The Placebo Effect in Marketing

posted on April 16th, 2014 posted by Elite Worldwide Admin

By Jay Siff

A placebo is a substance containing no medication that’s given to reinforce a patient’s expectation that they’ll get well. Experiments prove it works. In one classic experiment, it was shown that students who drank an energy drink marked as regular price vs. discount price did better on tests! The lesson for you… our expectations influence our experience. So make sure your marketing sets high expectations for what you offer. But be sure you deliver what you promise!

This tip was brought to you by Jay Siff of Moving Targets, a company that offers a number of marketing services to help shop owners increase their car counts.  Click the links below to learn more about these industry acclaimed services.

Loyal Rewards Social Media Marketing Service

Loyal Rewards Email Marketing Service

Moving Targets New-Resident Direct Mail Service

Birthday Connections Neighborhood Direct Mail Service

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Rule #1: Know Thy Customer

posted on April 9th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

Institutional advertising programs like print media, TV & radio, and electronic media, all have their place. Clearly they can help you keep the name of your company at the top of your customers’ minds, which in the world of advertising, is a good place to be. But regardless of how much name awareness your company carries, one thing is for certain: You sell a service, not a product. If you sell an inexpensive commodity, like a box of soap, then you can bet that the overwhelming majority of your customers are going to make impulsive purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to purchasing an intangible, regardless of whether it’s a service being provided by a doctor, an accountant, an attorney or someone who is going to take care of your automobile.

There is no doubt about it: When people have to choose a service provider, their level of anxiety goes up, which gives them pause in making their decisions. So how do you influence people who are looking for a service provider? Do what so many shop owners fail to do as often as they should: Think like a customer.

First of all, your customers are no different than you are. They are most influenced by their friends and family. General Electric commissioned a study in which they discovered that word-of-mouth advertising is twice as effective as any other media when it comes to influencing customers’ purchasing decisions. Why? Because people are leery when it comes to believing what they see or read in paid ads, but they believe their friends. They have learned to trust that their friends don’t have hidden agendas.

The second point you’ll need to accept is that people do business with people, not with businesses. The more you can “humanize” your company, the more credible your brand will become. This is why so many of the Fortune 500 companies like to show supposed employees in their ads (You may remember such ads from Walmart, Southwest, or McDonald’s) and why many of these very same companies will air ads with the Chairman or CEO speaking to the camera (GM has had success using this approach). These are the companies that understand that people do business with people.

So, here’s a list of four easily implemented marketing strategies that will help inspire word-of-mouth advertising, and bring in more of the right kind of customers.

1. Humanize your business. Use images of you and your employees whenever possible. This will help transform your targeted customers’ perception of your business from a brick and mortar building, to a group of friendly service advisors and technicians that want to help them fix their vehicles.  Also, seeing your service advisors repeatedly in your advertising can actually create a sense of familiarity for your customers, in that they are now receiving their service recommendations from a smiling face that they’ve seen before. Not only will your ads more effectively draw your customers in, but the images will humanize your business.  Remember, you’re in a service business, not a product business.

2. If you haven’t already done so, get involved with at least one community organization. Regardless of whether it’s your Chamber of Commerce, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, etc., you need to become an integral part of your community. When you are “off the clock” at these events, you pose no sales threat to the people you’ll meet. This will allow you to build relationships in a matter of minutes, that otherwise would take considerably longer.  Every person you build a relationship with is another person who will think of you when it comes time to have his or her vehicle repaired.

3. Get involved with your local schools. You’ll find that there are plenty of opportunities to speak about auto safety, maintenance, choosing a repair facility, career opportunities, etc. Not only can this involvement have an amazing impact on both the faculty and the parents, but you’ll have a powerful impact on the students, who are your future customers. And don’t forget: If the student recognizes you as the “expert”, when they hear their parents talking about auto repair, they’ll become a salesperson for you and your shop.

4. Hospitals, fire departments and police departments are what I call “communities within communities.” You need to find ways of showing your appreciation for what these community heroes do for the town you live in. If you do, your name will become a household name within these smaller communities, and will eventually extend throughout your entire community as word of your support inevitably spreads.

