Next generation marketing automation that drives real customer engagement- Interview with Michael Sharkey and Guy Marion of Autopilot


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Love customersToday’s interview is with Michael Sharkey, Co-founder & CEO, and Guy Marion, CMO, of Autopilot, a Saas company that provides easy and visual marketing software for automating the customer journey. Michael and Guy join me today to talk about what they are doing, how they are working on creating customer journeys and creating unique marketing experiences that don’t feel like marketing and the impact of this type of approach on customer engagement and customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – What you do when proactive customer service is in your DNA – Interview with David Politis of BetterCloud – and is number 157 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

NOTE: The audio from Michael and Guy is a little jumpy in places but it is still ok to listen to. The vagaries of technology and telephone line connections! Apologies.

Highlights of my interview with Michael & Guy:

  • Autopilot’s main aim is to help organisations of all sizes create customer journeys and unique marketing experiences that don’t feel like marketing but they are also integrating more traditional methods too like handwritten postcards, etc into the process.
  • 61% of marketers in the US still rely on email are their primary marketing tool.
  • Whilst email is still effective, marketing automation needs to become more aligned with customers channel and mode preferences.
  • They’ve also made their software accessible and affordable for all firms, where historically this type of technology was only available to large enterprises.
  • Michael cites a low-level example of a company in Texas that services cars. The firm in question know that their business is driven by referrals and Yelp reviews and so use Autopilot to help build a database of customers and then send them reminders of when their next service is due. But, on top of that they are also sending their customers a postcard after their service thanking them for their business and then asking via a landing page on their website if they would they be willing to review them on Google and/or Yelp if tey had a great experience.
  • Michael uses this example to illustrate how even the smallest of companies can now using journey based marketing.
  • Another example is a hardware start-up (wearable cameras) called Narrative that uses Autopilot to help its users, via different channels, understand how they can the best use out of the camera, to encourage their users to continue using their camera and how they can use their app etc.
  • This all might sound familiar but what Autopilot is doing is knitting together all of the diverse digital as well as traditional tactics that are available to marketers in one platform.
  • Recent report by Overreach asked 63 experts what they thought was the number one way for any company to improve their customer service and their top answer was ‘Focus on employee experience’.
  • It is then no surprise then that there is serious and growing interest in Autopilot’s software for use in helping firms with their on-boarding and internal communications.
  • Autopilot is using their own application to help with on-boarding and communication with job applicants and new-starters all the way from communicating the status of their application to arranging interviews, sending out contracts for signing to arranging induction training etc etc.
  • Other ‘far fetched’ but interesting use cases include using their platform for following up with people when they come and visit them for a meeting in their office.
  • Finally, there is a huge case around internal communications and aligning internal comms to employee preferences and channel choice.
  • In research they conducted in January this year they found that 65% of companies feel that they could be doing a better job of staying in touch with their customers and their audience.
  • To get started on this, companies should:
  1. Centralise and organise their contacts as most firms tend to have numerous databases and spreadsheets containing different contact lists;
  2. Think through the customer journey from the customer’s perspective and map out those touchpoints;
  3. Be data driven and have a way to centralise, sort and analyse the results that you get such that it enables benchmarking, performance and touchpoint/tactic analysis and how things can be changed to improve revenue generation.
  • Autopilot think about data in four ways:
  1. How are customers engaging with your content;
  2. How are customers behaving in your app or on your website;
  3. What are their demographics (location, company, industry etc); and
  4. How have they engaged your company ‘human-wise’ i.e. how have they engaged your sales team, your support teams or your customer success teams?
  • You don’t have to centralise your data in a CRM system before you use Autopilot as it will help you do this. Thus, it can become a firms customer intelligence hub and can help them build a unified view of the customer.
  • Autopilot has built-in integrations with Salesforce CRM, InsideView, Segment, Lob and Twilio and through its API can pull in data from sources as diverse as Google docs, Eventbrite, GoToMeeting etc etc.
  • Autopilot know that it’s 3-5 times more engaging for a customer to receive an in-app message whilst they are using an app than it is to send them an email to their inbox.
  • Michael adds that one other way that their software is different is that they have developed a very visual and intuitive drag and drop journey canvas that allows marketers to design, plan and implement sending the right message, to the right customer on the right channel, at the right time.
  • Guy adds that they like to think of Autopilot as ‘Lego for marketers’.
  • In a world where we are seeing large scale adoption of ad-blocking a bit more signal to noise from marketers would be very welcome from all, especially customers.
  • Check out their 30-day free trial, blog and their training platform: Flight School.
  • Finally, Autopilot recently released a new piece of research called: 3 Things Marketers Need to Know About Succeeding with Personalization, where they found that “72 percent of those surveyed said they are frustrated when they receive generic marketing that doesn’t relate to their interests or past purchases” and “consumers are four times as likely to respond if content is personalized”.
  • The gauntlet is thrown down, marketers! You know what you have to do.

About Mark & Guy (taken and adapted form their profiles on CrunchBase)

Michael SharkeyMichael Sharkey is the CEO and Co-founder of Autopilot, where he leads a passionate team driven to help marketers harness the power of automation and build better relationships.

Prior to Autopilot, Michael joined his brother Chris to help grow start-up Stayz into a top Australian rental booking site (acquired by FairFax Digital in 2006 and again by HomeAway for $225M in 2013). Following Stayz, Michael went on to co-found Sharkey Media, a digital marketing agency designed to help companies realize revenue through online marketing programs.

Michael holds a Bachelors’ degree from the University of Newcastle in Australia.

You can find Michael on Twitter @michaelsharkeyand on LinkedIn here.

Guy MarionGuy Marion is Chief Marketing Officer at Autopilot, where he spearheads Autopilot’s go-to-market strategy and operations.

Guy has spent the past decade at the forefront of the shift towards all things Cloud & SaaS, having helped grow several enterprise companies into successful businesses. Prior to joining Autopilot, Guy served as Senior Director at Zendesk where he helped rapidly grow Zendesk’s core SaaS business. Prior to Zendesk, Guy grew and eventually sold his own company, Codesion, to CollabNet Inc., where he served as VP/GM of Cloud Services.

Guy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Stanford and Ph.D in Paleoceanography from The University of Queensland.

You can find Guy on Twitter @Guy_Marion and on LinkedIn here.

Finally, check out Autopilot and all that they do at and say Hi to them on Twitter @autopilotus.

Photo Credit: Daquella manera via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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