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How to Spy on Your Competitors With AI

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Artificial intelligence startup Crayon is using machine learning to provide actionable insight to marketers using a prevalent, but overlooked, resource: their competitors’ websites.

The company's product tracks companies’ digital footprints. These footprints lead right to critical insights about a company’s strategy, products, and marketing, insights which are surfaced by AI and machine learning.

That kind of intel is gold for marketers looking to win market share and build audiences with better messaging, targeting, and content than their competitors.

We talked to Crayon CMO Ellie Mirman to learn how the company produces serious benefits for marketers.

In a single sentence or statement, describe your company.

Crayon is a market and competitive intelligence company that enables businesses to track, analyze, and act on everything happening in their market.

How does your company use artificial intelligence in its products?

Crayon's AI/machine learning capabilities support the capturing, filtering, prioritizing, and analyzing of competitive data.

First, AI is involved in tracking the full digital footprint of a competitor, capturing every change or move they make across that footprint. A wealth of data is collected, but not all of it is relevant or meaningful, so the technology then filters out 99% of the data that is noise.

With additional data enrichment, natural language processing, and a machine learning model analyzing engagement, Crayon's technology prioritizes and analyzes datasets to further surface meaningful competitive insights that businesses can use to drive effective strategies and tactics across sales, marketing, product, and more.

What are the primary marketing use cases for your AI-powered solutions?

Crayon's customers use our market and competitive intelligence platform to enable sales teams to win competitive deals, build and launch winning products, develop differentiated marketing campaigns, and inform executive strategies that position a business to stand out in a competitive market.

What makes your AI-powered solution smarter than traditional approaches and products?

Crayon's software-driven platform is a giant step forward for marketers looking to make sense of their company’s external environment. In the past, businesses relied upon Google Alerts, manual observation (e.g. regularly reviewing a competitor’s website), and point software solutions. These tools and methods all have profound shortcomings in comparison with Crayon Intel. Google Alerts is noisy. Manual observation requires a prohibitive quantity of time and disappoints in terms of breadth and accuracy. Point solutions — software focused on a specific area of the external environment such as social media — only tell a portion of the story.

If a marketer wants the full picture, she will need to link several point solutions together, which is complex and expensive. Crayon, on the other hand, is an all-in-one solution that provides marketers with complete, prioritized insights from across a competitor’s entire digital footprint, and offers a platform for analyzing and acting on that data.

Are there any minimum requirements for marketers to get value out of your AI-powered technology? (e.g. data, list size, etc.)

The only "requirement" is to have competitors, which every company does! The technology is most impactful, however, when the business is committed to competitive intelligence and when the industry is active, with multiple competitors who are actively developing and launching products, marketing campaigns, etc.

Who are your ideal customers in terms of company size and industries?

Our customers run the gamut of size and industry. We provide services to Fortune 500 software companies as well as 50-person companies that sell building materials. The commonality among our customers is that they strive to understand their competition and, more generally, their external business environment.

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What do you see as the limitations of AI as it exists today?

AI is only useful if it can serve a relevant use case for the business. These use cases are still being explored, but as use of AI in marketing technology expands, more established workflows will emerge where AI can improve marketing functions.

What do you see as the future potential of AI in marketing?

AI has the opportunity to do the manual, repetitive jobs we don't want to do; AI has the opportunity to do jobs humans can't do manually, such as big data analysis and predictive analytics; and AI has the ability to improve the work we do every day, making smart recommendations to help us more predictably get great results.

Any other thoughts on AI in marketing, or advice for marketers who are just starting with AI?

Start with your use case — what you want to solve for — and look for opportunities to automate and elevate that work with AI.

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