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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Zombies Ahead!

Here in Austin, Texas, the moto is "Keep Austin Weird". We pride ourselves on standing out :-)
But one person in particular stood out so much that his/her words were put in lights. On January 19th a portable traffic sign at Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street, near the University of Texas at Austin, was hacked into. This hacker happily announced to the driving public that there were "Zombies Ahead".

On his drive in to work
Chris Lippincott, director of media relations for the Texas Department of Transportation, got his first look at the warning sign. His reply? "It was clever, kind of cute, but not what it was intended for." I like to think he got a pretty good chuckle as well.

According to the blog (post: Inside Programmable Road Signs on Tuesday, 20 January 2009), some commercial road signs, including those manufactured by IMAGO's ADDCO division, can be easily altered because their instrument panels are frequently left unlocked and their default passwords are not changed. AND they supply a play by play as to exactly how these signs can be hacked and how to reset the default password. Oops! Watch out zombies! Something worse might be coming!

ADDCO Chief Operating Officer Brian Nicholson told that the company intends to send out notices to their customers regarding the potentially dangerous security flaw. As of yet, Austin officials do not know the identity of the hacker but I firmly believe that the hacker is none other than the person who placed the post on i-hacked. Add one and one... you will generally get two.

As an Austinite, I simply find it funny. Sure, hackers could pull some potentially catastrophic trick with these things but, in the interest of "Keeping Austin Weird", alerting drivers of the danger of Zombies Ahead is a small drop in the bucket.

For more information about this story, you can visit and the link for i-Hacked.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Blog Tag!

Tagged by :

Okay... so here's the rules:

  • Link your original tagger. (Check)
  • List these rules on your blog. (check)
  • Share 7 facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird. (Check)
  • Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs. (check)
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter. (check)

Now that I'm it, I suppose it's time for the random facts!

1. My mother named me Gwendolyn Dawn just so she could call me Wendy. Everyone knows its Wendy... :-)

2. I have 4 birds and they have this annoying habit of chatting while I'm trying to watch TV. All other times they're as quiet as mice. I think they just love the TV. Then again, they may be trying to intimidate the TV. Who knows?

3. I have lived in approximately 43 states. At this point, moving anywhere is a thought that causes me to shiver in fear.

4. My fingers are double jointed. I can twist them, pull them all the way to the back of my hand, and touch my nose while sticking out my tongue. Oh, wait... that didn't really apply did it?

5. Disney movies make me cry. What a sap, right? In my defense all I can say is they are really touching most of the time! Does that qualify as a good excuse?

6. I love Twitter! It rocks! I suppose that makes me a twitterholic, but I can think of worse things to be addicted to.

7. I attend school 3/4 time, work full time, and tread the path of the single parent. I can whip up mac-n-cheese in 7 minutes flat! Clean the house in a single bound! And finish my homework at the speed of light! Okay... speed of light might be stretching it a bit... but not by much :-)

And now the real fun begins! I get to tag 7 people who are, as of yet, unaware that I am on the prowl *rubbing hands together and smiling slyly*

And the nominees are (drum roll please!):

Venture Level: This is a great blog by Romil Patel! He covers a wealth of information for, , , , and

The Marketing Spot : This is a great blog for small business marketing ideas and advice by Jay Ehret (and guest bloggers). Every small business owner can benefit from this blog!

Jim Kukral: Jim is a veteran online marketer, web-entrepreneur, speaker and award-winning blogger who focuses on creative marketing ideas and strategies.

Chris Brogan: Chris Brogan has been blogging for several years. His blog is full of information pertaining to all aspects of business, blogging, and social networking.

What Works for Business: Daniel Kehrer shares his view of several different aspects of business including Marketing solutions, retail, and so mush more. I highly recommend this blog!

Click to Client: All I can say is wow! This blog is a terrific place to gain information on social networking and what it can do for you. It also humbly reminds us that social networking cannot succeed unless we are committed to it!

The Franchise King: Joel Libava has been termed the franchise king. And thought his is a name that portends huge responsibility, he takes it well. Joel enjoys the chance to help others realize the dream of being a business owner.

Now I am off to let them all know they have been tagged and are now "it"!

Update: All the wonderful bloggers on my list have now been tagged via blog!

Thanks for playing blog tag and I look forward to seeing you again!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Importance of Marketing: Part IV

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

Welcome to the third part of my cheap marketing strategies tips! Today we're going to discuss contests and freebies. I can already hear the groans! Freebies? Are you kidding me? Don't you realize we're in a recession?!?!?!? Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do realize that and I also know that every penny counts - especially right now. However, freebies don't have to be expensive. Think about it... the price of a cup of coffee every day for one week = a $10 gift card to Starbucks. If this free incentive is applied towards a certain purchased amount of your product, you have already gained that $10.00 back!

