Snowboards to SAAS with Mike Colacchio

October 11, 2022
There’s a through line here somewhere. Mike Colacchio has gone from minor-league baseball to selling snowboards to Dealer.com to DealerInspire to AutoLeadStar, where’s an advocate for connected data and Customer Data Platforms. He joins us on Auto Collabs and shares his story, plus his vision for the future of data.
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Mike also spoke at ASOTU CON on “Our Data Has An Automotive Problem.” Get access to the entire Marketing/Tech room today!

What we talk about in this episode:
0:00
Intro with Michael Cirillo, Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier

2:51 Mike started off as a minor-league baseball player working for snowboard company Burton in the offseason. He got a call to come work at Dealer.com while taking batting practice.

8:55 From Dealer.com, Mike went to Dealer Inspire and now AutoLeadStar. He talks about some of the innovative things that those companies have been doing.

13:07 Dealers are sitting on a lot of data, but the challenge is being able to unlock and connect all that data.

22:14 Mike gives us an example of how a Customer Data Platform (CDP) would work when all the data is connected.

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Kyle Mountsier: 0:00There's something funny that happens every time you encounter someone with an Italian first or last nameUnknown: 0:12

this is Auto Collabs

Kyle Mountsier: 0:13

your voice always changes you

Paul Daly: 0:19

guys gotta get up and I feel like everybody in

Kyle Mountsier: 0:22

the world can do some level of Italian accent like they can like it's somewhere between Boston Italian somewhere in that range right and someone everyone can kind of pull it off.

Michael Cirillo: 0:33

Where do you think that came from though? Because like obviously real estate Italy's.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:41

I think honestly, I think it came from like, 50s to 80s. Mobs, mob movies, that's where it came from. Sure. It came from the Godfather it came from

Paul Daly: 0:52

is bent over right.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:56

Just thinking out loud

Paul Daly: 0:57

here. That is totally response. So really would have given either one of us deadpan. He just that's how it works. That's how but I think you're right, Kyle. I think it is definitely the caricature. But I've never been to Italy, so I don't know. Cirillo, have you ever been to Italy?

Michael Cirillo: 1:13

There's too many Italians there. Yeah. Well, hey, look, we're not really sure. I'm Italian. So we're not

Kyle Mountsier: 1:23

really sure if our guest today is actually Italian. But Mike Colacchio, you know, is kind of similar along those lines. Yeah, gotta bring the fingers in. You gotta you gotta change the accent. Mike. Man, he's been around auto for a long time with the back to Dealer.com days and DealerInspire and now AutoLeadStar and just has always been in the innovative tech game. So I'm interested to see like how the new journey with AutoLeadStar is going and what what he kind of draws from the experience across automotive because he does he's got just a vast experience with some of the most innovative companies as they come along.

Paul Daly: 2:01

Well, I think that's as much intros we can handle on this episode. Michael, still try not to laugh. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Mike Colacchio.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:17

So your professional career actually didn't start at dealer.com Mike Colacchio, your LinkedIn told me that you started in snowboards the truth?

Paul Daly: 2:29

Oh, now Boulder makes so much more sense.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:32

All right. Got him. So okay, so take us back. You're like doing snowboards taking care of retail and then it's like transportation car automotive.

Mike Colacchio: 2:46

Yeah. Yeah. So i i It's funny. So like how I got into auto I was I grew up in a little town called Burlington, Vermont. And for people that don't know, that's where DDC started, ironically, and I worked at Burton Snowboards in the offseason so I was actually pursuing your career to go play baseball. So I was playing, you know, minor league baseball,

Kyle Mountsier: 3:14

and offseason truly,

Mike Colacchio: 3:17

not actually work and customer service at Burton Snowboards. Because it worked out perfect. I would work there in the winter. And then when spring training was going around, I could just head out certain ways I worked customer service there and took people return orders for jackets and rip seams and all that stuff. And then ironically, you know, I'm I always believe that everything happens for a reason. I was in the outfield for batting practice. And my all my buddies were working this company called dealer.com And I was like, to help us dealer.com, like a drug company or something like

Paul Daly: 3:52

that stream now they're just doing it on the internet, right? Yeah.

