MarTech Interview with Ryan Johnson, Chief Product Officer at CallRail

Discover how predictive analytics and integrations with Microsoft Teams are providing businesses with unprecedented speed and personalized responses.

Ryan, can you tell us about your background and how it led you to become the Chief Product Officer at CallRail?

I’ve spent more than 15 years in product development and leadership at a wide range of companies, from early-stage startups to Fortune 500 businesses. Before starting my tenure at CallRail I led the development of Banjo’s world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning products and helped raise $100M in VC funding. I also played a role in growing Vitrue into a unified SaaS platform before its acquisition by Oracle for over $330M.

My experience in AI before the current boom we’re seeing (more on this later) and work with the leadership team and engineers at Vitrue were major drivers for me on my path to joining CallRail. In my current role as Chief Product Officer, I get to leverage my passion for developing best-in-class technology solutions to solve real-world problems, i.e. helping businesses of all sizes access the rich data they need to convert leads into lasting customers.

How do you prioritize and manage the product roadmap for CallRail?

Effective prioritization is primarily contingent on listening to our customers. Hundreds of thousands of people use CallRail, whether they’re working at a marketing agency, a small to medium-sized business (SMB), or a large-scale enterprise with multiple locations. Each customer subset experiences our products differently, which means listening closely to them to understand their challenges and moments of friction within the platform is absolutely critical. We use this feedback to improve our existing offerings and inform new product investments.

The secondary lens through which we manage CallRail’s product roadmap involves the trajectory of the company. CallRail’s value proposition since our inception has remained largely unchanged: we want to give every business the ability to market with confidence and make it easy to turn leads into better customers. Whenever we consider introducing a new capability, we have to confirm that it’s in service of our long-term goals and expectations.

And finally, we’re always keeping the advancement of artificial intelligence technology top of mind. With the explosion of AI-powered tools we’ve seen over the past year, CallRail is working to incorporate this technology into our product suite. But there’s an important caveat here: we’re not going to build something with AI just so we can slap our logo on it and pat ourselves on the back. Philosophically, I’m very passionate about AI and always have been, but anything we put into the market must be valuable, accessible, and easy. We’re not going to invest in AI for vanity’s sake.

To summarize, prioritizing and managing our product roadmap boils down to ensuring we’re providing true value to our customers. We accomplish this by collecting and analyzing customer feedback, using our value proposition as our north star, and staying practical about jumping on the latest trends in technology.

How does the new integration with Microsoft Teams benefit CallRail customers?

CallRail’s new integration with Microsoft Teams boosts our customers’ speed to lead response and conversion – an absolute must in today’s macroeconomic environment where competition is fierce and every marketing dollar counts.

Businesses have multiple priorities competing for their time and attention. By immediately knowing when a lead contacts their business and how often they miss calls, they’re able to expedite lead response for better conversion rates. This integration immediately alerts our users when their high value leads reach out, which means they’re able to respond rapidly and increase their chances of converting customers.

What specific features does the Microsoft Teams integration offer to help businesses accelerate their speed to lead response?

The Microsoft Teams integration boasts a number of useful features. Our users now have access to automatic notifications for new calls, texts, or form submissions, so fewer leads fall through the cracks. They can also match these notifications to specific marketing campaigns to quickly identify the source of every lead before starting a conversation, providing them with the context they need to personalize every interaction.

Users can also reply to SMS texts directly within Microsoft Teams without having to toggle between separate platforms. Additionally, the delivery of daily and weekly performance summaries means managers and business owners can view trends at a glance within Teams, like changes in call volume or missed calls. This improves their ability to identify opportunities for training and coaching.

What motivated the decision to develop an integration with Microsoft Teams after the previous integration with Slack?

Seventy-eight percent of today’s consumers buy from the first business that replies to their inquiries. Our integrations with Slack and Microsoft Teams are part of a broader effort to give CallRail users everything they need to be not only the first to respond, but the first to respond in a personalized, confident, and compelling manner. This is an absolute must in today’s economic environment, where generating revenue is an uphill battle and marketing teams have to make every lead count.

Salesmark Global

What role do data and analytics play in your decision-making process as a Chief Product Officer?

Data and analytics unsurprisingly play a big role in how I make decisions as CPO. Earlier I mentioned the value of customer feedback – in many cases, we don’t have to directly ask our users to share their experiences; data can grant us these insights on its own. CallRail is unique in that many of our products are designed to pull actionable data out of phone calls and other interactions for our customers, which means there is no shortage of information available on how users are experiencing our platform.