An ebook also makes a great freebie. And no, it doesn't have to be 100 pages long! Just something that benefits others in some way. Offer a how to ebook... a small business marketing tips ebook... 10 ways to save money in an uncertain economy... the possibilities are endless. You can save money by creating the ebook yourself. Sure it takes a bit of research on your part and even a little of your time, but people like FREE and your time is well spent.

What about a lunch/dinner for 2 on us type of contest? You can pre-buy a gift card to a decent restaurant (not McDonald's! Try Chilies) and offer those who make a purchase from your company a chance to win. Get creative! There are a thousand ways you can increase your sales with very little money.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Importance of Marketing: Part III

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

Small businesses must be extra imaginative with their marketing efforts in order to attract customers and get them to open their wallets. Even more challenging is that most entrepreneurs have shallow pockets and shoppers are being more selective as a result of the sluggish economy and volatile stock market. This means that businesses have to get more creative while trying to save a few dollars themselves. So far we have covered WOMM and email marketing as cheap and effective ways to market your business. Another cheap but effective way to market your company is business cards.

Business cards are the most basic and versatile of all marketing tools. Always use them and hand out two at a time, but make sure they are effective. Just like the name of your business, consider choices and design your business card. Does it clearly state what business you are in and what you do? Is it clear and legible?Think of these as inexpensive billboard for your company. Your business cards have your company name, contact information etc., on them. Make sure to include your email and web address. There is a neat feature about business cards, they are two sided. Use the reverse side to list your products, services or even a special offer. Always carry them with you and pass them out. Even if your business is Internet based, you should still have them. If people don't have your web address in their hands, how will they get to your site? Believe it or not, there are web sites you can go to for free business cards. All you pay is shipping! You can also print your own cards from your PC, but professional printing is recommended, and for what they can do, business cards are very cheap. Listed below are a few places where you can get very cheap but quality business cards.

Vista Prints

Free Printable Business Cards

Giggle Print


Check out Blogs Directory

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Importance of Marketing: Part II

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

The bread and butter of any company (as stated previously) are its customers. A sure way to keep them coming back (and sending people your way) is to offer customer rewards. When customers feel appreciated, they will keep coming back. We know you appreciate your customers... but do they know that? Try implementing a loyalty program that offers returning customers a discount of some kind and offer first time customers a reward for using you over the competition. I don't mean gift baskets either! Those are great, but what do customers want more than anything? They want to get what they want and save some money! Offer first time customer incentives like $10.00 off their order, or 5% off orders over a predetermined amount.

Create a newsletter with money saving tips, tricks and offers. Spotlight the best selling items and offer incentives to buy; 1/2 price shipping on a specified date, 15% off, etc. E-mail this newsletter to those customers who opted to receive e-mail from your company. Simple right? But you would be surprised at how many companies do not utilize e-mail to its fullest potential. E-mail marketing is flexible, cost effective, easy to measure, and high impact. You can easily drive traffic to your website and reach a large geographic audience. This type of marketing is great for keeping in touch with customers and creating new prospects. It can be used to announce new products, discounts, and a plethora of additional information. It's free, it's easy, and you already have the contacts!


Friday, January 16, 2009

The Importance of Marketing

Low Cost Marketing Strategies

Marketing is critical to the success of any business, whether a new business, small business, or a business that has long since established its identity. The simple fact is that without marketing, your business is losing the one thing that keeps it going: its customers. Many businesses (especially small businesses) often frown at the amount of money it takes to get the company name out and falling from customer lips. But, despite the old adage that "it takes money to make money", these days there are several marketing advantages that don't have to cost an arm and a leg. As always, yard signs are a cheap advantage over the competition, but there are other alternatives as well. If you are currently working on a marketing budget, there are a few quick and cheap ways to pump up your visibility.

The first marketing strategy I would like to visit is Word-of-Mouth-Marketing (WOMM).
What is word of mouth marketing, you ask? Well, the phrase alone should speak for its self but...

Word-of-Mouth-Marketing is simply the passing of information from person to person via e-mail, conversation, phone, etc. With the internet now playing a huge roll in social and business networking, Word-of-mouth marketing has grown to encompass such sites as MySpace, FaceBook, Digg, Delicious... and the list goes on. With the increasing use of the Internet as a research and communications platform, word of mouth has become an even more powerful and useful resource for consumers and marketers. Think about it. Word-of-Mouth-Marketing doesn't depend on the economical situation, fluctuation, or even what your competators are doing. Better yet, it doesn't have to cost you anything except a bit of dedication, time, and patience. If you think of Word-of-Mouth-Marketing as a long term goal, you'll have a pretty clear indication of how far it can get you. Cultivated properly, you can increase your prospects, your customer base, and your profits simply because of your reputation and knowledge.

Take a moment and ask yourself this: Are you utilizing the vast tools offered by the internet? Have you created a business blog that informs the public about your company and what you do? Published articles about your company that share the daily going ons? How to video's? The vast array of possibilities are virtually endless. Create and expand your social and business network by joining different online communities. Most of these communities allow you to join and create your profile for no cost and give you a free blog spot. Sharing what goes on everyday in your office (or having your employees share) not only opens new avenues of communication, but allows customers (or potential customers) to see that you're just everyday folks...just like them.

