February 3, 2014
I’m very excited our nation’s 43rd president is sharing his insights and experiences at this week’s ASI Show in Dallas during what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After all, Bush served two terms during the most tumultuous times in recent history, from 9/11 to the Iraq war and global financial crisis. Love him or leave him, an opportunity to see a president in person is not to be missed, so I hope you’ve signed up for Thursday’s presentation.
I hope everyone traveling from the snow-packed East Coast, like so many of us from ASI, arrive safely and without too much delay. The president’s talk is just one of the many highlights at the Dallas show, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Hall F, Tuesday, February, 4 through Thursday, February. 6.
We’re expecting 515 exhibitors (including 65 suppliers new to Dallas) and over 3,000 attendees. The 18 distributor sales meetings on tap include Counselor Top 40 distributor Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601), which is bringing 125 of their top account executives.
Tuesday’s Education Day features 8 tracks and 51 sessions, with all sessions qualifying for points toward the ASI Certification Program. That day’s free lunch is “Meet the Expects,” which resembles a speed networking session, with designated experts leading discussions among rotating sets of attendees. I’ll be there, and would love to see you. First come, first served.
Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ASI’s own Joe Haley conducts a live version of his popular “Joe Show,” featuring dozens of cool, new products from suppliers. That night, you can kick up your heels at the Gala Celebration at Gilley’s, the honky tonk made famous by the movie “Urban Cowboy.”
And if you haven’t already downloaded it, please stop by an ASI booth for a demo of the visual search feature now available in ESP Web and ESP Mobile™. Distributors can upload images to ESP® for an instant scan for similar items in the industry’s largest and most comprehensive product database. As always, the app for Android, iPhone and iPad is available free to authorized distributors who are ESP subscribers.
For complete coverage of the Dallas show, including blogs and videos, visit www.asicentral.com
and the ASI Show Facebook page. And, put the free mobile app on your phone for up-to-the-minute info. Search “ASI Dallas” in your app store.
Upcoming 2014 ASI Shows are Long Beach (March 25-27), New York (April 3-4) and Chicago (July 15-17). To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2013, contact sales VP Karen DiTomasso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 31, 2014
The U.S. economy is on track to enjoy its best performance since the dark days of the 2008 recession and, I’m happy to report, the promotional products industry is doing even better. ASI just released its latest distributor sales report showing 2013 is going down in the books as the biggest sales year ever, surpassing $20 billion for the first time.
Coming off 16 straight quarters of growth, this news is cause for celebration. It also presents a prime opportunity. Take advantage of the latest technology to save time and boost efficiency. Hire more sales reps (especially those who reflect our increasingly diverse country). Attend conferences to learn the latest sales strategies.
And, if you’re moving into new global markets, learn the lingo – or hire someone who does – and check out PromoAlliance, an international alliance between ASI, Sourcing City and PSI that identifies and introduce best practices and market development concepts benefiting the U.S., U.K. and European markets. Click here for more info.
The best entrepreneurs are like sharks – they need to keep moving ever forward, or their businesses will shrivel and die.
The U.S. GDP expanded 3.1% in 2013’s fourth quarter. ASI’s data shows distributors grew sales by nearly twice that rate, or 5.7%. Meanwhile, the Counselor Confidence Index – a tool that measures distributor health and optimism – improved to 113.2 in the fourth quarter, reaching its highest point since being introduced a year ago.
Other highlights from ASI’s latest sales report include:
Economists are betting the momentum from the second half of 2013 will continue through 2014. According to a recent Counselor Promogram report, distributors also have high expectations. ASI data shows 74% of distributors anticipate an increase in sales this year, while only 4.5% of distributor firms are expecting a drop in revenues.
“Our overall experience is that we saw growth greater than the industry average,” Jo-an Lantz, executive vice president of Top 40 distributor Geiger (asi/202900), told Counselor. “We anticipate another great sales year in 2014. The industry will have another growth year, and we are expecting the same.”
November 21, 2013
Thanks to strong Q3 results, distributor and supplier sales in the promotional products industry have now risen for 15 straight quarters, which is solid proof that companies big and small continue to buy what we’re selling: The enduring power of promotional products.
These days, ideas and innovations are what make the world go ’round. Bloomberg Businessweek says we need look no further than Twitter’s $24.9 billion valuation as evidence we’ve officially entered the “ideas economy.” Lucky for us, ideas and innovations are at the heart of this industry, where new products coupled with inventive branding can hit the market – and seize the imagination – faster than ever before.
If we capitalize on innovation, as Bloomberg suggests, our industry will continue to grow. This year alone, if ASI’s indicators are correct, total sales will surpass $20 billion. I know that anything – a political coup in a far-off land or even a devastating weather event – can cause unexpected economic havoc, but I’m pretty comfortable in our predictions.
What’s your take on 2014? ASI’s Counselor magazine recently asked Power 50 members if their companies would hire additional staff in the next year and 63% said they would. I take that as a strong indication of overall industry health. Is your company hiring? Are your clients spending more? Are you?