When we look at decisions pre- and post-launch, we have to weigh our initial goals (i.e. why we launched this feature or product) against the outcomes our customers actually see. We use post-launch data to evaluate whether customers derive value from these new offerings and if we’ve achieved our intended goals. This information is incredibly useful for new feature launches, enhancements, and even the retirement of older products and features.

How do you ensure that the products developed at CallRail align with the company’s overall vision and goals?

There are a few different levels to this. First, our engineering, product, and design organization comes to the table with a plethora of ideas. They constantly talk to customers and partner with our sales and marketing arm to answer the question, “What are the products that we should be thinking about to support our overall vision and goals right now?”

From there, it’s a socialization process that goes up to the next level of leadership and eventually our executive bench. We keep track of this alignment on a quarterly basis with OKRs, and we ask ourselves:

● Is everybody in the company, from top to bottom, aligned with the goals of this product?
● Is this new product aligned with our broader strategies for this quarter?

Beyond these formal sessions, new information and opinions continuously surface ad hoc. It’s our job to pressure test that alignment throughout the quarter.

How do you approach managing and mitigating product risks and uncertainties?

We have a few different approaches to this at CallRail. If we’re unfamiliar with the risks and uncertainties of a new product or capability, we’ll launch an alpha and/or beta program. We recently introduced auto summaries within our Conversation Intelligence product and decided to give it away for free for a month. We wanted as much early feedback as possible to determine whether this was a capability our users actually desired and how much value it provided them – even though it cost us money to give the function away for free at first.

Pressure testing our assumptions before putting auto summaries into market was well worth the initial spend. Arming ourselves with this data as early as possible instilled confidence in our ability to adapt to any necessary changes and provide the utmost value to our customers.

Rushing to get new products into the market is never our mindset at CallRail. Instead, we have to be incredibly intentional and methodical. We may think a new offering provides value, but we can’t deliver on our value proposition until we’ve tested it with customers and prospects. Not every product or feature will work, so ensuring our organization is aligned on what we’re trying to accomplish and prepared to navigate any uncertainties or roadblocks is a core part of our GTM process.

Furthermore, there’s no shortage of macro uncertainties these days. Economic turbulence and ever-changing rules and regulations surrounding the use of customer data are always top of mind. Accounting for these conditions is the most challenging aspect of product decision-making, so it’s crucial to focus our energy on the things we can control, like pressure testing and gathering customer feedback.

How do you balance the needs and wants of different stakeholders when making product decisions?

Because our customer base is comprised of nearly 200k users, there are a lot of voices for us to consider! We’ve developed a knack for pulling out major themes from these stakeholders and subsequently making decisions to avoid releasing overly specific one-off features. If we hear that users in the healthcare industry are experiencing a similar issue to those in home services, then we can identify and create solutions that apply to a more expansive group of customers.

We then tell that story to our internal stakeholders to create alignment from our sales and support staff all the way up to executive leadership. Addressing issues horizontally rather than focusing on vertical point solutions has proven incredibly effective. Communication and open, honest transparency are key here: we want every internal and external stakeholder to understand why we make certain product decisions. Providing this context based on real-world examples and nuance ensures we have buy-in from everyone involved.

What does the future look like for CallRail?

Nearly every tech company out there is currently working on leveraging artificial intelligence. CallRail is no exception. With everyone getting access to AI advancements at the same time, we’re at an advantage because we’re small enough to take an iterative approach. We have the ability to test out new technology, gather feedback, and develop exceptional products that make our customers’ lives easier. We’re also able to partner and integrate with larger companies that can’t be this nimble on their own to maximize the value we deliver to our mutual users.

In the coming months, you’ll see a number of different AI implementations across the CallRail platform, whether it’s making it easier for customers to access detailed reports on the things they care about or granting them bigger insights on campaigns that previously relied on voice intelligence alone.

For more such updates, follow us on Google News Martech News

Ryan Johnson, Chief Product Officer at CallRail

Ryan has 15 years of diverse product development leadership experience in early-stage startups and Fortune 100 companies. As CallRails SVP of Product, he leverages his passion for developing best-in-class products to solve real-world problems. Prior to joining CallRail, Ryan lived in Las Vegas and lead development of Banjos world-class AI/ML products, helping raise $100mm in VC funding. Before Banjo, Ryan was a key part of the management team that grew Vitrue into a unified SaaS platform that was acquired by Oracle for over $330mm. Ryan is a car and racing enthusiast from Michigan that now lives in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters. LinkedIn.
Previous ArticleNext Article