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Year in Review with Ilana Shabtay

  • January 28, 2022
25 min read
Year in Review with Ilana Shabtay

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

Ilana Shabtay is the Director of Marketing at AutoLeadStar and the Co-host of the InsideAuto Podcast. She is an experienced marketer, innovator, and growth hacker with expertise in digital marketing, artificial intelligence, and automotive. Ilana is also a Dealer Marketing Expert Panelist.

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

  • What Ilana Shabtay learned from her interview with Steve Shannon
  • How inventory shortage has been affecting car dealerships
  • Ilana’s conversation about creating authentic content with April Simmons and supply chain harmony with Neil Ackerman
  • How to build a people-based dealership with Liza Borches
  • Brian Free’s strategies for reputation management and Brian Kramer’s advice on embracing digital and going paperless
  • Ilana talks about her interview with Facebook’s Bob Lanham on key metrics
  • How AutoLeadStar helps dealerships with metrics and consolidating data
  • What Ilana learned from Jim Ziegler about adapting technology

In this episode…

Over the last year, dealerships have had to pivot and make changes in the way they run their operations, how they market their products, and their strategies for communicating with customers. This has mostly been accelerated by technology and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the same period, Ilana Shabtay has had the privilege to interview some great guests on the InsideAuto Podcast. They’ve shared their advice on various topics affecting car dealerships, ranging from adopting new technology and handling inventory shortages to leveraging vanity metrics.

In this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, host Ilana Shabtay sits down with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, Co-founder of Rise25 Media, to talk about the interviews she did over the last year. Ilana shares some of the guests who were featured on the podcast and what she learned from them about improving dealerships. 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 to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

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

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

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. Before we introduce today’s guests, and today’s podcast, this episode is sponsored by The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful it allows you to market, sell, and service cars as you would in the real world at scale and online making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform that is powered by scale, speed, and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing today. I’m excited about today’s podcast and apologies if my audio isn’t as good as usual because I am working from home during the pandemic that never ends. But we have this year Dr. Jeremy Weisz with Rise25. Hi, Jeremy.

Jeremy Weisz 1:06

How’s it going? Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m excited because, you know, we’re gonna be talking and doing a urine review, which are some of the I guess the big lessons you’ve learned over the past year, and a lot is to be learned here. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to start off with Steve Shannon, and, you know, marketing innovation, the future of automotive ecosystem. You talked about with Steve Shannon, and, you know, one of the things that stuck out about this is, you talked about marketing efforts, I’d love for you to just expand on that a little bit. Yeah, and if people are watching the video, um, you know, if you’re listening the audio, if you’re watching the video, you’ll see on the screen the interview, and so you can kind of follow along a little bit with some of the bullets, so go ahead with marketing efforts.

Ilana Shabtay 1:52

Yeah. So Steve was super eye opening, because he explained a little bit about the tier one tier two, tier three, structure, he worked on the tier one level at an auto dealership and an automotive level. But it was really obvious from the conversation that well, dealers have the OEM support for marketing efforts, meaning of course, manufacturers are supporting, boosting certain, you know, inventory and special, it’s really important for on a tier three level, so on the actual dealer level, that they have the right marketing efforts to push out their own specials, their own incentives, their own inventory. So that was something he talked a lot about. And that’s also just been a theme throughout the year, and making sure that you’re actually implementing best practices, and you have the infrastructure at your dealership to support marketing. Again, you have the overhead from the manufacturer, but it’s just not not enough.

Jeremy Weisz 2:47

And I could see how important, a lot of it is to, you know, have these marketing systems and automation in place, especially with the pandemic or other things that are going on in the world, because then you’re off and worried about other things that come up, right?