As Dan Taylor, president of BamBams (asi/38228), which increased sales by 8.5% this year, told ASI: “I think the value factor of promotional products in the marketing space has contributed to this growth. Companies are working hard to expand, so there is a need for advertising in the marketplace.”
Today, promotional products are used by virtually every business and major brand in America, and for good reason: They work! For proof, you need look no further than ASI’s most recent global advertising specialties impressions study, highlighted by tons of easy-to-share stats on everything from the impressive CPI to strong advertiser recall.
It’s clear we have the right products and the right message at the right time. So ask yourself this: What will you be selling in 2014? Products? Or ideas?
September 19, 2013
This year’s ASI Power Summit in Park City, Utah, had it all: Breaking news, early morning inspiration, late-night camaraderie, tons of expert advice, incredible views and great golf and mountain biking.
Memorable moments included losing power within a 50-mile radius of the resort during the very last panel with members of the 2013 Counselor Power 50. Undeterred, we powered on, first using the light from moderator Matthew Cohn’s iPad to light up the speakers on stage and eventually by relying on several other iPad lights along with lanterns from the hotel. Not a single person left the room and every question got answered. I think there’s an Apple commercial in this!
Here are a few of my other personal highlights:
And don’t forget to check out ASI’s Facebook page, for pics by Jake (@Phillyspread).
The whole point of smaller, more intimate get-togethers like the Power Summit is for people to learn from each other, make new contacts and deepen friendships with people they already know (or think they know). So I’d like to thank everyone who joined us, and each and every speaker and panelist. Quality ruled!
Throughout the summit I was thrilled. But I was also saddened to hear a young sales star – who sells several million dollars in promo products a year – say he doesn’t think our industry is sexy and that he never tells friends what he does for a living.
In my final address to the Power Summit attendees I shared that story – and really let loose in response. I told our audience I’ve been excited by the industry since the day I started nearly 11 years ago. I’m proud of what I do and of the incredible ROI promotional products provide. Every day, I’m amazed by the continual creativity of our products and the talented people in our industry. I can’t imagine having more fun anywhere else.
July 31, 2013
Whenever you think you’ve got it tough, consider what Michael Ryba recently accomplished. Michael, an account exec with Brown & Bigelow Inc. (asi/148500), earned his Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information™ (BASI) from ASI® – while undergoing cancer treatment and recovering from surgery.
“I’m so proud of my achievement,” says Michael, who pursued his BASI to become proficient in selling other types of ad specialties beyond his niche of decorated apparel. “Clients and prospects ask me what the BASI in my e-mail signature line is – and when I tell them what it means, they say, ‘Wow, none of my other distributor reps have that designation and knowledge.’ ” Even better, his sales are up.
It really makes my day when I talk to people like Michael who are excited about continuing their professional education – and growing their businesses as a result. Today, I’m proud to say ASI’s Education Certification Program (launched in November 2010) has hit a big – and excellent –milestone: We’ve certified more than 1,000 industry professionals, who’ve earned their BASI or Master (MASI) of Advertising Specialty Information™ certifications.
As ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development, I’m passionate about offering such a breadth of live and online professional development opportunities to our members because of how much it benefits individual careers – and the industry as a whole. And, lots of you have the right idea. More than 27,000 industry pros are enrolled in ASI’s Education Certification Program, and to date 5,040 have attended live education classes during the 2013 ASI Show® season, making ASI the largest educator in the industry.
Here are three quick reasons from my desk to yours why you should join us:
1. You – and your industry knowledge – stay current and relevant. By being up-to-the-minute on new products, decorating trends, the latest social media and mobile technology, and more, you’re part of the super-fast-paced, new “normal” we work in. You’ll make yourself indispensable to your clients.
2. You’re engaged in the industry – and engaging to clients. Don’t be content to conduct business the way you always have. The more you expand your professional knowledge and skill areas, the more excited you’ll be about your career and where it’s headed.
3. You’re a vital part of your company’s team, and the industry. The more knowledge you have, the more meaningful your contributions to your firm, and the marketplace as a whole.
To those ends, ASI’s Education Team is dedicated to creating the best educational experience possible for you. For example, every year we create a 100%, brand-new slate of 60+ educational courses that you can take live at our five ASI Shows and our traveling Advantages Roadshow – we’re working on our 2014 lineup now.
In addition, our Online Learning Center currently houses more than 400 on-demand courses that you can take 24/7 – so if you want to brush up on how to cold call or what the top five apparel-decorating methods are at 2 a.m., be our guest. Our goal is to offer you up-to-the-minute seminars in lots of subject areas, including sales, marketing, social media marketing and hands-on technology. (Sneak peek: Instagram is gaining steam, so I’m developing a course that will teach distributors how to leverage this cool site – and gain super sales from it.)
Participation is free and user-friendly, with all courses automatically tracked electronically. Click here for a complete overview.
I welcome your feedback, so drop me a line anytime at email@example.com. Happy learning!
– Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches® magazine and ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development
July 18, 2013
ASI® ended its 2013 ASI Show® season with a great show in a wonderful town, attracting more than 4,200 distributors from firms in 47 states and 12 countries. Over three days at McCormick Place, our Chicago show – the largest ad specialty show of the summer – really delivered.
