Jonah Lopin - Crayon Competitive Intelligence

What Could You Do with Realtime Competitive Intelligence?

Back by popular demand! We’re showcasing the best of TheCustomer, featuring the most popular articles from the past quarter. This article was originally posted on April 7th, 2022.

We sat down recently with Jonah Lopin who is CEO of Crayon.  If you’re not familiar, Crayon provides programmatic competitive intelligence for some of the most progressive brands in the market.  In this conversation we talk about the “what” and “how” of Crayon’s offerings, as well as how brands are leveraging them.

Full transcript below.

Jonah Lopin
So, we lead this market. We’re leaders in the Forrester Wave that Forrester published when they did that. We’ve been number one in the Product Marketing Alliance which is the largest professional association for product marketing. We’ve been ranked number one, two years in a row by them. We work with over 600 of the best and most sophisticated businesses on the planet from Dropbox to ZoomInfo to Survey Monkey, Discover and Zendesk and helping them do this.

And the backdrop is, there’s never been a good way to do competitive intelligence because it’s always been a human-driven effort. It’s always been a research project. It’s always been a consulting project. And the challenge there, is it’s expensive when when you approach competitive through human-driven effort. But the expense isn’t the big problem. The big problem is those insights lag the market because they take weeks or months by the time you walk that insight down the hall to your head of product, or your head of marketing, or to someone in customer experience. They’re like gosh that would have been pretty useful two months ago.

But you know what, a lot of what we’re trying to do – we’ve already made those decisions and so a lot of competitive intelligence has fallen flat frankly. Historically what we do is we drive that software and so you’re right – it’s a broad undertaking. Essentially what we’re saying is competitive intelligence can be programmatic. It can be real-time and therefore far more actionable inside of the business. We’ll get into how we do that, but you’re absolutely right, it is broad. It is a big idea. It is “how do companies build a competitive backbone and capability” where it’s always been about human-driven effort?

So, I’m really interested because I can’t imagine this is “push a single button and out comes your competitive intelligence.”

Jonah Lopin
We’d already be public! We’d be a public company!

So, I imagine there’s still a fair amount of, at least at the beginning stages of an engagement, of understanding the nature of a company’s business and trying to do some basic footwork to set things up. Am i right, or is it kind of automated?

Jonah Lopin
There too, you’re right. So, if you take a step back, you know there’s two big shifts that make it possible to do competitive intelligence with software where historically it had to be research and consulting and human-driven effort. The first shift is there is so much more information online about every business and what we think of as the digital footprint of a business. Google’s index is 100 times bigger than it was a decade ago. Think about all the review sites. Think about Reddit. Think about Glassdoor didn’t even exist 15 years ago! And now there’s so much information online about every business so you can programmatically mine that for intelligence.

The other shift is across the company in your typical enterprise, looking at your product folks and your go-to-market, your sales and customer success and your marketing folks, these folks are using software all day, every day to do their job. Chat software – all right 100 million people are active on slack and teams every day. They’re inside the CRM system. They’re inside the sales enablement platform or whatever else. So, what we can do is, we can programmatically access insight from those systems – that is the first piece.

But the other piece is, you can solve this last mile problem of competitive intelligence which is “how do you get an insight to someone who needs it in the moment that they need it?” So how do you get an insight to a sales rep in the context of a competitive deal they’re trying to win, inside the CRM system to help them advance that deal? Or how do you get an insight to someone in customer experience who’s trying to make a decision? And there’s been a shift around competitive pricing dynamics that they need to understand around that decision.

So, to your point, this is a process. We partner with clients. That is the process of “how do we bring about organizational change” for you to really change? And pull these new signals into your business and then build the capability to analyze and draw the insight from those? And then, get those insights the right places at the right time and there’s a lot of change management. There’s a lot of systems and process integration and change that needs to happen. We automate all the all the heavy lifting and pieces that can be automated. But you’re 100 percent right that people, at the end of the day, drive almost every important organizational change. And it’s no different when it comes to competitive.

So, there’s the automated portion of this – the data pulling and pushing portion of it. Does Crayon also provide the advisory services to help with that change management? Because you know, we’ve talked to a lot of CX folks especially, who live these battles daily.  “Listen, I have these great insights and I can actually move the needle were it not for the big Titanic I’m pulling behind me that just doesn’t want to turn. So how does that all get managed? Or am I just going a little too far down the road? Is Crayon’s job just to deliver those insights?

