Five Minutes With: Mike Sharkey, CEO of Autopilot

What are your biggest challenges and opportunities for the next 12 to 24 months?

Our goal for next year is to engage the 96 percent of marketers who are not using automation to grow their business. Existing tools have been out of reach for the majority of marketers due to overly complex systems, time-consuming implementation, and price tags in the tens or hundreds of thousands per year. We want to make this technology simple, accessible and affordable for all marketers to connect their marketing stack, automate their communications and embrace a customer journey marketing mindset. The challenge and the opportunity for us at Autopilot is to continue to make this technology more simple, accessible and affordable to effectively tap this huge market gap–and how to best empower marketers on their journey towards remarkable marketing. 

What are some unmet needs in the marketing technology landscape?

We’ve found that 65 percent of marketers said they could be doing a better job of staying in touch with their customers. But any good marketer knows that you need to do more than stay in touch: marketers need to provide value. The trend towards ad-blocking has been a signal to marketers that they need to stop interruptive marketing and genuinely engage with prospective customers on their terms–in a way that is personalized and helpful, on the right channel, in real-time. We’ve found that consumers are four times as likely to respond if content personalized and that companies who are effective at it consistently provide a good customer experience. There’s a huge need in the martech space for tools and features that help marketers deliver more of this tailored approach. 

What keeps your clients up at night?

I think it’s the issues that face any small business: how to be most efficient at scaling your company while best serving existing customers. Every dollar and every customer matters, and it’s therefore vital to create a genuine connection with them – whether that be through an in-person or digital interaction. Our clients know that each touchpoint with a customer can determine whether they will be a loyal customer and promoter of your brand, or never use your product again.  

What is the hardest thing to educate clients about?

It can be difficult for businesses to understand the importance of taking the time to create a unified view of the customer journey – there’s a tendency to view different channels separately, when they’re actually all connected. It’s vital to think customer journey first, and the channel second. What we’re doing is helping businesses build out a holistic view of the customer journey and their experience at the outset, and thus making sure marketing messages are well coordinated and cohesive across campaigns, regardless of the device or channel.

What marketing trends to you see accelerating in the next year?

I think we’re already seeing a strong trend towards personalized content. A survey we conducted this year of 1,200 consumers showed that 70 percent of respondents preferred tailored marketing to generic marketing, and the movement toward ad-blocking will only enhance this. In addition, I think marketers are finding out just how key timeliness is–our survey found that two-third of consumers say timely response is the most important factor in modern marketing. As we continue to become more and more connected, consumers are expecting quick responses and relevant, tailored content–and I think these trends will only accelerate in 2016.

–Mike Sharkey is CEO of Autopilot

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