ASI’s brand-new Online Learning Center platform.

It’s because of dedicated industry pros like Stephanie that I’m so proud of the major upgrade we’ve made to ASI’s education hub. The revamped site, powered by the latest in learning technology, is designed to help distributors, suppliers, decorators and screen printers quickly and easily access more free classes, additional resource tools and new social media sharing.

“The best part of achieving my BASI is the confidence it provides,” says Stephanie. “I’ve been in this industry a little over a year and what I’ve learned via actual experience, coupled with my ASI Education training, has provided me a firm foundation. I’ve always been a fan of continuing education, and would wholeheartedly recommend it to both industry newbies and veterans.”

Super-motivated Jackson describes the ad specialty industry as a hard business due to online competitors and price wars. But her fun job title – The Inquisitive Marketing Advisor at Signature Services & Promotional Products – reflects her commitment to really listening to her clients and delivering top-notch marketing campaigns for them. “I’ve won a lot of business that would have gone to an online competitor,” she says. “The deciding factor for my new clients was the service I delivered and my quick response to their needs.”

To better serve dedicated pros like Stephanie, the ASI Education Team and I focused on creating an entirely new, user-focused learning experience for our members via this upgraded Online Learning Center platform, which features:

  • Super-intuitive user interface. A superior user experience is available through a customizable home page with movable widgets, such as an events calendar, RSS feeds and polls.
  • Social learning. Post photos and videos, join or start discussion boards and “friend” other learners to view and share material, questions and opinions.
  • Added content. Includes ASI research reports, magazine articles and other resources.
  • Easy access. Log on with existing ESP Web credentials.

ASI’s Online Learning Center houses more than 350 on-demand courses in a variety of industry-specific curriculums, such as sales, marketing, wearables and decorating, which are free to members and automatically tracked electronically. Courses range from introductory to executive level, making them ideal for both newcomers and industry veterans.

Finally, I’m happy to say that, to date, 1,151 professionals (including Stephanie) have been certified through the ASI Education Certification Program, with nearly 30,000 enrolled in ASI’s free Online Learning Center.

Stephanie, who can’t wait to receive her BASI pin from ASI President and CEO Timothy M. Andrews at the ASI Show in Orlando, plans to continue taking courses to keep her competitive edge. “I love that I get tested on the material I learn and that there are always new courses being added,” she says.

Please login to our new Online Learning Center soon at www.asicentral.com/onlinelearning and experience it for yourself. I welcome your feedback, so drop me a line anytime at nrollender@asicentral.com. Happy learning!

Nicole Rollender is ASI’s executive director of professional development


Promo Products 101

Filed under: Community, Education, Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

When college students tell you you’ve done something right, you want to share it with the world. That’s how we felt when we heard from Babson College students who recently dipped a toe into the promotional products industry through a unique initiative spear-headed by ASI’s education department.

ASI and Babson College worked together to help instructor-led student groups spend about $3,000 in seed money to buy, imprint and sell promotional products. As part of their immersion into the business world, these budding entrepreneurs were granted access to ASI’s ESP®, where they could source and order products from our suppliers. By using ESP and reputable ASI member companies, students told us they felt confident they were selling quality products.

After the program ended, the college surveyed participating students. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “It was great because it allowed us to have a reputable way to contact a trusted supplier.”
  • “Definitely continue to provide ASI as a resource… ASI helps legitimize the business immediately and gives a group of college kids credibility.”
  • “Without the strong relationship with our supplier that our COO worked on throughout the semester, we would not have been so successful.”
  • “ASI was incredibly valuable in determining a good supplier within the U.S.”

The inaugural program was so successful, during the 2013-2014 school year ASI and Babson will expand it to enable up to 40 student businesses to show and sell their products through an ESP Websites e-commerce company store.

Our long-term hope is that these future business leaders look to their positive experiences with our suppliers and our industry when embarking on their careers. We plan to continue outreach to other colleges and universities to convince other business, marketing, advertising and new media students to join what we all know is an exciting, creative industry, which more people need to discover.

After announcing the program’s results, we received a number of accolades, along with feedback worth sharing.

The owner of an Illinois company that’s sold promotional products since 1975 applauded the program and shared his own story about a paid internship program he offers for marketing and advertising students. He started the program to mentor students and help them gain valuable, real-world business experience – and to help spread the word about our industry.

As he points out, “Wherever they pursue their career, they will have a very strong background in the power of promotional products as well as how to integrate promotional products into a given target market to help build brand awareness, new product intros, etc.”

He added, “The younger generation will become the backbone of our industry in the near future.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I explained to a distributor who is concerned programs like this one could hurt our industry, any worries about possible student competition should be outweighed by the need for greater exposure.

As it stands now, the industry is too invisible to business students who are learning how to make smart marketing decisions once they’re business professionals.  They 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 the incredible return on the investment of marketing dollars.  We need to change that.