You don't have to be a marketing guru to reach your customers and you don't have to spend thousands of dollars either. Stay tuned for more money saving marketing strategies....


Thursday, January 15, 2009

What a Pickle!

Attention sign-spinners and mascots: Franklin city leaders are not amused by your wacky roadside antics.

Noshville employee Benjamin Reed, dressed as the Noshville Pickle, waves at passing cars outside of the new Noshville location off Carothers Parkway in Franklin in December.

In Franklin Tennessee there appears to be some debate about the constitutional right of a pickle to stand in front of Noshville Deli off Carothers Parkway "spinning" a sign. For those of you unfamiliar with "sign spinning" it is a new advertising trend where companies hire people to spin signs (signs are held or mounted on a pole that can be twisted or turned in a circle) while dancing, waving, etc. on a busy corner or in front of a business. I'm sure you have all seen them... those people dressed in mascot costumes dancing on the side of the road with a sign waving at you to get your attention. Sign laws in Franklin do not permit sign holders to stand in a public right of way, even if it happens to be on their "legal" property.

MGM business events hires people to spin signs all over the Nashville area. And while Mike Mello intended to take this concept national, it appears that he may be spinning his thumbs instead. He said city officials threatened his team with fines this year and said they consider the spinning signs the same as a moving sign — which Franklin does not permit. Mike Mello, owner of MGM Business Events, says, "It's unconstitutional. If we're on private land, why can't we spin a sign? What's next — we can't wear a shirt with Nike on it? I'm really frustrated with this particular city."

Assistant City Administrator, Vernon Gerth, intends to see that the sign laws are more clearly defined in an attempt to "provide an ordinance that provides for an equitable display of signage by all of our businesses". According to Gerth, current sign ordinances "do not adequately define and regulate the different types" of temporary signs. In basic English this means that the sign laws in Franklin, Tennessee are about to get stricter. How does this tie in with the sign pickle? Obviously Mr. Pickle is considered a temporary or moving sign and, by Franklin sign laws, temporary and moving signs are taboo. It appears that Mr. Pickle is breaking the law by standing in front of Noshville Deli! In an attempt to comply with the temporary sign ordinance, Glen Smith (the restaurant's director of operations), escorted Mr. Pickle from the sidewalk in front of his establishment.

All I have to say about this sign quandary is: watch out Vlasic Pickles! Make sure the stork returns home because if he's caught standing in front of a business or the side of the road in Franklin, he'll become a criminal. Oh, and Mr. Peanut... hobble on home... you are not welcome in Franklin, Tennessee. I know, I know... you're both accredited with international acclaim but, with all due respect, you're both mascots that move. By law you are now considered temporary moving signage.


Based upon "Franklin sign laws have businesses in a pickle
Placard-spinners, characters irk leaders"
By Kevin Walters • THE TENNESSEAN • January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

In the wonderful world of marketing it helps to think outside of the box. After all, just about everything you can conceive of has been tried in one form or another and to avoid the same old thing, we have to get creative. We have to take what we know works and figure out how to present it in a NEW way. This is a never ending battle and one of the reasons corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing strategies. While browsing the web and researching sign strategy, I ran across an article that nearly knocked me out of my seat. Not only was this "outside the box", it was bold, daring and (believe it or not) a community service.

Dan O'Connor, a real estate investor who spends his spare time
developing cutting edge systems to help other real estate investors, decided to launch a fairly peculiar marketing strategy not too long ago. He termed this "Operation Bandit Sign Traffic". As everyone who is familiar with bandit signs (yard signs) knows, it has become illegal to place signs at most intersections. But what if the signs were placed at the intersections in a way that completely looped around the laws? Is there actually a way to do that without getting into trouble or fined? Obviously so. Mr. O'Connor jumped through the loops when he hired homeless people who were panhandling the intersections to hold his signs. Basically, he put the homeless people to work and gained an advertising advantage all in one surprising sweep. Not only that, but the media got involved when Mr. O'Connor called to inform them of his intention to employ the homeless as a community service project for the day.

It appears that Mr. O'Connor's bold strategy was a huge success. He was able to net $37,000 in profit in 10 days, attract 5 qualified tenant buyers, get his company name on peoples lips, gainfully employ a large population of homeless people in a day AND gain recognition through the media. Flabbergasted, I stared at the screen of my computer, blinked a few times to ensure my eyes were working properly, then silently congratulated his ability to think THAT far outside of the box. I can honestly say that, in all my years of reading and researching marketing ideas and strategies, I would never have dreamed of anything like this. Just goes to show what thinking outside of the box can accomplish!

If you are interested in reading more about "Operation Bandit Sign Traffic", click here.

As always, thanks for stopping by!


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