Ilana Shabtay 3:04

Yeah, so that’s actually a really good point, something I wanted to bring up that I forgot. So thank you. It’s not just about having the infrastructure in place, it’s actually about having the dynamic, flexible infrastructure in place. Because some things are happening in the world, like the pandemic, we’re like, the inventory shortage, and your marketing infrastructure has to know how to respond to that. And if you don’t have that type of infrastructure set up, then you’re going to fall behind. So that’s it. That’s an

Jeremy Weisz 3:28

excellent point. What are people saying about the shortage? How is it affecting people when you’re talking to them? So

Ilana Shabtay 3:37

it’s interesting because it’s also been a huge theme of our podcast this year. And in the beginning, it was the same panic response that we got with COVID which was shut down on marketing there’s no inventory little by little dealers realize wait, there’s still competition, there’s still demand, there’s still branding that I need to put out there. So people choose me over the dealer down the street. So how do I make my marketing just more efficient, and my sales structure more efficient so that I can actually reach buyers so it’s an interest it’s been an interesting trend to watch because marketing is is absolutely inevitable in order for dealers to be able to compete and no one has inventory so it’s not like you know, the dealer down the street has more inventory than you so you have to prove somehow that your dealership is the one that’s going to get them their inventory in three months and give them the service that

Jeremy Weisz 4:30

I have found in all industries when people stop marketing the other people eat their lunch because someone’s gonna keep marketing right 100% So let’s go to the next one and we you know, you talked about recapping digital dealers top panels with April Simmons. And you know in this one you talked a bit about breeding authentic content at the dealership.

Ilana Shabtay 4:55

Yeah. And April Simmons Wow, she she provided so Watch information in that episode I think was one of our longer ones. And she participated in three panels in digital direct digital dealer. So she she gave us some insight into how that was. But the common theme was, figure out your content and make sure that you have unique content for your dealerships brand. And also, this is the time since you have, you know, no negotiations going on on the floor, obviously, because everyone’s selling cars no matter what, because there’s no inventory, so figure out a plan. So what April really spoke about was two things, one, getting buy in at the store to make sure that your sales team and your marketing team and whoever is actually at the store understands the importance of having brand content and video content. So that was number one. And then number two was set up a really easy system for them to actually support that so and what April did, which I think is great practical advice. And that’s why I want to reiterate it today on today’s podcast. She basically hired someone who knows how to work tick tock knows how to work Instagram, and, and had that person basically be the collector of all content. So if someone on the floor if a salesperson who doesn’t want to actually upload anything, or edit anything to Tik Tok, but wants to take a quick, you know, shot of something, they can take some pictures and videos to this content person, and then that kind of person actually, you know, uses that content and creating something really nice for the dealership. That’s just like, one, you know, practical tip that she gave, among many others, but I thought it was a great takeaway for dealers.

Jeremy Weisz 6:35

Yeah, it sounds like, you know, on, you know, what you guys do really automate this stuff. And they had kind of a system for content, they can easily deploy it and not make it you know, because I imagined that Hillsville they don’t want to mess around with uploading and creating descriptions, like seemed like it was easy system, boom, take a picture send to this person, they’ll handle the rest of that system.

Ilana Shabtay 6:58

Exactly. And it also motivates them to just feed in that content to the person because there’s basically no work for them to do. They just have to, you know, capture moment, if that on floor. So it’s a nice really easy way for dealers to get started on brand content.

Jeremy Weisz 7:14

Love it. The next one we’re going to talk about is creating supply chain harmony. This goes kind of the shortage and creating supply chain harmony, encouraging innovation with Neil Ackerman and this one you did talk about the impact of shortages and a little bit about why not the pause marketing?

Ilana Shabtay 7:35

Yeah, so wow, Neil Ackerman, he’s super smart guy. And he has a ton of experience, both at Amazon and at Johnson. And his approach. Specifically, he spoke mostly about Amazon, and was about customer delight, and how, as long as your your system is customer centric, it almost doesn’t matter what you bring, because your customers always at the center. So figuring out how to create that communication and expectation, which is 100%, relatable for our dealers was really his main takeaway. And I think, you know, especially in the year to come, this is going to be a huge focus for dealers, figuring out in every aspect of their infrastructure, how can we put the customer at the center, including with data? How do I get all of my customer data, and then translate that into something that I can create a really nice shopping experience for the customer. So, um, it was just interesting to see how he talks about like the supply chain, on Amazon and Johnson Johnson level. And we were able to kind of connect that to dealers and what they should be doing to be customer centric.

