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Best Places to Work 2011: The Countdown

Filed under: Research

Counselor Best Places to WorkStarting Thursday, Aug. 25 at 10:00 a.m. EST, we will begin counting down the 85 Best Places to Work in the ad specialty industry. Using ASICentral.com’s “Latest News” area on the homepage, each company will be named (in increments of 15 or 10), along with rank, in ascending order starting at No. 85 and working all the way up to No. 1. The first 15 companies (85-71) will be listed on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. with the Top 10 being named on Monday, August 29 at noon. The following is the schedule for the countdown:

  • Companies 85-71: Thursday, Aug. 25, 10 a.m.
  • Companies 70-61: Thursday, Aug. 25, noon
  • Companies 60-51: Thursday, Aug. 25, 2 p.m.
  • Companies 50-41: Thursday, Aug. 25, 4 p.m.
  • Companies 40-31 Friday, Aug. 26, 10 a.m.
  • Companies 30-21 Friday, Aug. 26, noon
  • Companies 20-11 Friday, Aug. 26, 2 p.m.
  • Companies 10-1 Monday, Aug. 29, noon

As the companies are named, a running list will be kept for reference.

Good luck on making this year’s Counselor Best Places to Work list!

Tip of the Day – Get a Business Loan

Filed under: Tip of the Day

LoansFrom “Blueprint” in Counselor’s August 2011 issue …

Once a financial checkup is conducted, business owners often realize that they need more cash on hand to adequately run and finance their growing operation. While credit from banks is still tight, here are three ways to get lenders on your side:

  1. Get organized. Know how much you want to borrow, what you can pledge as collateral and how you will use the loan, says Mike Griffin, business services manager for United Federal Credit Union. “The institution is going to request a lot of information from you, so have your financial records in order,” he says. “When applicable, have projections – this will demonstrate to the loan officer that you are prepared.”
  2. Do your research. It is important to find a financial institution that is able and willing to lend money, says Griffin. Then, the key is to find a loan officer who is willing to work with you. “A good loan officer will be of assistance long after you close the loan.”
  3. Move your “business relationship” to the lender. Show potential lenders that you’re willing to expand the financial partnership past the terms of the loan. “Tell the loan officer you are willing to move your checking accounts,” says Griffin. “Having statements is a big plus. Ask them about other services and products. Business relationships for a financial institution are more important than ever.”

For more information, check out the Blueprint section of this month’s Counselor magazine.

Tip of the Day – 12 Ways to Boost Booth Traffic

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Trade Show BoothGreat tips from Successful Promotions Trend Report, vol. 65

Why do so many trade show booths fail to attract prospects? According to Trade Show and Event Marketing author Ruth P. Stevens, the reason is that marketers often assume show organizers are going to do all the work of attracting the right attendees.

No, just showing up and propping up a booth certainly isn’t going to entice quality visitors. You have to be an active participant in getting people to your booth. Here are 12 surefire ways to fill your trade show booth with bona-fide prospects.

  1. Get your own prospects
  2. Know where to exhibit
  3. Make your booth advertise itself
  4. Use a winning layout
  5. Attract quality traffic
  6. Give the right promotional gift
  7. Select and train booth personnel
  8. Get friendly with organizers
  9. Use technology to capture information
  10. Do something different
  11. Consider sponsorship opportunities
  12. Put Your Message Everywhere

For complete details of how to boost your booth traffic — as well as ideas case studies, monthy constest and more — go to the latest Successful Promotions Trend Report now.

Tip of the Day – Six Steps to Expand Your Brand with Facebook

Filed under: Tip of the Day

FacebookFrom Counselor’s July 2011 issue segment on “Management, by Genae Ginard …

Every company is trying to use Facebook in an attempt to move their business forward and stay connected to their customers. Why are some companies more successful at this than others? Content is the key to staying in touch with your customers and keeping them informed. The content, however, must be a rich mix of information, education, humor and fun.

Indeed, every Facebook effort is not equal. Some companies put forth a concerted effort to update their Facebook page consistently with news, tips and contests to keep their audience engaged. Others? Well, others don’t update their pages consistently enough to make any noise online.

No doubt, the former strategy is preferable. You can’t succeed with online social marketing right now unless you’re prepared to put in the time to create compelling content that engages customers and prospects. There’s a lot to be drawn to online right now, so you need a Facebook page whose content stands out from the crowd.

Here are six steps for ad specialty distributors to pump up their Facebook presence and connect with a whole new audience online. Use this approach to make your Facebook page more successful.

