autopilot-review-hero-imageRecently I have been using Autopilot, an email marketing automation software to handle all emails for a startup here in Toronto. I have been on and off with Autopilot ever since there launch but for the past 2 weeks I have used it extensively to retarget cold leads and increase the overall efficiency of our marketing automation funnels.

This is my honest review of Autopilot for digital marketers. Before beginning my review I just wanted to note and say that the initial review date of November 6th 2016. If there are any major updates to the Autopilot Email Marketing system I will post them as an update at the end of my original review.

Disclaimer: Tested on a basic plan with 4000+ contact in the database and multiple journeys. Also tested on the new Autopilot interface as of November 2016.

Who is Autopilot For?

Autopilot is for digital marketers and entrepreneurs looking to automate their email marketing and lead nurturing system. It allows you to create complex journeys for your leads so that you can nurture them at every stage of the customer acquisition journey.

Autopilot also enables you to sync with various apps like slack and Twillio and Segment. Advanced Salesforce users can also collaborate with Autopilot to update lead fields and automate their marketing.

How Does Autopilot Work?

There are 4 main segments to the Autopilot ecosystem:

  • Journeys
  • Contact CRM
  • Email Builder
  • Reporting

Decoding Autopilot Journeys

In autopilot you can build your personalized marketing automation systems using the visually rich journey builder. The journey builder lets you drag and drop elements into the screen to create a complex automation workflow.

You start by dragging in triggers which are certain conditions that initiate a journey. Triggers do not allow incoming connections and are used to start a journey in Autopilot.

For example, a segment within a contact list can act as a trigger every time a contact enters the journey.

auto-journey-builder-2016

How are Autopilot Journeys Helpful for Marketers?

The journey builder is one of the most powerful tool you can have as a marketer to automate and refine the lead nurturing experience. It can also be used to fine tune the customer on boarding process.

Autopilot is a little different from all the other email marketing softwares out there. It’s core focus is automation and smart segmentation of your leads based on behaviours or triggers in your website.

Once you install their tracking code you can start tracking individual contacts and anonymous visitors from the moment they land on your website the first time to the point they become a customer.

journey-builder-in-autopilot

Individual customer tracking is really helpful because the sales team in your company will have access to a tailored timeline of how they behaved with each email campaign and headsup throughout the lead nurturing process.

Marketers can use this data to optimize their conversion funnel as well as see which key steps are causing users to opt out. I recently used Autopilot for a lead nurturing campaign (SaSS) and already got 3 customers from the existing leads database.

Does Journeys Really Help Digital Marketers With Marketing Automation?

Customizing the journey for the company might be a little complicated and is often time consuming. However, once you have a well planned lead nurturing campaign in effect you can close more leads and bring in record number of customers on your platform.

The best part about the Journey builder is that everything can be personalized including the Headsup popup that appears on the screen.

headsup-autopilot-personalization

For Example –  You can create a journey where customers that are 10 days into the trail gets a popup from the CMO asking them what they like and what they would love to learn more about your company. The text can dynamically replace the first name as well as any other contact field when showing the popup making the whole experience personalized on a massive scale.

This feature is quite useful when re-engaging with abandoned prospects as well as potential new leads.

If you are ready to dive deep and create complex segments, integrate Twillio SMS marketing as well as inter-connect a series of email marketing campaigns inside Autopilot, the sky is the limit.

The Journey builder is really flexible and scalable. It’s designed in a unique way allowing any company that adapts Autopilot to work with it instead of you trying to integrate and fit in their system.

Recently Autopilot launched a new journey module called “Eject from List” that allows you to clear a contact from certain lists when they have completed a bunch of steps.

The Journey Builder works a lot like any “If-Else” module system where you place a bunch of modules to create a logical marketing workflow.

autopilot-journey-if-else

There are 3 main parts a digital marketer than use to create Journeys in Autopilot.

  1. Triggers – A set of rules that a contact must oblige to tigger a journey.
  2. Actions – A set of actions that are sent to the contact (emails, SMS etc.) once they are triggered in a journey
  3. Condition – Additional rules that may or may not change (updating contact type, adding to another segment etc.) depending on the contact action.

All the features inside Autopilot is clearly geared towards professional marketers. It can also be learnt by anyone looking to seriously integrate lead nurturing strategies in their business.

In case you feel lazy or maybe you need to meet a deadline for an email marketing series you can use one of the many pre-built journeys (Guides) inside the Autopilot ecosystem.

Contact CRM

I have already talked about the contact CRM in the Journey segment but I will go into a little detail here. Right off the bat, I have to say that it’s actually a functional CRM and not just a nice CSS layout to show your contact information.

Inside your Autopilot account every one who has access to it will have their own database. On top of that you can view all your contacts under the “all contacts” tab.

autopilot-contact-database

You can manage your contacts in 3 different ways to stay on top of your database:

  • Lists – Assign a brand new list for a certain contacts.
  • Folders – When you start having lots of lists it’s best to organize them into their respective Folders to keep things organized. Fortunately, Autopilot allow you to do that.
  • Smart Segment – This is by far my favourite feature in Autopilot’s CRM. The smart segment feature allows you to create segments from a particular list using certain prerequisites. A real world example would be creating a custom field called Lead Journey status and assigning a few options for it. You can create a smart segment for each of these options when the contacts are assigned. These smart segments can then be targeted using different email marketing strategies form the Journey builder.

Overall, the contact CRM is easy to navigate, giving you a bird’s eye view of every lead.  It also shows you how they are interacting with your marketing automation strategies.

Email Builder

We all know that email marketing is still considered one of the most effective forms of marketing on the internet. At the heart of the Autopilot marketing suite lies an email builder that needs significant improvement. If you are a web-designer and you know your way around with HTML then the builder should pose no real problem for you.

However, a good handful of digital marketers and not comfortable with coding. The builder is very limited in it’s arroach to non-coders compared to other email builders like Mailchimp and Constant contact.

autopilot-email-builder

Autopilot only provides you with a handful of default templates. You do have the option of importing your own custom template to the system but then you need to hardcode it using another software.

Every time you create an email it can be re-used in any of your journey. In fact, it’s wise that you should create your emails first even before you start creating your first journey.

Reporting

Autopilot comes with standard reporting metrics that gives you some insight into how your journeys are performing. They have a fully integrated sales funnel which only works with Salesforce at the moment.

The Sales funnel shows the number of people who interacted with your email, webpages and other touch points. It also tracks the conversion from forms. However, that is where you have to stop if your company is using a CRM that is not Salesforce.

The reporting interface is clear and easy to navigate. You also have the ability to export reports.

autopilot-email-reporting

Pricing & Conclusion

Compared to other email marketing platforms Autopilot is aggressively priced. The pricing depends on the number of contacts in your database. It starts as low as $20/mo for the base plan and $40 per month for the business plan. Unless you have a huge database of clients you really don’t need the business plan.

autopilot-pricing-structure_nov2016

Most companies can start with the base plan and upgrade if necessary. Autopilot is a great tool if you are serious about lead nurturing and customer retention. You can use the Journey builder to create all sorts of custom email series for your contacts.

The reporting integrates well with the overall system. My personal favourite feature has to be their contact CRM where you can analyze and decode each lead. I have used a lot of email marketing softwares over the course of many years and I would have given autopilot a perfect 10 if they improved their email builder for non coders.