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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.

Favorite Pen Ink Color? Black Rules

Filed under: Poll Results

This is the promotional product industry, and any veteran knows that pens are a staple product. So popular are writing instruments that, according to the 2012 Global Advertising Specialty Impressions Study, they are the most popular product in not only the USA, but Great Britain, Canada and France!

This industry sure does love its pens, but I got to wonderin’: what pen ink color is the most popular?

Of course, I knew the only contest would be between the colors black and blue, but I threw in a few fun colors to make things interesting, like green (y’know, for the eco-conscious), purple (’tweens anyone?) and red (a fave among school teachers).

Surprisingly, this wasn’t much of a contest at all. Black beat blue, and quite easily. The biggest surprise, however, is how many votes purple received!

The following is the breakdown for the question: Which pen ink color is your preference? (487 total votes)

  • Black, 239 votes (49%)
  • Blue, 189 votes (39%)
  • Red, 13 votes (3%)
  • Green, 12 votes (2%)
  • Purple, 34 votes (7%)


T-Shirt Donations Needed For Charity Event

Filed under: Wearables

C.J. MitticaFrom guest blogger C.J. Mittica, editor of Wearables magazine.

Wearables has an upcoming cover story for October about apparel that helps charities and saves lives. In the process of gathering stories, one of its readers reached out for help with his charitable event. Neil Jorge of A Better Copy is hosting an event on September 14th called Comics 4 A Cure. The event uses artwork from professional comic book artists to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Throughout the year the group uses comic book art therapy for sick and dying children in Florida hospitals. Neil is looking for a supplier to donate 70 black T-shirts for the event.

If you are interested in donating, contact Wearables editor C.J. Mittica at cmittica@asicentral.com.


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.


Promotional Products at ASI - An Intern Investigates

Filed under: Fun, General

Sam PhillipsFrom guest blogger and intern Samantha Phillips  …

The things that decorate my tiny cubicle include a few framed photographs, two plastic orchid plants (I would love real flowers but I struggle to keep even myself healthy and thriving), a gnome figurine and a fake autographed photo of Christopher Walken: a gag Christmas gift from a close friend. I questioned every item I brought in to adorn my work space, convinced that they would define me as a person. All it would take was a single troll doll with dirty neon hair and a gem belly button and I’d be haunted by it forever.

Fortunately, my desk accessories (deskessories? Genius!) are mild, even amateur, in comparison to the oddities that dress the desks of some of my co-workers. As MVP’s of an industry that thrives on wacky products, ASI employees often receive free promotional items that are … shall we say … unique? Do you need a Gangnam Style figurine that doubles as a flash drive? No. But it makes one hell of a conversation starter. I decided to conduct an in-depth investigation, and expose the dirty truth about ASI’s desk decorations. Thus, here they are!: a few of my favorite ASI deskessories in no particular order:

MR. T BOBBLEHEAD DOLL

Online editor Vinny Driscoll works tirelessly to upkeep our social media presence while his Mr. T bobblehead watches from atop the cubicle wall, nodding eternally in agreement. “#pitythefool!” cries the tiny intimidating figurine.

Mr. T.


MCDONALD’S FRENCH FRY GOLF CLUB COVER

Copy writer Chuck Zak is pictured here with his McDonald’s French fry golf club head cover. Does Chuck Zak play golf? No. Why does Chuck Zak have a fast food inspired golf club head cover? It is one of the many mysteries that lie within those cubicle walls. Legend has it the fries are a device he uses to communicate with the editorial gods. Of course, no one can ever know for sure. You see that perfectly trimmed beard? It’s full of secrets.

McDonald's


DRINK COASTER

While Patty Cangelosi slaves over the pages of copy she edits daily, she is surrounded by an array of odd items including giant highlighters and magnets shaped like slices of pizza. But perhaps the strangest of all her deskessories is the photo drink coaster pictured here, a sample gift from one of ASI’s suppliers. Why is this the top of the wacky food chain, you ask? Because Patty has no idea who those people are.

Drink Coaster


MONKEY SLINGSHOT

Managing editor Joe Haley’s office is a mecca of promotional oddities. It’s got everything you can dream up…a plastic pig that shoots pong balls out of its mouth, a trail hitch ball cover shaped like Barak Obama’s head, a plastic shot glass that includes a turning mechanism which allows for no-mess jello shots, an electric guitar branded with the “Joe Show” logo … I could go on. Joe is pictured here with one of his most precious office accessories: a caped monkey that doubles as a slingshot. Don’t make him angry; his office is an arsenal of weaponry that might not injure, but has the power to severely annoy.

