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Evolutions in the Autotech Industry with Mike Colacchio

Updated: Nov 15, 2021


April Simmons

Mike Colacchio is the Vice President of Sales at AutoLeadStar. He joins the company with decades of sales experience in automotive tech companies like Dealer Inspire, Dealer.com, Dealertrack, and Cox Automotive. He brings a wealth of knowledge and industry expertise to his new role at AutoLeadStar, where he is responsible for building out the sales team and driving strategic market adoption.


While at Dealer Inspire, Mike grew the sales organization from three people to 28 and increased its client base by 500%. During his time at Dealer.com, he sharpened his industry relations, strategic sales roles, and the regional sales team.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Mike Colacchio talks about his transition from Dealer Inspire to AutoLeadStar

  • Mike's thoughts on the future of the autotech industry

  • Mike's predictions for inventory challenges in the auto industry

  • The biggest change Mike has seen in the auto space during the COVID-19 pandemic


In this episode…


How do you leverage customer data sets in your dealership? How can you use that data to learn more about your customers, segment them, and create better experiences for them?


Driving customers into your dealership or online store is often the first step in driving sales. The growth of digital retailing has brought about great shifts in how dealerships attract customers and how customers shop. It also means that adaptable and flexible dealerships will set themselves up for success in the future.


In this episode of the InsideAuto podcast, Ilana Shabtay interviews Mike Colacchio, the Vice President of Sales at AutoLeadStar, about evolutions in the autotech industry. Mike also shares his predictions about the auto industry and talks about the inventory challenges many dealerships have been facing. Stay tuned.


Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...


This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.


Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.


AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics


Visit their website at www.autoleadstar.com to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.


Episode Transcript


Intro 0:03

Welcome to the InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you'd want to talk to in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:15

Ilana Shabtay here, host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today's guest, this episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar.com The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful and allows you to market, sell, and service cars as you would in the real world online and at scale, making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform powered by scale, speed, and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing today. Today we have a special guest as always, we have AutoLeadStar's newest VP of Sales, Mike Colacchio. Mike, how are you doing today?

Mike Colacchio 0:57

I am doing well. How are you doing?

Ilana Shabtay 0:59

I'm doing well. Thanks for joining us.

Mike Colacchio 1:02

Yes, I'm glad we could squeeze it in I had to move off Rogen and a lot of other podcasts but um, but I'm glad we got to schedule well you

Ilana Shabtay 1:10

know there yeah, we're we're up there so competition I but we're up there. Thanks so much for making the time and just for our listeners here. Mike joins AutoLeadStar with decades of sales experience in automotive tech companies like Dealer Inspire, Dealer.com, Dealertrack, and Cox Automotive. Mike brings a wealth of knowledge which obviously he'll talk about on the podcast and brings the podcast as well, and industry expertise. And in his new role here at AutoLeadStar Mike will be responsible for building out the sales team and driving strategic market adoption. Really quick stats, just so that everyone really understands who we're speaking to here, while at Dealer Inspire, Mike grew the sales organization from three people to 28 and increased the client base by 500%. So during his time at@dealer.com, he also sharpened his industry relations, strategic sales roles and the regional sales team, which is incredible. We're so lucky to have him. He's going to talk a little bit about his experience in automotive and what his predictions are. So again, Mike, so excited for you to join us today. And really quickly, let's start with this most recent transition because obviously, you know, you came from Dealer Inspire. It's a bigger company. It's a different kind of, you know, environment. I'd love to hear about this transition, as well as during such a hot climate for the automotive industry. Like there's, we're coming out of a pandemic, there's no inventory. How's it going? How's it going for you?

Mike Colacchio 2:35

Yeah, everything has been great. So far. Been here, I believe, for almost a month now. So we're I think this week, it'll be officially a month.

Ilana Shabtay 2:46

Like a month?

Mike Colacchio 2:47

Yeah. For the people that I didn't meet at Digital Dealer. It was pretty funny. Because when I was at Digital Dealer, everyone's like, Oh, my God, I you know, I saw LinkedIn, I saw the press, how's it going? When did you start? And you know, we'd give them a demo. And they say, you know, this is awesome. It looks so cool. I understand why you made the move over there. You know, how's it going? And I'd be like, wow, it started today, like, three hours ago, and it just got access to all the sales material. But But ya know, it's going great, by

Ilana Shabtay 3:19

the way, super impressive. Because I think you're probably the first person to join our team and demo, I don't know, 10 plus people the same day?

