Swim with the Sharks

Highlights From The ASI Show Orlando

Barbara CorcoranThe ASI Show Orlando was highlighted by a unique keynote that had four industry suppliers pitching their wares to judges from TV show Shark Tank. Check out the highlights of the education and new products from the show.

The ad specialty industry’s version of the hit TV show Shark Tank entertained and informed a packed house of attendees in early January at The ASI Show in Orlando. With keynote speakers – and Shark Tank judges – Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary judging their presentations, representatives from four supplier companies (Americraft Products, BamBams, Card Ninja, and Ssam Sports) pitched their product ideas.

In a unique and high-pressure setting where the judges fired questions at the presenters, the winner of the program was a new supplier in the market: Card Ninja, which has an item of the same name that sticks on the back of cell phones and can hold credit cards or other items that would traditionally be placed in a wallet or purse.

“You have a phenomenal product,” Corcoran told the three representatives from Card Ninja who were presenting their company’s wares to the judges. “I’ll offer you $10,000 right now for 30% of your company.”

O’Leary, though, was a little skeptical of the company’s financials – as he tends to be on the ABC show Shark Tank – saying that he thought their product was priced too high and cost too much to produce.

“I love the idea, it could really sell,” O’Leary said. “But I’m sick with the numbers. I like it, but it has to be at a lower cost to really move. I could fix the costs for this business. It’s eventually going to make a lot of money.”

For the one day in January, though, Corcoran and O’Leary agreed to name Card Ninja the winner, which meant they walked away from the keynote competition with a check for $5,000 from ASI. It was presented to the winners on stage by Corcoran and O’Leary along with ASI Vice Chairman Matthew Cohn.

The session also provided attendees with entrepreneurial advice from Corcoran and O’Leary. Corcoran said she firmly believes that a company can be successful if its leaders are extremely passionate and resilient. “To turn an idea into a business, you need an entrepreneur that simply loves being smacked down and getting back up again,” she said. “They just need to relish that, and know that their next opportunity is going to be the big one.”

O’Leary, the more practical financier of the two, said a great product is vital to being a success, but that knowing the financials inside and out about the product is critical for business success today.

“You have to price things right, and be acutely aware of the value of the items you’re selling,” he said. “Know the cost of goods, the margins you can sell at, what the buyers are willing to pay, and then go. If you’re not priced correctly, you’ll be out of business.”

Following the session, Counselor caught up with Corcoran to find out her tips for increasing sales and her ideas on the best markets to target today. Go to www.asicentral.com to watch the video.

Take Control of Your Social Media Marketing
Smart business owners create internal policies that protect their businesses – and take advantage of free, online analytics tools to measure customer satisfaction and brand preference and influence in their social media marketing. In her Education Day session at ASI Orlando, “Social Media Marketing for CEOs: Measure Your Analytics and Protect Your Business,” entrepreneur and social media expert Marki Lemons-Ryhal offered distributor principals insider tips for taking control of their social media efforts.

To start, have a policy in place about how your employees are using social media to market your company. Lemons-Ryhal, owner of Marki Lemons Unlimited, cited an example of a restaurateur who fired a chef – this employee was responsible for the company’s Twitter feed and was the only one who knew the user name and password. This former staffer went on to bash the restaurant’s food quality and service level via Twitter, garnering this restaurant a heap of unwanted attention from would-be clients.

“You need to take control of your company’s social media efforts so that these scenarios don’t occur,” she said. “However, also be sure that you don’t prohibit protected or concerted activity; for example, you can’t forbid your employees from discussing their wages online. Be sure that your policy adheres to federal, state and local regulations.”

It also makes sense to set up free Google alerts so you can monitor your company name and reputation on the Internet. “These are the gifts that keep on giving,” Lemons-Ryhal said. “Any time you’re mentioned online, you’ll receive an e-mail alert.” In addition, be very careful about what you and your employees post online. “Once you post something in error, even if you delete it, it still has the ability to go viral if the wrong person gets ahold of it,” she said.

Lemons-Ryhal also espoused the importance of taking advantage of the data you can receive from social media marketing.

“When you create a Facebook page for your business, you instantly have great analytics for zero dollars,” Lemons-Ryhal said. “For example, you can analyze your Facebook likes; you can see who and where your fans are. You can also review an uptick and decline in how and when people engage with you based on the content you post. Another great, free tool that shows you your share of voice online is Socialmention.com.”

A Firm Foundation: Starting Strong in 2014
In his Education Day session at ASI Orlando titled “Launch Your Successful Career: The Essentials of Ad Specialty Sales,” speaker David Blaise stressed the importance of building relationships and taking a consultative selling approach.

“Don’t be an order taker or product peddler,” said Blaise, of consultancy Blaise Drake & Co. “Make a sale about solutions. If I’m a consultative seller, it allows me to connect the dots between what a prospect is looking for and what products I sell.”

Speaking to an audience of both industry newcomers and veterans, Blaise also encouraged distributor attendees to become creation and retention specialists. The key to achieving this level of success, according to Blaise, is to put your energy into generating a pipeline of prospects, giving yourself options. “You need to convert leads into profitable sales,” Blaise said. “Not every deal or customer is profitable and you have to weigh the risk involved in orders.”

One way to become a trusted distributor that prospects will admire, Blaise said, is to build a network of preferred suppliers. “The suppliers you choose are critical,” Blaise said. “When walking a trade show floor, you need to eyeball them and make sure that you’re really comfortable with the suppliers you’re working with.”

Finally, Blaise urged attendees to pay close attention to artwork, especially when taking on new clients. “There’s a difference between art and artwork,” Blaise said. “You need camera-ready art. Always check with suppliers for their requirements.”

It’s a New Day
In her session titled “New Rules of Marketing and PR: Create a Multimedia Brand Experience,” Kathleen Booth of Quintain Marketing said that the old ways of advertising and creating PR are dead. Companies can no longer rely on just direct mail, or just print advertising or just online banner ads. Rather, to effectively market to today’s always-connected consumers, companies need an integrated approach that pulls clients to them instead of pushing a message out.

“We are living in a world where no one has to listen to advertising messages,” she said, adding, “as a marketer, that stinks.”

So what is a distributor, or its clients to do? Booth said they need to create adverting that end-users actually seek out. “When we’re marketing today, we’re marketing to an increasingly savvy consumer,” she said.

So, if they don’t want to receive or listen to a message, they won’t. Simply, we are living in an “opt-in” world where consumers can easily tune out a message.

Because of that, we have a convergence of media. This can explain why Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com buys the Washington Post or why Microsoft partnered to create MSNBC. What they hope to create is a triumph rant of media, joining paid media (i.e., traditional ads) with owned media (i.e., a company’s website or Facebook page) and earned media, (i.e., Facebook comments, shared content, etc.).

“This is modern day word of mouth,” Booth said. “You’re really going to get value from earned media.”

Because of this potential, she said, it’s important to push content out via a variety of media and give your clients the ability to respond with positive comments in the social media sphere. “If you do a good job of serving your clients well, there is nothing to be afraid of,” Booth said. And, while there may be the occasional naysayer, she says it adds more credibility to the clients who rave about you.

Check out products from the show (pdf).