Jeremy Weisz 8:40

Yeah. I mean, you find the people at the some of the most successful companies do exactly that. They’re very customer centric about the customer experience. I was talking to someone yesterday who was at Disney for 10 years. And though you know, when you talk about Amazon, Disney Apple, like they have the customer at the forefront. So and same thing is what you help the dealers do, right? Yeah, I

Ilana Shabtay 9:03

always think about Zappos. Because I think someone once told me that, like, their entire business model is built off of just having the best customer service to the point where you can call them and be like, Hey, where’s the closest grocery to my store to my house right now? And like, they’ll just look it up for you because they’re all about customer service. And

Jeremy Weisz 9:23

yeah, I read the book, or listened to the book Delivering Happiness. And there are those like kind of folklore, true stories in there where someone was on the phone with someone for 10 hours. For some reason, like nothing to do with shoes, just other things are ordered for someone but like there’s those folklore stories. So totally, that’s probably why

Ilana Shabtay 9:47

you know, but at the end of the day that the message is thing. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 9:50

And that’s one of the reasons probably why Amazon bought them for a billion dollars or whatever they bought them for. So the next one is building a people based dealership and giving them back to the community with Liza to talk a little bit about culture. I know you talked a lot about culture here.

Ilana Shabtay 10:07

Yes. So that was another big theme actually still. Liza really talked about how she built up people first culture, which I think well, it sounds trivial is absolutely not, especially in the dealership world. So really figuring out how to, you know, create a family first environment, create a volunteer environment, a community environment, making sure that all the values are in place before you even onboard someone so that they have the motivation to work at the dealership. And this has come up, you know, quite a bit in our podcast, I had a similar conversation with Marija from PCG digital was also on one of the episodes this year, who went from automotive retail. So she worked at a big dealer group to the vendor space, the technology space. And one of the things she mentioned was that there was zero flexibility at the dealership like she, you know, she was working weekends, she was working 70 weeks, she couldn’t, you know, pick up kids there, she couldn’t work from home. And so dealers want you to focus on how to create a people first environment or else they’re going to lose their talent. And also, you know, there’s so many technology companies out there, especially in auto that are looking for that talent and looking for the dealer experience. So dealerships really have to put this in place in order to keep talent. So it was a little bit of a different conversation. We usually talk more about technology, but I loved this episode, because it was eye opening. And I think it was really helpful for dealers that are looking to build this kind of community based dealership.

Jeremy Weisz 11:35

Have you heard any tidbits from her other people about? What are some specific things they do? Maybe is team building or as a company to help with that morale or culture?

Ilana Shabtay 11:48

Less you’re less about team building more about you know, implementing maternity leave paternity leave. And of course, there are team building things, you know, making sure that if someone was actually I mean, this is Coronavirus, Perona specific, but if someone wasn’t quarantined at home, what is the team doing for them? Are they sending them something just like little things like that, that tech companies actually I think, you know, really embedded our culture that dealers dealerships didn’t always necessarily do. Another one was Matt Raymond who spoke about how they centralize their marketing, to make it more efficient. But in turn, it also created a way for them to be way more efficient at home and work from home and it gave them way more fun. Little things like that, that will transform the way that people work at dealerships, that’s gonna what, that’s what’s gonna keep the talent at dealers,

Jeremy Weisz 12:38

keeping the technology in the forefront allows people to be flexible, because then they can get stuff that they had to go into. They can kind of do from their phone or their computer. Yeah, love it. So the next one is AutoNation, Senior Director of Digital e-Commerce, Brian Free. And Brian talked a little bit about kind of reputation management.

Ilana Shabtay 13:00

Yes, so what Brian Brian has a wealth of knowledge he started at AutoNation, which is, you know, the number one dealer group in the nation. He started there as maybe their 10th or 15th employee. And he mastered SEO as part of his marketing strategy. But the other thing that he mastered, which also comes up a lot is just reputation management. So figuring out how to not only get the good reviews, but actually turn that into just like gold for your marketing, whether that be to optimize for SEO, or to figure out how to turn those reviews into things that show up on the website or ads. And he just gave so much insight into how it helped them, especially during the pandemic in the beginning, when they did turn down their advertising budget, they didn’t turn it off, they turned it, they toned it down a bit. So their SEO was able to kind of balance that and bring just amount, just the amount of traffic if not more, and it was all things to this like amazing reputation management system that he put in place as well as SEO Of course they couldn’t