Mike Colacchio 3:30

Well, I think it's, it's a, you know, the kudos to you guys, because you've built such a great, a great platform. And it's easy to kind of tell a story around that. But, you know, as you've been in the industry for a long time you have, you know, it's easy to kind of see the touch points and the pain points of what dealers are experiencing. And, you know, AutoLeadStar does a good job of that, of solving a lot of those things.

Ilana Shabtay 3:55

Yeah, great. Um, um, you know, when you look at the industry, with all your experience, what do you see as the next evolution in auto tech? Where do you think things are going?

Mike Colacchio 4:07

Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that I see out there, after we come out of the, the inventory shortage, which we'll touch on here in a little bit is, is really breaking down silos within the datasets that you have within your dealership. As we talk to clients, all day, every day. We spend a lot of time trying to have customers focus on spending dollars and get them to your dealership. Yep. And then once we do a good job of getting that customer to your dealership, and your advertising worked and your website, we're done or your digital retailing process worked, you know, what are you doing after that? And how are we going to break down those silos because you spent a lot of money to get those customers there. But we have this mountain of data sitting in our CRM that often goes unused because it's hard to automate that. And make it simple for, whether it's your agency or if you're using an equity tool like, do I need to export a CSV? And how can you make that kind of plug and play with a dealership to say, here? Is my audience that I have in my CRM here? Are the, you know, the qualifications that we have, then how do I then execute on that, versus having to go try and find and then, you know, try and piece things together, and then ultimately have that data talk between different different tools that you have to touch the customer through the whole process, which I think is a one, it's a big challenge. But two, it's a massive, massive opportunity. I know from speaking with a lot of dealerships and dealer groups that it's very top of mine of trying to see, one, how do I segment my current audience? And then have that Korean current audience? Who can I go after? And then how do I get the right message in front of that person that's personalized to that specific person?

Ilana Shabtay 6:05

Yeah, I think you're touching on something that we're seeing happen kind of outside of automotive right now, almost every company is kind of investing in that data hub. But there's two things that you said that were really important that I want to touch on, which is the first one which is just the data orchestration and connectivity, but then also actually executing, automating and leveraging the data. And I think those are two things that I agree with you that Automotive is going to see evolve over the next, let's say, 12 to 18 months and be a major, major focal point for a lot of the for sure, the bigger dealers, but also, you know, every every dealer, within the industry should be focusing on that. And it's not an easy thing to do. And I think historically, also, it's been so hard to connect the data within the industry, just because of the way that the data kind of is set up and communicates or does not communicate with externally. So that's interesting. And I appreciate you bringing that up. And I think that will be a huge focal point. And then after that I know you talked a little bit about the inventory challenges. Do you predict that? Well, I'd love to know what you predict the challenges for automotive in the next year or so will be but also, how do you predict this inventory? Shortage to go? Do you think we're going to bounce back? Or is that it for us? Or has the industry totally changed the face of the industry? I'd love to dig into that, especially again, as someone who's been in the industry for so long.

