Inside Auto Podcast: Automation Increased Leads 33% Despite Pandemic Crisis

  Mollie Monett

AutoLeadStar’s Inside Auto Podcast features top leaders, entrepreneurs, influencers, and authors inside and outside of the automotive industry. Find this weeks episode here and check out all of our latest podcasts here. 

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


  • Our CEO, Aharon Horwitz, discusses how AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software fully automates the process of advertising on platforms like Google and Facebook.

  • How future-oriented dealerships are changing as they move to an online environment.

  • The shift the automotive industry is making to stay up-to-date with current marketing tools.

  • The outcome of AutoLeadStar’s case study, which examined the advantages that automation has on dealerships.

  • How automation creates an individualized experience for dealers.

  • People in the automotive industry who have influenced Aharon.

In this episode…

Going to a dealership and purchasing a car in person is becoming less common as the car buying experience moves online, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more dealerships adapt to a digital environment, their marketing strategies must switch gears as well. Aharon Horwitz’s company, AutoLeadStar, is leading the way in the automation process by allowing dealers to optimize their resources while preserving the human aspect of car buying.

In this episode of Inside Auto Podcast, Aharon Horwitz is interviewed by Dr. Jeremy Weisz of Rise25 Media. Aharon discusses the case study conducted by his company, AutoLeadStar, to research the effects of their automated marketing campaign on a car dealership. You’ll also hear about how dealerships are evolving, the concerns that dealers have around automation, and the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

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

Aharon Horwitz 0:14

Hey guys, Aharon Horwitz here co-host of the Inside Auto Podcast. We feature top leaders, entrepreneurs, GMs, authors from all across the auto industry. And listen, our past guests and our clients have included everybody, you know, pro football, basketball, baseball stars that own and operate dealers. We’ve had entrepreneurs, innovators, vendors, gatekeepers, the whole gamut has been here with us and we are excited to welcome you today is a little unique. What we’re going to do here today I actually have Jeremy Weisz here on the call with us on the podcast, Jeremy has done tons of interviews like thousands literally no joke, with successful folks from around really all of them business and innovation in the world. And we’re really excited to have him here today. We’re flipping that script, he’s actually gonna interview me. So Jeremy.

Jeremy Weisz 1:08

Aharon, it’s an honor. And, you know, I’m excited to talk about a lot of things, especially with you who in business doesn’t want more leads, right. And so that’s what you guys are the expert at. So I’m really excited to talk about today we’re gonna talk about automation, and how automation increased leads by 33%. So in any industry, especially in the auto industry, but before we go into it, I just want to mention this episode is brought to you by You know, I know the biggest question car dealerships have that you guys get is how do I engage quality customers on the web, and how do I turn them into car buyers? That’s the million, $10 million question. Well, they create a technology that answers this question. The software automates our entire marketing funnel to provide around the clock service for dealers, and doing so they help car dealerships get more qualified traffic and convert them and I know you’ve been featured on over and you from my research over 10 auto publications, including Dealer Magazine, Auto Dealer Today, Car Biz Today, and you work with more than 30 plus OEM brands. So it’s a pleasure to be here. Let’s jump in to—okay. I mean, that’s a big statement, automation increased leads by 33%. And this is in with the pandemic crisis.

Aharon Horwitz 2:22

I’m pretty incredible. Look, we are a company that’s founded on the premise that marketing and auto is evolving, and that it’s shifting from a model that was common, you know, outside of auto 10 years ago to kind of align itself with modern day marketing, which is premised on AI automation, being able to do some really sophisticated stuff with targeting, and that’s what our technology does, and with this dealer that we’re about to talk about, specifically in the Walser Auto Group, we had this really unique opportunity to run almost like a controlled A/B test. We had two dealerships, one of which was going to use our technology, and one of which was not going to use our technology because we weren’t eligible for some sort of Co-op arrangement. And for us, this was a great opportunity to create a case study, they were basically aligned in all the market metrics, and you’re like, oh, well, what happens when we use automation versus when we don’t? And that was the opportunity we had. And the results were fantastic, as you mentioned.

Jeremy Weisz 3:25

So what are some of the things that you help that dealership do?

Aharon Horwitz 3:31

So at the end of the day, the up form of marketing for a dealership really rests on all the organic and you know, brand equity that a dealership has built up in this market. But a lot of acquisition and auto is done today through Google and Facebook. They’re kind of what we call, you know, the big two or other advertising platforms that are interesting. And obviously, the lead gen sites, cars, car gurus, but Google and Facebook are where a dealer really gets to build their own brand and their own acquisition funnel, and what our technology does, among other things, is fully automate that whole process of starting up these Google and Facebook advertising accounts, campaigns, groups ads, optimizing them automatically over time and then driving traffic to the website and converting it at a higher rate. And that’s what we did for the dealerships here that we’re discussing. We, for one of them, we put them on our automated campaign infrastructure. And for the other one, we did it and they weren’t on it. They were using our on site technology to do higher conversion rates, but they didn’t have our automated up funnel marketing campaign. And that’s really where the difference is. So if you think about it like today, most dealers are either running stuff in house to have people pushing buttons in Google Ads and Facebook accounts or they are working with an agency that may have technology in house but it’s not as fully automated as I think many people think it is from the outside.

