Sara Leisinger of Who’s Lance Digital Media can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram

Sarah Banowetz of Banowetz Marketing can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Our guest today is Jeff Carlson, owner of Warehouse Auto Company. Warehouse Auto can be found on Facebook and Instagram.  They can also be found at


[Announcer] Welcome to Sarah Squared, the podcast for all things marketing, business growth, branding, and social media. Sara Leisinger is the owner of Who’s Lance Digital Media, serving start-ups and solopreneurs. And Sarah Banowetz owns Banowetz Marketing, a full-service agency located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Together, they make up Sarah Squared, dedicated to the inspiration, motivation, and education of growing companies.

Sara Leisinger: Welcome guys. I am Sara Leisinger.

Sarah Banowetz: And I am Sarah Banowetz.

Sara Leisinger: And together we are Sarah Squared.

Sarah Banowetz: Sarah Squared.

Jeff Carlson: Oh, hell.

Sara Leisinger: That laugh that you are hearing in the background actually had a hand in creating the Sarah to my right here.

Sarah Banowetz: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sara Leisinger: Sarah, you invited your dad, who owns Warehouse Auto in Swisher.

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah, so we have Jeff Carlson on the podcast today, and yes, he does. He started Warehouse Auto Company in Swisher, Iowa. It was in Shueyville when it was started.

Sara Leisinger: Oh, okay, cool.

Sarah Banowetz: So we didn’t start it in Swisher, but yeah, it’s been in Swisher in the old lunkerland property for many years now.

Jeff Carlson: Shueyville, Swisher.

Sara Leisinger: Yeah.

Jeff Carlson: The twin cities.

Sarah Banowetz: Yes, so our podcast topic today is marketing for the established business.

Sara Leisinger: Oh my gosh.

Sarah Banowetz: And pain points, pain points for the established-

Sara Leisinger: I’m feeling the pain points right now.

Sarah Banowetz: So Jeff, why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit here?

Jeff Carlson: Well, actually, actually, let me go back. How far do I want to go back?

Sara Leisinger: You were born at a young age.

Jeff Carlson: I was born. It all started in a little town in Illinois.

Sara Leisinger: Oh, goodness.

Jeff Carlson: We won’t go that far back. Okay, let me go back actually to when I was in this building that we’re currently in, because I was in this building across the hall.

Sarah Banowetz: The Executive Plaza Building.

Jeff Carlson: The Executive Plaza Building.

Sarah Banowetz: By Lindale Mall.

Jeff Carlson: That’s right. So yeah, I have a degree in marketing and got into advertising and marketing consulting across the hall. So yeah, the whole marketing thing is just kind of like in my DNA. I was in advertising and decided … Well, actually when I got into marketing consulting, I was working with about a dozen different businesses, giving them lots of different ideas, and they would implement maybe two or three or four-

Sara Leisinger: Ain’t that the truth?

Jeff Carlson: … and maybe about 50% of what I visioned out, and I’m like, “You know, if I am giving these people these ideas and I think they will work, why don’t I just go and start a business and do it?”

Sara Leisinger: Wow.

Jeff Carlson: And then I thought, hmm, what business do I know enough about to be dangerous, and the car business is what I grew up in. My dad was a dealer in Illinois, and so yeah, I just jumped in 26 years ago. My wife and I started Warehouse Auto, and then you talk about low overhead dealers, you know, “We’ve got low overhead. We’ve got low overhead,” well, this was really-

Sarah Banowetz: That’s why it’s called Warehouse Auto. 

Jeff Carlson: Oh, it was in an old-

Sarah Banowetz: It was in a warehouse.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah, an old warehouse type building, and it was very low overhead. In fact, when we started, the warehouse did not have a bathroom.

Sara Leisinger: Oh.

Jeff Carlson: So we’re selling family cars to families, and the families are bringing in little Joey in tow, and little Joey’s got to go to the bathroom, and they say, “Well, where’s your bathroom?” just understanding that any established business would have a bathroom. Not at Warehouse Auto when we started-

Sara Leisinger: Oh, goodness.

Jeff Carlson: … the first six months. We would say, “Well, you’ll have to go to the little convenience store around the corner.”

Sara Leisinger: Oh, I bet people liked that.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah.

Sara Leisinger: Hopefully little Joey could hold it.

Jeff Carlson: Little Joey, he always made it, yeah. We were lucky in that regard. So anyway, yeah, it’s been a 26 year run. It’s been very cool. We try to do things differently and better, but yeah, in terms of pain points in established businesses, yeah, I hear you.

Sarah Banowetz: So you, with your marketing background, and then you started the car dealership, Warehouse Auto, I remember because I was nine years old when you started Warehouse Auto.

Jeff Carlson: How do you remember that? Nine, wow.

Sarah Banowetz: Well, I remember a lot younger than that.

Jeff Carlson: Wow, okay. Wow.