  1. Humor Is Vital – Humor allows your audience to come away with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling and a friendly attachment to your message. It doesn’t have to be industry specific, although it can be. You can do viral searches on YouTube and/or sites that plug social media. But a note of caution: humor online shouldn’t cross a line that you wouldn’t be prepared to cross when meeting somebody in person. Always watch a video all the way through before posting, as you don’t want it to include any profanity or other unmentionables. Remember, video is king. Written blogs are being trumped by the clever, colorful and often fun video blogs.
  2. Ask Questions That Solicit Responses – Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions to your group. For example, think of timely promotional programs and ask something like, “What’s your favorite corporate summer outing?” The purpose here is to begin the conversation. People posting their answers will create a community buzz. Letting the responses unfold naturally also gives you a marketing advantage. You can then track the answers to find a pattern of summer promotions or even find specific information about potential customers that you can use to call them with down the line. The key is to track it. Don’t just let the responses occur in a vacuum – take notes off the Facebook page so you have actionable data about your new contacts.
  3. Consistent Content Is King – If you don’t provide a myriad of interesting topics, information and trends, current customers as well as future customers simply go away. Clicking “Unlike” on Facebook is just as easy as clicking “Like.” Smart, clever and challenging content will keep your audience waiting for more. Plus, the ability to provide that type of information consistently is what really separates your Facebook presence from that of other companies. Consistency and creativity count when it comes to providing content online. With most companies having a presence on Facebook, competition will become fierce and you have to stand out. 
  4. Talk About Current Events – If you haven’t done so already, get plugged in to all online media and/or online trade publications. When something interesting pops up, pass it along for other people’s knowledge. If something political or legislative occurs that could impact your customers or the ad specialty market in general, pass it along. Never make a personal judgment about the event. Let your community unfold.  One of the best ways to ensure that you’re always connected to current events that impact the market is to use Google Alerts to notify you of events and news feeds when you program in key words. You can also use a program like Hootsuite to consolidate and tweet events out to all of your feeds and accounts at one time. The more you can tie your Facebook content into current events that impact your audience, the more likely you’ll be to consistently connect with a growing audience. 
  5. Use Industry Facts – Keep your followers abreast of changes in the ad specialty market and relate them back to your own business. For example, product safety and legislation are important right now when it comes to ensuring the viability of products in the ad specialty industry. Post articles you find about changing laws and provide insights into how this can impact your customers’ orders. Think of Facebook as a way to educate your customers and prospects about information they may not otherwise seek out. Cotton prices, for example, have increased significantly over the past year or so. This isn’t information that your customers may be directly seeking out, but it does impact their T-shirt orders. So, they need to know about it, and you can be the vital source that provides the information to them. This would be a specific action that endears your customers to your brand. 
  6. Run Promos & Specials – Mention specials, promotions, new products and services on your Facebook page as much as possible. It shouldn’t be a hard-sell approach, but rather a way to entice customers. You can get creative here and run a coupon or contest. Talk about new employees, business awards or articles written by your staff. You can drive traffic to your business and services by using this concept.

For more, go to Counselor’s July 2011 Management section now!

Tip of the Day – Launch A Mobile App

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Mobile AppFrom Counselor magazine’s 2011 State of the Industry:

With 600,000 apps in the online marketplace and 61 million smartphone users accessing them, targeted mobile marketing continues to ascend in reputation and relevance. According to a recent study, the mobile app market will be worth $17.5 billion by next year, with downloads reaching 50 billion. “We’ve found our customers are on the run and our mobile app is great for them,” says Kim Laffer, director of strategic development at New York-based distributor Motivators Inc. (asi/277780). “We developed our app last year and we keep making edits.”

The Motivators app – available for the iPhone and Android devices – offers customers the chance to view products, check pricing and even send images of items to others. The app also links to the Motivators website, allowing customers to purchase products online without being in front of a computer. “We really listen to our customers and it’s taken time to get a feel for what they need,” Laffer says. “We did a bunch of tests and we’ve gotten a great response from customers.”

Even if a company doesn’t immediately earn sales directly from an app, some consultants argue there are still valuable gains to be made by marketing your brand through a mobile device. “These are really social apps,” says Tyler Musson, CEO of Musson Media Consulting. “You don’t want a hard sell with them. They’re important in nurturing relationships.”

Musson says creating a custom or native mobile app can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000, depending on what services a company wants to present. It’s common for app developers to charge $100 per hour and take weeks to finish a project, which is why the cost can escalate quickly. “It can take six to 12 weeks just to write the code,” says Tobias Dengel, CEO of WillowTree Apps. “A good average is to say it takes three to six months to develop an app.”