Slingshot


COTTON BALE

C.J. Mittica, editor of Wearables magazine, proudly shows off the miniature bale of cotton that he acquired while conducting story research in Texas. A normal bale of cotton weighs approximately 500 pounds and holds enough cotton to make 325 pairs of denim jeans. After completing a few Good-Will-Hunting-esque mathematical equations (who am I kidding, I majored in English), I concluded that this bale holds enough cotton to make at least three denim bowties for Canadian tuxedoes.

Cotton


TWISTY THINGY

Michele Bell is the editor of Supplier Global Resource magazine and people cannot keep their hands off of her deskessories. This silver twisty-thingy (excuse my use of industry jargon) is a favorite among her visitors. It reminds me of a hitchhiker outside of a Phish concert: it could possibly strangle you, and it is always picked up.

Twisty


BOWLING PIN WATER BOTTLE

And ah, of course, the infamous bowling pin water bottle: the wild card that blew this investigation wide open. It requires no lavish witticisms to introduce it. It is the answer to possibly the most important scientific question of all time: how do you combine America’s favorite sport (besides competitive chess of course) and hydration? It is the product of years of struggle for researchers who were hungry to create something incredibly subtle and yet still so majestic. Its owner requested to remain anonymous in this investigation report, as to avoid torment from the paparazzi and constant media attention. “Yes I have a bowling pin water bottle,” she says, “But I just want to live a normal life!”

Bowling Pin

Well, that concludes this episode of “An Intern Rants about Nothing of Importance.” Tune in next week, when I will rate the office toilets in descending order based on comfort level, timing of the automatic flush, and amount of creativity used in stall door graffiti.

…That’s a joke people. C’mon, did you really think I have the seniority and power to make those kinds of judgments? I’m just an intern for Crissakes.


Counselor Awards 2013

Filed under: Awards

Counselor Awards 2013Here ye, here ye! The winners of this year’s most prestigious awards — the Counselor Awards — will be announced tonight from the Art Institute of Chicago between the hours of 6:30-10:30 p.m. CST. Want to know who receives the awards as they happen? Follow our Live Tweet on Twitter at @asicentral and use the hashtag #ASIAwards. We’ll post all winners after the ceremony on www.asicentral.com at 11 p.m. EST.

Award categories include:

  • Person of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Distributor and Supplier Entrepreneurs of the Year
  • Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Distributor and Supplier Woman of Distinction
  • Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award
  • Distributor and Supplier Family Business of the Year
  • Distributor and Supplier Top 40

So who do you think will win this year’s Counselor Person of the Year? Stay tuned … and good luck to all!


Poll Results: Facebook Rules the Ad Specialty Business World

Filed under: Poll Results

When I posted the June poll “Which Social Network Do You Use Most For Business?” I figured most of our ad specialty friends would vote for Facebook, and they did. Over 50% of the total votes went to the social network that now boasts over 1.1 billion users and growing. This definitely did not shock me …

However, what did shock me was that Pinterest, the social network that really lends itself to imagery, received just one measly vote! Given that this is an industry rife with new and interesting products, I personally believe that companies should be looking a little more closely at Pinterest as a platform to promote their products. But I digress …

The following is the breakdown of votes for the question: “Which Social Network Do You Use Most For Business?” (191 total votes)

  • Facebook, 103 votes (54%)
  • Twitter, 13 votes (7%)
  • YouTube,  7 votes (4%)
  • LinkedIn, 67 votes (35%)
  • Pinterest, 1 vote (0.5%)

Social Media Use In Promo Products Industry


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.

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

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2013 - Emerald

Filed under: Wearables

Pantone Color of the Year 2013 - EmeraldI love the color green, and all the shades in between, especially the warmer ones like turquoise and teal. That’s why I was so happy to see that Pantone selected a shade of green — Emerald — as the Pantone Color of the Year for 2013.

How exactly does this affect the promotional products industry? If you deal in apparel, then you know that ASI has its finger on the pulse of fashion trends and our Wearables magazine devotes ink each issue to the hottest hues and how you can use them.

Want to see some cool examples of emerald in action and how to pair it with other hues? Then you don’t want to miss this issue of Wearables Fashion Sense.


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