Mike Colacchio: 3:56

So anyways, I remember I like through something a long time ago, and I was in the outfield. I had a phone call. And it was like, Hey, this is so and so from dealer.com You know, fast forward.

Paul Daly: 4:07

You're at practice and you got a phone call and you picked it up. I was at

Unknown: 4:10

batting practice for the game. And I had my cell phone on me I was shagging fly balls and my phone rang and a reason I picked it up because we're kidding wasn't kidding it into the outfield. Hey, this is so and so from dealer.com You know, do you want to interview for a sales job? Nausicaa you know, I'll take the call whatever. Ironically, I got released. And you got a job offer from dealer.com to go start working on inside sales within like a week.

Paul Daly: 4:40

A change of scenery.

Kyle Mountsier: 4:42

What Oh week, good knees like I got snowboards and baseball. Yeah, inside sales. And dealer.com But that was the early days. I mean, you were early on. Like, I mean, you probably were a numbered employee at some point at dealer.com

Mike Colacchio: 4:58

Yeah, I was like two You 20 or something like that. I got hired to do inside sales and I never knew I wanted to be in sales. Like ever I was there like I was I got released. I was like, What the hell am I gonna go do? And it was right when dealer.com Sign the exclusive with FCA it was FCA back at that time in 2008. Right when they went into, you know, the GFC. And they were losing franchises. And I got into auto and we were talking about dealers to sell funny. Back in 2008. We were talking to all dealers specifically Stellantis about what paid search was. We're like, Listen, you only pay for it when someone clicks on the app. And they're like, bullshit, and we're like, no, seriously.

Paul Daly: 5:49

Like, are you telling me right to do the whole thing is $0 $0 Correct. Zero pennies.

Mike Colacchio: 5:55

Yeah, so that was fun back back then. So I got to work. Ironically, throughout my career, I was thinking about this. The other day, every company I went to has a tie to, you know, what is now called Stellantis. So when I went to di, D, I just got this two Lantis agreement disagreement when they when they went from exclusive to preferred. And that, you know, now fast forward at AutoLeadStar. We have no we have an amazing relationship with it was Stellantis as well.

Kyle Mountsier: 6:23

Wow. All right. So here's here's a question that I have,

Paul Daly: 6:26

because that was a good one. That was a pretty good one. We've had a lot of like my first step into auto stories. That was a pretty interesting one. Look,

Kyle Mountsier: 6:33

that was that was amazing. Like, here's, here's here's what we're trying to do here at the end is try and figure out how we can find the through line to snowboard customer service and, and baseball in your current career. So we're going to try and get there. And you may know that but if you don't, we'll try and get there because it's like a challenge that Paul and I thrown at ourselves every time. But I'm always interested in someone that like, you know, most people don't wake up like when they're 16. And be like, Man, I hope one day, I'm the VP of sales of an organization, right? You kind of get into it into the sales. And maybe it's maybe there's a percent, I don't know what your perception of sales was like, maybe sales is good. And maybe sales was bad when you started. But I guess like ever since you kind of hit the scene in automotive in a sales role to now what what kind of excites you or keeps you energized? Or the reason why the sales persona is something that that makes sense for you and that you see as like a valuable part of the ecosystem of technology in automotive.

Mike Colacchio: 7:44

Yeah, great question. So when I first got into sales, selling to the Stellantis dealers was I got my first well just on like what excites me about sales. And again, this was like my first like, real job, you know, coming off the baseball field and, you know, returning jackets at Burton Snowboards. I got my first commission check. And when I got my first commission check, I was like, Wait a minute. And then I just started doing math. And I was like, if I do this, you're telling me that I can make you know, I can make this. So immediately, I was like, Alright, I'm just gonna go absolutely. You know, 100% all the time. Because like, that's like, it's like, you eat what you kill, right? It's like, you're not if you go out what you put in is what you what you get out of it. So that was what excited me about it. Like on that side. And then you know, when what, you know, if you look at like where I was working, you know, luckily, I got to work with what, in my opinion, are some of the best people in the business? Like if you go back with like Mark, Rick, Jamie, Mike. And, and those guys dealer.com Back in the day was an unbelievable story. Like, I don't know that many people know this. But at one point DDC has 70% of the US franchise websites in the entire country.

