Crowdsourcing involves tapping into the wisdom of the crowd in order to solve your business challenges and needs. So you might source ideas or answers for marketing-related questions (testing a new slogan or logo, for instance) by accessing a distributed, global online network. Not only can the wisdom of crowds lead to better answers to many business challenges, but it can also actively engage the public (your potential customers and employees) in a positive discussion about your brand.

When Not to Crowdsource

Reaching out to your audience may work well for marketing ideas and finding the temporary skills you need on demand, but when a decision requires specialized knowledge of your industry, business or strategies, you might be better off seeking the counsel of a proven expert. Attempting to crowdsource high-level expertise for your most urgent business problems may lead to confusion rather than actionable insights.

When Crowdsourcing Can Help Your Business

Technology is increasingly making crowdsourcing an effective, accessible tool. The number of sites online is booming and new sites are emerging in areas that might be relevant for running your business.

Looking to hire a great freelancer to write content for your website? You can crowdsource one on Upwork or LinkedIn. Looking to get funding for a new business project? You can crowdfund via Kickstarter. Looking for help generating a new company slogan? Try Slogan Slingers, which helped a wedding catering business come up with "Eat, Drink and Be Married." Are you seeking to innovate? You might try tapping into a huge number of innovators on IdeaConnection. Mike's Hard Lemonade crowdsources ideas for new flavors and art for its cans and bottles, using Zooppa.

How to Crowdsource Right

1. Have a Clearly Defined Problem

Don't just say, "My company wants marketing ideas." Define the product or service you're looking to market and share all relevant information, including how your previous marketing efforts have fared and who your target audience is. When you clearly define a problem, you may get better results. As Albert Einstein once said, "If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions."

2. Choose the Right Platform

If you're looking to hire a great freelance writer or mobile app developer, go to a site where you can access these capabilities. Do enough research to identify which platform is right for your specific needs.

3. Offer the Right Incentives

Members of the crowd might volunteer their efforts, but you can help encourage participation by offering attractive incentives, such as a prize for the best idea or a gift certificate for ideas or solutions that make the cut.

So, is the decision to crowdsource right for your business needs? If so, what issues or questions are best crowdsourced, and what tools should you be using? These are big questions, but the insights offered above should help kick-start the process of finding answers.

Want to learn more about crowdsourcing strategies for small businesses? Check out this article for additional tips and tricks to help you effectively harness the power of the people.

Tags: crowdsourcing market research