Jonah Lopin
No – so, our number one value as a company is customer success. And that might sound a little bit cliche to hear somebody say that but it’s really true – it’s really and genuinely and deeply true. And I hear our customers reflect it back to me – that’s part of the reason I’m confident saying is it’s not just us saying it. My best customers will say to me “it’s the extent to which you guys go to help us succeed for a company at your size.” So we think of it as “how do we help our customers succeed period?” We’re a software company so we’ve got all the innovation and what we sell is software. But really, this is a new category in the sense that its software driven competitive intelligence. People have been doing competitive for a long time, but they’ve been doing it in a different way. It’s slower twitch. It’s human-driven. So, what we do with clients feels new – it really feels like a new category. In a new category, to succeed, customers need more than just tools, they need coaching. They need best practices. They need a bunch of help so we provide that because without it our customers won’t get there.

Maybe that’s why I’m so intrigued by what you do because our whole reason for being here is to broaden the customer engagement conversation. From all these things – and you hear everybody complaining about – “we’re so siloed” and “I can’t get my data, I can’t get cooperation,” cultures are clashing, etc. There needs to be somebody bridging those conversations. So that’s what TheCustomer is all about – it’s a holistic approach to understanding your customer and then somehow engaging with them. So, it takes so much of what you do – and I’m sure you do way more than just customer insights – and I would love to go through that because I’m literally just fascinated by the model there.

It seems like – and I might just be imagining this – that US businesses, western businesses are slowly turning a corner on understanding the value of the internal relationships as they relate to the bottom lines. In other words, the silos just aren’t going to work anymore – that we’re past that phase. They had a function, but maybe not anymore. So, maybe in another conversation because this one could dog-leg way to the left – I’d love to hear what you’re seeing out there along those lines and how you advise people to manage that.

Jonah Lopin
Yeah, I mean we certainly see a lot of the dynamic that you’re talking about. I think the goal is to be an insights driven business and how you you’ve got to break down internal silos and organizational barriers in order to achieve that. One of the interesting things about competitive intelligence is, in its original kind of incarnation, as it’s been practiced last couple of decades, there’s been a lot of uncoordinated and disaggregated activity around competitive across the company in different areas. This team’s doing a pricing analysis and this team’s doing a product teardown and the corporate development folks are looking at some acquisitions that they could make and on and on. And so a lot of what we, the way that we approach this, which I think is the right way to think about becoming an insights driven business, is how do you pull a lot of that together into a single platform? And get these folks working together and give them the tools and connectivity between their different areas so that they can really be focused and coherent like a laser. And trying to get inside and make use of it rather than a bunch of different kind of flashlights pointed in different directions.

Right, we’re orbiting around the same sun but moving in different directions. Without pointing fingers or naming names are there any commonalities that you see in companies that are better able to utilize your insights and activate them than others? And if you want to name names that’s cool but you know …

(cat walks into view)
Nice cat!

Jonah Lopin
Sorry, I don’t have a door in my office so the cat just made an appearance there. This is our new reality here!

Hahaha – I have a version of my own. So, do you see commonalities in certain sectors or product types or in companies’ readiness to really use what you deliver to them?

Jonah Lopin
So, let me give you a good customer example and I can broaden out to a little bit with some of some of the characteristics that you notice there. Dropbox is a great example to highlight a lot of the value and impact that we can have with a client. So we power “compete’ for all of Dropbox. Essentially meaning that every won and lost competitive deal globally right flows through our platform – through our salesforce integration. We power all the competitive alerts across the company via email and by Slack. We’re the system of record for all the employee-sourced competitive intelligence that is submitted through employees. We’ve helped the team at Dropbox drive up their win rates in their sales organization and drive other KPIs and there’s a couple of use cases there. So, one of the use cases is around their product organization – how do we speed up time-to-market? Which means having their product managers and product marketing folks & pricing teams doing real-time competitive monitoring so that they’ve got the information to accelerate time to market.

Jonah, this is fascinating stuff and I’m looking forward to our next conversation where we’ll be talking about your gains in this particular space.  Thanks again for being here.

Jonah Lopin
Of course, Mike.  Thanks for having me.

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