Affordable Care Act Exchanges Open
More than three years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, today begins the official rollout of online insurance exchanges. All companies, regardless of size, are required to notify their employees that the exchanges exist, but the majority of small businesses will not be significantly impacted. Read Article
In fact, smaller firms with 50 or fewer full-time employees are not required to offer insurance to staff, while all other companies now have until 2015 to provide coverage before facing penalties. Still, experts say, confusion persists among business owners.
"People are trying to understand the law, but most don't," said Victoria Braden, president of Braden Benefits Strategies, a consultancy that specializes in ACA compliance. "What's not well-defined is how terms like small business and large business are being delivered, so there's a lot of frustration."
The federal government has set up a website at www.healthcare.gov as well as a call center to respond to concerns. Many questions are being asked about the creation of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which gives small companies (50 employees or fewer) a place to shop for group health plans. Starting today, businesses can get basic plan information at https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/shop/, although a recently-announced delay in the program means side-by-side comparisons and Web enrollment won't be functional until November. Federal officials continue to stress that small companies are not mandated to use SHOP, but it's a resource available to firms.
For business owners that have just more than 50 employees, though, decisions are tougher. If these companies cut back on staff, they can avoid being required to offer employees insurance. But, according to Braden, at least some firms aren't letting the ACA employer mandate dictate their strategy. "I have a client with 53 employees, but instead of cutting back, he wants to stick with his business plan," Braden said. "It's going to cost him a lot of money, but he's planning for growth."
While some companies will certainly face higher costs, an ACA provision will grant tax credits to small businesses that provide employees with coverage. As an example, small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees with average annual wages below $50,000 can get tax credits to help offset the cost of premiums. However, while the ACA does provide some level of premium relief, profitable companies will face tax increases. In fact, firms that generate more than $250,000 in annual profits must pay a 0.9% increase on the current Medicare part A tax.
Braden says there's no doubt business owners are worried about rising insurance costs, so she recommends companies renew their current coverage before the end of 2013. Since many actual ACA regulations don't take effect until January 1, 2014, companies can lock in costs before anticipated price jumps. "You'd have 11 months to see how things with the law shake out," Braden said.
Domestic Manufacturing Extends Comeback
Made-in-the-USA seems to be gathering new momentum, as a new survey shows that a majority of manufacturing executives say they're ready to consider pulling some production back from China and other global locations. Read Article
In fact, Boston Consulting Group said its survey found most large U.S. companies now plan to move some production to America from China, or are "actively considering" the move.
Also, the survey found that the number of firms that have shifted manufacturing to the U.S. from China, or will do so in the next two years, has nearly doubled over the past 18 months. And, Boston Consulting Group identified three main drivers of the trend: increasingly favorable domestic labor costs, product quality, and a desire to be closer to customers.
"We've looked at the economics of onshoring and moving production back to the United States, and it definitely makes sense for us," said Eric Hyde, senior vice president of supplier firm Goldstar (asi/73295), which recently moved some of its production from Mexico to Tennessee. "We can offer the same prices on our products that are now produced and imprinted in Tennessee, but with 24 hour delivery service, as opposed to the average of five days from our plant in Mexico."
Hyde said that the company has added jobs and re-trained employees in its Tennessee facility so that the company can quickly fulfill orders for its laser-engraved metal products in the United States. "We're committed to U.S.-based production and we'll be expanding our move back to the United States, but we've also done this for service reasons," Hyde said. "We can simply offer quicker turnaround – for the same price as before – and our customers benefit from the central location in Tennessee now."
The Joe Show: Great Gift Ideas
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off some new items that are perfect for an array of holiday gift campaigns. Looking for some unique desk accessories that any nine-to-fiver would appreciate? Read Article
How about a gift from the ocean that's sure to surprise? Watch The Joe Show for new product and promotional ideas.
