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Tip of the Day – What Are QR Codes?

Filed under: Tip of the Day

QR CodesYou may have already seen them popping up on everything from your bank statements and magazines to T-shirts and even concert tickets, those black-and-white checkered squares that seem to serve some kind of purpose given their prominence, though you’re not really sure what that might be.

Well, those little bite-sized (or byte-sized?) squares are actually data codes, or more specifically QR Codes (the “QR” in the case standing for “quick response”), that allow you to find out a lot more about the product or service it’s representing. Just how they work can best be explained by Erich Campbell in one of our “Ask The Expert” submissions in the 2011 June issue of Stitches magazine:

Q: I keep seeing these black-and-white square codes on ads. I know you scan them with a smartphone and they link to a website. My customers take sample snapshots and send us art from their phones, so I know I have an audience if I can just figure them out! What can they do, how can I make them, and what mistakes should I avoid if I want to use these codes?
A: First, those squares are called QR (quick response) codes. Though just gaining traction in the U.S., they were invented by Japanese company Denso Wave in 1994 and have been a staple of advertising there for years. You’ve already discovered how they work: Customers install an app on their smartphone and use the phone’s camera to scan them. QR codes are usually linked to websites, but they also can be used to add contacts to a phone’s address book, get directions,  automatically dial a number, send a text message or send an e-mail.

Read more of Erich’s Q&A on QR Codes, and if you’re wondering if this is a trend or a fad, in my humble opinion QR codes are not only here to stay, but they just might be the wave of the future!


Awards Galore!

Filed under: Awards

Counselor AwardsLive from the San Diego Air & Space Museum in southern California, it’s the 2011 Counselor Awards!

Yes, folks, in just a few short hours many of my colleagues at ASI will be joining hundreds of promotional product professionals at an event unveiling some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, like the vaunted Counselor Person of the Year. And as much as I’d loooooove to be basking in warm and sunny SoCa and rubbing elbows with the best of the best, my job at ASI Mission Control will be to collect the enormous wealth of Award data that’s about to be announced and present it all to you!

In just a couple hours, the following awards will be presented:

All these awards will be live and on ASICentral early Thursday morning, May 19.

And if you’re too impatient to wait, we’ll be live-Tweeting all the awards tonight as they happen, starting at 8 p.m. PST (11 p.m. EST). So follow our Tweets tonight at @asicentral and track the hashtag #asiawards.


Tip of the Day – Social Media Safety at Work

Filed under: Tip of the Day

FacebookI think we’re all starting to realize that social media is not a fad and is here to stay. Here are some great tips for any company when it comes to social media in the workplace. From Education Adviser newsletter, vol. 39.

The key for supervisors and executives is to recognize the uses and abuses facilitated by the innovation and what steps should be taken to control the relevant actions. Here are a few tips that you can implement in your enterprise today:

  1. Have Clear Policies. Very specific policies need to be in place, which govern the usage of the Internet and social networking sites. While some organizations may find it easier to just ban their access altogether, this is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 
  2. Educate Employees. Make sure that employees, as well as supervisors, understand what is expected of them as far as social networking conduct within and when referring to the workplace. While you’re at it, reinforce sexual harassment, related issues, and their relevant consequences even when they’re taking place within the virtual world. Take steps to assure them that such online networking etiquette expectations are in place to protect them, as well as the company.
  3. Take Technological Precautions. Be sure to keep one step ahead of the nefarious forces of the Internet. Continuously update your computers’ anti-virus programs, implement policies that mandate changing of passwords on a consistent basis, and put in strong firewall systems to ensure the safety of your data. 
  4. Monitor Usage. Be able to monitor Internet usage and, in particular, social networking within the workplace. Also, speak to employees so that you’re sure they understand that their computer interaction is being recorded. This oversight is vital, as the company may bear civil or criminal responsibility for some actions of their employees.

Tip of the Day – Four Steps to Collecting Unpaid Bills

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Get Deadbeats to PayDistributors are finding it increasingly difficult to get clients to pay their bills on time. Here are four strategies to employ when trying to get deadbeat customers to pay their bills.

  1. Get your systems in order. Make sure bills are going to the right person at your client’s company. Often, invoices go unpaid because they end up on the wrong desk.
  2. Follow up frequently. Immediately after an invoice due date, pick up the phone or send an e-mail. At this point, it should be a friendly message – almost a way to expand the relationship – but you’ll make a point, as well.
  3. Show up in person. With true deadbeat clients, phone messages and e-mails simply won’t work. Don’t be afraid to show up on their doorstep asking for payment.
  4. Use fear. Nobody wants to incur the extra cost of legal representation, but a simple lawyer’s note can go a long way toward receiving at least a piece of what is owed to you.

From Blueprint, in Counselor magazine’s May 2011 issue …

Top 300 US Cities for Promotional Product Sales

Filed under: Research, site updates

Top Promo Product CitiesDid you know? The best large, mid-size and small cities markets for promotional product sales right now are:

  • Large: Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, CT
  • Mid-size: Waco, TX
  • Small: Wichita Falls, TX

If you did, then you must already be familiar with Counselor’s May issue, which includes a feature about the top 30 cities for promotional product sales. (Top 10 for each size market.)

