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SOI: Cautiously Optimistic

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

Remember the dark days of the Great Recession? We were mired in a subprime mortgage crisis, losing millions of jobs and experiencing 10% unemployment. Nearly every industry took a hit, including ours. Distributor sales dropped to $16 billion in 2009, down from a record high of $19.8 billion the year before.

Today, our industry has almost fully rebounded, with total 2013 distributor sales expected to reach new heights, according to the latest “State of the Industry” report from Counselor magazine. Counting Q2, in which sales rose to $4.9 billion, we’ve now enjoyed 14 straight quarters of growth.

Of course, anything can happen between now and the end of the year. Regime changes, shifts in consumer confidence and even natural disasters could impact profits and sales. And I know we’re all holding our breath to see how the ongoing implementation of the new federal health care law affects our bottom line.

But for now, I’m happy to spread a little good news for a change.

It’s time to capitalize on the gains, increase sales, spend a little more on marketing – and get the word out about the ROI and high rate of advertiser recall of promotional products. With the U.S. economy still struggling to gain a firm foothold, a lot of companies, schools and non-profits continue to count every penny, which makes our message all the more compelling.

ASI makes it easy for you to go on your next sales call armed for bear, with tons of useful stats about the health of our industry and viability of our products. If you haven’t already, read Counselor’s SOI issue cover to cover and cherry pick the stats and info most useful to your business. And be sure to read the growth strategies that are working wonders for industry leaders – and put them to work for you.

Along with tons of sales-generating ideas, this year’s report analyzes 2012 sales to determine the biggest markets and most popular products. This year, health and education kept their grip on the number one and two markets, while manufacturing and construction both rose, providing new opportunities.

Other highlights from the 2013 Counselor “State of the Industry” issue include:

  • Top 3 Products: Shirts, bags and writing instruments, per percentage of total 2012 industry revenue. T-shirts alone represent $2.7 billion of the $19.4 billion in total distributor revenues.
  • Bags Down: For the third year, bags declined in their share of sales, down to 8.7% of the market.
  • Vote for Profits: 2012’s elections helped increase sales of buttons, badges and bumper stickers by 48% over 2011.
  • Green is (Not So) Good: While nearly three-quarters (72.6%) of all distributors indicated sales of eco-friendly items were the same as in 2011, 7.2% more reported a decline than an increase.
  • Electronics Up: As a group, USB drives and other electronic/tech products now represent about 10% of the overall market.
  • Toys and Games Drop: Questions over safety issues have helped drive sales of toys and games down 65% since 2009.

The SOI report, which comes out in print and online, is considered the most important and influential in the industry, for good reason. It’s a definitive analysis of this industry’s most recent past as well as a roadmap to the future. So do yourself and your business a favor and check it out.

And keep an eye out this fall for ASI’s next Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study. We’ve got researchers in the field now – surveying end-buyers from Atlanta to Australia – to give you even more powerful data proving ad specialties are a high-impact, cost-effective ad medium.

In the meantime, you can visit ASI’s customizable End-Buyer Website for even more surefire methods of selling the ROI of promo products to prospects and buyers.

If you’ve used any of ASI’s resources to boost sales at your company, please let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


A New Era for ESP

Filed under: ASI Shows, Member Benefits, News About ASI

It’s all things tech at ASI®, with upcoming technology workshops led by our CTO in Chicago and over 10 new features in the latest ESP Web® upgrade (our 6th, if you’re counting).

The ESP upgrade was designed with ease of operation in mind, allowing distributors to quickly create and manage their preferred supplier lists and for new suppliers to introduce themselves and their products to the industry.

My favorite new feature might be the “Joe Show” hot products videos you can now access from ESP’s home page, along with clickable product links. Joe, one of ASI’s most experienced editors, dishes out clever campaign ideas and tips with each new show. And thanks to Joe’s turbo-charged personality, you get a big dose of entertainment along with useful tidbits you can mimic on sales calls.

Other smart new features include one-click virtual sample editing (just click the wand to open the editor) and top sellers in the page footer, along with larger images of the most popular products. If you’re like me, you want intuitive features, a clean design and, above all, simplicity. If you’ve checked out ESP’s latest and greatest, please let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn.

And if you’re joining us at ASI Chicago, taking place Tues., July 16 (education day), Wed., July 17 and Thurs., July 18 (exhibit days) at McCormick Place, stop by the ASI booths for a demo. (Show registration is still open at www.asishow.com or by clicking here).

That Wednesday, we’re also offering one-hour workshops led by our chief technology officer, Armughan Rafat, who will make sure you’re up to date on ASI’s latest technological advances and help you map out your business strategy to include all the updates coming down the pike.