In conclusion, if you were looking for a good doctor, you may very well search for one online. However, I suspect that before you made any final decision, you would ask your friends if they knew a doctor that they would recommend, or if they knew anything about the doctor that you were considering. In either case, the doctor that you would ultimately choose wouldn’t be the one that has done the best job of dumping money into advertising programs, but the one that has done the best job of touching the lives of other people.

If you agree with my conclusion, then why would you expect that things would be any different with a service business like yours? The best-kept secret of marketing an auto service business is to never forget that people do business with people, not with businesses, and people will always refer their friends to people … not to businesses. With every customer panel we have done at Elite, each panelist has always said the same two things: They are most influenced by what their friends say, and they are always drawn towards companies that are actively engaged in their communities. So if there’s one recommendation I can leave you with, it’s to make a point of meeting as many people as you can, and touching as many lives as you can along the way.

For additional help bringing more of the right customers into your shop, learn more about how Elite can help with auto repair marketing.

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Will you Adapt and Cope with Changing Technology?

posted on April 2nd, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

I remember my boss complaining that electronic ignition was going to destroy our business  back in the mid 70′s. “They are taking away our tune up business”, he would say.  In some ways, he was right.

Technology and change is something that we cannot control. In fact, “change” is perhaps the one thing we Can count on.  And, as in life, it’s how we deal with change that matters.

I guess the blacksmiths of late 1880′s viewed their future with apprehension. Those that aligned themselves with the horse and carriage faded into oblivion, those that viewed themselves as people who could adjust to the change, became our first mechanics.

We are at a critical crossroads again.  Hybrids, electric cars, hydrogen cars and other new technologies will bring great changes to the automotive world. How will we cope with these changes?

In the mid 1980′s, Smith Corona, a 100-year-old type writer company, vowed to never abandon what made them so successful; the typewriter. In 1995, Smith Corona filed for bankruptcy. Smith Corona looked to the past, when it should have been looking to the future: The Personal Computer Age.

To secure your future, look to the future.  There you will find opportunity.  Oh, it will be different, but there will be opportunity for those who adapt.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

-Charles Darwin

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

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The Best-Kept Secrets to Dealing with Sales Objections

posted on March 26th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

When it comes to dealing with objections, most service advisors shut down as soon as the customer says “It’s too much money”, or “I’d like to think it over.” There are a number of reasons why, but the single most common reason is that the advisors don’t know how to handle the objections. Here are what I have discovered to be the best-kept secrets when it comes to dealing with sales objections.

1. Accept the fact that the single greatest cause of sales objections is a poor sales presentation.  If you don’t follow the eight steps of the sales cycle (1. Build rapport, 2. Fact find, 3. Identify the need , 4. Identify the solutions, 5. Build interest & value, 6. Ask for the sale, 7. Close the sale, 8. Resell the service), if you rush through your presentation, or if you don’t believe in the service you’re recommending, then sales objections are bound to occur.  So the first place to start in handling objections is in mastering your presentation. In all cases, make sure that you build rapport with the customer, offer options whenever possible, build interest and value in the benefits of your service rather than the parts and labor, and give the prices last.

2. When you hear an objection, it’s a cardinal rule that you need to listen, learn and be thankful. When a customer gives you any kind of sales objection, they’re telling you that they’re interested, but there is something that is standing in the way of them authorizing the service. As sales professionals, we need to be thankful that they are expressing their concern rather than just leaving. First and foremost, when a customer voices a concern, you should never interrupt them. The more they talk, the more comfortable they will feel with you, and the more you will learn about the questions and concerns they have. You should also make a point to never disagree, because all that will do is alienate the customer by proving them wrong. You may win the battle of words, but you’ll lose the sale. Instead, you should say something like, “Well Mr. Jones, based on what you’ve just told me, I can see why you would feel that way. Let me tell you what we’ve discovered …” .