Paul Daly: 9:12

Most people don't know that, including me. Yeah. It was the

Kyle Mountsier: 9:16

one

Mike Colacchio: 9:18

believable and they like and back at, you know, back then we had like, or, you know, Mark bonfiglioli, who was the founder, they had like organic, you know, organic cafe's, they had a they had a cycling room that powered the NLA This is before a culture of like the Googles and stuff was like around there. So like, one representing good technology is just super fun. And that's what I'm passionate about. That's why I left di to come over to AutoLeadStar like when you can go out and have a conversation and bring something that's like one is is cutting edge and two, it solves a lot of people's problem that makes sales a hell of a lot. easier, like you have this great product and I always want to surround myself with unbelievably smart people like when I went to di with Chura I went to go sell know it not many people know this story, but I want to go sell Joe, a DDC website when he was the internet manager at Riverview Ford.

Kyle Mountsier: 10:21

Ah, yeah, his dealer days, that's great.

Mike Colacchio: 10:24

So And ironically, he didn't buy the website from me, or he bought it from Matt Cole, who was his co founder at di, which is always a funny story. Because, you know, Joe a lot as, as we went through, I always like touch base on these super smart guys, you guys have all interacted with them. You know, I just always texted with them. And we always stayed in contact. But the running joke was that I couldn't sell him a DDC website. But when I went to di he trusted me with, you know, his sales organization and building building that up. So like, reason why I say is that I just always want to be surrounded by one smart people and to the technology that you get to bring to dealers is always like very eye opening, especially like what we're doing here, that at AutoLeadStar or it just makes it fun. And you have to believe in the product. When you believe the product, everything naturally kind of goes from there.

Paul Daly: 11:20

Well, there's a cool thing about what you're doing right now in the sense that the more time you are a part of something in a similar phase, in a similar stage, you start to like, get the benefit of pattern recognition. And like I've seen this before, this is really what we need to do, or how how we need to proceed. You know, what's your current role? What are some of the patterns you recognize from your DDC days, and throughout your career that you can say, you know, what, I think this is the spot we're in with, you know, this, you know, data data sharing, and like, what do you see the similarities between that?

Mike Colacchio: 11:55

Yeah. So like, if you look at where DDC was, like, on the website side, they were the first ones to really come out with like, a really good, like ecosystem to create, like, you know, with digital platform. And then, on the DI side, what Joe and team, you know, Bill was like, they were just innovating at this insanely, the pace of their innovation was just crazy. It's like they were the first ones to come out with like the video, I'm sure you guys remember this, Kyle, when they came out with the video homepage, like when that first came out, ever, when I was at dealer.com, the days and everyone was like, What the heck is going on? Like, oh, my God, give me a video on my, you know, on my homepage with my

Paul Daly: 12:38

drone operator? Yeah.

Mike Colacchio: 12:39

You know, everyone is very visual. And then And then also, like, when you look at like what our wn and team you know, are building the you know, that that was one on the website side, you kind of go with these, like cyclical

Paul Daly: 12:52

see that pattern? You see it coming through? What is phase like website was a phase where there was like, 40, website companies, and now there's probably five or six. And then it got into Dr. And there was like, you know, five, or six, and now there's, like 40 of them. But now, when you look at like what's going on, on the data side, and especially what's going to happen, you know, when Google stuffs pushing it back with first party data, the ability to go in, and orchestrate and connect that data is one, it's a huge opportunity that dealers are not doing right now. Like we talked with dealers all day long. And they have this massive database that they're literally just sitting on. And if you look at like the Walmart's the targets and all that stuff, like they launched their own ad network and ad platform, because they have an unbelievable amount of first party data. And on the dealer side, to connect that and automate it, which is another topic where some people are afraid of automation. If you can do that and unlock that, then, you know, we're always talking about customer data platforms, and we're a customer data experience platform. Outside of automotive, they are everywhere, all of the top brands are using it. But you can't do it. Well, you can do it now. But you couldn't do it in auto purely the way that our data is structured. Luckily, our guys have, you know, on at least are figured out a way to connect that data. And so what do you see? That's where I saw the opportunity, you what is the thing that is in the way right now? Right? Like what is the thing it's in the way of like mass adoption or mass deployment?

