Community Involvement (Yes…that is also marketing!)

Rhonda Hiltbrand(Marketing Essentials of the Highly Successful Shop Owner – Part One)

One of my readers has been disappointed in Internet marketing and asked me to write about it.  Below are some feelings he has on the subject; (I am sharing this with his permission).

“The past eight plus years has been one big internet marketing experiment for me. One internet concept after another promised great things and I feel none of it actually delivered. I paid money for a new website and was told this would generate a lot of leads for me. There have been the rare occasion when the website has been beneficial but basically for a service industry like mine, the cost of the website has not generated enough customers to make it worth the price tag. I feel people use it mostly to look up my phone number and hours of operation. It is more or less the “yellow pages” now. Of course, The Yellow Pages was pricy too and didn’t really bring me new customers either.

I post something to Facebook at least once a week and get a few likes but that is from current customers or family and friends. I tried email marketing but the report shows that my regular customers may look at it but then again, they may not. I am starting to realize that certain times of the year I get deletes more than I get viewed. Help me, Rhonda! What can I do?”

I spent time with this reader and gave him some ideas and I thought my other readers might also feel the same frustration he is. I decided to take the next few “Help Me Rhonda” articles to answer this in depth. I discussed this with my staff as well and I will share some helpful tips. If you have been a reader of mine for a long time…you know I always recommend that you “mix it up” as different people want different contact points.

I thought about my most successful customers… those who never suffer from slow times and in fact are booking out weeks in advance. They certainly do have a vast marketing mix and have some other unique concepts they do on a CONSISTENT basis. Here is the first common thread these shops do to stay at the top of their game!

These shop owners participate actively and personally in what we at News Works call, “Community Marketing”. The one common factor with all very successful shops is they are the backbone of their community by sponsoring events. If they sponsor, for example, a sports team. They don’t stop there… they are active with that team. They celebrate their successes by personally attending a few games and treating the team to ice cream or pizza or have a BBQ for them.

  • They are active in their local schools. They hold art contests and give it a theme and pass out trophies.
  • They have car care clinics.
  • They donate a car to a needy family.
  • They are involved in Toys for Tots.

You get the idea. They are well known in their community by sharing themselves. They prove they really care… not by just saying it (though they do that too and put the information in their newsletter… not in a bragging way but thanking others for their participation) but by doing. This creates a family friendly environment with free flowing information that can’t be deleted or scrolled past. It builds a business that will bring in the income you’ve been wanting. People like to do business with a business that cares!

Rhonda Hiltbrand
News Works Marketing


I was driving down the interstate the other evening with a semi behind me and two on either side of me when a deer stepped out into traffic. Thankfully we all stopped in time and the other three lanes of traffic across the median did the same! The deer was safe and so were we all! Whew! The next day on Facebook a post pictured two deer checking their mailbox pulling out a letter. It was another thank you note from the auto collision shop. I had to laugh. It is all a matter of perspective.

I have customers who love the snow and ice of winter because they say it brings them much needed business during the winter…and I have those who say their business slumps during the winter because their customers don’t drive as much and don’t need service as often. Again…it is a matter of perspective. For my customers in the warmer climates all year round you would think it would be “steady as she goes” but not always.

What is the important thing here? To know your customers’ habits. I was so surprised to learn recently that Walmart depends on weather forecasts to stock their shelves!

Walmart Is Mining Weather Data to Increase Sales: 4 Weirdest Examples
People don’t like to eat berries when it’s windy
Oct 31, 2014, 1:59 pm EST | By Karl Utermohlen, InvestorPlace Writer
Walmart (WMT) is now using the weather to increase store sales.

The retailer partnered up with the Weather Co. to mine weather data that will help it determine when certain foods are more popular.
Walmart has found thousands of correlations between weather trends and the popularity of certain foods. Here are four of the weirdest ones:
• Berries are at their peak in popularity when there are low winds with temperatures below 80 degrees.
• People like to eat steak when it’s warm (but not too hot) with high winds and no rain.
• On the other hand, ground beef is more likely to be purchased with higher temperatures, low wind and sunny conditions.
• Salads are also popular with low winds and temperatures over 80 degrees!

If you experience a winter sales slump just contact me! We can help!
Rhonda Hiltbrand
News Works Marketing

Tell to Sell…Not To Give The Job To The Competition!

Everyone seems to be looking for a “deal” these days and my customers get frustrated by this just like I do! Yes…I have customers also looking for a cheaper means to market and yet they get upset when their customers look for cheaper auto repair. It seems to be an epidemic and most businesses are feeling the pain of it all.

I get many calls from my customers who tell me they recommend services that their customers refuse and they just know they are “price shopping” after the shop took their time to inspect the vehicle, then spelled it all out for the customer.