3. Follow the Elite 5-step procedure for dealing with sales objections:

  • 1.) Hear the customer out.
  • 2.) Feed the objection back to the customer to assure you understand them: “So what you’re telling me Mr. Jones is that you feel you can get the same job done for less somewhere else. Am I correct?”
  • 3.) Respond to the objection. This is where you answer their questions and resolve the customer’s  concerns.
  • 4.) Confirm your response:  “So does this all make sense now Mr. Jones?” As soon as they agree, you should ask for the sale again.
  •  5.) Change the subject: “Now will you need a ride back to your office?”

4. Know when to quit. One of the most common questions we get at our Masters Course for service advisors is, “When do you quit when a customer continues to show interest?” My philosophy is pretty simple. If I sense that the customer is becoming frustrated in the least bit, I quit. If I sense that I’m becoming frustrated in the least bit, I quit, because I’d never want that frustration to show through to the customer. And lastly, when I feel the customer fully understands everything that has been recommended, and why, when I have answered all of their concerns in a professional way, and they have still decided to pass on my recommendations, I quit.

5. Record yourself. One of the best tools you can use as a service advisor is a digital voice recorder, and one of the best habits that you can develop is recording your presentations and then reviewing them as soon as possible.  When reviewing your voice recordings, pay close attention to your tonality, your listening skills, the delivery of your presentation and whether or not you followed the sales cycle. Just assure that you abide by any local, state and federal laws regarding the recording of others, regardless of whether the customer is at the counter or on the phone.

6. Lastly, bear in mind that service advisors are sales people, not clerks. It is the job of an advisor to help customers make difficult decisions that are in their best interest.  If you never put money ahead of people, if you sell from your heart rather than based on the dollars, and if you follow these recommendations, then a number of things will occur.  Beyond just becoming a better service advisor, you’ll be able to easily handle those sales objections, and most importantly: you will be helping a lot of people at the same time.

For additional help increasing your shop’s sales and CSI scores, learn more about Elite’s industry acclaimed Masters Service Advisor Training Course.

In: sales
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When Saving the Customer Money…Backfires!

posted on March 19th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

A few months back a customer came in with a broken seat frame on her Honda Pilot. The car had over 150,000 miles on it and the seat frame broke through use.  Replacing the seat frame, with labor, would be well over $1100.  My foreman recommended welding the frame, saving the customers hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  Two months later the car returned with the seat frame broken in a different spot.

Explaining this to the customer was difficult. She paid for a repair and wanted satisfaction. The service advisor informed her that the seat frame broke in a different spot and that we were looking to save her money by welding the frame, as opposed to replacing it. She asked why she was not given a choice.

After a few go-arounds with the customer, the service advisor told her we would credit what she paid on the weld repair toward the job of replacing the seat frame. She was okay with this.

The lesson here is to clearly explain all of the options to the customer. Don’t let your first inclination to save the customer money keep you from letting the customer decide what the repair should be.  Present all the options, the pros and cons, and always have the customer involved in the decision making process. You can certainly give your opinion, but you should not decide for the customer. Plus, we need to clearly state all the options on the invoice and review again at the time of car delivery.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

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Are You Ready for the Surge in Business?

posted on March 12th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

This past winter will no doubt go in the history books as one of the toughest on record.  Many shops, mine included, lost 6 or more days of work in February alone.  I don’t want to think about the loss of revenue; I’d rather put it behind me and move on.  There are some things that we cannot control, Mother Nature being one of them.

However, as with all adversity, it’s not about getting knocked down that counts, it’s what you do when you get back on your feet.  All indicators are pointing to a very busy spring. Will you be ready and cash in?

Speak to all customers starting now about the safety of their cars after a tough winter. Put together a promotion to inspect cars for winter related vehicle damage. Here are a few tips I put together to think about:

-  Every car that hit a pothole should have at least a safety check and alignment check.  Check shocks, struts, springs and other undercarriage components.

-  Carefully inspect tires and wheels, too.

-  Think about selling alignments, wheel balance, etc.

