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Jonah Lopin is CEO and co-founder of Crayon (crayon.co). Crayon tracks more than 20 million pages across 4 million companies and helps the world's best marketers with inspiration, ideation & competitive intelligence. Crayon raised a $1.5m seed round in 2015, has tens of thousands of users, and is growing quickly.

Prior to founding Crayon, Jonah spent 6 years as the VP of Customer Success on the management team at HubSpot ($HUBS). Jonah was the 6th employee at HubSpot, and helped the company grow from $0 to $50m in revenue.

Good topics to ask Jonah about are: startups, SaaS, b2b sales, hiring, customer retention, and marketing.

Jonah is a TechStars mentor and advises a handful of startups. But with 2 young kids and a startup of his own, Jonah often advises himself to advise less and sleep more :).

Jonah has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a Physics degree from Cornell. He is into Tennis, running, writing code, practicing Mandarin, and lives in Boston's South End.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JonahLopin

He will be live on March 8th from 930 AM PDT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • AH

    Agnes Haryuni

    over 3 years ago #

    If you have to sell tacos, what's your customer aquisiton strategy?

  • PB

    Plamen Barzev

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Jonah,

    Thank you for doing this!

    I'm 100% sure that you've tested this... what is the negative impact on enforcing the account creation on Crayon? Isn't it better to push the sign up after the 3-4th visit and get users that really see value?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Plamen, Thanks for the question.

      The question of whether or not to enforce (or at least very strongly encourage) account creation is a subject of much passionate debate around the halls of Crayon.

      The downside of doing it is that there are some (relatively vocal) folks who really like to poke around a product before they sign up for it, and you lose some of those users if you ask them to log in too early.

      There are a few things we like about the practice though:

      1. Once a user signs up for Crayon, it's easier for all sorts of Good Things to happen... it's easy for her to create collections & save marketing designs to collections, it's easy for her to save pages, etc.

      2. We're pretty good at detecting new designs that might be of interest to users after they sign up for Crayon, and if a user has created an account, we have a way to send that information along.

      Right now, most of Crayon is behind the login because we think it's the right thing for us and for our users.

      3 Share
  • JL

    Jonah Lopin

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey folks! I'm psyched to chat with everyone today, and thanks for the great questions so far. Drop your questions and I'll see you in 2.5 hours!

  • BS

    Bhaskar Sarma

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Jonah, thanks for taking this AMA.

    If you were back with a startup which had a solid though unpolished product but $0 in MRR, a tiny team, a list of a few hundred dead users, and an incomplete website what would you do?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      I'll answer in a generic way, because, of course, to give you really good advice about your own startup, I'd need a lot more context.

      $0 in MRR is an interesting place to be. To the extend you can, I'd recommend putting a hundred percent of your energy into getting your first sale. I'd use the first sale of your product as a forcing function to help you focus on exactly what is holding back MRR growth.

      You could start by reaching out to the few hundred folks on your list, or start with your network, or heck, go door to door! If you can get 10 qualified folks to agree to demo your product, you should be able to sign up at least 1 customer. If you have a few hundred decently qualified folks on your list, you should be able to get to 10 qualified demos. So it seems like you have the building blocks to make your first sale... I'd focus efforts there.

  • DF

    Diane Florescu

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Jonah! Great to have you here. I am a frequent user of HubSpot's strategic marketing frameworks, templates, webinars, courses you name it...I had a quick telephone session with one of their reps just couple of months ago looking into HubSpot SEO, very thoughtful platform.

    Knowing that you were one of the pioneers at HubSpot, could you clarify for me how is the "difficulty" coefficient in this platform calculated?

    I am not expecting an algorithm, but I am curious to understand why and how some keywords are categorised as being more difficult than others.

    Thanks Jonah

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 3 years ago #

    Bonjour Jonah,

    First, great to live in the South End. I miss Boston! :)

    Quick question for you based on your early stage startup expertise.

    Is there a quantifiable relationship between net promoter score on a hard-coded early iteration of a minimal viable product and future product-market fit survey score?

    Any insight appreciated.

    Merci!

    3 Share
    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Arsene,

      Boston misses you too!

      I'm a fan of NPS. I think it makes sense to measure it.

      Two issues with NPS:

      1. Your customer has to do work to give you the input. Even if you use one of those plugins that sits on your site and makes it easy for a customer to give you feedback, the fact is, you're not going to get a data point from every customer every day. You simply can't ask people to give you that much input! So if you'er at a startup and your product improves frequently, NPS can be a frustratingly slow way to get input

      2. The book that popularized NPS makes the point that you have to establish the link between NPS score and value-related metrics in your own business. You can't just assume the link is there... you have to prove it. In an early-stage startup with a minimal viable product, you might not be able to do that... your business model might not be mature enough and your sample sizes might be too small anyway.

