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First BASI MASI Certificate Recipients Announced

Filed under: Awards, Education

BASI MASIThe first 29 grads of the Advertising Specialty Institute Certification Program were announced on Monday during a pinning ceremony from The ASI Show Orlando.

In addition to ASI President and Chief Executive Officer Timothy M. Andrews, ASI Chairman Norman Cohn, Vice-Chairman Matthew Cohn and Corporate Vice President Stephanie Cohn Schaeffer, the following received their certificates:

Master of Advertising Specialty Information

  • Rodney French, of Quality Resource Group, Inc. (asi/303015)
  • Rodney Friese, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Leanne Heuring, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Kathy Lawrence, of Numo (asi/74710)
  • Christine Marion, of EmbroidMe (asi/384000)
  • Becky McMillan, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Todd Pottebaum, of Quality Resource Group Inc. (asi/303015)
  • Cliff Quicksell, of Cliff Quicksell & Associates (asi/825111)
  • Mindy Statler, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Mary Turner, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)

And the following ASI employees: Ron Ball, Chris Lovell and Mary Sells.

Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information

  • Chris Babiash, of M.A. Apparel Inc. (asi/257814)
  • Mike Beckman, of Proforma-BPM (asi/300094)
  • Paula Braeuner, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Jessica Johnson, of Production Creek Specialty Advertising (asi/299743)
  • Mark MacDougall, of Valley Graphics Ltd. (ais/350569)
  • Dennis Pottebaum, of Quality Resource Group Inc. (asi/303015)
  • Beth Robinson-Mungle, of Magna-Tel Inc. (asi/68480)
  • Michelle Sherman-Cheng, of On3Tek, Inc. (asi/287739)

And the following ASI employees: Nick DiNicola, Heather DiPrato, Jim Padilla and Pamela Vicik-Smith.

For more about this, read the latest ASI press release. To see some images of the pinning ceremony, click here. And congrats to all the graduates!

Bowling with Frozen Turkeys! Counselor Holiday Contest Winners

Filed under: contest, Fun

When my colleage Andy Cohen and I set out to find the best holiday office party pics and videos in the industry last month, we had no idea what we’d receive. Coming off a very successful Halloween party contest in which our Best Places to Work Facebook community stepped it up and sent in dozens of great photos and videos, we were totally expecting the goods, but didn’t really think anyone could raise the bar.

Boy, were we wrong.

Distributor Signet, Inc. (asi/326636) not only raised the bar with their holiday frozen turkey bowling tourney, they set a new standard in employee fun! And for their efforts, they win this year’s Counselor Best Places to Work holiday contest and a cool $100!

Listen to an interview with Stephen Tate of Signet about the frozent turkey bowling tourney.

Check out their video here.

See their images here.

And for the record, here are some of my fave pics … enjoy! And congrats Signet!

Tip of the Day – 7 Steps to Generate More Visitors to Your Website

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Website TrafficThe biggest competitive threat distributors have right now are websites selling promotional products. As a result, many distributors are now realizing that they can’t beat these newfound competitors without joining them to a certain degree.

Most distributors today are trying to find ways to increase their Web traffic – either to sell directly to more people or to find new leads through online mechanisms. Either way, the need to drive traffic to a website is paramount right now – but distributors need a plan to do it well.

With that in mind, here are some building blocks to consider for your new Web traffic scheme.

Step 1. Focus on Your Existing Traffic First

James Fraze, search engine optimization (SEO) consultant for expert-marketer.com, says business owners will receive one to two actions, such as a sale or even just a phone call, per 100 online visitors. That’s why he suggests that distributors cater to their current Web viewers before they try to drive in new ones.

“I’d say this is step one, before any optimization, link building, pay-per-click, or especially any traditional marketing,” he says. “If they focus on getting e-mail signups for a coupon, freebie, tutorial, or some other valuable solution, they can convert 10-20 out of 100 visitors.”

Step 2. Start From Scratch

As far as driving additional traffic to your website, Fraze says you might need to change your Web address first. Take a small landscaping company, for example. “Do you buy the ego name, www.bobslawns.com, or do you research and buy the one people actually search for, www.phoenix-landscaping.com?” he says.

That same philosophy needs to go into your home page, as well. Bottom line: Offer more targeted content and fewer bells and whistles, Fraze says. “When you build your site, do you spend thousands of dollars on a flash movie that doesn’t have text anywhere on the page, or do you make a page that uses ‘landscaping’ and ‘lawn care’ terms on optimized, text-rich pages?” he says. “Search engines like text and they can’t read flash.”