I hear this so much and I know I’ve written about it before but I’ll say it again. DON’T SPELL IT ALL OUT! Some of my shop owners have shown me an itemized list of each and every part with the cost included that they have given to their customer. That sure makes it easy for a customer to price shop, doesn’t it?

If you tell them they need a brake job and they ask how much, of course you have to tell them before they will let even you do the job. Give them the total cost, not an itemized cost. You don’t have to hand them an itemized list for them to take with them and give to other shops hoping for a lower price! Almost any shop can cut a price here or there to come in less expensive under those circumstances. They can even use poor quality parts to get the price down and the customer in many cases doesn’t even think about that!

If you are awarded the job, then you can hand them the itemized list when the job is complete. Remember, you are selling more than just parts and service…you are selling value which includes a great warranty and quality parts and certified technicians. If a customer grumbles about pricing, tell them it includes quality all the way around and parts that will last more than a few months. Sure…they can always get it cheaper somewhere or other…but in the long run they may end up paying a whole lot more because quality lasts…cheap doesn’t.

Hang in there!
Rhonda Hiltbrand
News Works Marketing Group

The Lost Leader – “One Hit Wonder” or “Future Gold Nugget?”

When it comes to prospecting I personally use direct mail that is extremely targeted.  I have to market from coast to coast so I have found this method works best for me. It gives me a better chance of getting “gold nugget” customers because I am able to pick and choose exactly what I was looking for.

Referrals are a great way to get new customers too. Sometimes those referrals just want my “lost leader” or our Mystery Gift Cards. I am happy to oblige because I am so thankful my current customers think enough of my company and our Mystery Gift Cards to tell others about them with enthusiasm.  I am glad they work!  It is also a means to offer the new customer the opportunity to experience News Works Marketing for the first time.  They usually come back for more Mystery Gift Cards and/or try our other services and products so I feel the experience for them was good.

I know several of my customers tell me that their oil change is their lost leader.  When they get a customer to try them for the first time it is often just for an oil change at the special website price for first-time customers.  The customer found them doing an organic search.  The customer comes in, gets the oil change, and to the shop owners’ dismay, they never come back again.

Don’t take it to heart too much…and don’t give up!  I’m sure your counter staff gave them a wonderful experience. Many times those responding to a special offer will only go to places where they have an amazing coupon…then next time they need an oil change they do the search again for yet another coupon somewhere else.  When the economy gets “normal” again they may remember you for the great experience and return.  Meanwhile, keep in touch with them now and then.  Send them a “thank you” and perhaps enclose a coupon for the next time.  Send them a text message now and then or an email if you have it.

Meanwhile, do like I do.  Be happy they found you and be happy they tried you.  If they were referred to you by another customer, be very happy your customers think enough of you to refer you!

I also feel that one day, when you least expect it, that one-hit wonder may be a gold nugget customer!  Hang in there…it can and does happen!

Rhonda Hiltbrand
News Works Marketing Group

Reward Your Customers!

One of our customers, John Zadrovitz or as we like to call him, Johnny Z of South Trail Tire and Auto in Florida has come up with a great idea to engage his customers! He said I could share this with all of you in case you want to try it too!

Each time he uses his credit card he builds up “rewards.” He said instead of rewarding himself he uses the cards to reward his customers instead. Look how he has rewarded them so far…and he already has a great idea for Labor Day…a smoker and a rack of ribs! He says they appreciate this so much more than pulling out a card to swipe to build up points or taking endless surveys.

Take a look at what he has done so far:


If you are rewarding your customers in a fun, engaging way, please let me know and I’ll share it with others too!

Rhonda Hiltbrand
News Works Marketing Group

Being In The Know

Unless your customers are all car enthusiasts (and some of my shop owners only have that type of customer) they really would love a car that never needs service or repair. That is their true WANT. Since that is not currently possible (and I’m glad as we would both be out of business) we know that the majority want a car that gets them from point A to point B and back again safely.

You know, as a shop owner and/or service advisor what drivers need to have done to their vehicles to make that happen. You go to great lengths to remind them when they need to see you and what they need to have done next time they come in. You offer inspections so they stay safe on the road…some of you do that as a courtesy.

So far, it is easy. Now comes the hard part…getting your customer to WANT what they NEED. You are not alone as that is every business owners’ (and service advisors’) dilemma! What is the best way to accomplish this? Here are a few suggestions that are working for my customers:

• Direct mail is working very well these days…even better than in years gone by. Why? Because it is a relief to consumers to look at it on their time and not be bombarded with emails. Us business owners may be at our computers all day looking at emails and social media, etc, but many consumers don’t get to view their personal inbox or Facebook page until after hours…when they are tired. It is too easy to hit “delete” or “scroll down.” I am guilty of this myself even when it is good stuff that I’m interested in…I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to look at it all!
• Use attention grabbing humor! If you can make your customers chuckle, you can get them to keep on reading your message! I have one customer that uses a funny postcard each July 4. We have made him everything from Uncle Sam to George Washington and are racking our brains for a different look this year. He has a customer who takes that postcard and puts it on his truck and drives it around town for all to see. Now that is engaging your customer!
• When a customer can read on their time what services they need to have done on a quarterly basis in small bites, with a dash of humor and imagination, they learn about automotive service and repair in a fun way.