      3 Share
    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      My advice on NPS for early stage startups is:

      1. Don't have it be the only thing you measure

      2. Try the surveys and see if you can learn anything

      3. If you have enough data, try to correlate the survey responses with things you care about (like revenue and retention)

      4. Make sure you get the qualitative info from the "what's the most important reason for the score you just gave" part of the NPS process... the qualitative info was much more important to us in the early days of Hubspot than the score itself.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Jonah,

    Thank you very much for agreeing to do this AMA - i've actually been using Crayon in preparation for it (which is awesome).

    A couple of questions:

    1) How far is Crayon from not only inspiring design but from guiding it?
    2) What unexpected results have you learned that have changed your pre-conceptions on design?
    3) What does the future hold for Crayon?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Edward,

      Awesome to hear you're using Crayon... sweet!

      1) I'd like to think we're starting to guide design already by making it possible for folks to appreciate a really wide range of examples that are super relevant to any project they set out to work on. We've got lots more coming... stay tuned.

      2) I'll have to think about that one...

      3) See my answer above. We'd like to see Crayon grow to be the place where every marketer on planet earth goes to start her next project. We'd also like be the engine behind how marketers understand what their competitors are up to and what's going on in their market. Lots of good times ahead!

  • JL

    Jonah Lopin

    over 3 years ago #

    Thanks so much for hanging out with me! I'm going to sign off now, but I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you guys today, and wish you all the best of luck in your continued quests for growth!

  • AS

    Alok Shah

    over 3 years ago #

    Most of the times, customers/users have an interesting story to tell regarding their use-case (of your product) which could be compelling content for sharing with prospects. But it's not easy to get customers to share their use-case specially quantitative data on improvements. Based on your experience, what's the most effective approach to get customers to share their story?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Alok,

      It's a good question, and I don't know that I have any magic formula for it... but if I HAD to say something, I'd say:

      1. Ask nicely

      2. Beg

      3. Ask often

      4. Make it really easy and fun for them to tell their story... pick them up in a limo and drive them to the "studio" to record the case study?

      5. Show them examples of other customers who have done it

      6. Figure out what's in it for them and how it can make them look good... what do they want? Inbound links? traffic? A badge they can put on LinkedIn?

      2 Share
      • AS

        Alok Shah

        over 3 years ago #

        Booking a limo - I like it!

        A full blown case study is a time consuming process but any ideas/suggestions on making users write short blogs - a more scalable approach?

      • JL

        Jonah Lopin

        over 3 years ago #

        Hey Alok,

        I'd just experiment and try to find a formula that works. See if you can make it fun for the user or have them get something out of it.

        Good luck with it!

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Jonah! I strongly believe that customer retention begins at the first moment the customer interacts with your brand. Specifically, onboarding plays a massive role. What tips or strategies do you or would you implement during onboarding that has helped most with your customer retention and LTV?

    On a lighter note - any book recommendations outside of business that you absolutely love?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Logan!

      You'd get a very different answer from me depending on whether there are going to be humans delivering your onboarding experience or if it's a pure software thing.

      If you sell to businesses and the price point supports it, I think onboarding with humans is an incredibly powerful tool. A lot of businesses will pay for onboarding as well, so it doesn't have to be a drag on margins.

      If you're talking about more of a software product "walkthrough" for new users, I'd treat it like any other product feature.

      In general, I'd design & optimize the onboarding process in the context of what you want users to do, what information needs to get into their brains, what work needs to be done to set up the product and get them up the learning curve.

      I'd ask yourself first: what would happen if you completely stopped any type of "onboarding"? What would happen if you signed up a cohort of customers and didn't do anything? That's the baseline.

      What metrics or aren't acceptable in the baseline case? That is, what's the "business case" for an onboarding process? Is it going to drive up engagement? Referrals? Upgrades?

      Then I'd start to think about given your customer, product, pricepoint, where are you on these questions:

      1. Does the product price point and customer's investment level warrant simple in-product onboarding or human-based onboarding?

      2. Should we send people on-site to onboard customers?

      3. Should we do 1:1 calls with customers over the phone for onboarding?

      4. Should we do 1:many calls with groups of customers?

      And then I'd just measure the crap out of it to see whether the process you design successfully drives up the metrics you care about.

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      On the lighter question, I'm way into Stephen King right now... I've read over half his books (which is a lot of books) and I'm a huge fan. It's fascinating to read tons of books by the same author... I feel like I'm starting to understand Stephen King a little bit... he's a really amazing writer.

  • AK

    Andrea Kopitz

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey, Jonah!

    You're a busy guy, yet you've managed to do a lot of things very well. So I'm curious about your thoughts on a balanced life. How did you decide what to prioritize and strive for at different times in your life (through college, Hubspot, TechStars, family, etc.)?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Andrea,

      I'm definitely busy... that much is true. It's kind of you to say I've done things well... it doesn't always feel that way, I can assure you.

      I've never been too into balance, actually. Or said another way, I like my balance on the scale of decades, not weeks/months.

      For the first 5 years of HubSpot, I was pretty maniacally focused on working with the team to build something remarkable. I didn't get out too much :). After HubSpot I chilled out for a few years, still working hard, but learned how to write code, tried some new things, had a lot fewer people depending on me for things. And now with Crayon, I'm back to execution mode 110%.