Ultimately, Fraze says, your site has to cater to what search engines mine for – text and promotional products or marketing keywords – if you want to increase your traffic. Users will get to the site mostly through search engines, so make sure the wording and text on every page is targeted clearly. Make it less about you and your company, and more about your customer – the types of products and services you provide that they need.

Step 3. Think Locally

Distributors that don’t have a verified free business listing (with a listed phone number in their target area code) need to fix that immediately, Fraze says. “Also, make sure you mention your geographic location in text on your website,” he says. “If you don’t say it in text, search engines do not know you exist.”

Fraze advises distributors to list with every organization that may be remotely related to the ad specialty industry. “Examples are trade organizations, certifications, business directories, local directories, and non-competing related sites,” he says. “Find them, and get links.

“Google uses phone numbers from multiple locations to cross reference. If you are listed on www.bbb.org and other authority-type sites, it really helps your local listings.”

Step 4. Play to Your Strengths

Bobby Lehew, director of operations for Robyn Promotions (asi/309656), says the secret to SEO lies not in competing over the same common keywords, but in understanding what you do well – perhaps better than anyone else – and discovering the keywords that comprise that particular niche within that industry.

Hadfield also emphasizes the importance of using keywords that conform to your specific niche within the industry. “Will you get to the top of a Google search when someone types in ‘promotional products’ or ‘advertising specialties?’ No way,” she says. “But is that really the words your prospects use in their searches?

“You might want to concentrate on getting found by ‘imprinted pens’ or ‘corporate apparel’ for your city. Make sure your keywords are placed throughout your site and in your blog – but not overdone.”

Step 5. Keep It Fresh Through Blogging

Indeed, one of the best ways to reuse those keywords is through blogging on your website, Lehew says. “If I was a distributor that specialized in a work program, I’d talk about developing a work program, with a bunch of how-tos,” he says. “They need to consistently blog about the things that they’re best at. We do company stores, so I blog a lot about company stores for the SEO advantage.”

Hadfield says distributors have to combine useful information in their blog with those keywords on a frequent and regular basis. “For example, if you’re writing a blog about a new sublimation imprinting process, make sure to use the words ‘branded apparel’ and ‘corporate apparel’ or ‘school apparel’ in the blog,” she says, “and try to use the keywords in the title of your blog, if at all possible.

Step 6. Get to the Point and Don’t Overwhelm

Hadfield cautions distributors not to get caught in the trap of blogging just for the sake of throwing out keywords, as doing so may repel some of your visitors. “If it’s not relevant to them, they will stop reading it,” she says. “You should try to blog at least once a week, but quality is more important than quantity.

“For example, give them some ideas on how to increase Web traffic and include how promotional items like a Web key could help advertise their site. Don’t overwhelm them with product details; information is the key.”

If you just don’t have the time to blog consistently, or if you think your writing skills aren’t up to par, ghostwriters can be hired to do the job, Hadfield says. “You can find writers by talking with other distributors who have a blog or by going to websites such as elance.com or guru.com,” she says. “In my personal opinion, as long as you make sure everything is spelled correctly, you can write a blog. Remember: It’s not a dissertation.”

Step 7. Include Social Media Efforts

Of course, any effort to drive Web traffic is not complete without a discussion of the popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The right promotions on these sites can bring plenty of clicks your way, says Lehew, who advises distributors to conduct contests like giving away freebies to your 50th or 100th follower on Twitter, or asking your Facebook fans to recommend a nonprofit to which your company can donate free mugs.

The latter promotion was a real-life success for Lehew, who went beyond Facebook to draw attention to it. “We were foolishly just running contests to run contests. Then, we started asking in particular forums or places on the Web, ‘Have you heard about our contest?’ ” he says. “It develops a little bit of buzz because it got marketing professionals to suggest one of their non-profits for the donation. The buzz that continued because of it was really good.

From Education Adviser newsletter, vol. 35.