Sarah Banowetz: Anyway, so it really helped Warehouse Auto take off because you had started nailing down your business plan and your marketing plan when you still had the agency. You were trying to sell that plan to other car dealerships to try to take on that, which was the whole independent inspections, guaranteed, less than new because you’re not a new car dealer, you’re a preowned car dealer, and just really reconditioning and providing excellent vehicles at a great price to the consumer. You had started nailing that down before you even started Warehouse Auto obviously, but as you were working in the agency arena, so by the time you started Warehouse Auto, it took off and it grew because of your marketing background and business background. So it was your third business that you had started because you had one more before the marketing agency, and it just really took off.

Now let’s fast forward from that time to about 20 years down the road, I’d say 18 years down the road. 2008 hit. You haven’t rebranded, meaning your logo is still the same exact logo. Your signage was still the same exact signage, and what were you experiencing? Hey, we actually have, this is hilarious. Jeff, my dad, just pointed out that we have my old business card with the old, this is hilarious-

Jeff Carlson: Isn’t that great?

Sarah Banowetz: … with the old logo.

Jeff Carlson: Sitting right on the table.

Sara Leisinger: And there it is.

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah, sitting on the table-

Sara Leisinger: That looks familiar.

Sarah Banowetz: … because it’s in my, we’re recording this on digital media, and it’s in, my memory card case has my old business card, and he just picked it up and showed it to me. So yeah, so this right that no one can see is the old logo, the old font, and the old tag line, which was “Inspected and Guaranteed About Half-price of New,” and what had changed in the 18 years from … It’s now been 26 years, but really from day one to 18 years down the road is that the medium had changed from where people’s eyes were at. Your branding was also outdated, and your tag line was outdated because vehicles could no longer be purchased and sold about half-price of new like they could when you originally started.

Jeff Carlson: Right.

Sarah Banowetz: So you were experiencing some significant pain points in your business because of your outdated marketing, so can you explain that a little bit?

Jeff Carlson: Well, yeah, let me explain that, but then also add a key piece in that I would say would be even more key than the external branding, and that’s important, right? It’s the packaging. It’s the look. It’s the focus that a business has. So yeah, you’re right. I mean, we had … In fact, let me see that again because that’s kind of interesting. Oh, I love that old logo with the little peephole and stuff. It’s just so cute.

Sarah Banowetz: Now, your new logo still has a peephole.

Jeff Carlson: I know, but anyway.

Sarah Banowetz: The vehicle was old. It needed a new vehicle.

Jeff Carlson: Well, let’s just go back to this. I like this. Let’s just go back to that. That’s really great.

Sara Leisinger: How funny.

Jeff Carlson: You do have to change and you do have to keep up, so all that you said is right on. It’s really important to not only look where you’ve been, but look where you’re going, and have an image and a look and a focus that reflects where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. So yeah, when you came in and then you went over I think to a park and you kind of sat under a tree, if I remember right, and you came into a meeting I was having with a TV station.

Sarah Banowetz: Some ad, yeah, some ad reps.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah, it was a TV station, and you said, “Hey, I’ve got this new focus of-”

Sarah Banowetz: Well, I came up with the new tag line.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah.

Sarah Banowetz: But in my … You don’t normally-

Jeff Carlson: It’s not new focus, right. 

Sarah Banowetz: No, it wasn’t the focus.

Jeff Carlson: It’s just a tag line, yeah.

Sarah Banowetz: It was a new tag line, and normally that doesn’t happen on day one that you’re working for a company in marketing. My relationship with Warehouse Auto was-

Jeff Carlson: Right.

Sarah Banowetz: … that I had already essentially done market research over the years, so I was able to come up with a new tag line, which was looking at who Warehouse Auto already was, who the client base already is, why they resonate with Warehouse Auto, why we have so many return customers, and then how do we communicate to a new audience, which was then I came up while I was waiting for this meeting to start at a park, came up with the tag line, “Enjoy car shopping.”

Jeff Carlson: No, no. It wasn’t that?

Sarah Banowetz: Well, it wasn’t? What was it?

Jeff Carlson: It was “You’ll enjoy car shopping”-

Sarah Banowetz: Oh yeah.

Jeff Carlson: … and then the wise mature marketing person took off the you’ll and it’s just “Enjoy car shopping.”

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah, so-

Jeff Carlson: Now, I won’t say who that wise mature person that spoke into that was.

Sarah Banowetz: Well, it’s teamwork, it’s teamwork, it’s teamwork.

Jeff Carlson: It is teamwork.

Sarah Banowetz: So “Inspected Guaranteed Half-price of New” really was replaced with “Enjoy car shopping.”

Jeff Carlson: “Enjoy car shopping,” exactly, and here’s the sort of thing, and this is probably for another day, but what’s interesting about that positioning statement is, I mean, we put our heart and soul into that. I mean, we really do help people enjoy car shopping. It’s something we live and breathe, and it’s something that’s reflected in the responses we get and the feedback we get from people, but-

Sarah Banowetz: And that was before, let’s clarify that that was before we came up with the term, “Enjoy car shopping.” That was who we already were before.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah, yeah. Right, right, right. Right, because in marketing, what happens a lot is a marketing group will come up with some really cool or right on-

Sarah Banowetz: Something that would sell very well-

Jeff Carlson: It would sell-

Sarah Banowetz: … but it’s not who the company is.