In terms of the next generation of leadership in the industry, we need people to understand and be excited about promotional products as a potential career or the industry will wither and die.  As I walk around trade shows and other events, I am very concerned about the aging of our distributor sales population, the invisibility of the profession to anyone who didn’t grow up in the industry or stumble into it by accident, and equally concerned that we have little or no racial diversity.  We are 90% white in a world that isn’t. Exposing our industry to entrepreneurial students from every walk of life has the opportunity to inject new enthusiasm among those who decide to join.

While I appreciate the feedback, my larger concern is about an invisible industry, lacking new youthful entrants and racial diversity. We plan to continue to pursue programs similar to Babson’s at other colleges and universities and hope to have several such programs next year.

We’ll keep everyone apprised moving forward. My hope is that after considering what more exposure, education and diversity can do for our industry in the long run, everyone will become more enthusiastic about our shared future.


Promo Products 101

Filed under: Community, Education, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

Pop quiz: Next time you find yourself in a group of college students who don’t know what you do for a living, ask them about promotional products.  Then ask if they’ve heard about the industry in their marketing class, or if they’re considering our industry for a potential lifetime career.

I’m betting you’ll get a lot of blank stares in response.

If recent discussions I’ve had with distributors in Chicago and Los Angeles are any indication, just about everyone is on board with the need for more outreach to colleges and universities. We want to get young people educated and excited about this industry. Hopefully, they’ll give it the ultimate stamp of approval and brand it “cool.”

To that end, ASI® recently announced a unique education initiative designed, in great part, to teach college students ways to become successful entrepreneurs as distributors in our industry. Along the way, they’ll also learn about suppliers, decorators and the ad specialty industry itself.

We think it’s a great way to expand the number of new college graduates who understand the industry and, we hope, become interested in making it a career. Or at least understand the great ROI from using promotional items in the marketing programs they might create in whatever career course they might take.

Right now, our industry is rarely if ever mentioned in marketing, advertising or business courses or textbooks – and I’d like to see that change.

It’s a pilot program so we’ll see how it goes. Right now, it involves a single institution: Babson College, a Massachusetts school that blends top-flight business education coursework with hands-on training, online education and real-world applications.

At Babson, approximately 500 first-year undergraduates enroll in a year-long course to learn how to run a business. Instructor-led groups of about 20 students each receive approximately $3,000 in seed money, which some groups will use to buy, imprint and sell promotional products during the second of two semesters.

As part of our effort to introduce the industry to potential new hires, ASI is donating our time and energy, along with offering access to ESP® and ESP Websites. Students will also be able to take courses at ASI’s Online Learning Center and further hone their business and networking skills during an on-site guided tour at our New York City show in May (featuring a keynote by Buddy Valastro, Jr., the “Cake Boss” on the hit TLC reality show).

We’ve had positive feedback from several local distributors interested in speaking to or mentoring students during this trial. A couple of other people were worried about “the competition” but I think our active distributors can overcome a few kids as we build a pipeline of future industry leaders.

Let me know what you think about this new initiative and if you have any suggestions by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Invest in You

Filed under: Education, Guest Blog, News About ASI

Knowledge is power. Those are words I live by.

For as long as I can remember, my family has established three core values: education, education and education. My grandfather started the trend and highlighted the importance of education to our family by being the first person in his entire state of Gujarat, India, to get accepted into medical school with a full scholarship.

This came at a time when the British ruled over India. It was a major accomplishment in his life and a piece of family history that I will always treasure. His start in the medical field has created three generations of doctors in our family today. I’m actually the only person in my family to have pursued a business degree (dual major: advertising and marketing).

My passion for marketing started in high school. I was geeky back then and probably am still a little geeky today. I joined FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America). I took marketing classes, joined marketing competitions and eventually earned awards and accolades for my passion and even got some scholarships and grants to go to college.

I joined ASI® nearly seven months ago and quickly hit the ground looking to learn about this industry. I found pursuing my BASI was the best way to do it.

ASI’s education program is a great resource for newbies like me, but also for people looking to get a competitive edge. By giving you a highly specialized understanding of the promotional products marketplace, a BASI (Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information) or MASI (Master of Advertising Specialty Information) can transform your career.

A BASI or MASI certification comes with these rewarding benefits:

  • Industry insights you can use to grow your business
  • Networking receptions at ASI Shows
  • Quarterly conference calls with ASI CEO Timothy Andrews
  • Recognition in ASI publications
  • Framed certificate to display your accomplishment (I’m looking forward to mine)
  • BASI or MASI designation as part of your professional title

It’s easy and free to work toward your certification. You’ll see the impact on your career instantly. I know I did!

Click here to visit the ASI Online Learning Center and get started today.

Fal Dieso

ASI brand marketing director

fdieso@asicentral.com


Get Pumped for Success

Filed under: ASI Shows, Education, News About ASI

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins literally rocked the house at ASI’s all-day education session in Chicago on Tuesday. As one Counselor blogger put it: It was a sales rep’s Super Bowl. Or, as Tony himself said: “This is not your typical biz seminar, but they’re boring as sh**.”

