Using Company Personas to Effectively Present Competitive Intelligence

Are you doing the hard work of collecting competitive intelligence and reporting it out only to find that people in your organization aren’t using the valuable information?

Ellie Mirman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Crayon, explains how to present competitive intelligence to your company using the concept of personas to make sure it is easy to consume and use.

Crayon automatically captures many different data points about competitors, pulls the information into the platform, filters and then organizes it.

You can create all sorts of different deliverables for various folks in your organization with the insights found through the data. You can also refine resources like battle cards, reports, newsletters and alerts.

In a webinar, Crayon shared helpful information on how to find competitive intelligence in a rapidly changing environment.

Attendees were engrossed in the content and had many great questions. To follow up, Ellie Mirman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Crayon, had a conversation with Rebecca Kalogeris, vice president of marketing at Pragmatic Institute, on the Pragmatic Live podcast. Listen to the full episode.

The podcast episode focused heavily on the importance of regularly maintaining competitive intelligence and distributing it to the rest of the organization. The content of this article comes from that conversation.

Competitive Intelligence as a Daily Practice

When you think about competitive intelligence, so much of the history around competitive intelligence is manual and time consuming, because that’s the way we’ve been able to collect information.

The time investment is the reason many companies have gotten into this practice of procrastinating on large competitive intelligence projects, and the more you build it up to the one-tim big project, the more effort it requires and the results are less actionable.

Think about everything that’s happened over the course of a month or during the last quarter. While you were working on the big report, many opportunities that may have presented themselves have now passed.

I’m a big believer in making collecting competitive intelligence part of a daily practice. This habit actually improves our bigger projects we conduct occasionally.

There’s more technology that allows you to automate things so you don’t have to spend a significant amount of manual effort every single day. I spend 5-10 minutes a day doing competitive monitoring.

I get alerts based on what I am tracking, and if I find something important I share it with my team or include it in my updates. The trick here is to maintain a balance between sharing helpful knowledge but not overwhelming others with information.

How to Prevent Oversharing Competitive Intelligence

How do we keep our team knowledgeable about the competitors without them tuning us out because they’re receiving too much input?

Just because you can share something everyday doesn’t mean it makes sense to do it. Consumption of intelligence is different based on role in the organization.

Whoever owns competitive intelligence internally should stay on top of information and determine the right triage on what gets shared, with whom and when.

When you find some piece of intelligence the question is, is this urgent or is it just important.

Maybe the team needs to know about it, but it’s not something that they need to know about right now.I don’t need to interrupt their day-to-day in order for them to pay attention to this particular piece of information.

There are certainly things that do require interruption: things like a competitor has some sort of financing event, they acquire someone or maybe a large product launch.

Some of the other information that might be impactful but not urgent could get rolled up into some sort of monthly newsletter.

Using the strategy, your team will learn over time that if they receive an email in the middle of the day from the person who is monitoring competitive intelligence, they’ll know it is important and something big might have happened.

If it comes in the newsletter, they know they can schedule some time to go over the updates. The goal is to create a distinction between an urgent update and a digest of what’s been going on lately.

If you’re smart with your filter of what needs to be heard, people will listen.

You don’t want to be the marketer that cried wolf. Over time, you start to build a good habit with the audience. It’s helpful to think of the information distribution based on internal personas.

Company Personas | Competitive Intelligence for Sales

When you’re creating something for sales, the first filter is “will this impact a sales conversation?”

Could the new competitive intelligence cause problems in the sales conversation if they do or don’t know it, or maybe the information could create new opportunities.

Then it’s about being adaptive. Sales professionals want to know what to say and what the competitors are doing, and why the customer should choose us over them.

The materials that we create for sales should include soundbites. We’ve skipped ahead past the analysis to “what do I actually say?”

The information must be in a consumable format for sales professionals. It doesn’t necessarily go into the nitty gritty of the intelligence and also doesn’t touch on all aspects of competitors.

What’s important is that sales professionals are working deals and there’s a large volume of information coming at them.

It’s important to make sure it’s not only easy to just digest when they first get it, but easy to find when they need it.