Tip of the Day – The American Edge

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Made in the USALooking for a way to convince clients that American-made apparel is the way to go? Here are three ways to get them to see beyond price, and consider purchasing apparel manufactured by domestic factories:

  1. Quality: Yes, foreign goods can be cheaper. However, “Most people say that price is the most important thing. But it’s not always the most important,” says Howard Levine, who runs Alliance Graphics (asi/117905) and buys U.S.-made apparel. “Quality and service matter.” Stress with clients the higher quality of fabrics and construction that tends to be found on American-made apparel. Show samples of domestic and imported products to prove this point. 
  2. Convenience: What takes weeks sometimes for overseas manufacturers to deliver can take days for U.S. ones. Also, other issues like customs snafus and tariff markups can be avoided easily. Considering inventory and pricing problems that many apparel makers outside of the U.S. have had over the past 12 to 18 months, this is an angle that many clients would be interested in. Domestic manufacturers can have more of a just-in-time manufacturing model, affording them an edge in inventory and production time. 
  3. Markets: There are lots of groups that prefer or even require apparel made in the United States. They include unions, political campaigns, patriotic committees (who might hold a Fourth of July parade) and even big companies demonstrating their commitment to domestic manufacturing. Plus, overseas markets like Japan, which don’t have their own base of apparel manufacturing, tend to appreciate the high quality nature of clothing that can be imported to them from America. The international angle is one that can be the most fruitful for distributors looking to sell made-in-the-USA clothing.

From Counselor’s January 2011 issue.

Vote Now! ASI Women to Watch

Filed under: Awards, The ASI Show

There are many entrepreneurial women in this industry, women who not only exhibit great sales, marketing and networking skills, but an uncanny commitment to helping others succeed in the industry as well.

That’s why ASI is giving you the chance to vote for five women who you think are most deserving of an ASI Women to Watch award that exemplifies these qualities.

Click here to see who the 36 nominees are — including profiles and pics — and to vote for the five women you believe should be honored with this award. (NOTE: must be an ASI member to vote)

Winners will be announced at the ASI Women’s Summit in Dallas on Feb. 18.

Tip of the Day – How to Avoid Copyright Trouble

Filed under: Tip of the Day

With pirated designs proliferating around the Internet, it’s very easy to unknowingly use a pirated design or have someone use it on your behalf, such as a Web developer building your website. However, avoiding use of those images is in some ways just as easy. “Check to make sure the people you’re doing the work for are truly licensed to use a copyrighted image,” says Ed Levy, owner of Digitize4U, a Pennsylvania-based digitizer. That means requesting documents showing the person who provided the image either created it or has a contract to reproduce it.

CopyrightLevy learned the hard way to ensure that he had that documentation. In 1996, authorities raided his business in Miami because it didn’t ensure it had a sublicense. Charges were eventually dropped because there was clearly no intent to abuse copyright, Levy says.

If you receive letters from someone claiming you misused a copyright, make sure to check that the letters are legitimate. In recent months, at least one apparent scam has proliferated in the form of a settlement demand letter ostensibly written by a female lawyer from Texas, but that clearly uses spellings of words consistent with Great Britain, not the U.S.

Oscar Michelen, an attorney and instructor at New York Law School who has handled numerous digital copyright cases involving settlement demand letters, says many such letters have questionable legal standing. He says many people simply outlast their pursuers by ignoring them, but that comes after quite a bit of pressure, including sending debt collectors to secure settlements from alleged copyright infringers.

“They’ll find your phone number and e-mail and step up contact,” Michelen says. “They’ll send it to a lawyer. If you’re willing to hold on through all of that, you’ll get through.” But if you have the image in question on a website somewhere, there’s one other key step. “We advise all our clients to just take it down,” Michelen says. “Even if you’re right, just take it down.

From Wearables January 2011 issue.

Tip of the Day – Shooting Video: What You’ll Need

Filed under: Tip of the Day

VideosFrom the article Creating Your Own Promo Videos! in this month’s SGR.

Anyone can shoot a video, and everyone should be doing it, as it’s another touch point between you and your clients. Here are some tips to help get your company’s video efforts up and running.

Be high-energy. No one wants to watch a video with a monotone speaker, so remember to be lively and energetic.

Know your topic. You can demonstrate product and talk about sales and marketing trends, but no matter what, you need to know what you’re talking about and be confident in your delivery.

Be action-oriented. If you’re demonstrating a product and it has a moving part – flip cover, blinking light, sound, etc. – show it.

Craft a script. When you use a script you’re sure to hit all your talking points; however, as you become more comfortable in front of the camera you can break from the script and sound a little more natural.

Carve out the time. Set aside one to two hours each week for shooting video. If you shoot Mondays at 9 a.m., for example, it will become part of your routine and enable you to send a link to clients every Monday afternoon. After some time, they’ll come to expect it.

Stay concise. Keep your videos simple, straightforward and short.