We’ve scheduled two sessions to choose from: 10-11 a.m. (includes refreshments) and 12-1 p.m. (includes lunch on ASI). Armughan will leave time at the end to answer any questions – and to hear your ideas and suggestions for future improvements. The workshops count toward your BASI/MASI, too.

Click here to register for either session.


Experience the New ESP Web

Filed under: Member Benefits, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

To triumph in today’s supersonic business world, technology must pass a pretty stiff litmus test for speed, ease and intelligence. With that, I say welcome to the new ESP Web® experience.

ASI’s world-class technology is taking a big step forward with a major upgrade that will help distributors increase sales and power up productivity. The best part? It’s already live for all users of ESP. And there’s no fee for the upgrade. Current ESP Web subscribers are automatically upgraded.

Check it out, and if you have any questions, click here for tutorials and more.

From the start, our goal with this upgrade was to make ESP® even more of an online business partner – a partner that intuitively knows what you want and helps you get it, as quickly and easily as possible. So we made it as close to a real-world Google experience as possible – with performance speeds on numerous features increasing a whopping 60%. Put these simple, intuitive tools to work for you to search and source products faster than ever before.

ASI’s technology and user experience teams worked for over a year on design and implementation of the new ESP Web, incorporating critical feedback from numerous industry focus groups in order to transform the ESP experience. The hottest new ESP Web features include:

  • Product Compare: Add up to 10 products for a side-by-side comparative snapshot of select product details that can be added to a Project Folder or ESP Presentation or included in a client-safe version to share with end-buyers.
  • Daily Deals: View up to four deals from today, yesterday and tomorrow all at once, along with a quick view of the product and supplier, and a click-through right to the product page. Today’s deals include a countdown clock ticking off the seconds until deals expire.

  • Search Leading Text: Near-instant delivery of the most relevant terms and topics being searched for, along with hot product recommendations. Search suggestions are updated with each new letter typed. Find products faster and filter searches by price and quantity.
  • Sponsored Presentations: Distributors can open, modify and send supplier presentations showcasing select products.
  • Updates to Presentations: Now, users can upload their own custom product image to a presentation and edit, show or hide the “Price Includes” field on all price grids.
  • Virtual Samples Icon: In a flash, see any virtual sample-ready product available in ESP.

If you’re not already a believer, please demo the new ESP Web at our upcoming ASI Shows® in New York City (Wednesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 9) and Chicago (Tuesday, July 16 through Thursday, July 18).

And if ESP has made a difference in the way you do business, I want to know. Please post a comment or e-mail me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


ASI Leads The Way

Filed under: Member Benefits, News About ASI

As the New York Giants can surely attest to, it’s great to be No. 1. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that ASI now leads the industry in the critical areas most important to its 27,000 clients, including No. 1 rankings in ESP users, show attendance and magazine circulation.

ESP now has a record 46,000 users, up 12% from the last year. In addition, ESP the most powerful software in the industry generated an unprecedented number of product and supplier searches (29 million), end-buyer presentations created (1.35 million) and supplier ratings (36,000) in 2011.

At the same time, the economy is turning the corner the government announced this week that U.S. jobless claims are the lowest since 2008 and our industry has reported growth in the last eight quarters.

It seems fitting that ASI, the largest full-service organization serving suppliers and distributors in the business, is helping lead the way for our industry, scoring record results while providing the most technologically advanced tools available, year after year.

In addition to record-breaking numbers for ESP, ASI leads the industry in eight key areas:

  • No. 1 in total distributors.
  • No. 1 in research services.
  • No. 1 in website solutions.
  • No. 1 in show attendance and exhibitors.
  • No. 1 in editorial awards.
  • No. 1 in magazine and catalog circulation.
  • No. 1 in education.
  • No. 1 in credit information.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to this: Providing you with the critical products and services needed to succeed in what’s now an $18.5 billion industry.

Our mission is to make you more successful. When that happens, the whole industry succeeds. And that’s the best game-winning touchdown I can imagine.


Super Bowl Means Super Sales

Filed under: ASI Shows, Member Benefits, Using Ad Specialties

No matter which team scores the Super Bowl trophy, ASI member companies printing T-shirts, jackets and other sports-related memorabilia will be big winners this weekend.

Hundreds of ad specialty companies are sure to work into the wee hours Sunday into Monday to get Super Bowl items to eager sports fans. We spoke to Jay Meyer, president of Blue Dolphin Screen Print & Embroidery (asi/141732) of New Hampshire, which is one of the companies working tons of OT this weekend to keep sports fans happy.

If the New England Patriots win in the big game against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, Blue Dolphin expects to print at least 25,000 shirts overnight in the initial order.

“The big sports stores start showing up around 3 a.m. because they want to have the apparel ready in the morning when they open,” Meyer told us. “If it’s really doing well, they’ll reorder, probably another 5,000. Last week after the AFC championship, we printed 7,000 shirts.”