Jeremy Weisz 14:08

move it. The next one is to BDC or not the BDC and other automated process system Brian Kramer. And with Brian, you talked about, again, kind of on the digital front and going paperless. Yes. So

Ilana Shabtay 14:24

Brian, Brian Kramer from Germain Auto. He’s been everywhere this year actually, I’ve seen so many interviews and one of the things one of the most impressive things that he’s put in place is going almost paperless at the dealership, which again, sounds trivial, but it’s actually extremely difficult because of the federal and state income laws that make it so difficult for people to actually buy their car like there’s so many so much red tape in automotive that prevents it so it’s not necessarily that the technology’s not there. It’s also figuring out how to like, get around Read tape or figure out a way to be creative to create that process and make it available for shoppers, which is 100%. You know, way more efficient and productive. And do shoppers want that, you know, first of all, it saves paper, but also it’s just way faster. And so he talked a lot about that. He did a lot of research in Florida about what how he can kind of get around it, and then how others can also learn from him. genic is a huge part here, right? It’s not just about Germain, he’s really trying to spread the word and help others. This is a tremendously for automotive a tremendously, because I actually remember when I first moved to Miami, I was trying to buy a car. And I did or lease a car. And I did. I can’t remember Oh, I didn’t have a car. So I didn’t go to a dealership. So I was trying to lease the car, and I did everything on the phone. And then the guy goes, Okay, you just need to come in. The media has signed this. And I was like, you can’t send it to me in a PDF, like, online and he was like no ink laws. It’s this that. And it broke the deal. Like I didn’t, I didn’t end up doing it. And in the end, it was a really ugly car. So it was a blessing in disguise. But I just couldn’t believe like, think about my story. Think about how many others, it totally broke the deal. I was like, you know, I don’t mind. I’m coming.

Jeremy Weisz 16:19

Yeah, and there’s so many easy technologies to do that. And I remember I had an experience with I went in to get my car demands on my car. And I got out the person on an iPad. Literally just had me they took a couple pictures. They basically me sign it was like the most the best customer experience all streamlined. It just did it right there. All digital. And it was done in like, a couple minutes. It was amazing. He gave them a little shout out here. Yeah, it was, um, it was a, like an Audi dealership in. In Chicago. I don’t have that car anymore. It was an old car that I bought us. But, um, it was an Audi dealership. I think it’s in Northbrook or Highland Park. It was amazing. I mean, they’re the I’d never experienced that kind of technology. So from the opposite side, the customer experience, you know, you’re wild, because probably because other people are doing it in more of an archaic way. There’s like the differential was, was huge in my mind. Yeah. Um, so the next one we have is switching from vanity metrics to metrics that matter, with Bob Lanham. And with Bob, you talked about, you know, tracking metrics that matter.

Ilana Shabtay 17:35

Yeah, so, um, Bob also has, you know, been everywhere in the past year. And he, he talks a lot about making sure that you have the proper metrics in place, and you’re not just reporting on metrics that really don’t matter. So for example, impressions and clicks. While that used to be exciting, that’s not exciting anymore. Because you want to know, your leads, or you want to know your cost per lead, and you want to know how efficient your marketing is when it comes to the leads, rather than impressions. But what he really focuses on is actually the mixed media model. That’s what he calls it, where it’s basically making sure that a dealership can actually take every single piece of marketing that they’re, that they’re investing in digital, traditional anything, and then take the total amount of leads, and just understand from a macro perspective, what your cost per lead is. And, and so, you know, we talked a lot about that, and this On this episode, and, and I find that it’s, it’s critical, because when we talk to dealers, everyone has a different system for calculating their leads, or calculating their their cost per lead or their ROI. And as an industry, we have to streamline that. So there’s like two parts here. The first part is know how to actually, you know, get get the proper ROI on your marketing. But then, of course, can we as an industry streamline that so that if you do go from one technology to another, it’s easy for you to compare and see that improvement and performance?

Jeremy Weisz 19:04

Talk about a little bit, you know, on that note, a little bit about AutoLeadStar and how that helps. Dealers, as far as the kind of the metrics go.