Mike Colacchio: 14:35

Yeah, so we're doing a lot ton of education on like, what what it is because when we talk to these dealers, and you know, I mentioned, you know, being afraid of automation, a lot of dealers are really just in tune with like pulling the lever. Like they need the friction point to pull the lever and they don't want to say all right, well, we can actually use and look at ones and zeros to look at the data and say Rate, here's the output. Now we're going to do this. That aspect is really just like not saying it's like, hey, just let the machine do it. But the purely on the education because it's never been done before, like, Kyle, when you were at, at your at your dealership, I'm sure you were like, God, it'd be so awesome if my CRM could literally talk to this. And if you made a call to your CRM company to say, Hey, can you work with, you know, vendor X, Y, and Z? They'd say, Yeah, you know, go pound sand, we'll get to it on Q5.

Kyle Mountsier: 15:34

Yeah, keep five. They're like, they're like that. So basically, what you do is you go to this report generator that breaks every eight minutes. And then once you get to the report generator, you download the CSV file, it's 10,000 pieces in it, and you're gonna have to filter through because half the names are broken. Once you get that synched up, then you can potentially send it as an email, but watch out, because there's a lot of privacy laws when you start downloading that stuff. Right? But but don't worry, you're gonna be fine. Right? And yeah, so that's, that's a big deal. It's interesting to me, because when you look at I mean, you didn't say Ott, but when you look at this, it's like dealer.com days, you know, you're you're educating on SEM, right? It's, I mean, in 2008 2009, that's not a new thing in like the world of marketing, right, that had already been around. So educating on that. And then, you know, we get to like the mid teens, and we're really educating on OTT and connected TV, video platforms, and dealers are learning what what they were doing on traditional actually applies at a deeper level there. And now we're learning that, oh, we've been sitting on these databases for so long, and we say this word CDP and all of a sudden, it sounds like this big scary thing. And, and what you're saying is no, it's just connecting the data points, to enable ad advertising and user experience, and all of that, and, and all of that down the line. I am interested to see like, what's that next thing that comes? Like what is what is actually because if I think about SEM, and the audience strategies and things like that, that's the unlock to the learning of Ott, right. And when you think about all like the unlock to learning, you know, for a CDP was really, like you said, Google and Apple kind of coming away, there's always these unlocks. And I'm wondering if there's an unlock at the CDP or CDSP, or data connected layer, that that is just beyond it, that we're going to have to educate because now that we've, we've kind of done all these things now we have to educate on this. Are you seeing, like, are you seeing that next trend over the horizon on the on the unlock of what we need to get to?

Mike Colacchio: 17:45

You know, I think right now to get to the the next unlock, is we just need to get people ingrained with like, their new like world, like they've had this like world and you're basically lifting up like the cloak in saying, Look, you can actually use all this stuff. So the ability to really like leverage the data that they have, and moving through, like what we just released to earn last week with like, data lake, like, that's another like, thing that's been, it's been around forever. But we just couldn't do it in auto because all the data is due it. I do think like, not, you know, not to, you know, go around your crush. But I do think that as these become more ingrained in automotive, I believe that the vendor ecosystem, because the dealers are going to demand it and I talked with dealers last time, they hold the keys to this, like, who pays the bills for all of all the vendors, you know, present company included, if they need to get a better open ecosystem. I think what we're gonna get out of it, is we're gonna get a better ecosystem where dealers or vendors are going to start talking to each other. Otherwise, they're, you know, they're gonna get left behind because if you know, insert vendor x, if they talk to vendor y, and it creates a seamless relationship, instead of just putting up the guardrails and saying, Hey, this is us and this is our data, you can't have it unless you pay us X y&z And guess what, we're not going to integrate?

