By now, most people have heard of crowdsourcing and the various ways in which it can be used to change how things are done. You can crowdfund your business or personal projects on Kickstarter and on Quora you can crowdsource answers to difficult questions. And then there are sites like Crowdflower that allow your business to crowdsource actual business tasks ad hoc. The fact is that there is quite a lot out there in the way of resources (both intellectual and financial) when you invite people openly to take part in something. Crowdsourcing as a general concept is extremely democratic and can be done for just about any purpose. If you’re a business or an individual with a business aspiration, crowdsourcing can be a powerful tool if leveraged properly.
I work for a crowdsourcing platform company called Betterific and we’ve learned a few things in the time that we’ve been helping companies use crowdsourcing, specifically to gather ideas for the purposes of marketing and product development. We partner with companies to run campaigns on our site, which currently boasts 15,000 members, and have them ask the crowd an open ended question about how they would make the company’s products or services better. If you’re curious about how crowdsourcing could be of benefit to a company or what one might expect from running a crowdsourcing campaign, I’ll share a few things below that we’ve learned.
You become an inviting member of a conversation.
Once you open up the door to the wider public, including people who aren’t a part of your target market, to think and talk about your products and company in a positive manner, you immediately become the beneficiary of a positive association in people’s minds. People like it when someone asks them what they like and don’t like, what they would do if they were in your shoes and what sorts of things they would really love to have. Many of the marketers we have talked to want to know the exact demographics of the Betterific user base so they can hone in on just their target market for a campaign… but the fact of the matter is, you don’t know where a great idea is going to come from. Maybe your target market is 21-35 year old women who are looking to start a family… but, who knows, that great idea the husbands, fathers, mothers or best friends of your target girl would be totally lost to you if you never gave them the chance to speak up.
You have to give up some control over the process.
We have found that the best results of crowdsourcing for things like product development and service improvements comes from posing an open-ended but focused question and letting people have at it. “How would you make XYZ better?”… Many marketers are nervous about giving the crowd too much leeway. They want specific answers to very specific questions. Here again, there is a bit of a trade-off when it comes to asking the crowd. You never know what you will get. Interestingly enough, we’ve noticed that there tend to be patterns and trends in a lot of what people will say, creating a very clear theme about what is important to them. So, in the midst of getting some very unique ideas that you can use to your advantage you also get an overarching picture of where people’s wants are trending, giving you the ability to cater more closely to them.
The social aspect of crowdsourcing provides perspective and even more detailed feedback.
Clearly, people like to share, especially when they’re asked to. The nice thing about sharing is that people support and feed those ideas that really resonate with them. When the crowd has the ability to vote for ideas and leave comments on them, marketers and customer service departments have access to various customer preferences and can respond to them immediately.
Lastly I’ll just mention that in addition to the above when you run a crowdsourcing campaign you get free ideas, increased customer loyalty, an opportunity to have direct customer interactions, a chance at idea validation and the opportunity for good old fashioned human collaboration. We’ve seen some really wonderful ideas on Betterific, but you don’t just have to take my word that crowdsourcing is valuable. Numerous businesses are testing the crowdsourcing waters and having good success. Starbucks, Unilever, GE, Coca-cola, Amazon and Anheuser-Busch have done significant crowdsourcing for their own marketing and product development. If you have the opportunity you should definitely check out the MyStarbucksIdea website for an example of a wildly successful crowdsourcing campaign.
Read more about Betterific and crowdsourcing at the Betterific Blog.