Is the ASI Promotional Products Model Doomed?
Is ASI Bad for Your Business?
In my opinion, I believe in the year 2020 (and going forward), sole reliance on the ASI business model by both Suppliers and Distributors is likely a bad move for your business. Here are my reasons and opinions.
First, a little background info.
We are a Promotional Products Supplier and over the past 25 years we have been in this business on both sides, first in the 90’s as a local Distributor and in the last 18 years as a Supplier. Here is my informed opinion.
Everything put forth in ASI’s marketing offers for Suppliers is “Pay for Play”. This means that every time a Distributor does an ASI search or sees a flyer on any info from ASI, the results that a Distributor sees have all been paid to be there.
“Nothing shown on search to Distributors is a result of a product’s popularity or uniqueness. It has been paid to be seen !”
This means that every Distributor using or seeing the ASI search or marketing is fed the same “Pay for Play” results as every other Distributor.
So, if a Distributor thinks they have seen a “special” or a “unique product” that no one else has seen and forwarded that “special” to their end-user, you can be sure that your competitor Distributor may very well be sending the exact same “special” to their end-users as well.
Distributors, ask yourself this: “What distinct advantage am I offering my client/prospect if all I use is the same info as my competitor uses?”
My Opinion: The future of our business is in your ability to break the ASI-only habit and think differently.
FACT: Today’s end user has an average age of 35 years while the average ASI member is 57, this means that the end user was raised on GOOGLE search as their go-to solution while the ASI member is more steeped in the old school ASI paradigm of catalogs and supplier/distributor sanctity. If this is true, you need to think more like the end user.
Look outside of ASI as well as inside.
ASI is for profit and will let seemingly anyone in. As a Promotional Products Supplier, I opted out of ASI specifically because I was seeing Chinese factories getting ASI numbers as Suppliers and even more outrageously as Distributors!
In fact, not 1 month ago I had a conversation with ASI membership on this very matter.
As you can imagine, I get solicited by ASI to join and about a month ago I found a “Supplier/Distributor” in California selling a similar product as what we import from our factory in China for a price that was so low it had to be a Chinese factory masquerading as a US Supplier/Distributor.
Their website was very poorly done, the site being full of typical language problems that are a tell-tale sign of a Chinese-owned company. Their email was answered at night (Chinese time) and their toll free # had a Chinese accented response. Go figure.
I called ASI and said simply: “If you keep asking me to return as a Supplier member, I need reassurance that this issue will disappear. They listened and as far as I can see, did nothing. They did not call me back, the Chinese site still has an ASI number. I had to ask myself… Why would this behavior happen?
My guess is for profit, pure and simple. In the last few years – when I was an ASI Supplier member – I paid ASI well over $60,000 a year on average.
This was for membership dues, trade shows and ad placement. Ad placement or “Pay for Play”…as an example, we paid $1500 a day for half of the banner ads for a single day. So $6000 a month for 1 days a week banner display on only 50% of each of that days search result.
“So for only 4x 1-day ads a month – with only HALF the Distributor views – the cost was $6000 in total per month.”
Remember – the cost incurred by any business ultimately gets passed along to the consumer. That would be YOU!
How Do You Break The ASI Habit?
Innovate or Die. How to apply Silicon Valleys Mantra to the Promotional Products Business.
In 2019 it appears that America’s local promotional product distributors may be losing the battle against the internet. What we have here is it a failure to innovate.
As a long time supplier to the promotional products industry I get a unique viewpoint into how the industry is functioning and what the distributor is thinking.
When we speak to distributors across the country we get a real sense of what they are thinking, what they are comfortable selling and how strong a relationship they have with their client the end-user.
25% of Distributors are ROCK STARS at Innovation!
25% of Distributors are great at presenting new ideas and pushing their clients into getting into the uncomfortable territory of new ideas and prices!
If you are one of the 25% you are already a ROCK STAR and do not need to read any further. Thanks.
“If however you are in the 75% then you should consider reading on…”
Innovate or Die!
Innovate or Die is a rallying cry found in many of the Tech sectors from around the world. This highly competitive environment prides itself on growth, sales and more importantly, fending off the competition by constantly innovating.
This innovate or die attitude has created and sustained a winning business formula for America’s tech sector. So why has the promotional products market lagged so far behind in innovation.
Local Distributor Vs. The internet. The real enemy is your own lack of innovation.
Distributors often complain that they can’t compete with the internet. I call BS.
The internet of promotional products is a giant, unfeeling and only marginally innovative online store. It’s weakness is your strength!
Have a look at the giant 4imprint, there is nothing particularily innovative about what they are selling. Pens, Mugs and Swivel Flash Drives abound.
Stop Presenting and SELLING the same Stuff as THEY SELL and you will WIN!
Sell The Sizzle Not Just The Steak
Too many distributors are busily try to sell the Steak…they go on and on about a products features and benefits (blah, blah, blah…) that they forget they need to sell the Sizzle.
The Sizzle in our business is the ability to sell to the END USER a product with their LOGO on it that catches they eyes of their client! Did you forget this?
In my opinion even if you ultimately sell your customer a crappy pen you should also show them something new and innovative. Here’s Why!
If you show them something new and innovative they will now think of YOU as innovative!
If you show them something new and innovative they may NOT GO TO THE INTERNET next time they look for something new and innovative!
If You Show It, Who Knows, The Customer May Actually Buy It!
The other positive side of the “innovate or die” approach to business is the fact that if you show them a product that you normally don’t they may actually buy it. OMG!
I am not saying that you should stop ASI altogether or that ASI is in any way to blame for the current state of the industry, but what I am saying and trying to do is start an industry dialog that gives you (the Distributor) a better insight into all of the factors that affect your business.
I feel it is important that for Distributors to succeed in the online age, they need to get out of their comfort zone and look in places outside of ASI for innovative product options. Do It Differently.
I firmly believe that the Distributor’s strongest hand to play is to offer their clients/end-users something different than their competitor is offering. Given the information outlined above, can you be innovative and competitive in 2019 using ASI as your ONLY source for promotional products?
Let’s talk. Call us at 1-888-908-1481 or email [email protected].