Jeremy Weisz 4:57

So why, how do they find you in the first place?

Aharon Horwitz 5:03

Man. Wow. So this is an amazing group. They’re like really tech forward and very interesting, led by a guy who’s an entrepreneur and innovator, and Andrew Walser the CEO. And they, I believe we met them first at NADA back in 2017, our Director of Marketing, who’s usually my co-host, who couldn’t be here today, Ilana Shabtay, they met, she met some folks from the Wall Street team in, oh, 2017. And then we were introduced to a very friendly introduction through an agency sometime thereafter. And they became one of our earlier customers. And we started off with a very limited framework. And over time, we’ve just grown in our partnership, and they like to do experiments, they’re very cutting edge, they like to test things out. So they were very happy for us to do this test here.

Jeremy Weisz 5:52

Well, it seems, who knows, you know, kind of doing the research. It seemed there was even some, another layer of, piece of interesting facts. Here is the automation versus non-automation. Talk about one of the main competitors was erased in 2020. Like, how did that factor in and what does that mean?

Aharon Horwitz 6:12

Well, so it’s interesting because in this market, if you just looked at it from the outside the dealership that was not using our technology had all the advantages going for it, and in the pandemic, you would have actually expected them to outperform, the one that we were on was in an extremely competitive market, with some very impressive competition. So, in the first dealership, the one without the automation, they had had a competitor, that competitor went off the grid about a year ago. So you know, in some ways was more of a blue ocean. In our case, it was not at all; it was very aggressive, very challenging. And I think the benefit you get from the type of automation we develop is kind of the reactivity to opportunity. So if you think about like, all the trends out there in the world around, I don’t know flash trading. Right, you know, stop trading through algorithms, they identify an opportunity. It may exist for a short amount of time, but computers are better at identifying it and moving into it versus say a person who might be at a coffee break or not paying attention to that data stream, or who might be off, you know, maybe sleeping at night, like we like to do as humans. So it’s similar here, our technology, in this pandemic was able, across really our whole customer base to figure out where the opportunity was for high intent buyers, because you had a lot of people who, three months ago or a month ago looked like buyers that suddenly were not anymore. And it was critical for your technology to be able to adapt to that and adjust so that you could find those buyers despite the difficult and turbulent environment we were in. And that’s what really brought that bump of 33% and lead increase. That was an incredible performance in a pandemic. Obviously, a lot of factors go into that. But the dealership at least feels and the group feels like our automation was a major piece of that.

Jeremy Weisz 8:00

Alright, what is you know, the dealership comes originally? What were some of the issues they were having? Why did they want to use AutoLeadStar?

Aharon Horwitz 8:09

Look, every dealership? Is it most dealerships and auto most of those that want to be future oriented are contending with a changing environment. You know, if you go back in history, right and you think of kind of the evolution of dealers, right? They went from being very central to a community. I know. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, people went to dealers, their kids went to the same dealers, to then some sort of like disintermediation from the customer as digital emerged, right? So you think about the internet coming out and websites going up? Great. I still am able to have my own dealership website. But then suddenly, there were these sites that aggregated all the online traffic and is online and digital became the market suddenly dealers were no longer connected with the customer personally, they were actually removed and web sort of You know traffic aggregators that would pull in leads, they were sending those leads to the dealers for money. So dealers became just a phone number, a website and a price. And what’s happened over the past, I think, I don’t know, 5, 5 years or so dealers, especially enterprises, dealers, like Walser, they really want to retake ownership over their own community and their own brand, their own direct to consumer channels. They’ve done a very good job of that at Walser. But what that means is that instead of working with third parties, and with, kind of, some of the models that used to exist, you really want to build your own technology infrastructure and make your own brand sort of front center. So that was what they were interested in. When we started talking with them, you know, they were thinking about, okay, well, how do we give our customers a more personalized experience on the website, version rate? How do we innovate our data so that we use our data in marketing, and that’s where our lead starts very strong. We have a very strong data and technology orientation, we’re able to build that into products and productize that for our dealers, and that was what intrigued him about us, I think in those early days.

Jeremy Weisz 10:08

So we can up funnel marketing when you say that it’s like really personalizing the experience for the customer in more of an automated fashion. So the dealer doesn’t have to do as much as that instead of being just a name that people don’t have like a personal touch, it feels like a personal touch.