You gotta love this guy.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience so energized and so willing to jump in and do whatever it takes to tap into Robbins’ energy and make it work, work, work for them to transform their lives and achieve their business goals.

I hope you followed the constant stream of tweets and blog posts from our editors, but in case you need a recap, below are some Tony tidbits and highlights. Print them out and post them where you can see them every day, to get started on your very own “celebration.” One tip: Play your favorite get-pumped music really loud while reading:

  • Too many people make things worse than they are and make up euphemisms for their situations. Face the truth like it really is.
  • Be honest about your own business – and capitalize on the current economy. This is when you can steal market share and capitalize on the problems of others.
  • 65% of Fortune 1000 companies started during a depression or recession.
  • Success is based on a strong mentality. Tell yourself:  I was made for this time. This is where I come out stronger than ever.

  • Emotions – creativity, flexibility, compassion, vision – are the ultimate resources.
  • Success is 80% psychology, 20% mechanics.
  • Decisions = destiny. If you want to change your life, you have to make new decisions.
  • Some people buy from you simply because they like being around you. Be happy and energized.
  • Energy comes from psychology, not food or sleep.
  • To get pumped before a big sales meeting, act like your favorite team won the Super Bowl – and change your movement by jumping, galloping, fist-pumping, etc.
  • You can be someone who sucks all of the energy out of the room or somebody who lifts people up by your energy. Which one do you want to be?

For more photos and to read the Counselor blogs in their entirety, click here or go to www.asicentral.com.

And if you were at the session, let me know your favorite advice by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


A Hot Time in Texas

Filed under: ASI Shows, Education, News About ASI

The ASI show in Dallas opened Wednesday with a bustling Education Day featuring six dynamic new speakers and a slew of sessions – all of which qualify toward the Advertising Specialty Institute Certification Program.

We’re hosting a “Build Your Industry Contacts” networking reception and Thursday we start two days of exhibiting – including nearly 120 suppliers that did not exhibit at Dallas last year.

There are tons of wild and crazy new products – from the wacky and weird to the super cool and high-tech. I’ll showcase some of them in upcoming Tim’s Takes videos.

Thursday night, we return to what’s always a hootin’ hollarin’ good time at the Ultimate Texas Bash at Eddie Deen’s Ranch. Friday, a sold-out crowd will enjoy a morning keynote by former first lady Laura Bush, who’s also addressing a lunchtime crowd at our second annual ASI Women’s Summit.

I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about her days in the White House and especially her advocacy work on behalf of women’s rights in Afghanistan and women’s health.

Stay tuned for updates all this week. On with the show!

If you’re in Dallas, tell me about your experiences by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Orlando Attendance Soars 38% to New Record

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Education, Members, News About ASI

The doors are closed and the results are in. The ASI Show Orlando posted record-breaking attendance of more than 6,110 distributors, up 38% from last year and up 5% from the prior record.

What a show! It’s clear we’re charging into 2011 pumped up by big attendance numbers and a re-energized industry. It’s also clear that ASI Orlando has developed into the leading East Coast show in January, drawing from distributors across the country.

And the number of suppliers exhibiting this year is up nearly 10%, which reflects their recognition of the power of ASI Shows across the board. Suppliers tell us Orlando was one of the busiest industry shows in recent memory.

We think you’ll agree that pushing the dates a few weeks later in January made a world of difference, allowing everyone time to calm down after the excitement of the holiday season. Equally as important is the economic up tick we reported today in PromoGram. There’s no doubt the industry is finally in rebound.

Throughout the show – from a record-breaking Education Day through the Counselor Distributor Choice Awards, the Gala Celebration and the Michael J. Fox keynote – the feedback we’ve received has been enormously satisfying.

Jason Grindall, from Graphco Line (asi/57956) said, “We saw more distributors here at ASI Orlando during the first day alone than we did during the entire PPAI show. We’re leaving with quality leads and have spent time with many wonderful people.”

Mary Ellen Nichols, from supplier Bodek & Rhodes (asi/40788), loved the incredible volume of distributors and quality attendees while David Regan, from The Vernon Group (asi/351700) called the show “a great way to start the year.”

We had a blast last night along with 1,700 others who attended an exclusive networking Gala Celebration at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Les Kania, from Imprinted Specialty Products (asi/23070), put it perfectly: “This is the way to go to an amusement park. The bars are open, the lines are short and the food is good. It’s a terrific evening.”

Click here for full video coverage of ASI Show Orlando. Click here for pics of our fashion show.

And don’t forget to register today for the ASI Show in Dallas, Wednesday, February 16-Friday, February 18, and the ASI Show in New York, Tuesday, March 22-Wednesday, March 24, at www.asishow.com.

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


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