Eliav Moshe, Chief Product Officer at AutoLeadStar, has a way of doing things that’s different from that of most product leads at tech startups. Almost every product feature that Moshe takes into development starts with an interactive mockup that he designs and codes himself, so he can get feedback from his braintrust before investing in proper implementation.
Although his company’s platform is an automated marketing solution for car dealerships, Moshe doesn’t come from an automotive background. To ensure his product rollouts deliver maximum value, he regularly speaks with existing and prospective customers, to enrich his understanding of their pain points and how product improvements might help.
Moshe also often consults with stakeholders in and out of the automotive world on product engagement measurement, data integrations, conversion optimization and mobile-first development.
Meanwhile, AutoLeadStar has been experiencing large growth over the past two years. With the customer journey moving online during the pandemic, demand for marketing automation in the sector went through the roof. By the end of 2020, the company had doubled its subscription revenues and hired 26 new team members.
I sat down with Moshe to talk about his unusual approach as CPO, which he calls “holistic product management.” Moshe believes that this approach has played a major role in AutoLeadStar’s success.
Let’s start by hearing a bit of your back story. Who are you, and how did you get started?
I’ve thought of myself as a software developer from a very young age, since I first learned how to code as a pre-teen, and that seriousness means other people have taken me seriously, too. My official programming career started when I was just 18, and an NGO hired me on a project for them.
After that, I worked as an independent developer and owned several iOS applications that reached top spots in key app-store categories in the early days of the smartphone ecosystem. I do have a traditional education – I studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem – but when I was working on my Masters in Teaching Science and Math, I knew I was moving away from my dream. So it came as a kind of relief when my AutoLeadStar co-founder offered me to join this journey.
AutoLeadStar started out simple enough, optimizing car dealerships websites. But I knew we could do more. Getting to understand your customers is the real challenge, but once we started investing with our core partners and customers, we began to understand where the pain actually was, and how we could help.
Now, AutoLeadStar is a platform that caters to the entire digital marketing funnel, across communication channels and in a way that integrates with many systems on the dealer’s side.
That’s fascinating. How does holistic product management fit into this picture?
I’ll start by pointing out that as an executive team, we are not automotive experts. We chose to work in the automotive niche simply because we understood that there was a big opportunity in this space, because dealers were five or more years behind in digitizing the customer journey, and we knew we could have a huge impact.
Because we aren’t auto dealers ourselves, we have to have eyes and ears on the ground to make sure we’re really listening to our customers. We can’t just build features that we believe will solve dealers’ problems – we need to have a deep understanding of the landscape of challenges facing our customers, and build a comprehensive solution that helps them best.
I come from a background where I oversaw every element of the apps I built from a very young age, and this is still how I operate. Eventually I delegate the coding and integration of features to other key team members, whom I depend on tremendously, but when I have an idea for a new feature after speaking with auto dealers, it always starts with a pre-MVP mockup that I design, code, share and get feedback on, all on my own.
To me, holistic product management is the idea that a product is more than just a collection of features. AutoLeadStar offers several different elements that can help our customers, but to do my job, all those features should be thought of as a single, full, complete solution.
It’s not just that Feature X can solve Problem X, and Feature Y can solve Problem Y. By considering how all those elements interact with each other, Feature X can not only solve Problem X but also help make Feature Y more effective against Problem Y. That’s the simplest way of explaining it.
That sounds like it has real implications for the way you run your business.
Absolutely. The holistic approach means I keep a big-picture view of the company and the challenges our customers face at all times. While I do get down into the nitty-gritty of individual features and offerings, I always keep in mind how they fit into the bigger picture.
This means we’re better able to be agile and to expand. The market is constantly in flux. By actively listening to our customers, we don’t get bogged down in an arms race of features. We can grow to meet their needs organically.
It also means that we perpetually come back to our customers as the focus of our business. We run a continual dialogue with our customers to make sure we’re not building useless features that don’t fit into the broader scope.
What benefits do your customers receive from your product management approach?
There’s simply no better way to manage a product. Our customers don’t get distracted with diverse features that may or may not actually solve their issues – they’re fully aware of how every element works for their benefit, individually, and as a whole.
Our platform consists of several individual modules that communicate with each other. We have Acquire, which is the traffic acquisition element. Connect is responsible for on-site engagement.
Finally, Nurture (which we are launching shortly) will provide email solutions. These features all do different things, but by using them together and using data as the common point, our customers get a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Especially with the holistic product management approach, our customers are able to take advantage of the data that’s at the core of our solutions. Of course gut feeling is important for setting the direction, but when it comes to the details, we always turn to data.
It sounds like holistic product management is your keystone philosophy. What else influences the way you run AutoLeadStar?
True to holistic product management, all of my core beliefs are part of the same drive. I believe that our role is to use technology to solve society’s pain points and gain opportunities. I believe we have a duty to help these independent businesses thrive in the digital space. And I believe in sharing knowledge and collaboration with innovative people and companies.
These boil down to a single overarching idea: that technology is best when it’s helping those who need it most. That’s what I do with AutoLeadStar every single day.