Kyle Mountsier: 19:13

You know, yeah, you know, that's, that's a big reason for this podcast, because there's this like, triangle of relationship that we're actually like, we're gonna make a diamond at some point. I'm trying to convince everyone but there's this relationship like dealer OEM customer industry partner, right? And right now they are like us floating on islands for the most part, there's a lot more integration starting to happen and and really, the that those relationships have to be super symbiotic. And especially, and I think you're I think you've nailed it is this and I'm starting to see it open up where industry partners are going, okay, okay, fine. We're gonna play ball together. We're actually going to work together and I'm even seeing these like the industry part. There's coming together, and like supporting the dealer together, right? Where they're having meetings outside of the dealer and going, Hey, mutual client, how can we serve the client better as as a dealer and the dealer is actually calling them out to that going, Hey, look, y'all gotta get y'all gotta figure things out together, because I want to use each of you as partners. And I can't do that unless you talk better. Right. And so I do think I'm seeing that as a more healthy relationship between dealers and industry partners. And I think that the more we can have those conversations, you're right, that that, that it's actually going to speed up the ability to create better customer experiences. Right? So and I love that, like, you guys call it the CD XP experience. You know, if people are maybe familiar with a CDP. When you think CD XP, what's the experience? So for people that don't CDP customer data platform, right, so that's like, all of your customer data in one place. And really, it's, it's really just a layer that you're able to execute on. And you're saying that there's a customer data experience platform. So what's the experience part of it? What What are you saying, You're you're unlocking, that's more than like a CDP?

Mike Colacchio: 21:20

Yeah. So so like a CDP is basically like you just did a great job explaining it on the CD XP on the experience side is that a lot of times when when you look at your customer database, and you can say, hey, you know, Paul, Paul bought a car, this is Paul's third car, his lease is coming up. And I know that he's on my site, and he's browsing, you know, VDP. So I'm going to trigger an email to Paul, that that's actually going to be relevant because I know where he's at. And I know what he's looking at, I know what he already bought. And I know when that's maturing. So those four things is where you actually unlocked. Right? So that's when you actually do the activation. Now on the experience side, is when you the end goal for every single person in auto is to drive them to where

Kyle Mountsier: 22:05

your website or the website or

Mike Colacchio: 22:09

if I do my marketing, and it works, and I get them to the site, where the CDP's kind of fall right now is that when I get them to the site, I'm driving them to let's say, you know, leasing Paul, a Telluride, and his lease is coming up and say, Hey, Paul, we'd love to buy your Telluride. Here's the new, you know, 2022, or 2023, here's your offer, and you land them. There's a break in marketing connectivity. And marketing connectivity is basically what enticed me to click on the ad, or click on the email. And then when I get to the site, is it going to be there? Now, right now? It's not in I'm talking about in general automotive, right. So like, if I send Paul that ad, basically, what we're doing on the experience side is because we're connected on the CRM, and we have that data layer, when he goes to the site, on the experience side, it'll say there's a, you know, a video that says, Hey, Paul, here's your offer on the blah, blah, blah, like whatever offer it is. So now you solve marketing one on one, which is like, what did I click on? Then? How do I get to it? And that's just purely on the experience side. And then we think about digital retailing, like we had this huge boom of digital retailing, that like went up and went down, and I was at di when this happened. So like, it was like, Oh, my God, we got to do digital retailing. And everyone's like, we're selling so many cars get this off my site. Right? So, but when that was happening, if you think about this, and everyone's trying to move to this transactional site, so everyone advertises offers, probably not as much now, but there will be soon. If I click on that, you know, will continue with the Telluride lease offer. If I'm retargeting Paul on Facebook, or Google and he sees an offer for X vehicle, and I click on that, which is the offer that I'm enticement to click on Namie, one site where you can dynamically push the offer into the digital retailing tool on the VDP. Right, not existed now. Right? So think about that, on the experience side, is that I enticed him to click on that lease offer, let's call it 199. I drive him to the VDP. And what's the first thing he sees 399 Blah, blah, blah, XYZ. And guess what the offer that he clicked on is nowhere to be found. So what we do is that we orchestrate that entire experience, advertising, email, audience, all that stuff. And then when they go to the site, or it's smart enough to recognize what they did, and what they clicked on, it serves a relevant offer. And that's where the x comes in. In the CDSP.