Ilana Shabtay 19:19

Yeah, so at auto, we’d start there’s two things and I’m happy brightness up. One is that announcer really focuses on consolidating more of the data so that the actual calculation of the marketing is more accurate. So what’s happening in automotive right now is a dealer will invest in, let’s say, a chat program and an SEO you know, an SEM provider. So you’re sending traffic to your site, and then on your site, you have something else that’s trying to convert that traffic to leads. When that happens. You have totally disjointed information and you can’t actually track the shopper from A to Z. So one of the things that our leaders doing to solve for that challenges is just having more Have the customer data and experience be in one place, so that it’s easy for you to track. And that’s number one. And then number two is, is owning your data. So actually giving the dealers access to all the data and making sure that they can track anything that they want, which outside of automotive is obviously, you know, an acceptable concept. But in automotive, not everyone actually has access to all their data. So what I mean by that is, not every dealer will own their Google Ads account or own their Facebook account. And that gives them way less visibility into their data. And then you know, you can’t even you don’t need enough control over what’s happening with your marketing budget. And certainly your marketing ROI.

Jeremy Weisz 20:42

Love it. Yeah. Thanks for Yeah, because you deal people with their entire marketing funnel, right with the software. Yeah, yeah.

Ilana Shabtay 20:49

Slowly, but surely, we’ve made our way. We iterate through the entire funnel, we started just on the website. And now we, we try to cover everything also, because we saw the challenge, which is that it was that the industry is so disjointed. There was no one solution, one platform, so that was part of what pushed us to develop that.

Jeremy Weisz 21:07

Love it. The next one is Jim Ziegler. Yes. And he talked about a little of incorporating technology. So talk about that in the dealership processes.

Ilana Shabtay 21:23

So Jim Ziegler has been around in automotive for a really long time. He’s extremely entertaining. I was very honored to have you seen the podcast, he trains a lot of dealers, he used to be a dealer himself. And you know, his main point is that one you have to evolve. But also technologies need to understand where dealers are at. So it’s important for that to be played, you know, hand in hand and Jim wasn’t the only one to bring this up. April Simmons, who are we already spoke about brought this up many other dealers that were on the call on the podcast, but does brought this up as well, that there’s people process and technology and all three to work together. So bringing in a technology that’s going to completely ruin a dealers process isn’t going to be successful, and then bring in people that’s going to ruin it technologies process is also not going to be successful. And so he’s all about adapting but all about also understanding where the dealerships are at now and how to kind of bring that all together. And he has some training platforms at their their link to your I know, not everyone watches this. So not everyone can see the screen. But in the show notes. We’ll we’ll put it. We’ll put it there. Again, the

Jeremy Weisz 22:34

Ziegler SuperSystems, there’s an Alpha Dawg website, which is simpler on demand calm.

Ilana Shabtay 22:41

Yep, exactly. And so he has some stuff there. And it’s, it’s really helpful, especially for people who find it a little bit harder to adapt to technology. I think he he’s really trying to help those, just because he comes from a similar place, because he’s been in the industry for a really long time. And so there’s a fine balance between, you know, keeping your tradition and adopting technology.

Jeremy Weisz 23:02

You know, when I was looking through the episodes this one stick out because he’s wearing a big Alpha Dawg hat. And is there a story behind that? Did he tell the story behind

Ilana Shabtay 23:14

the story behind the name Alpha Dawg that that’s how we started the podcast, but I won’t ruin it for you. Everyone should go and listen because he is way more entertaining than I would be.

Jeremy Weisz 23:26

Awesome. Check that out. Thank you for sharing all the lessons learned and more to come. Check out more episodes at You can find all the episodes there. And you can go to AutoLeadStar to learn more about the software anywhere else. We should point people online Ilana to learn more.

Ilana Shabtay 23:46

Oh, that’s about it. Please turn anything you can listen to us and all your favorite podcasts in the outlet.

Jeremy Weisz 23:52

They are some of the top leaders in auto and this was fantastic. Thanks a lot.

Ilana Shabtay 23:56

Thank you. Thank you so much for your time.

Outro 24:02

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

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