And yet, despite the hefty price tag and development time required, experts believe mobile apps will eventually overtake computers as the best online avenue to reach customers. In fact, in a recent interview, Ilja Laurs, the CEO of mobile app provider GetJar, had this to say: “It is easy to see how mobile apps will eclipse the traditional desktop Internet. It makes perfect sense that mobile devices will kill the desktop.”

For more tips like these, go to the article High-Tech Tactics.

Tip of the Day – 4 Ways To Improve Your Customer Service

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Customer ServiceIt should come as no surprise that a company’s customer service speaks volumes about the company itself, and one bad experience can send them to your competitor. For example, when I’m sent into phone automation land or am transferred a bunch of times to people that I have to give the same info to over and over, I’m outta there. Seriously. Nothing’s more frustrating than being spun around like a record.

This year’s Counselor State of the Industry has a section on Client Connections that has tons of great tech tips and advice, including four tips on how best to improve your customer service:

  1. Call your company during business hours. “Get one of those cloaking devices, or have someone call for you, and find out what it’s like to call your company,” says Scott Gingold, owner of business management consulting firm Confidential Counselor. “Do this during normal business hours and after hours. How long are you put on hold? How friendly and responsive are they? If it’s after hours and you have an answering machine, maybe leave a bogus message, and see how long it takes somebody to actually call back.”
  2. Ask your people. Many distributors don’t like to hear it, but Gingold says it’s crucial to routinely ask your employees for honest feedback about what aspects of your company’s customer service experience could use improvement. “Ask, ‘Can you tell me what areas need improvement so I can try to make it better?'” he says. “Don’t become negative or offensive.”
  3. Surveys. “Distributors need to have a frequent online and offline survey that they provide to their clients to get feedback, not just on what they’re doing well, but on what they need to work on,” says Ryan Sauers, president of Sauers Consulting StrategiesSauers. “Customers, whether they fill them out or not, appreciate the chance.”
  4. Remind your customers that you’re thinking about them. “Get in the habit of writing follow-up, hand-written notes after all customer meetings, because no one does that anymore, and that will separate you,” Sauers says. “Whether it’s thanking someone with a holiday card or a hand-written thank-you or birthday card – anything that takes time out and says, ‘I’m thinking of you’ – that’s a customer experience that, quite frankly, no one gets in today’s world.”

For more information on securing your data — including four additional threats you want to be mindful of — check out this year’s Counselor State of the Industry.

Win $25 – Suggest An ASI Radio Show Topic

Filed under: asi radio show

ASI RadioOne of the cool things about being a radio engineer and the “social network dude” for the weekly ASI Radio Show is that I’ve gotten to know some of our listeners pretty well. And when one of our shows covers a particularly helpful topic, these same listeners are not shy in pointing this out. In fact, when we cover a hot topic the phone lines and social networks just light up with tons of great questions and comments, a testament to how well our listeners have their fingers on the pulse of the industry.

For instance, our June 14 show titled Should You Bring Your Suppliers on Sales Calls? was so interactive it simply turned into a forum for users and listeners to engage with our show hosts. It was brilliant!

So, for our next radio show — August 9 — we are opening up show topic suggestions to you, our listeners, and offering a $25 Visa Gift Card to the suggestion we use! If you’ve got a great idea for a show topic, post a comment below to the blog, on ASICentral Facebook, in Twitter or email us at feedback@asicentral.com.

So stay tuned, and good luck!

— DJ VeeDee

Tip of the Day – 4 Ways to Secure Your Data

Filed under: Tip of the Day

DataAre you fanatical about protecting your data? You’re not alone. In fact, short of retinal scans many industry companies are going to great lengths — including finger-recognition technology and explosion-proof safes — just to protect their data, as well as their customer’s.

This year’s Counselor State of the Industry has a section on High-Tech Tactics that is chock full of great tech tips and advice, including four tips on how best to secure your data:

  1. Use A Layered Defense Model – Combine tough-to-crack passwords (uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers, in every one) with up-to-date antivirus software, operation system and application security patches as well as a strong firewall.
  2. Employ Encryption – Make sure all removable media and devices are encrypted.
  3. Click With Caution – Don’t ever open unexpected attachments or click on embedded links in e-mails. Also, never respond to unsolicited requests for information.
  4. Choose Wisely – Pick a hosting company and website designers that understand security.

For more information on securing your data — including four additional threats you want to be mindful of — check out this year’s Counselor State of the Industry.


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