      I like extremes in life... maybe I'll feel differently down the road... we'll see!

  • DF

    Diane Florescu

    over 3 years ago #

    Further to my previous questions, I am doing sort of a "social experiment" trying to get awesome people just like you with loads of experience to answer these 3 Qs:

    Q1: We see start-ups failing/exiting the market every day. What have been your biggest challenges to date?

    Q2: What would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

    Q3: For someone looking to embark on their own start-up journey, what tips could you offer?

    Many, many thanks Johan

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Q1: There's no single "biggest challenge" I'd point to. The hardest part of doing a startup (for me, this time around) is simply the overwhelmingly large # of issues that require attention on any given day. I find most issues can be solved if they get adequate attention, but man, it can be really hard to find enough time.

      Q2: Happy customers using your product and/or paying you money.

      Q3: Short answer: good luck dude! Longer answer: I could think up a lot of tips, but you have to be careful because like many entrepreneurs, I have a small # of companies and experiences I use to draw out my learnings. However, here are a few things I'd encourage a would-be founder to think about:

      1. Startups are a hard way to make a buck, so if you're in it for the money, you should make sure you're expected value calculations are right

      2. Make sure you've got deep conviction about what you're doing, because you'll need conviction when you start building something from nothing

      3. Life will be easier if you pick a big market that has some shifts happening inside it.

  • JL

    Jonah Lopin

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi folks... let's do this! I'm psyched to be doing this AMA and I'll start at the top and work my way down. Thanks for joining!

  • JN

    Jessica N

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Jonah!

    Thank you so much for taking your time here!

    - Would you have any advices for a real estate related SaaS trying to break into the Boston Market?
    - What are the SEO tweaks that have the fastest impacts on the page ranks?

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Jonah,

    Thanks for the AMA!

    So my question is this... as a designer, why would I want to give you my email and register an account with you when I can just go to Pinterest which arguably has more inspirational content, a larger network, more funding and staying power? Why spend the time inside of Crayon, as opposed to continuing to build my network inside of Pinterest?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Brand,

      I'm a huge fan of Pinterest and there are lots (LOTS) of design inspiration sites out there. That said, there are a couple reasons why you should go (right now!) to Crayon and give us your email and create an account, rather than spending all your time on Pinterest:

      1. There are over 23 million marketing examples on Crayon, which means you can slice & dice & filter and find a really relevant set of examples for any project you're working on. If you were working on the design of a new testimonials page for a B2B Software company, you could go to https://www.crayon.co/f/software/testimonials-page/, and there are over 5,000 examples. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a large set of designs on Pinterest (or any other site) that are relevant to this type of project.

      2. For every page on Crayon, we store the evolution of that page over time on the Crayon Timeline. So if you're thinking about a page in the context of some project, you can see how the page has evolved over time, which can influence your thinking and your strategy. For example, check out the 99designs Home Page, which they just redesigned: https://www.crayon.co/timeline/2668/full/

  • DN

    David Nielsen

    over 3 years ago #

    So cool to see you here with an AMA.

    Wondering which online channels you're using to expose more of your target audience to Crayon? How successful have you been with Social, forums, Reddit, Product Hunt, Growth Hackers, etc.?

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Dave!

      We do a lot of content partnerships, some PR, we publish content on our own blog, and we do some engagement on Twitter & LinkedIn. That's all we do on a regular basis.

      Beyond that, it's all in the category of "experiments" - we try to find new marketing experiments all the time to see what might work. For example, we get some users through https://twitter.com/crayon9000, which is a totally automated bot that talks about stuff happening on Crayon.

      The biggest wind at our back right now on growth with Crayon is word of mouth. A lot of our users tell other folks about Crayon, which is totally awesome.

  • BA

    BMC Autism

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Jonah! It's Shari. Awesome that you're doing this.
    The BMC Autism Program has an established social media presence, which are we are always trying to expand/increase in terms of followers. Do you have any good suggestions for how to do this? We already make sure to "like" and follow similar organizations to ours and we regularly post creative topics and resources.
    Thanks dude.

    • JL

      Jonah Lopin

      over 3 years ago #

      Hey Shari! Thanks for joining today!

      Since we're buddies in the real world (not just on the internet :) I have some context for your organization, which is doing great things in the world. So I'll draw on that knowledge to give you my advice.

      For the BMC Autism Program, more powerful than any particular social media or marketing tactic, the thing you guys need to figure out how to do is take all the knowledge and insights you have about autism and get them "out there" into the hands of the folks you want to connect with online.

      How do you take all the advice and learnings from you and folks on your staff and publish it in a way that helps people?

      You are sitting on a ton of valuable information in your organization, and if you can find a way to "get it out there", you'll succeed in drawing in a bigger crowd.

      I think if you can create value for people through education and information, you'll get much better results than what you would get with any specific marketing tactics.

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