Jeff Carlson: … but they don’t do it.

Sarah Banowetz: It’s not, yeah.

Jeff Carlson: Yeah, and then that just becomes, there’s that lack of integrity and people all go, “Yeah, right, sure. They’re going to do that, yeah, right,” but yeah, so the only thing that we have had discussions about is how believable is it because people in the world go, “Enjoy car shopping? Yeah.”

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah, because that what was our focus groups came back with after we released this was, in the process of releasing it was do we believe it?

Jeff Carlson: Yeah, do we believe it? So we still are kind of leaning into that and going, “Well, try us. We’ll prove it to you that you really can enjoy car shopping.” But now let me throw something out also that, and that’s important. So what you were talking about there is important, but here’s the other thing that has been really helpful to me in the whole marketing piece of what you’ve done is just, and this is huge because again, when you said to me the topic, and tell me the topic again just to clarify.

Sarah Banowetz: Pain points of the established business.

Jeff Carlson: Pain points of the established business. Life can be tough and business can be tough and marketing can be tough, so in terms of a pain point, if there’s one sort of pain point that I would say, it just relates to energy level and it relates to when you’ve been in a business for five years, 10 years, 20 years, you get a little tired.

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah.

Sara Leisinger: Yes.

Sarah Banowetz: Sara Leisinger has, even though Who’s Lance Digital Media is a newer company, she’s actually been a businesswoman for over a decade, so I think she’s-

Jeff Carlson: Yeah. So, I mean, you know, and so you go into something, and this is life, right? It’s not just marketing, but it’s life where you go into something, and for the first X number of days or weeks or months, you’re like, “Ooh, this is great. We’re going to go change the world.”

Sara Leisinger: Absolutely.

Jeff Carlson: And then you hit the world.

Sara Leisinger: And the world hits back sometimes.

Jeff Carlson: And the world hits back-

Sara Leisinger: Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Carlson: … and you’re again, months, years down the road, and you’re like, “Wow, I’m a little tired.”

Sara Leisinger: Yeah, and you know what? I definitely agree with you, with the whole piece and being tired, and bringing it back around to marketing. Okay, of course, your energy level is going to affect your energy for your marketing, so I get it. When people look at mine, like my stuff personally, I’m like, “Hey guys, painter’s house. I’m taking care of everybody else’s. Give me some mercy with looking at mine.”

Jeff Carlson: Right. A mechanic’s car, right?

Sara Leisinger: Right, right.

Jeff Carlson: No, it’s like, “Don’t look at the mechanic’s car.”

Sara Leisinger: Absolutely. So what I really enjoy doing though is as somebody who kind of handles that social media strategy for people, you kind of have a few different tiers of social media. So you have somebody who will post, and they just post consistently and that’s great. You have somebody who will manage, so maybe they know to how to look at analytics a little bit, and they will post at the right time, maybe they’re create some content for you. Then you have a strategist, and that’s somebody who’s trying to create a vortex around your business, okay? 

What I really like to do is sit down with the business owner and reinfuse them with the kind of passion that they had to put their message on display through channels that will actually bring them attention. So for me, I’m a 30 … year-old, and-

Jeff Carlson: Gee, you don’t look like a day over a 20 … year-old.

Sara Leisinger: Thank you. I use really good skin care. So anyway, and-

Jeff Carlson: Now, you’re supposed to say I don’t look a day over like a 40 … year-old.

Sara Leisinger: There you go, you said it for me.

Jeff Carlson: At 59, though. Like what you do? I like to pat myself on the back. Anyway, go ahead.

Sara Leisinger: No, hey, I’m going to pat you on the back. Good job for not looking. I mean, I actually would not have guessed with the whole parent thing if you wouldn’t have told me that this is your dad, I would have been like, “Oh, okay. Well, we’ve got …”

Sarah Banowetz: You think he’s my older brother?

Jeff Carlson: Older brother.

Sara Leisinger: Yeah, sure. Why not?

Sarah Banowetz: Okay.

Sara Leisinger: Yeah. Okay, so reinfusing that kind of passion, conveying a message. So what I’m seeing now, because you’ve obviously already gone through like a rebranding and everything like that, I’m not sure how many years ago was that?

Sarah Banowetz: It was about seven, six or seven.

Sara Leisinger: Okay, cool, so what I’m seeing is companies like yours that are established companies, what they’re fighting with now is the social media battle.

Sarah Banowetz: Yeah, it is.

Sara Leisinger: Because basically people are trying to take a coat of technological paint and put it on old media, and that’s not going to work.

Speaker 1: We are going to resume this podcast next week with the second half of Jeff Carlson’s Warehouse Auto story. Thank you for listening.

Sara Leisinger of Who’s Lance Digital Media can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram

Sarah Banowetz of Banowetz Marketing can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Our guest today is Jeff Carlson, owner of Warehouse Auto Company. Warehouse Auto can be found on Facebook and Instagram.  They can also be found at