Over 40 employees will work on the initial order, starting by the game’s third quarter. Printing starts as soon as the game finishes. And even if the hometown team fails to take home the title, Meyer said Blue Dolphin still expects to print at least 9,000 Giants shirts.

We’ll be back from the ASI Show in Dallas – where Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wowed the crowd this morning with business and social media tips – and I can’t wait to see the newest commercials along with Madonna’s half-time performance. And the game of course!

Who’s your Super Bowl pick? Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on TwitterLinkedInand YouTube.


ESP Mobile Is Here

Filed under: ASI Shows, Industry Initiatives, Member Benefits, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

Drumroll, please. You can now download the free iPhone app from the Apple App store, free with your ESP subscription.

For a video with all the reasons why this should be your No. 1 app, click here. Any iPhone user can download the app today directly from iTunes here.

ASI’s development team has automatically applied an ESP Mobile license to all members with a current license to ESP Web.  These members simply download the app from the Apple App Store and enter the same log-in credentials as ESP Web. That’s all it takes.

Users who only have a license to ESP Online will need to get set up through Product Support – in a process that takes about the same time it takes to fix yourself a cup of coffee. If you have any questions, please contact ASI Product Support at 800-546-1350 (press option #2).

If you’re on site with us in Orlando and have any questions about ESP Mobile, come speak to our Product Support team at the ASI Booth.

To download ESP Mobile from the App Store, follow these few simple steps:

1.  Visit the Apple App Store on your mobile device.

2.  Search for “ESP Mobile.”

3.  Download the free app.

4.  Once the download is complete, tap the app icon to start up the app.

5.  Enter your credentials.

6.  Kick back and enjoy everything this new app has to offer.

Why get ESP Mobile? Check it out:

  • Choice. Filter product searches by supplier, color and price and sort results by price, cost, ASI number and more.
  • Information. Sort suppliers by ASI number, rating, area code and preferred rank. See a supplier’s complete contact info, including website and line names.
  • Versatility. See imprint information, production time, rush services, locations and product safety warnings – all on the same screen.
  • Visuals. Scroll through high-quality product images and video and add products to your clipboard.
  • Speed. Quickly and easily find and load the product you’re looking for.

Suppliers interested in advertising in ESP Mobile should contact their ASI rep or contact Gene Rahill at grahill@asicentral.com and Suzanne Izzo at sizzo@asicentral.com.

Try it and let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Marching Toward Success with ASI

Filed under: Community, Industry Initiatives, Member Benefits, Members, News About ASI

ASI’s ongoing commitment to advanced technology is moving two giant steps forward with the launch of two new initiatives: ASI SmartSales for distributors and ASI SalesPro for suppliers.

Designed specifically for this industry – in cooperation with tech giant Oracle – ASI SmartSales and ASI SalesPro represent the next generation of sales tools for industry professionals. We spent a year on R&D, and millions of dollars, to ensure our members possess the most technologically advanced sales arsenal available.

Now, it’s your time.

Using ASI SmartSales, distributors will have a complete contact and lead management system to help them close more business and provide accurate forecasting. Every individual salesperson in an organization will be able to easily send out personalized e-mail campaigns with tracking and analytics. Managers will be able to track the sales pipeline and forecasts.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what user Lisa Marks, president of On Your Marks, had to say: “Organizing customer contact information is key to a profitable distributorship. SmartSales is helping me organize my marketing and my time for the first time in many years. The fact that it’s cloud-based means our entire team has access day or night. I’ve looked for a perfect solution to help me manage all our communication for a long time, and this is the best. I’m so grateful to ASI for teaming up with Oracle to provide this very powerful, cost-effective tool.”

ASI SalesPro offers suppliers a sophisticated sales tool dedicated to sales management, marketing campaigns and revenue-generating capabilities. With SalesPro, every single salesperson becomes a marketing machine, with the added bonus of superior tracking and analytics.

The plug-and-play business platforms integrate Oracle’s cloud-based technologies with the appropriate ASI products to create a unique, highly secure platform consisting of a hybrid implementation of cloud and locally hosted software and databases.

Distributors with ESP who are interested in ASI SmartSales should e-mail asismartsales@asicentral.com or click here (Password: Own The Customer). Members who want to sign up for ESP and ASI SmartSales should call their ASI account executive at 800-546-1350.

Suppliers interested in subscribing to ASI SalesPro should e-mail salespro@asicentral.com or call 800-546-1226. For a video demo, click here.

These new tools are intelligent, powerful, efficient – and easy to use, since we build everything at ASI with one person in mind: you.

If you have any questions, please call your sales rep today. And let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here.


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