To mark the release of Typeform Connect, we’re interviewing some of our partners about the rise of integrations and teaming up with Typeform. To find out which apps you can connect to Typeform—or if you’re thinking of building your own integration—check out Typeform Connect.
Remember holiday packages?
You’d pay a tanned man in a travel agency a wad of cash, and they’d sort out your flights, hotel, meals, and day trips. Because nothing says ‘vacation’ like over-paying so you don’t have to do anything yourself.
But then things changed. People realized that flights are cheaper if you book directly with the airline. Airbnb offered a level of personalization beyond what any hotel could manage. And why eat at the same buffet every night when you could try a new restaurant instead?
A similar shift has also happened in the world of digital marketing. But one app has struck a balance between convenience and freedom of choice.
Autopilot is a marketing automation tool that takes work off your hands without taking away your preferences. It’s the glue that’s integrated with all your favorite marketing tools, so you can see oversee and manage people’s journeys—from prospect to customer.
Now if only someone would make an Autopilot for vacations.
We chatted with Autopilot Cofounder and CEO Michael Sharkey about why unbundled is the new bundled, what it’s like to team up with Typeform, and a crazy idea involving his actual pilot’s license.
SD: Autopilot has been described as “a marketing automation solution that aims to fill the gaps between existing tools—rather than reinventing the wheel.” Is this a good summary?
MICHAEL: When we started Autopilot, our goal wasn’t to create marketing automation software. We noticed that marketers liked using best-of-breed apps—like Typeform. But they were lacking a single source of truth about the customer, or a way to orchestrate the customer journey.
We looked at the market, and every existing platform was incredibly hard to use and expensive. If you wanted to send a simple follow-up or automate a series of emails on completion of a typeform, you’d need a developer because of the complexity of marketing automation.
So we took the natural language marketers have been using forever to communicate—drawing on a whiteboard in a meeting room to hash out ideas and generate campaigns. We wanted to turn that into a product that anyone could use.
The first thing we did with Autopilot was to create a visual canvas that marketers use just like a whiteboard, by dragging shapes around on a screen. Marketing teams of all sizes can now harness marketing automation without any developers. They can bring customer journeys to life and create a better customer experience.
SD: You’ve said before that when it comes to marketing apps, “unbundled is the new bundled.” What are the advantages of snapping together lots of smaller individual apps over an all-in-one platform?
MICHAEL: Most marketers moved toward all-in-one solutions about five years ago because of the perceived benefit of having all your information, data, and tools in one place.
But what a lot of marketers discovered was that if you have one solution trying to do too many things, they can become a jack of all trades but master of none.
So most of the leading marketers that we work with today are unbundling. They’re finding the best-of-breed solutions like Typeform that are specialized in what they do.
Marketing tools and channels are always changing—the best channel to communicate today may not be the best in 12 months. But by focusing on the right best-of-breed technologies, they have an agile stack that allows them to shift as the landscape changes.
SD: Autopilot is all about organizing and customizing customer journeys. What benefit does the Typeform integration add to customer journeys?
MICHAEL: The reason we chose to integrate with Typeform was to answer the question, “What should happen after someone fills in a form?”
“A lead has a really good experience completing a typeform. It’s like having a conversation.”
So a company will want to reference information from the form in a follow-up email, assign a lead through a CRM, or create a Headsup for the next time the lead visits their website. There’s a whole series of important steps to convert a form into a customer.
Autopilot enables marketers to send highly personalized and contextual messages on any channel. It continues that positive, conversational experience for the lead. And for the marketer, it also automates those otherwise manual steps.
So we created a simple Typeform shape that allows you to build customer journeys—and answer that question of what happens next.
SD: What else does Autopilot look for in a potential partner, and how does Typeform fit into Autopilot’s narrative?
MICHAEL: We try to identify the best solutions to problems for marketers. Our customers are always creating forms, they’re trying to collect information and engage with leads. To us, Typeform was a huge standout as a partner.
The ability to have this experience where you feel like you’re conversing with someone but you’re really filling out a form is truly unique. There are not many forms where you can use pictures instead of an ugly drop-down menu.
So enabling marketers to give a conversational experience to leads through Typeform—and then to craft the same type of personal, contextual experience through Autopilot—is the kind of integration we champion.
Partnering with Typeform has been fantastic. We’ve had a great relationship with their team, they have a phenomenal API, and such a great brand and customer experience.
SD: I read that you’re a real pilot yourself. Ever had any crazy plans to link planes with an Autopilot marketing campaign?
MICHAEL: We have shapes in the product that let you send things in the real world. For example, there’s a popular shape that can send a postcard in the mail.
So we had an idea to create a skywriting shape. You’d create a message in the shape and it would fax that to a skywriter—do skywriters use fax?—and then you’d see your message in the sky.
I can’t imagine how much running that shape in a personalized way would cost, but we actually did consider it!