Aharon Horwitz 10:25

Yeah. Marketing is in a box, you know, you need to account right now for so many variables in the data when you’re trying to target buyers on the internet, right at any given moment. There could be 90 million people looking to buy a car at some point and then in the next, say, six months, right? So we’re 90 million searches. Let’s say it’s not 90 million people, right? It’s a heck of a lot of people say in the United States, right? Because Americans tend to buy cars quite frequently. So we need to figure out that gigantic opportunity that’s out there. How do you figure out which of those people are missing? Most likely to buy soon, what’s the message that they need? How do you know where to invest, where not to invest? You could try to do that manually. But a long time ago outside of auto people realize that that’s kind of happened through automation and through, you know, the types of tools that are bucketed under AI, in auto that’s coming in now. And we’re really leading the way in that. So it means that the ads are going to be optimized more often on Google Display and search, it means that the Facebook Ads and audiences are going to be updated more frequently. And then when they come to the website, our technology is waiting there to greet them with the right message that’s going to most speak to them and cause them to convert into a phone call or a web form lead in at the highest rate.

Jeremy Weisz 11:41

Yeah, I mean, what I see it is it’s kind of like then just the next generation marketing and in some, it’s a mindset, what’s the pushback that you get, if any, when you’re telling this to a dealership who may have thought about like the Cleveland days where I need to go to the dealer and go to the same person? Well, those days maybe don’t exist anymore. But how do you, what’s some of the pushback you get from people when you’re explaining this to them?

Aharon Horwitz 12:05

Even those days, I think that most consumers want that experience of one person, you know, one conversation, one guide through this really important and expensive process of an emotionally fraught process of buying a car. So actually, we’re very much aligned in letting the dealers do what they do really well, which is the whole experience of giving customers great experience around cars and man Do they know about cars and how to sell cars, we just focus on the marketing piece, we’re able to connect the customers most effectively into that experience. So the pushback we’ll get in general is a concern over how much technology we’re bringing to the table. Meaning when you see how automated It is, it is at first a little bit, kind of, I don’t know, it’s just a little abrasive. I mean, you’re like, Whoa, like, wow, how is it possible that all that can be done well, with automation when we’re used to working with you know, five person account teams to do that? means, you know, when you answer when we answer it, well, it just can be, that’s just where we’re the state of art is, there’s a certain amount of, you know, of distance between the what we’re saying and what that person’s lived experiences in bridging that distance takes time and takes a lot of discussions and whatnot. So that’s what we work on a lot. It’s just, you know, helping really expose transparently what we can do and then offering them just to like, test it, like we did with Walser and then see that 33% increase where the other stores just, you know, not getting it.

Jeremy Weisz 13:32

So we’re people used to have maybe a five person group doing yours can basically streamline it what shocks people most about that piece that you are able to automate, or do they like, I would think that it would take two people to do that. Wow.

Aharon Horwitz 13:53

The elements most shocking, huh, it’s a very good question. What I would say is this. Wow, there we go. We’re blowing up with pings here.

Jeremy Weisz 14:01

Everyone’s watching right now.

Aharon Horwitz 14:04

I would say the element that is most surprising is the cost per lead, and the quality of the lead. So you could always say, oh, yeah, they give me a good cost per lead because they buy garbage leads. But no, you see that your sales stay steady and then improved, and your cost per lead goes down. So that’s that magic, sweet spot where you’re getting more leads that are quality for less cost. And that’s the benefit of the learning that our system is able to do system wide. So you have a real technological backbone here, where we’re learning from all across the industry about how to give every individual dealer in their individual market with their individual nuances, the best, the best experience that they need.

Jeremy Weisz 14:51

Aharon, before we wrap up, first of all, thank you, everyone could check out I want to just say is anything and maybe you’ll say now is that anything surprising to you about this? Like, when I hear, you know, one dealership believes increased 33% despite the pandemic, and the control didn’t, did anything about this surprise you or were you like, yeah, that’s, that’s just what we do.

Aharon Horwitz 15:18

Um, so actually no, because it’s just sort of, when you look at our we have the benefit here of seeing the big data picture of our platform. And I see the learning, like we have a metric for learning, we just see our system is continuously learning and improving its metrics. But I will say this, I’m always sort of an entrepreneur, looking at our company and saying, you know, I’m so grateful every day that it works. And the point here is that we are never complacent with what we have internally. We’re, we have that sort of explorer exploring scientific model. We’re always asking, oh, what’s the next thing we can do? How do we squeeze a little more out of this? How do we get a little faster, a little more effective? And I think as a dealership you want that type of attitude now, because you want people to know that you have a little R&D shop that’s constantly working for you trying to push the envelope and make things better all the time. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 16:19

Um, last question, who have been other people in the industry that have influenced you in this industry?

Aharon Horwitz 16:25

Oh, my Lord, so many. I recently, I, you know, we just started a book club in our company, we’re going to be reading Dale Pollak’s books. Dale Pollak is a real thought leader in the industry and someone who, for me at least, was my major education alongside our dealer partners about the automotive industry. The CEO of Walser Auto, Andrew Walser, is a big influence. We’ve had some great influences around some of our investors and advisors, also. David Kain from Kain Auto. He’s taught us a lot. Really that there’s, I, we’re gonna do a whole episode, Jeremy, about people who have influenced us and me. I think it’s a really nice idea because there’s just so many I could just keep going on.

Jeremy Weisz 17:15

Well everyone check out I love your tagline around the clock marketing for dealers. It’s total. You know, I totally appreciate you having me.

Outro 17:26

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