Trade Show Floor Opens
Eager distributor attendees hit the trade show floor running this morning, as the ASI Chicago exhibits opened. Counselor interviewed some of them just before they got started to see what kind of items they were looking for.
Distributor Success Lunch Serves Up Workplace Ideas
During yesterday's Education Day at ASI Chicago, the Distributor Success Lunch provided attendees with ideas on how they can create a highly-motivated and productive workplace culture. Led by Counselor Editor Andy Cohen, the panel session delved into how four industry companies (two suppliers and two distributors) ensure their employees simply love coming to work every day.
"For us it's about accountability and everyone enjoying the person they work next to," said Kevin Scharnek, president of 14 West LLC (asi/197092), a perennial member of Counselor's Best Places to Work list and one of the four panelists during the session. "If employees know what's expected of them and they know the people they work with will be held to a high standard, then they'll be invested in wanting to do great work for the company."
The other members of the panel, Rebecca Kollman from AIA Corporation (asi/109480), Dan Taylor from BamBams (asi/38228), and Steve Rone from World Wide Line (asi/98290), certainly agreed with that sentiment. "We try to make sure our employees all approach their customer relationships in their own way because we want them to take ownership of it," said Rone. "People will be happier at work when they feel like they own their work and are responsible for its success. So, each of our customer service reps has their own Facebook page for work that they can use to communicate with customers however they want. It's a small thing, but we want them to feel like they really own their work."
Kollman said AIA has created a collegial corporate culture for one simple reason: it's good for business. "Our culture is full of young people who enjoy being around each other," Kollman said. "That's good for them but also good for the company, because they'll go out of their way to ensure we're successful. That's more valuable than any sales or marketing strategy you can create for a company."
And BamBams' Taylor pointed out the importance of communication when motivating employees and creating a positive corporate culture. "We over-communicate our goals, so our people know what to expect and so they're as connected to the company's mission as possible," he said. "People just work harder when they know they're working toward something."
Success Strategies To Depend On
The key to success for distributors today: create solutions, don't just sell products. That's according to Education Day speaker and industry consultant David Blaise, the head of Blaise Drake & Company. Following the first of his three sessions yesterday, Counselor caught up with Blaise to find out how distributors can craft a consultative-selling approach to their business and see what they need to do to capitalize on the growing opportunities in front of them.
Joe Show Day One
Wondering what the hottest products are at The ASI Show in Chicago this week? Of course you are. Well, so was Managing Editor Joe Haley, who went searching for the most eye-catching and functional items he could find.
In this video, he shows off a variety of items perfect for many different types of promotional campaigns. Click here to watch the Day One episode of The Joe Show from ASI Chicago.
Top Distributors Share Their Wish Lists With Suppliers Created for industry suppliers exhibiting at The ASI Chicago Show, the "What Distributors Want" panel discussion and luncheon yesterday featured five Top 40 distributors answering questions about what traits they look for in their supplier partners. David Falato, who runs Jack Nadel International's (asi/279600) Chicago office, noted – and the other panelists agreed – the importance of bringing suppliers with him on sales calls. "It makes all the difference," he said.
Johanna Decal Gottlieb, who runs the Chicago office of Axis Promotions (asi/128263), said that it would be more helpful if suppliers leaned more heavily on e-mail as a way to communicate. "I can't believe some suppliers still use faxes to send me things," she said.
Stephanie Friedman, marketing director at WorkflowOne (asi/333647), emphasized the importance of quick exhibitor follow-up after a trade show. "One week is optimal," she said.
Forrest Fairley, head of promotional products sales for Safeguard Business Systems (asi/316203), pointed out how helpful it is when suppliers send samples of their products in direct, lumpy mail promotions. "I love to see packaging being used creatively," he said, noting that he's more likely to work with a supplier who sends self-promo pieces.
And Mark Bernstein, who heads vendor relations at Safeguard, reiterated the need for distributors and suppliers alike to be mindful and educated on topics like product safety. "Our clients," Bernstein said, "do care about it and are asking product safety questions."
Industry Experts Discuss Product Safety During a panel yesterday that featured Rick Brenner, CEO of Top 40 supplier Prime Line (asi/79540), Julia Wright, owner of Wright Choice Promotions, Karolyn Helda, global program manager for ANSECO Group, a worldwide product testing and safety company, and David Miller, president of Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant (asi/44900), product safety was brought into the spotlight. Discussing issues such as how to define a "child's toy" for the purpose of testing, the stringent nature of food testing and how distributors vet the suppliers they use, the panelists provided ways for the industry – both suppliers and distributors – to ensure safer and more compliant products and policies.
Julia Wright, the sole distributor on the panel, said that product safety is an issue that should concern suppliers and distributors. "If something were to happen," she said, "we'd all get sued, so we really need to be diligent and educated on the topic."
Miller noted that for food items in particular, it's critical that distributors work with credible, credentialed suppliers. "We received our Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification from the FDA, which requires a lot of testing, time and resources," he said. "However, our items are now at such a standard, that it would be a real competitive advantage for distributors to feel safe selling our items to our clients with our safety guarantees."
Counselor spoke with Brenner following the session to see how industry companies should work together on safety issues. Click here to watch the video.
Build Sales With Video Marketing
In the Education Day session "Social Media Marketing Strategies for CEOs: How to Use Social TV and Video Marketing to Grow Your Business," presenter Johnny Campbell explained that TV was a medium created with sales in mind. "TV," he said, "was always designed to sell things. They built the programming around that function."
So, given that history, it's only a natural that today's business leaders would use TV and video via social media to sell. In fact, he said that when you use a variety of media, brand recall increases 30% and message recall increases 56%. "Video is powerful because it gives people a window into your world," he said.
In order to create more sales, Campbell said, business must have the right message and deliver it the through the right media. For him, that's social media. "Don't spend time just anywhere," he said. "You need to invest your time. When you invest your time, you get a return." And, for him, the investment on equipment doesn't need to break the bank. A simple flip camera and small table-top tripod is enough equipment to produce quality videos, he believes. By using YouTube and sending video links out in e-mail blasts, via tweets and in blogs you have the potential to connect with many different people.
Campbell sees eight benefits to using video in your marketing:
Using videos will help you see results
Videos are scalable
They help increase your search engine optimization (SEO)
You can build an audience with video
It's a tool that is perfect for social media
It can help you build trust and credibility with your clients and others in the industry
Video will help you build your company brand and develop a celebrity status for the creator
Videos, when used effectively, can help you make money
iClick Launches Apparel Contract Decoration Service
Seattle-based supplier iClick (asi/62124) announced during The ASI Chicago Show the introduction of its new nationwide apparel contract decoration service. The service – called iClick Decorate – will be centrally supported with customer service from the company's headquarters, but will also utilize 25 decoration locations across the U.S.
"We understand the pains our distributors experience having to build relationships with unique decorators around the country," said iClick president Jeff Hall. "We have solved this by offering iClick's award-winning service, a national price list, and enough locations so that every destination across the country can be reached with two-day ground shipping."
iClick plans to add more decoration locations throughout the year with help from vice presidents Jonathan Irvin and Roger Burnett. More information about the service can be found at www.iclick.com/decorate.
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