Show off. Video is a great medium for showing, instead of telling. Make sure your videos are more than just Web-based PowerPoint presentations: Show aspects of your organization that clients and prospects might not otherwise be able to see.

Know your audience. Make sure that you’re clear on who your video is intended to be viewed by, and tailor the content toward them.

Ask for action. Include a call-to-action at the end of your videos, so they serve as a facilitator of continued interaction between your company and its clients.

Use small bites. If you have a lot of information to convey through your videos, consider breaking larger topics up into smaller, easy-to-digest segments.

Don’t forget the fun. Include some fun elements – things to make your videos worth watching above and beyond your pitch.

Tools of the Trade

Here are five things you’ll need to start your video efforts – all of which can be purchased for well under $5,000.

  1. Camera: You can shoot amazing high-definition videos with a flip camera that sells for less than $200. However, if you’re able to spend more, $2,000 can get you a professional-grade camera.
  2. Lighting: An external light helps illuminate a subject and product. Natural light works well, but make sure the source is behind the camera, not in front of it. 
  3. Microphone: A lavaliere mic will pick up the audio better and with less echo than the external mic built into most cameras. 
  4. Editing software: Windows provides software called Movie Maker with its operating systems. It’s basic and easy to use. 
  5. Platform: Hosting sites like YouTube are free and have the potential – depending on your video’s content – to reach millions of people.

Joe Haley is managing editor of Supplier Global Resource and star of ASI’s The Joe Show, available for viewing on www.asicentral.com and YouTube.

Color My World, Baby!

Filed under: Fun

Quick, what’s your favorite color?

Odds are you said “blue” and that’s all fine and good, but what does your favorite color actually say about your personality traits and best qualities?

Well, this month’s Advantages magazine put that question to task by presenting 9 popular colors and their respective traits and qualities in a cool, interactive feature! Simply click on your favorite color from the 9 and you will find out a little more about yourself. (Hopefully you won’t be surprised!)

Click here to check it out!

For the record, my fave color says I “keep it real and am happiest when everyone else is happy.”

Peace out!

— VinnieVerde

(colors to choose from)

Double Your “Joe Show” Pleasure

Filed under: Video

Lots of wonderful things come in pairs: Pop-Tarts, Tom & Jerry, spaghetti and meatballs, Snookie and J-Woww, R2-D2 and C-3PO, The Joe Show.

The Joe Show?!

That’s right, starting this week Counselor Managing Editor Joe Haley — the iconic and well-coiffed star of The Joe Show — will begin shooting not one, but two hot products videos a week. So instead of one opportunity to see the latest and greatest promotional products in the industry, you now have two. Call it a double dose of Joe, if you will, a second helping of hot products on a weekly basis.

Coinciding with the release of Counselor PromoGram newsletters, you can find a brand-new Joe Show every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. To see all the latest Joe Shows, click here.

And for the record, I was kidding about Snookie and J-Woww. (Well, maybe.)

Call For Entries: Counselor Product Design Awards

Filed under: Awards, General

Counselor Product Design AwardsSuppliers, listen up!

Do you know of a cool, innovative product you think is worthy of recognition? Then you need to submit it for Counselor magazine’s Product Design Awards competition! Here’s how it works:

In order to nominate a product, it has to fall into one of the following 14 categories:

  • Apparel/Caps
  • Awards & Recognition
  • Bags
  • Calendars
  • Computer Accessories
  • Desk Accessories
  • Drinkware 
  • Electronics
  • Housewares
  • Meeting Products
  • Packaging
  • Sporting Goods
  • Watches & Jewelry 
  • Writing Instruments 

Once you’ve identified a category, please submit the following three items:

  1. A sample of the product. (We recommend that the product be exclusive to the supplier that is submitting it, although this is not a requirement.); 
  2. A quick description of the product, including any special features; 
  3. The category that the product should be considered for. There is a limit of one submission per category, per company. All submissions will be judged on the following areas: design appeal, functionality and the ability to attractively feature a logo (when appropriate). Winners will be featured in the June issue of Counselor.

Please send all entries to: Karen Akers, Awards Editor, Counselor Magazine, 4800 Street Road, Trevose, PA 19053. Questions? E-mail Karen Akers at kakers@asicentral.com. Please note that only products from North American suppliers will be considered and that submissions will not be returned unless specifically requested.

And that’s it. Simple, right? Then what are you waiting for?! Get nominating!

Want to see winner’s from the past three years? Click here!


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