Make sure the content is written in a way that helps them weave it into their current workflow.

Instead of doing email alerts to the sales team, Crayon actually started using Slack. We’ll push out important things until we can even have a conversation around it.

Then, whenever they find something from the field, whether they have a question or they hear about something about a competitor, they can post that into Slack and we can have a conversation about it. I can respond and provide some suggestions. Then we can send that
intelligence back into the products.

If we’re starting to incorporate what they’re hearing into our battlecards or digests the sales team feels like we’re really listening to them and that we are collecting the full picture of what’s happening.

Company Personas | Competitive Intelligence for Executive Leaders

Executives have complicated calendars. They often find themselves running around from meeting to meeting. If you’re going to get some time with an executive, you want it to count.

The best strategy is to keep the information short and sweet by getting to the point as quickly as possible. It’s important to frame the takeaway of any particular data point. In a lot of cases, especially when there’s something big enough to share with an executive audience, chances are you want to get it to them as soon as possible.

The executives might want to go deeper from time to time, so lean in to how they work, just like with sales.

  • In some cases that might mean using an existing executive meeting to have a segment where there’s a more in-depth conversation around the competitive landscape and trends that you’re seeing.
  • It could be a report that they want to read at nights and weekends when they’re not in meetings.

When the executives are too busy to go into detail then it’s your job to connect the dots, tell the story and then guide a discussion around it.

It’s not always a, we need to do “xyz.” It could be, “we need to answer this question about our strategy,” or “What decision do we want to make here if you know our competitors are expanding into this market?”

Once, we did a big win-loss interview project. At one point we received excellent information and we shared all of the raw data with our executive team. It really was a productive conversation.

But, there were a few problems we encountered.

First off, not every executive actually consumed all of the data because it was too much information.

Then, the other issue was that we didn’t get to the takeaway fast enough, and we weren’t connecting the dots.

We spent a significant amount of time digesting the information and not enough identifying applications.

If I could go back, I’d focus more on summarizing that information. Maybe even leading more of a discussion as opposed to everyone showing up and sharing their thoughts.

There is value in a deep dive into intelligence, but having that consolidation is really helpful to guide the executive team toward something productive and not just interesting.

How to Design Effective Monthly Digests that Team Members will Read

The monthly digests have gotten really concise. We have a whole win-loss section of our monthly cadence and we share how often our deals are competitive.

At Crayon, we try to focus on:

  • Where competition fits into the overall sales experience
  • Which competitors are coming up the most
  • Are there new ones that we’re seeing
  • Are there certain themes about why we’re winning and losing

We also include links for anyone who wants to dive deeper into the findings and insights. There are additional notes and takeaways they can browse.

Sometimes in our profession we get super excited about the details and we need more context than some, because it’s how we know it’s real. It’s not an opinion.

Sometimes providing more information in an appendix for those who do like to dig deep, we serve people who have different preferences on how they consume information. Some team members are data-driven and analytical. They want to see the numbers.

Some team members are more visual, or maybe they thrive off of hearing a story. Giving specific examples, even sharing screenshots and videos of what competitors are doing can help them put the information into practice.

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  • Ellie Mirman is CMO at Crayon, the market and competitive intelligence company that enables businesses to track, analyze, and act on everything happening outside their four walls. Prior to Crayon, she was VP Marketing at Toast, where she built and led the marketing function across demand gen, content marketing, product marketing, branding, and customer advocacy. Previously, she held multiple marketing leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. Ellie loves working at the intersection between Marketing, Sales, and Product, and building marketing from startup to scale-up.

Ellie Mirman

Ellie Mirman

Ellie Mirman is CMO at Crayon, the market and competitive intelligence company that enables businesses to track, analyze, and act on everything happening outside their four walls. Prior to Crayon, she was VP Marketing at Toast, where she built and led the marketing function across demand gen, content marketing, product marketing, branding, and customer advocacy. Previously, she held multiple marketing leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. Ellie loves working at the intersection between Marketing, Sales, and Product, and building marketing from startup to scale-up.

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