Counselor How-To: Improve Customer Retention
Every distributor owner – especially those running smaller firms – has to decide where to put resources. Should companies go after new business or focus more on maximizing retention? Read Article
Janelle Barlow, author of Branded Customer Service: The New Competitive Edge, believes business owners that emphasize retention can reap significant rewards. "Retention means people are willing to come back and do business with you as long as they can," she says. "It also means that they're saying positive things about you – what some people call positive promoters. And to me, it means that customers who are loyal will pay more."
As a specific example of loyalty, Barlow offers up her personal allegiance to Apple. "I could buy a less expensive PC, but my loyalty to Apple and the brand is very strong, and I say a lot of positive things about them. It's the loyalty factor, the positive word of mouth, and of course, the repeat business and the willingness to pay."
How can you earn lasting loyalty from your customers? In this article, Counselor provides four steps distributors can take right now to ensure they build a loyal customer service base. Click here to read the article.
Companies Intensify Investment In Content Marketing
To engage customers and drive brand awareness, marketers are increasingly investing in content marketing. A new survey from Unisphere Research reveals that 48% of marketers in North America devote at least 10% of their budget to content creation. Meanwhile, 19% of survey respondents allocate more than 25% of budgets to content. "Today's enterprises are ramping up their content marketing strategies to capture buyers' attention through social channels and provide prospects with informative content to improve thought leadership," said Joe McKendrick, research analyst at Unisphere Research.
As McKendrick indicates, marketers are intensifying their use of social media to deliver content. Some 65% of respondents say they’re utilizing these channels – particularly Facebook and Twitter – to connect with wider audiences. Nonetheless, company websites, e-mail campaigns and public relations remain the top three mediums through which marketers deliver content, the study found.
As investments increase, businesses are formalizing their approach to content marketing, with nearly half saying they have concrete strategic plans for content. Most often, the type of content that marketers produce are articles, videos and blogs. Such content is typically created in-house, with 87% of marketers saying they make digital content internally.
Going forward, investment in content marketing is poised to increase. Executives told Unisphere that their organizations typically produce 10 or fewer items a month, but many feel that volume and frequency is too low; they’d prefer to see 50 pieces produced monthly in the near future. Said McKendrick: “There is a need for a richer variety of content, delivered at greater frequency, and more closely measured.”
Proforma Introduces Social Media Tool Counselor Top 40 distributor Proforma (asi/300094) has announced a new partnership with Silverback Social that will help Proforma owners offer their clients social marketing campaigns that include content creation, community and brand management, digital ad buying, and analytics and tracking.
“By partnering with Silverback Social, we’ve created an entirely new product offering for our owners,” said Frank Ciraci, Proforma’s chief vendor development officer. “This is more than just setting up a Facebook page for our customers. With Silverback Social we are able to provide high-level social media strategies, content and implementation to clients who are looking for a complete social media solution.”
Chris Dessi, CEO and founder of Silverback Social, is a social media expert contributor on CNBC, Fox Business, Fox Evening News, and Good Day New York. He is also the author of Your World is Exploding: How Social Media is Changing Everything and How You Need to Change With It.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Proforma,” said Dessi. “Our social media solutions will help Proforma owners to provide their customers with complete social media campaigns with everything from content creation to monitoring and tracking. Our team of social media experts will handle every aspect of the clients’ social media efforts. It’s never been easier to provide social media solutions for companies that don’t have the time or resources to do it themselves.”
Counselor Product Close-Up: T-Shirts Counselor Product Close-Up, a new monthly video series from Counselor magazine, will provide insights and strategies into specific product categories in the ad specialty market. In focus this month: T-shirts, the top-selling promotional item in the United States.
In fact, T-shirts represent about 14% of overall distributor revenues in the ad specialty market, totaling sales of more than $2 billion annually. "T-shirts can be the most effective promotional product if executed correctly," said Andrew Verga, assistant marketing manager for Hanes Branded Printwear (asi/59528). "When someone receives a T-shirt that is comfortable, stylish, and well-embellished, it will find a place in their regular rotation, being worn many times per month over the course of several years, generating many thousands of impressions and a fantastic ROI."
