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Selling Pens – 4 Tips for Winning Against the Web

Filed under: Education, Tip of the Day

Sell More PensAccording to the 2013 Counselor Sate of the Industry, the top competitor threat to distributors are websites that sell promotional products, and that includes pens.

Good thing for you, though, there’s Counselor magazine!

In the September 2013 issue — the one devoted entirely to the writing instrument — there are some great articles about promotional pens and how to get the most out them. In the article “Black and Blue Battle,” writer Betsy Cummings goes in search of ways to combat the those Internet companies that sell so low. Check out that article now for some great advice, and in the meantime here are 4 great quick tips you can use to win vs. the web:

  • Tout Service Offerings: Online vendors may promise every service distributors offer, but it’s unlikely they offer the personal, individual attention to detail that marketing execs have come to expect from their distributors, not to mention insight into promotional product strategies. It’s important to remind clients about the limitations of online sellers.
  • Push Unique Products: Yes, many distributors sell the same products, but by working with preferred suppliers, they can partner to offer exclusive product offerings and decorating techniques, shutting out encroaching online firms.
  • Call Out the Competition: It may seem like the pen selling online for 10 cents less is an amazing bargain, but buyers be warned: Web-based companies offer low pricing one day and jacked up pricing the next. Or, they might have hidden charges such as multiple set up fees.
  • Don’t Cave: It may be easier said than done, but sometimes the best way to handle a client who keeps demanding cutthroat pricing, a la the Web, is to cut them loose. Match Internet pricing and you may be committed to those margins forever. Often clients who opt for companies they’ve found online come crawling back to distributors admitting the service and products were inferior.

Top 5 Competitor Threats to Promotional Product Distributors

Filed under: Uncategorized

E-commerce ThreatsThe 2013 Counselor State of the Industry is hot off the press, and — as usual — it’s filled with tons of useful information including how-to strategies, data analysis, insights, trends and business tactics.

One of the best parts of the report is the imagery — charts and graphs really nail home some of the stats, and each article has them. The most glaring? Under the article titled “The Competitor You Can’t See” Counselor lists the top 11 perceived competitor threats to distributors. Here are the top 5, including percentage:

  1. Websites selling promotional products (41%)
  2. Other local distributors (12.7%)
  3. Crossover distributors (9.1%)
  4. Large distributors selling in your territory (8.7%)
  5. Industry suppliers that sell direct (8.3%)

The dropoff from the top spot is stark, and it’s clear distributors fear websites that sell at the lowest possible margins. Want to know how to combat them, as well as the rest of the threats on the list? Click here now.

3 Tips for Keeping Up to Date with Product Safety

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Product SafetyIf you haven’t been paying attention to product safety in the promotional products industry, you’re missing a growing trend: sell children’s apparel that doesn’t meet regualtions, pay a hefty fine. Or, in some cases like Hung Lam, president of Miami-based LM Import-Export Inc., go to jail.

Just today Counselor PromoGram is reporting that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced that retailer Ross Stores has agreed to pay a $3.9 million fine for repeated violations regarding the sale of children’s apparel with drawstrings.

But what can your business do to ensure you’re selling products that meet industry regulations? For starters you can read this very helpful Q&A with Prime Line CEO Rick Brenner on what distributors need to know today to ensure products they provide to clients are safe. Also helpful: this month’s Counselor feature on ever-changing category that is kids’ products.

And in the meantime, here are three tips to help you keep up with regulations:

  • Define It: It’s likely obvious that a garment is for kids only, but it’s important that distributors make sure the products they’re selling are deemed youth apparel and certified as safe – either with labeling or certificates that pass CPSC standards.
  • Stay On Top: Selling youth apparel nationwide could certainly expand your market share and boost your bottom line. But remember to follow the regulations of the state into which those items are being sold. Certain states like Washington, Maine and California have aggressively tackled safety with greater manufacturing scrutiny. Websites like SaferStates (www.saferstates.com) and the home page of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov) can provide links to a wealth of information on banned substances and state actions.
  • Know Your Suppliers: One of the best ways to ensure your products are safe is to work with suppliers who make youth apparel safety their top priority. Ask for testing certificates, and use suppliers trusted by other large-scale distributors within the industry.

6 Tips For Hiring The Right First Employee

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Hire the Right EmployeeYou would think that with plenty of unemployed people looking for jobs there would be a huge pool of qualified people to choose from. That might be true, but according to a recent survey (read the Counselor PromoGram article here), more than a third of company’s struggle to find qualified employees. Hmmm … either there’s a serious lack of good talent out there, or company’s aren’t vetting well. Regardless, you have to be incredibly diligent in finding the right employee, especially if that employee will be your very first one.