Try it! If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me!


Tell & Sell

We all know the economy is tough right now.  We all know everyone is looking for ways to save money.  We all know that everyone wants value!  Value is the key to the “tell and sell” concept.

Value:  Equivalent worth or return in money, material, services, etc. To give value for value received.

One of the ways consumers are saving money right now is by keeping their cars longer.  They understand that the cars will need to be serviced and that this costs money.  They chose this method because it is still a lot less expensive than buying a new vehicle.

Your key role as a service advisor right now is to sell value!  85% of the time you will be required to sell value over the phone because most consumers will call you first to ask about pricing and or to schedule an appointment.  What they hear from you on the telephone will determine if you make the sale.

Try this:

  • Talk about features
  • Talk about benefits
  • Talk about advantages
  • Ask for the appointment
  • Focus on what is best for the customer
  • Focus on the needs of the customer

Highlights:  We have trained certified technicians here to service you, we use quality parts, and we will top off fluids and check tire pressures between services just to keep your car in top shape.  Yes…brag a bit!  Be proud of the company that employs you!


  • Blurt out prices
  • Rush the call
  • Focus your attention on hours per repair order
  • Focus your attention on your needs over the customers (such as meeting your quota)
  • Recommend additional services before checking on the vehicle service history

When blurting out prices and rushing the call it makes the customer/consumer feel like you just want to hurry them along and you don’t really care if they come in or not.

When asking for the appointment, invite the caller to come in for service.  “Let me see what time we have available that works best for you?  Would today or tomorrow be more convenient?  Will you need a ride to work (or wherever)?

These are just some suggestions and I will be sending these monthly for the benefit of the service advisor.  Feedback is always welcome.


Customer Helping

I have the privilege from time-to-time to work with service advisors behind the counter.  It is interesting to see how easy so many of you make it look when I can see it is so involved.  To the customer, it looks easy!  They just come in and drop the keys off.  The service advisor calls and tells them the service needed and the cost involved.  They return and pick up their finished vehicle and pay.  End of story.  Seems so flawless and effortless.

I recently worked with a service advisor who does an outstanding job and she has only been working in this industry since February. She is great on the telephone as well as in person, always sounding so calm, pleasant and helpful. What the customer doesn’t see is the effort she has to put forth for every job. Finding the parts, pricing and ordering take time.  She is also very concerned and a bit apprehensive when it comes to selling the big ticket jobs to the customer but she does it well!  I think it is because she looks at it as ‘helping’ the customer, not just ‘servicing’ the customer.

We did discuss those customers who turn down certain services.  I’ve seen this happen all over the country.  She had one that turned down a brake fluid flush but did all the other recommended services.  Another shop had customers continually refusing air filter replacement.  These are the kinds of things that make you go… hmmmmm.

We can only surmise that the customers have to pick and choose the most pressing items because of budget restraints.  That is understandable.  The big question is…how to get that service accomplished and when? The items refused aren’t necessarily big ticket items…in fact…the majority of items customers seem to be turning down are inexpensive.  The fact that you recommended them means these services need to be done and sooner rather than later.

These unsold items mean the customers’ cars aren’t as safe as they could be and it also means your shop is losing out on dollars sold.  These small items add up to big dollars over time!  If you feel the service can truly wait until the next visit 3,000 miles or so down the road, that is fine.  Just make sure you note that the service was turned down and emphasize its importance when the customer comes in again.  If you feel it really needs to be dealt with sooner, a follow up call or an email reminder a couple of weeks after their initial visit is a good idea.

You might also want to use visual aids.  Showing a customer a ‘dirty’ air filter and telling them what the filter’s purpose is may prove helpful.  Showing them what ‘clean’ fluid looks like as opposed to ‘dirty’ fluid might also give them a sense of urgency.  Should your parts supplier actually be running a special a few weeks later on the refused service/repair part let the customer know.  It may encourage them to take care of the situation sooner rather than later.

I do admire the work of the service advisor.  Dealing with customers by phone and in person, translating the notes from the technicians, pricing the work and then selling it to the customer requires skill and diplomacy…oh…and keeping the boss happy too!  You have to meet those quotas!

Keep up the good work and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions and concerns!  I’ll keep writing to educate your customers on automotive service and repair and you keep telling them at the counter.  Together, we’ll ‘help’ them understand the importance of timely service and repair.