Mike Colacchio 7:36

Yeah, I think it's gonna be interesting to see, I think, you know, kind of dealer by dealer, and also at the OEM level, you saw what Ford put out a couple months ago, that they're going to be kind of shifting their model a little bit to, to, to, to go into more of the the order process in terms of getting those vehicles and you see, you know, everyone compares it to Tesla. Tesla sells a substantial amount of vehicles. And they do that, you know, online, obviously, it's a little bit a little bit different. You know, they kind of made that market. So so obviously, they can, they can, you know, elevate that. But if you think about where the markets are right now, they're selling a lot of cars, and no one ever thought they would be taking pre orders for this, this many vehicles that you have. So if you're an OEM the OEM, is, you know, you don't, you know, on the supply chain, and you know, as this thing goes back, you can look at and say, Well, you know, should we do more of like a just in time type, you know, vehicle delivery mechanism. And then if I'm an owner, my floor plan, and if I'm not carrying this many vehicles, you know, my floor plan is, is, is much more or is less, and then from the consumer side, they know what they're getting, they can build it, and then they get that actual individual vehicle. So I think it'll be interesting to see how this plays out. And if you look at, you know, when COVID hit, before there were big inventory challenges, you saw everyone shift to this, like to this digital retailing model, right? And then, you know, that trickles down into do I need to have, you know, 20 3040 salespeople, or should I do more online to let people order the vehicle and create a great experience and so on and so forth. So, you know, I think it's gonna be interesting on the COVID side. When I was at Dealer Inspire, we saw a massive influx of people moving to digital retailing. And then as you know, everyone didn't know what's gonna happen. And then, you know, we had a dip, and then we saw it trickle up, and then we saw it trickle up again. Then we saw a trickle up again, and then people just started getting rid of the digital retailing tools out there and they went from Hey, we need to create a great online experience to then we're selling so many cars. Let's go back. So we had this shift that when it went from catapulting into a digital kind of evolution to now it's like going the complete opposite where dealers don't even have vehicles, where where they're they're saying, hey I people pounding in my doors to try and buy vehicles. So it's gonna be interesting kind of how it all plays out. And, you know, I think there's gonna be some interesting, you know, some interesting things that come out of it.

Ilana Shabtay 10:25

Yeah. And I think it's interesting that these two crises were actually head to head, like you mentioned, it's the complete opposite, right? We came into a pandemic, and people dealers were like, Okay, well, we're not going to have any customers, they had no idea what the economic impact was going to be of the pandemic, all of a sudden, it's like, the demand is skyrocketed, and supplies down. And dealers can just sit back and people come and pre order and they don't, you know, I don't even know, sales teams necessarily even do the proper training anymore, because they just, there's, there's really no nose off necessarily right now. But I think it also tells us that things can change in a second. And at the end of the day, the smart dealers that have, you know, a process and technology in place to react fast to the market is the answer because of what you just said, right? Like you, we don't know, when it's gonna be, it could flip on its head, you know, in a month, and as long as they have that infrastructure in place to be flexible and dynamic. I think those are the dealers that are probably going to stay ahead. So I think

Mike Colacchio 11:26

going back to, like the one we said about earlier of like, breaking down those silos, in terms of your data set, like if you have if you have that customer base to get someone out of the vehicle, or, or market to them one to one cuz they've done business with you, you know, previously, I think, you know, the, the argument right now is like, dealers are going to remember when you try and buy that vehicle, and you're trying to sell it to them at 10 $15,000 over sticker, you know, some people understand the supply and demand dynamics, right. And it's, it's, it's not just auto, it's, it's everywhere. So, so that's, you know, that's, that's some of the stuff that that dealers need to look at. And also, kind of, I would say, to quote, my good friend, Joe Ciara, you always want to fix your house or your roof when it's sunny, and not when it's pouring rain. So like, for the dealers now that are taking a step back and, and not looking at and saying, Hey, this is going to last forever. Do I take time to evaluate my tech stack? And how am I setting myself up for the future, versus when it's raining and you have a hole in your roof? And then you're playing catch up? So that's the big thing that dealers need to be looking at right now as well.

Ilana Shabtay 12:44

Yeah, I actually just last week did a podcast with April Simmons, who is the director of horn Auto Group in Arizona. And she was saying, she implemented her into her dealerships like social strategy and Tik Tok and video strategy during this time, because she has the time, as she knew she was gonna get a lot of nose and a lot of resistance from the team, like who wants to stop their day and take a video, it's all about habit, right? So she was saying, and she and she were talking about this to a Digital Dealer to one of her panels. And she was explaining to dealers that this is the time to evaluate, like you said, your tech, of course, and your marketing staff. At the same time, it's also time to implement the habits that you want for when it's raining. And you don't have to pick that up because you already have your brand established on tick tock so I totally agree with that. And I think that's a really important point. So he said, basically, have the technology and processing infrastructure to react fast. And also make sure that you have that connected data so that you can then not just react fast, but react intelligently and be on you know, have that competitive edge and, and make sure that you're reaching out to shoppers in a personalized and intelligent way. Yep. And so, the last question here for you is, is what, what has been the biggest change that you've seen? Let's say not, let's put aside, let's say pre COVID, I'd love to know, kind of like, what you've experienced, technical like that. What interests me most is like the technological change that you've seen, but obviously, feel free to talk about anything in automotive that you think has changed significantly, but like, what's that revolution that you kind of like, saw that you're excited for us to see together? More experienced together as an industry, you know, during this auto tech revolution that you're talking about? That's to come?