In the June issue of Counselor magazine, Shane Dale interviews Lori Davila, author of How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time, on the right approach to hiring the right first employee. Read the article here, and in the meantime here are 6 tips:

  1. Consider the Virtual Route
  2. Write a Detailed Job Description
  3. Look in the Right Places
  4. Put Candidates To the Test
  5. Browse Social Media Profiles
  6. Be Practical, Not Emotional

4 Ways to Connect with Customers Through New Media

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Rules of EngagementDid you know: Customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those businesses than other clients?

Yes, it’s a brave new world, folks, and unless you’re out there working the interwebs you’re missing out big time. This month’s Counselor story titled “Rules of Engagement” focuses on how distrubutors can boost their sales by utilizing 4 innovative means to better market to clients. Click here to read the story … and in the meantime, here are the 4 basic tips: (Click the link for more explanation)

  1. Get Your Game On
  2. Video Makes a Marketing Star
  3. Survey Says …
  4. APP-ointment Buying

6 Tips for Negotiating with Suppliers

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Negotiate with SuppliersNegotiating … yeah, it can be daunting, especially if you’re a small distributor just starting out. But when dealing with suppliers, remember: You have the right to negotiate.

In an April management article, Counselor magazine offers some great tips and advice on how get your haggle on. Want to improve your negotiation skills? Then this article is a must-read. In the meantime, here are 6 tips for negotiating with suppliers:

  • Vet Potential Partners
  • Gather Information
  • Narrow the Field
  • Weigh Other Costs
  • Put It All Out There
  • Build a Symbiotic Relationship

5 Steps to Survive a Business Disaster

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Before Disaster StrikesThe past two years have seen significant hurricanes — Irene in 2011, and Sandy in 2012 — barrel up the Eastern seaboard, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and causing major issues and headaches for industry companies.

These storms, though rare in their severity, beg the question: Just how prepared are you in case of a major business disruption?

That’s the topic Counselor magazine researched for this month’s “Before Disaster Strikes” feature. With examples of companies affected by disaster as well as expert advice on what to do, this is a must-read for any company. Read it now, and in the meantime, here are 5 steps that will help you survive a business disaster:

  • Assess Risk
  • Create An Action Plan
  • Don’t Forget About Data
  • Crisis Communications
  • Understanding Insurance Options

Top 10 Fastest-Growing and Slowest-Growing Job Sectors

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Hot New MarketsIf you’re a distributor in this industry, you probably already know that education, financial and health-care are some of the top markets. But what are some of the up-and-coming markets gaining steam that you should be targeting?

That’s the question Counselor magazine asked in its March issue for the article “Hot New Markets“. Read on to find out about five new markets that offer big sales opportunities in 2013. And in the meantime, here are the 10 fastest-growing and slowest-growing sectors in the U.S. between 2010-2020.


  1. Registered Nurse
  2. Retail Salespeople
  3. Home Health Aides
  4. Personal Care Aides
  5. Office Clerks
  6. Food Preparation and Serving Workers
  7. Customer Service Representatives
  8. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
  9. Laborers and Freight, Stock and Material Movers
  10. Post-Secondary Teachers


  1. Word Processors and Typists
  2. Data Entry Staffers
  3. Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers
  4. Fast-Food Cooks
  5. Postal Service Clerks
  6. Switchboard Operators
  7. Postal Service Carriers
  8. Sewing Machine Operators
  9. Postal Service Mail Employees
  10. Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Ag Managers

Fastest-Growing Distributors and Suppliers from the Past 6 Years

Filed under: Awards

Fastest-Growing CompaniesIf your company has been experiencing incredible growth over the past few years, then ASI wants to hear from you! Why? Well, you could be recognized by Counselor magazine in its annual Top 10 Fastest Growing companies in the industry award.

To be eligible for this category, your company must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Promotional product sales were $200,000 or more in 2010.
  • 2011 sales must be more than 2010 and 2012 sales must be more than 2011.
  • 2012 sales were $1 million or more.

Both suppliers and distributors are eligible. So … does your company have what it takes? Then click here to nominate it now! And in the meantime, here are the fastest-growing distributors and suppliers of the past 6 years:







5 Tips to Get Started with Pinterest

Filed under: Tip of the Day

Get Started with PinterestStill think there’s no strategic business reason to be on Pinterest? Think again.

According to Jason Miles, co-author of Pinterest Power: “In the last few months, they [Pinterest] rolled out a set of business-oriented changes. The most important one is that their terms-of-service policy has been updated. There is now clearly a terms-of-service policy for businesses, and one for personal use.” 

So what does this mean for you? Well, now you can join with a business objective in mind and start using this social network to your advantage. Counselor’s February issue has an excellent case study called “The Marketing Power of Pinterest” with more info. Check it out now, and in the meantime here are 5 tips on how to get started with Pinterest:

  1. Make Your Website Pinterest-Friendly 
  2. Contribute, Don’t Just Consume 
  3. Provide Valuable Info
  4. Make it Personal
  5. Conduct Market Research

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