Having a head for technology runs in the Balistreri family.
Frank Balistreri, the owner of Santa Cruz based IMOS Consulting was employee #142 at Apple Computer and later founded a Silicon Valley based software company. His father worked at IBM in the 60’s – helping create the first ATM machines.
Now his daughters join him in a new chapter in the legacy.
It was Frank’s hobby as a car collector that led to the creation of IMOS, the auto dealership technical services company his daughters run today. In 2003, when IMOS was founded, dealership websites were a mess, full of blank pages, broken links and broken images. Dealerships were required by manufacturers to have websites, but they weren’t given the same care or attention as other facets of the business.
So, he launched IMOS to give car dealerships access to technical talent that would give them “a serious competitive edge on all things related to the internet,” he says.
Frank’s eldest daughter, Lauren, earned a degree in Graphic Communication/Design and spent her early career working for clients in New York and California.
Regarding IMOS, she said, “It was easy to see how personally fulfilling and meaningful it was for my father.”
At the same time, Frank’s younger daughter, Gianna, earned a degree in Business Marketing, was on a management track at Pepsi, but found that it offered little challenges.
“The job was good but it was a little underwhelming for me,” she says. Both sisters wound up coming to IMOS in 2010, six months apart.
“My daughters dove right into the automotive landscape where great changes were taking place,” Frank says. “Dealerships used to attract customers through their storefront, traditional media, television and radio sales, but the Internet was quickly overtaking those channels.”
“I had the founding idea but the reason that we made the INC 5000 list was due to having great clients and the efforts and innovations of Lauren, Gianna, and the team they have built,” Frank says. “They have made IMOS into the great company it is today.” Lauren serves as company President; Gianna as Director of Business Development; and Frank has an ongoing role as CEO. Now operating with 13 employees, the company was named on Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America list. Based in Santa Cruz, California, it is ranked No. 4 in the area, No. 349 in California and No. 2,211 nationally.
It’s the first time the company has been included on the prestigious list. There’s a good reason: Over the past three years, IMOS has experienced 265% growth. That includes the pandemic crisis. “Those first few weeks of the pandemic, we just hit the ground running — the lockdown limiting foot traffic and test drives, was going to change our customers’ business and we needed to have digital solutions to keep things running smoothly. We wanted to be the partner they could rely on to support them as things evolved.”
During that bizarre time of the pandemic, IMOS launched two products, Social Driver and CRM Driver, programs that increase dealership leads via social media ads and easily automates lead follow-up, respectively. Both were born by talking with clients about their needs. CRM Driver, for example, addressed the struggles created by staff shortages from Covid.
“I’m elated that we were able to serve our clients through an unprecedented time, and that we retained and even brought on more staff too. The wonderful thing about a family business is that it’s easy to focus on people and do right by them. I know we do great work, but I think our attitude and values are huge factors in our success these last few years.”
As Gianna says: “We’ve had 100% client retention over the last decade.”
When dealer groups expand and add new stores, “we find that the management teams want to take us with them into their new opportunities, because of the success we had together in the past and the strong relationships they have with our team.” Lauren says. Dealers spend up to $100,000 a month on marketing through third party channels – like cars.com and Auto Trader – “but often they don’t know which outreach contributed to
their sales,” Gianna says.
IMOS analyzes the different traffic sources and helps clients understand the quality of traffic they are receiving.
Here is another insightful example of how IMOS works:
“One dealership was spending tens of thousands on paid search traffic and they weren’t seeing a huge amount of attributions,” Gianna explains. “We shifted their budgets to spend money on social media advertising. In 90 days, they could see that 40% of their total sales came from social media.”
One IMOS client started in the lower half of district sales and eventually climbed to No.1. Scott Wideman of Keating Auto Group, an IMOS client, was ranked as the 15th auto group in the nation by Automotive News, an astounding position for the company.
“IMOS Consulting is like having several extra sets of eyes when issues arise that have the same goals as our dealer group,” Wideman says. “And unlike other digital agencies we have worked with, personnel turnover with IMOS is low, which has great value to us because we don’t have to frequently retrain someone new all of our goals.
“IMOS,” he adds, “has evolved with each digital evolution in automotive and has consistently been a productive and contributing partner for Keating Automotive as we have grown from 10 stores to 28 stores currently.”
Work Life Balance
As IMOS expands, the management team realizes the importance of keeping employees grounded. Starting about a year ago, each employee completes a weekly work/life balance survey. “This helps us manage our teams and helps them establish positive boundaries,” Gianna says. “We answer those questions every week and it’s a good reminder to us, too.”
When Lauren and Gianna are away from the office, they have a self-imposed “Five Minute” rule about talking about work. “It’s still a challenge for us to not talk about work in the off time,” Frank says. “Work is a lot of fun for us. It’s such a big part of our lives and we are excited about what the future can be.”
Monitoring Motoring into the Future Vehicle Sales
The foundation for selling cars online is already in place but some of the intricacies may change with the uptick in demand for electric cars. “Right now, different filters on websites can help users search for specific colors, models,
types of vehicles,” Gianna says. “With electric vehicles, those filters need to reflect how many miles on a battery charge, and other factors.”
“We utilize the right technology, tools and color schemes to keep the sites relevant,” Lauren says. Digital marketing is constantly evolving and “IMOS is always innovating– which often means discovering how other industries are on the cutting-edge of branding and outreach,” she concludes.