To me, the Chicago show is more than a trade show – it’s an opportunity. Whether you came for the 78 education sessions, the black-tie Counselor® Awards or the non-stop networking, the best the industry offers is right at your fingertips.
Plus, you get to work hard and play hard in one of my favorite cities. To a Midwestern boy like me, Chicago is the center of the universe, filled with terrific museums, stunning architecture, the best deep-dish pizza on earth and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No wonder a record 17 distributor companies, including Allegra Network (asi/372000), EmbroidMe (asi/384000), iPROMOTEu (asi/232119), WorkflowOne (asi/333647) and HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) chose the Windy City to hold major sales meetings.
I’m not alone in my praise. Here’s what attendees had to say about the show:
The show was also deemed worthy enough to attract the attention of the prestigious Chicago Tribune newspaper, which ran a story in its business section, along with nine online photos and interviews with a slew of companies, including Vernon Hills, PromoPet, St. Regis Crystal, Helping Hand, American Greenwood, Dunbar Foods and Lion Circle.
Exhibitors (including 83 new to Chicago this year) were just as pleased. Scott Anderson from Leed’s (asi/66887) told us his booth was busy from the get-go, thanks to a great mix of quality distributors. And despite the heat wave, there’s no better time than July or place than the three-day Chicago show to kick off the second half of the year and to prepare for the all-important fourth-quarter selling season.
And if you weren’t inspired by the networking and the deal-making, you had to be motivated by Thursday’s keynote by Christopher Gardner, the inspiration for the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” (pictured here with ASI’s chairman, Norman Cohn, in a borrowed ASI Show hat).
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something,” Gardner told our audience about the time he lived on the streets with his 18-month-old son before his smarts and his moxie helped him break into the financial industry and become a self-made millionaire. “You want something – go get it. Period.”
Here are some other gems he shared with us:
Gardner’s is an unbelievable story, but if he doesn’t make you believe you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, I don’t know who can. But you need to get a plan, stick to the plan and, above all, be passionate.
If you missed this year’s show, don’t worry. We’re coming back next year – and registration is now open for the 2014 ASI Shows (Orlando, Jan. 5-7; Dallas, Feb. 4-6; Long Beach, March 25-27; New York, April 3-4; and Chicago next July) at www.asishow.com. Special 2014 presentations include keynotes by former President George W. Bush and the stars of the hit ABC reality show, “Shark Tank.”
For complete coverage of ASI Show Chicago, visit www.asicentral.com for a wealth of information, including blogs and videos from ASI’s on-site editorial team.
July 18, 2013
If the 2013 Counselor® Awards had a theme, it was family, from the recognition given to family businesses of the year to the three generations of Cohns on stage handing out the awards during a glittering ceremony at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The women were stunning, the men distinguished and the food delicious. Beyond the finery, what struck me most was the camaraderie. Everywhere I looked I saw people talking to each other, laughing and really connecting, whether it was during cocktails, the behind-the-scenes tour of the Impressionists galleries or over dinner. In the end, networking really is what this industry and the art of business is all about.
In addition to recognizing outstanding individuals and companies in seven categories, we announced the Top 40 Distributors and Top 40 Suppliers rankings – the largest companies in our $19.4 billion industry based upon 2012 revenue. Click here for complete coverage of all our winners, and be sure to check www.asicentral.com and our Facebook pages for show info and photos.
I was really touched by the first award handed out, in honor of Cohn family matriarch, Bess Cohn, and her long-standing commitment to philanthropy. In his acceptance speech, Danny Rosin, co-owner of Brand Fuel (asi/145025), spoke about the importance of giving back and, as the messages displayed on screen during our live tweet stream acknowledged, Danny “exemplifies volunteerism.”
Before handing out the Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Awards, ASI® Chairman Norman Cohn (pictured with me and his family) gave a truly heartfelt tribute to his dear friend, former ASI president Marvin Spike, who passed away in December. And hearing Bill Vernon, who accepted on behalf of the 100+-year-old Vernon Company (asi/351700), tell stories about his old pal Marvin and his early days with Norman back in Iowa was like a living history lesson of the entire industry.
Maribeth Sandford, CEO of Bag Makers (asi/37940), shared her lifetime achievement award with four generations of her family, including her adorable 6-month-old great-granddaughter, Josie. “This is what it’s all about – family,” she said during her acceptance speech. “And what a wonderful opportunity I’ve had with the ASI family.”
Chris Lee, our International Person of the Year, might have said it best when he summed up the industry as “amazing people, amazing stories.”
The final award of the night, for Counselor’s 2013 Person of the Year, meant a lot to me, personally, since it went to one of the very first people I met when I joined ASI over 10 years ago: David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, a $443 million company. I really meant it when I described David, pictured left, in my introduction as one of the warmest, most welcoming people I’ve ever known.
Good friends and family, amazing food, inspiring stories and a lotta laughs. Now, that’s my definition of a special night for a very special industry.
Additional winners of the 2013 Counselor Awards are: