Autopilot’s Multichannel Marketing Platform Promises to Fill Key Market Gap

Enterprise companies aren’t the only ones that require sophisticated marketing automation, yet historically most solutions have been tailored to meet the needs of large organizations. Increasingly, vendors such as Silverpop (IBM), HubSpot, and Marketo are developing platforms for smaller, medium-sized companies, but a market gap remains. To meet the demand, Autopilot, a multichannel marketing platform provider and relative newcomer to the space, has launched a solution for companies that have “outgrown MailChimp, but are not yet ready for Marketo,” Mike Sharkey, CEO and cofounder of Autopilot says.

Marketing automation technology is expensive and can be difficult to deploy with a limited in-house staff and a small budget for outside consultants. As a result, the adoption rate for marketing automation technology hovers around 4 percent, according to Sharkey. Getting started with Marketo, which Sharkey says is widely considered to be among the easiest to implement, can take roughly three to four months. Plus, taking the leap from an email marketing solution to a multichannel campaign solution is a major step for businesses, and the technology they select has to do more than just execute on command.

“For us it wasn’t just about building the marketing automation functionality.  It was also about teaching email marketers to transition into marketing automation. After graduating ‘email marketing,’ a lot of marketers simply don't know what to do. They don’t need a solution that just gives them all these capabilities. They need a solution that can also offer guides and suggestions, and help set things up,” Sharkey explains.  

Autopilot enables marketers to build campaigns through a “Lego-like” process, where campaign triggers, actions, and channels connect to each other on the dashboard like Lego bricks, Sharkey says. “We wanted it to have a comfortable, open whiteboard feel,” he adds. The process is accompanied by recommendations and is visually driven, so that marketers can see the specific customer journey that each touch point triggers. For example, marketers can link a trigger, such as signing up for the mailing list, with an action such as an SMS message, an email, a digital postcard, or a mailing. The trigger can also be forked to initiate a number of different actions, depending on specific conditions.  

Personalization is a key component of Autopilot’s solution as well. Through customer segmentation, Autopilot can create lists of audiences for various campaigns and can help marketers target customers based on preferences or past behaviors instead of sending batch emails through services such as MailChimp. Sales data can also be incorporated through Autopilot’s integration with Salesforce.com to strengthen personalization and marketing efforts. “Right now we’re focusing on Salesforce because of their market share, but we have plans to add more CRM integration,” Sharkey says.

Though Autopilot isn’t the first vendor to zero in on the need for marketing automation solutions for small businesses that are growing quickly, its solution could be a “useful addition to the market” if the vendor delivers on its promises, according to Paul Greenberg, president of the 56 Group. “Large small businesses do need at least a modicum of automation when it comes to their marketing efforts to give it some efficiency and give them the ability to track and analyze results…I don't think [Autopilot is] the first there,” he says, “but the more the merrier in that space.”  

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