For the online version, however, we wanted to do something a little different. Since Counselor Editor Andy Cohen had enough data to fill up three magazines, we decided to do an online resource tool that feautured not just the 30 cities in the magazines, but 300 cities – extending each size market from Top 10 to Top 100!

Introducing the 2011 Top Cities for Promo Product Sales Interactive Resource!

With this resource, not only can you toggle between the market sizes (Small = less than 200,000 people; Mid-size = 200-500,000 people; Large = more than 500,000 people) for all the cities, but you can sort by various fields, including 2010 Sales, Percentage of Market, Population, and even Grade!

Yes, we’ve even taken the liberty of grading the city market based on its performance against the rest of the field. The top 20 receive an A; the next 20 a B; the next 20 a C … and so on.

So, what are you waiting for?! Check it out now! And please let us know what you think by emailing us at feedback@asicentral.com.

–Team ASICentral

Tip of the Day – 4 Advanced Social Media Strategies

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Social MediaFrom Counselor’s May 2011 issue article Social Outing:

If you think you need to devote every waking moment to social media to be successful at it, Jay Wilkinson has news for you. “I will tell you, if you’re spending more than 15 minutes a day on social media, you’re wasting too much time,” says the founder and CEO of Firespring, a marketing consulting firm based in Lincoln, NE.

Wilkinson suggests that distributors should undoubtedly add social media to their marketing mix – but it shouldn’t be so much of a focus that it ends up taking more time than necessary. His message: Focus on a couple of social media sites, like LinkedIn and Twitter, and use keywords and search engine optimization to maximize your time and efforts.

Here, Wilkinson offers four advanced strategies (think 301 courses in college, not the 101 variety) for how distributors can succeed with social media.

  1. Become a HootSuiter. Since you ideally should spend no more than 15 minutes a day social networking for business, speed up your productivity by using HootSuite.com, a tool that allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. “By using HootSuite’s dashboard, you can schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress and other social networks in just a few clicks,” Wilkinson says. Plus, if you use HootSuite, you’re in good company – The White House, Martha Stewart Media and Zappos all use this handy tool.
  2. Use Google Wonder Wheel. To learn how people are searching for pens, mugs, decorated apparel or any other type of promotional product or service you offer, Google Wonder Wheel (www.googlewonderwheel.com) is a below-the-radar, free tool that you can use to see how people are actually searching for your wares. “Once you know how people are searching, you can embed those keywords on your company website to increase traffic to your site,” Wilkinson says.
  3. Collaborate in the cloud. If your distributorship has a very hands-on working relationship internally and with clients, try using project-management programs like Basecamp, iTeamwork or Mingle, which allow for collaborative work between employees, as well as between a firm and its clients. 
  4. Integrate your website. Drive traffic to your website from your social media pages, instead of making your Facebook or LinkedIn page an isolated destination. “It must start with your website,” Wilkinson says. Get a programmer to embed your Twitter and Facebook feeds onto your website to get double the impact.

7 Social Networking Missteps

Filed under: Tip of the Day

From Counselor’s May 2011 issue article Social Outing:

Social Networking MistakesThere are plenty of social marketing experts that have tips on how business owners can use social media to boost sales and visibility. Of course, there are also plenty of ways to go wrong with your online social networking efforts. Here are seven ways that businesses typically falter with social media, according to Susan Gunelius, CEO of KeySplash Creative Inc. and author of 30-Minute Social Media Marketing.

  1. Create a blog, Facebook page or Twitter handle – and never update it. “The biggest mistake is not being there at all, because that’s where your customers are, and you need to be there, too,” Gunelius says. “Don’t publish a blog post and then disappear. If your readers leave comments, you need to talk to them and cultivate those relationships.”
  2. Talk only about yourself. “The next biggest mistake is too much self-promotion,” she says. “It’s not about self-promotion; it’s about building relationships. Imagine you were in a room talking to someone, and all they did was talk about themselves. Use the 80/20 rule: Do 80% sharing useful content and engaging, and 20% self-promoting.” 
  3. Be self-absorbed. “Another big mistake is basically thinking that it’s all about you,” she says. “Social media marketing is so much about building relationships. You need to give instead of receive. Share your followers’ content more than you share your own, and be accessible.”
  4. Never explore anyone else’s pages. “If you just build it, they won’t come,” she says. “You can’t just hang out on your own Facebook page or Twitter profile. You need to find your target audience across the social Web, as well. It can’t just happen on your site.”
  5. Bite off more than you can chew. “Don’t overwhelm yourself by saying, ‘I must be on the Web for two hours a day,’ because that’s not realistic. You’re not going to keep up with it,” she says. “Start small. You might find out you like it and just organically spend more time on there because you enjoy interacting with people.”
  6. Post way too often. “Anytime you saturate the market, people are going to start ignoring you,” she says. “Every single thing you’re Tweeting is not going to be amazing, useful and helpful. Excessive posts are going to be seen as clutter. It’s like being in a room with someone who won’t stop talking. You need to be human and personable, and not just always be promoting or publishing info related to your business, or you’ll sound like a marketing brochure.” 
  7. Completely abandon traditional marketing. “Your online and offline efforts should feed off one another,” she says. “It doesn’t mean you should just give up traditional marketing entirely. You need to come up with an integrated plan to reach out to the most people.”


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