While T-shirts appeal to many different end-user sectors, Verga points to the health care market as an up-and-coming target for promotional shirts. "The fastest growing segment we see is health care," he said. "It is an increasingly competitive space, which means promotional spending by health care providers is poised to explode. Most health care organizations are new to the promotional products channel, which means they are truly concerned with ROI and not just getting the cheapest promotional product they can find. Their lack of price-sensitivity makes health care organizations a perfect opportunity to sell high-quality, well-embellished promotional tees."
In this new video, Counselor delves even deeper into the T-shirt product category, exploring why it's a growing segment of the industry, what the latest product trends are, and which markets would be good for distributors to target with T-shirts. Click here to watch the video.
ASI Releases Global Ad Impressions Study
At a session during the recent Power Summit in Park City, UT, ASI released groundbreaking research that continues to prove the value of promotional products. In fact, the latest version of the Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study shows that as an ad medium, promo items are more effective than television, magazines, and newspapers. Based on thousands of live and online interviews with consumers in key cities in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia to gauge their preferences in and use of ad specialties, the results of this project provide the industry with powerful data.
Some highlights from the survey:
They remember. Owners of ad specialties recall the advertiser 86% of the time. Plus, the more interaction end-users have with the items, the higher the recognition of the advertiser. This partly explains why apparel leads the way in advertiser recall.
The client gets more bang for his buck. Logoed bags tie with writing instruments as having the lowest cost-per-impression of any promotional item in the U.S. at one-tenth of a penny.
They don't throw them away. In the U.S., 63% ofrespondents said if they receive a logoed item they don't want, they give it to someone else who can use it. As awareness of recycling in the U.S. has become more prevalent, so has the practice of passing along unwanted products.
Ad specialties make a great impression. More than half the time (53%), they leave a more favorable impression of the advertiser. This trend was seen across all countries. Outerwear leaves the most positive attitude.
When in Rome ... you're more likely to generate new business through ad specialties. While over one-third (36%) of respondents globally said they're more likely to do business with a company that's given them a logoed item, Italians were even more likely to do so – 48%, in fact.
ASI Radio: My Best Business Lesson
On today’s Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts listened to the best piece of business advice that callers have ever received – and they offered their own. Plus, we shared our Favorite Things, provided the four questions every good salesperson asks, and debated the words that customers absolutely hate.
If you missed the show, a recording is now available at www.asicentral.com/radio. And, don’t forget to join us for our next broadcast – Tuesday, October 8. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.
In The News
ePromos Promotional Products (asi/188515) announces its 10th annual list of the Top 10 Corporate Gift Picks, which includes gourmet gifts, wearables, tech accessories and more. The company has also released its online 13-page Corporate Holiday Gift flip book that can be accessed here. For more information, visit www.epromos.com.
IDProductsource (asi/62088) has released its new line of custom button products that include a variety of backing options, including button mirrors, key tags, zipper pulls, bottle openers and more. Visit www.idproductsource.com for more information.
Selco (asi/86230) announced that it has been licensed by Arista Design to produce official collegiate licensed watch products.
THE ASI VIRTUAL TRADE SHOW Wednesday, October 23 • 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ET Register today and plan to attend the ASI Virtual Trade Show for FREE on October 23. From the comfort of your own office, you'll be able to stay up on the most current trends while finding out-of-the box ideas to meet your clients' fourth-quarter needs. Here’s what you’ll find…
VARIETY: From pens and mugs to apparel and gifts — find what your clients are asking for. PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS: Discuss client projects with top suppliers. NEW INITIATIVES: Take part in ASI Education to boost your sales. SNEAK PEEKS: See early arrivals for 2014. RESOURCES: Find the latest catalogs, sales sheets and white papers. NETWORKING: Join your colleagues in the Virtual Lounge.
Find new ways to boost YOUR sales without ever leaving your office, or missing a client’s call, when you attend the ASI Virtual Trade Show on October 23 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Register today at www.asivirtualtradeshow.com.
The following are the dates and locations for The ASI Show in 2014:
Orlando, January 5-7, 2014
Dallas, February 4-6, 2014
Long Beach, March 25-27, 2014
New York, April 3-4, 2014
Chicago, July 15-17, 2014