Mike Colacchio 14:33

Um, I think the well I would say it's, it's two part one, is that pre COVID Right as you move to create a better experience for your customers online to be transactional, although I forget who said this, but I was reading it in the forum. The other fundamental flaw in automotive is that a lot of motive transactions are so complex, that it takes all these companies to try and figure it out to keep it simple for the customer, right? Like if, if you, if you peel that back to say, Hey, we should create a great experience for a customer if they want to go online and get financing get traded, and we should be able to implement software. There's a lot of very smart people in automotive. I've worked with a lot of them to get financing, and then figure out which states need wet signatures, and so on. It's like, there's all these intricate rules that people outside of auto automotive come into it saying, oh, let's this should be simple. Like, we should create a software that can take the customer from surface to signature, and that'd be great and will be like the, you know, quote unquote, Amazon of automotive and then they get into it. And there's so many unique intricacy,

Ilana Shabtay 15:57

Not to mention OEM bureaucracies and every manufacturer has their own compliance, and it's best, like on top of the federal and state regulations, it's really complicated.

Mike Colacchio 16:09

Yes, yeah. So it's that, you know, you know, pre pre COVID, I would say that that was one of the most exciting things to take someone and there's some great players out there that are doing it. You know, the Roadsters Dealer Inspire has a great tool out there. And, you know, there's, there's some great players so so pre COVID, I would say that and then once we got into it, we're, you know, we hit this like bell curve, and we're, and it was, like, like I said, before that evolution, we're going up, and now we're going back down. And now it's like, Okay, now, what do we do? But I'll go back to what I said earlier, is really getting a unified view of a customer that the dealership or dealer group has of saying, what are they doing? You know, what are they doing on my site? How are they coming back to my site? And where are they? Are they? Are they positive on their equity? Is their lease coming up? And then how do you take all that and put that into a hub to then move them through the life cycles to actually go through Connect and make smarter decisions and not have to spend a ton of money? Obviously, you know, paid search, when I first started back in, you know, 2008, it was, it was extremely cheap to do paid search, and I remember having to explain to dealers, hey, look, you only pay for what someone clicks on. And it wasn't. It didn't correlate with people saying, like, you know, if I spend this then they were spending like 1000 $2,000. But those costs per click have gone up drastically, right? So how do you how do you take that and use your first party data first, before you go out and get, you know, the other people that come in which actually ultimately become your first party data, but the evolution of first party data for dealerships and dealer groups, excluding the endemics like the cars and auto traders and CarGurus, but you individual dealership or dealer group? How do you take that and harness your own first party data to make the best decisions and better marketing? Collateral and touch points to those customers?

Ilana Shabtay 18:12

Yeah, and I think that's really good, almost like part one of the revolution that we're gonna experience as an industry, you know, in the coming 12 to 18 months. So I think it's connected. And it's just like one step to getting us to the Amazon experience or the Tesla experience that we should all have when going to a dealership website. I know Mike is laughing because I almost bought a Tesla, but Oh, that would have been a nice podcast story. Anything else? Anything else, Mike, that you want to share with our listeners before we sign off, and thank you again so much for joining us and taking some time to, you know, disrobe in and come to this insight auto podcast episode.

Mike Colacchio 18:52

No, it's great. I had a great time wanting to come back for more but no, I think, look, I've been here for a month at AutoLeadStar. And I think I made the right choices. I always tell people when you have amazing technology with amazing people, you can do some amazing things. So for anyone as the sales guy on the call, if you haven't had a chance to check out AutoLeadStar, feel free to ping me. I think you will be very impressed with what we have and some of the stuff that we're coming out with. That's going to kind of create its own little segment here in automotive, which I'm super excited about.

Ilana Shabtay 19:30

Yeah, Mike is the only one by the way that can get away with a solicitation for auto lease or on the InsideAuto Podcast. Thank you so much for joining today.

Outro 19:42

Thanks for listening to the InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders




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