Paul Daly: 24:49

We talk about all the time, like Kyle said earlier, that's what we're trying to do here with this podcast in general and just the ASOTU Community anyway, is to get people collabing and working together to solve the customer. experience, because that is the way that franchise retail Automotive is going to win, right by working together to solve that. And the rest of the world is innovating very quickly and EVS and new entrants to the, you know, to the manufacturing game, all of that stuff is just forcing the velocity of innovation to increase. And like if we stay in our silos, it's just not going to happen. So, thank you so much for coming today. And sharing your little corner of the world and what you're doing to solve the consumer experience. I know there's gonna be a lot more coming from AutoLeadStar soon so thank you so much for joining us today.

Michael Cirillo: 25:37

I had a neighbor who played professional baseball at baseball in Canada. Well, so the thing is, he played baseball and then

Kyle Mountsier: 25:45

Jays Come on, man. Oh, well, yes, the

Paul Daly: 25:48

blues. I mean, they have a dome though. Like what do they practice?

Michael Cirillo: 25:53

On a field somewhere outside baseball than ice rink,

Kyle Mountsier: 25:57

right? The high school parking lot. 30 days in the middle of the summer.

Michael Cirillo: 26:01

Baseball, my neighbor, my neighbor, his name was Monty. I can't remember his last name. But he got recruited by the Oakland A's played a two full seasons with the Oakland A's. You know, imagine his whole life's dream was to make it to the pros. He makes it to the pros, takes a baseball to the wrist and breaks the only bone in your wrist that never heals the end.

Paul Daly: 26:25

What's he doing now?

Michael Cirillo: 26:27

He's a realtor.

Kyle Mountsier: 26:28

He's rails kind of. Right. I mean, basically, you know, that's what all good. That's what all good people do that don't know what to do with the rest of their lives as they go to sales. But here's what's interesting is my collage. Yo, I love his story of like, I've basically gone to all of the places where I can't just tell you like we have a thing that you already know about. I'm telling you about a whole new thing that you've never encountered. That's brand new on the market. Let me explain it to you. I'll give you the education and then maybe you'll buy it right. That's a hard.

Paul Daly: 27:01

It's yeah, I mean, if you think that's kind of the baseball mentality, though, right? You just need a lot of patience and you have the patience for things to develop. Right? That's like the brilliance of a baseball player. Right? It's a very strategic

Kyle Mountsier: 27:14

and like many, many levels of patience. Say an outfielder guys shagging fly balls. Oh my gosh, I'm out here don't worry about me. Let's take

Paul Daly: 27:22

some calls like that to shag of fly balls. And that's how he got the auto industry talking about Yeah, I'll come do that. And even though like I don't know, he's got he's got that that like laid back vibe. I mean, the fact that he's just like he's a skier or snowboarder I'm sorry, worked for bird snowboards that one that would have been fighting words those are fighting words. No, but the whole vibe is just like that. That friendly laid back Oh, yeah, it's all under control. Right? I just I don't know. I'd like people like that. Well, the name like call out you.

Kyle Mountsier: 27:51

Yeah, cool. Hey, look, here's here's what I know is every single technology at some point becomes approachable for anyone. And I think that that Mike's approach to bringing new technologies into the industry is one of education so I appreciate that like we got to walk through a little bit of the CDP the CDSP because it is it's a new thing. Sure Automotive is having to approach and and so hope you you got something from that episode. On behalf of myself, Paul J. Daly and Michael Cirillo. Thanks for joining us on auto claps

Unknown: 28:24

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