Crayon’s Jonah Lopin on Why Creative Intelligence is the Future of Marketing

September 14, 2016

Some people say that money makes the world go ‘round, but savvy marketers will tell you that data is what keeps their world spinning. Jonah Lopin, co-founder and CEO of Crayon, would agree with those savvy marketers. As the sixth employee at HubSpot and a member of the management team for six years, Lopin contributed greatly to the inbound marketing giant’s stellar growth by leading the team that built the brand’s customer retention programs, Customer Happiness Index, Tech Support group, Professional Services offerings, and Account Management team. After spending the better part of a decade helping customers understand and optimize their own sales funnels and marketing campaigns, Lopin is now helping companies gain critical insights into what’s happening in the larger market.

“Marketers today tend to have an incredibly deep and nuanced understanding of everything that’s happening internally in terms of traffic, conversion rates, and campaign performance,” says Lopin.

“But few marketing teams have a strong understanding of what’s happening outside their four walls — what’s happening with the competition, with customers, and with partners. The external environment is the great untracked frontier for today’s marketing teams.”

This reality provided the inspiration for Crayon, a competitive intelligence product that uses data to helps professional marketers keep up with what’s happening in their markets and easily identify their best opportunities.

Competitive Intelligence: A Key Advantage for Early Stage Companies

To be successful, SaaS companies need a marketing outlook that encompasses customer, prospect, and competitor data. Crayon helps marketers collect and analyze competitive data in order to gain this broader perspective. “We think about a company in terms of its digital footprint,” Lopin explains. “Crayon detects and classifies the meaningful changes across that footprint to help surface competitive marketing opportunities.” Crayon looks at data from many sources: the company’s primary website, peripheral sites, blog, digital resources, CRM platform, customer forums, help documentation, etc. as well as third-party data from sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra, review sites, publishing platforms (SlideShare, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.), and various social profiles and discussion sites.

There are two primary ways that a company can use this intelligence:

Sales Enablement & Product Marketing

“If you’re an early stage company, and you’re bumping up against larger and more established companies, it’s useful to understand how your strengths compare to your competitors’ weaknesses,” Lopin says. “This allows you to position your emerging sales team well and ultimately win more deals and boost revenue.” As an example, Lopin explains how Crayon might turn up G2 Crowd reviews that highlight a recurring issue with a competitor’s product. With this information in hand, marketing and sales teams can easily identify viable messaging opportunities to exploit such a weakness by emphasizing their product’s corresponding strengths. Applying competitive intelligence data helps agile newcomers level the playing field by arming their sales teams with relevant and timely insights into competitor shifts, speed bumps, and vulnerabilities.

Content Marketing

It was a lot easier to rise above the noise when content marketing was still a relatively new tactic, but as the practice has evolved, it’s become harder and harder to capture attention and create engagement. Today, content marketing success depends in large part on finding the sweet spot in terms of both topics and tactics. “Early stage companies need to know where there’s an opportunity to do something different, to create something that’s going to catch a spark and take off,” Lopin says. “To do this, they need to be able to identify the white space by looking at an aggregate overview of what competitors have published across the major content platforms.” Using competitive intelligence to unearth differentiated content opportunities enables up-and-coming companies to hit the target with their content on the first try (a valuable skill, considering the typically high cost and effort associated with content marketing).

Data-driven Marketing: An All-encompassing Practice

“Marketing is not about arts and crafts anymore,” Lopin says. “It’s about experimentation, running tests, and being data-driven.” Though Crayon keeps Lopin’s primary focus on competitive intelligence, he takes a data-driven approach to pretty much every aspect of marketing, and believes that being analytical is one of the key characteristics of tomorrow’s most successful marketers.

An example from his days in Customer Success at Hubspot is how he dealt with the age-old question of whether it’s smarter to invest resources in reengaging the least-satisfied 10% of your customer base, or up-selling the most-satisfied 10%. “It’s like anything else,” Lopin says succinctly, “you’ve got to test it.” Once you get past the first hurdle of determining which customers fall into your top and bottom 10% respectively, it’s about collecting the data that will help you measure the ROI of your efforts. “Say you’ve identified twenty customers who are at risk of canceling service in the next six months,” Lopin suggests. “You run a test to connect with five of them and look at your success rate. What’s the cost to get them back on track? How long do they stick around? Is what you’re doing an ROI-positive activity?” Test. Measure. Act.

Whether you’re segmenting your prospect audience by intent and industry, gathering competitive intelligence to uncover content and positioning opportunities, or making decisions about which customer groups warrant more of your attention and marketing dollars, data will always help you make a smarter decision. It will provide you with the answers to your most pressing marketing questions so you can act with certainty and bank on predictable results.