-  Every car that drove in snow and ice storms need to have a safety check and the transmission fluid inspected.  I saw with my own eyes countless cars with the drive wheels spinning out of control.  This overheats transmission fluid and may damage transmissions and clutches.

-  Salt and other chemicals used on the roads will takes its toll on many cars.

-  Neglected maintenance, such as overdue oil changes, will become an issue – educate customers.

-  Wiper blades took a beating – should I say more on this subject?

I am sure you can think of more things, too. The point is you need to inform customers and take care of their cars.

Take a proactive approach, rather than a reactive approach. In other words, don’t wait for the customer to come to you with a problem; inform and inspect.

A doctor once told me that the time to start thinking about taking care of your body is not on the way to the hospital in an ambulance.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

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Ethical Sales and Full Disclosure

posted on March 5th, 2014 posted by Bob Cooper

I am sure you will agree that in our industry there are a number of unwritten rules that shop owners have followed for decades. They know that they have to hire gifted technicians, stay at the forefront of vehicle technology, and can never jeopardize their relationships with their customers; just to name a few. Unfortunately, there is another rule that far too many shop owners (and service advisors) have believed in for decades. It’s a rule that’s been passed down from one generation to the next; the one that says that whenever you have first-time customers in your shop, and you discover that their vehicles need a lot of work, you are better off holding back on some of the recommendations.

The basis for this belief is that with first-time customers, too many recommendations will scare them off. These owners and advisors typically feel that they are better off just recommending the repairs or services that the customer brought the vehicle in for, building a relationship with the customer, and then discussing the other required services during the next visit. There is no question that these owners and advisors typically have good intentions. They believe in their hearts that since they are not trying to sell their customers something they don’t need, they’re not crossing any ethical lines. Unfortunately, that’s the furthest from the truth.

When customers entrust you with their automobiles, they have a presumption of full disclosure and honesty. Rightfully or wrongfully, I am sure you will agree that your customers also have an expectation that every time their vehicles enter one of your service bays, your technicians will immediately pick up on everything that needs to be done.  So do this…

Have a shop meeting and pull up an extra chair. Tell your entire staff that the empty chair represents the spirit of your customer, and that everything that is discussed during the meeting should be able to be said in front of the customer without hesitation. Start the meeting by reinforcing your commitment to both ethics and customer service. You should then review your vehicle inspection process. I strongly recommend using well-constructed vehicle inspection forms, and taking advantage of a variety of those forms: A form for complete vehicle inspections, a safety inspection form, forms for the inspection of specific systems, etc. You should then let all of your employees know that every vehicle will be inspected in a manner that complies with your company policies, that all discoveries are to be documented, and that the inspecting technician is to sign the completed inspection form.

Once the completed form is turned over to the advisor, all of the recommended repairs and services are to be estimated, and everything is to be fully disclosed to your customers. Not only is this the professional thing to do, but equally as important, it’s the ethical thing to do. Your customers have the right to know about everything that you have discovered, and they have the right to know how much the repairs and services will cost if authorized.

I am sure you will agree; when it comes to ethics, there are no exceptions. Yet many shop owners and advisors will argue that if they have a vehicle that is worth $1,000, and they discover that it needs $5,000 worth of work, then there is no sense in putting together an estimate. At Elite, we adamantly disagree. The vehicles belong to your customers, it’s their money, and it’s their choice. Add to that, just because an advisor feels that a vehicle is not worth fixing, it doesn’t mean that the customer will feel the same way, as the vehicle may hold a special place in the customer’s heart.

So mandate complete and professional vehicle inspections that meet with your policies, and insist on full disclosure to all of your customers. They may not buy everything that your advisor has recommended, but a few things are for certain: Your customers will know about everything that needs to be done, you’ll have detailed records, your sales and profits will go up, and you will be doing the right things for the right reasons. If you follow this advice, and if you never put money ahead of people, you can’t lose.

For additional help increasing your shop’s sales, learn more about the Elite Masters Service Advisor Training Course

In: sales
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10 Ways to Lose Employees

posted on February 26th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

One of the things that I have learned over the years is how much influence the boss or manager has on morale and employee retention. And looking back, I have made mistakes in that department.  I had to take a long hard look at myself and realize that in order to maintain a healthy work atmosphere, I had to set the tone and the mood for the shop. My actions and my mood, whether happy or sad, spread through the shop like a virus. Now, that virus can be bad or it can be good.

So, I put together a few things to consider that have an impact on your employees. Oh, by the way, there are reasons why shop owners and managers don’t walk around each day with a big fat smile on their faces: bounced checks, comebacks, taxes, rent increases, workers comp increases, family issues, on and on. But, the reality is, those in a  position of leadership have an obligation to their employees to have a positive influence on them, and on their families as well.

10 Ways to Lose Employees:

1. Never say good morning or good night to an employee or ask how he or she is doing.

2. Never ask an employee about their family or what they did over the weekend.

3. Only address an employee when he or she has a comeback or made a mistake.

4. Never ask an employee their opinion on any matter.

5. Never smile.

6. Speak in a negative tone constantly.

7. Never give praise.

8. Never recognize them for their accomplishments.

9. Never sit down with your employees and have an open discussion.

10. Walk around like you are a cast member from “The Walking Dead”.

Well, there you have it. There are more items on this list, so feel free to add your own “Ways to Lose Employees.”  We can all learn.

Oh, by the way, have I asked you lately; “How’s the family doing?”

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.


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The Internet Has Changed the Way We Do Business

posted on February 19th, 2014 posted by Joe Marconi of Elite Worldwide

The other day, Mike, one of my service advisors, gave a customer a price on tires.  She then reached into her pocketbook, pulled out her iPad, and said, “Give me a minute”. After a few minutes of surfing, she said to Mike, “Well, the price you gave me is ok; there is one tire shop in Danbury that has those same tires for $15.00 less per tire. Can you match the price?”

Sound familiar? You bet. We have all been down this road, and that road has no end to it. Look at your new car dealers. The days of the traditional car sales are over.  Many new car dealers no longer pay commissions to salespeople. Why? The margins have shrunk due to competing dealers giving prices online, and so many car dealers competing for a share of the same pie.

While I don’t think the internet will have the same impact on our industry, it has impacted us to a degree. And we must learn to deal with it, not fight it.  You need to bring value to your customers. Don’t enter the price game, you will lose.  You need to be competitive, but you need to be profitable too. Making a sale for the sake of a sale, without turning a profit, is financial suicide.

Promote benefits, not price. Create your unique value proposition: Ask yourself, “Why should the customer buy from you?” Let those shops that don’t understand this engage in a price war. As they fail, it will only make us stronger.

How did Mike handle the question about “Matching the price”? He simply said, “Well Miss Smith, let’s review some of the benefits. Our tires come with a road hazard warranty, road side assistance, lifetime tire rotation and flats fixed free. Plus, Danbury is 45 minutes away, if you ever have a problem with the tires, do you really want to travel to 45 minutes to shop where they don’t know who you are?”

She looked down at her iPad, looked back up at Mike, and said, “Ok, makes sense, put the tires on.”

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi. Joe is the co-founder of, and one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners through the Elite Coaching Program.

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Print is Still Number One

posted on February 12th, 2014 posted by Elite Worldwide Admin

By Jay Siff

Traditional offline marketing, including direct mailers, was a $93.6 billion industry in 2012,” according to a recent study by professors John Deighton of Harvard University and Peter Johnson of Columbia University. “Online marketing, which includes electronic ads, targeted emails and revenues from selling information to brokers, is about a $62 billion industry.” Businesses spend more on print because it generally yields better results. But combining direct mail with social and digital marketing usually yields far better results than just using a single medium.

This tip was brought to you by Jay Siff of Moving Targets, a company that offers a number of marketing services to help shop owners increase their car counts.  Click the links below to learn more about these industry acclaimed services.

Loyal Rewards Social Media Marketing Service

Loyal Rewards Email Marketing Service

Moving Targets New-Resident Direct Mail Service

Birthday Connections Neighborhood Direct Mail Service

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