Photo: Guzman Lozano via Flickr
One thing I’ve learned while running a small business is that it’s hard. Another thing I learned is that it doesn’t always pay to do everything yourself. By crowdsourcing parts of the process you free yourself up to focus on the core of what you’re building instead of getting lost in the details.Sometimes you can even help build your community by turning over certain parts to them. Crazy, right?
Here are a few ways small business owners can grow their business with the help of smart crowdsourcing. I’d love it if you’d share how you’ve used crowdsourcing in the past and how it worked (or didn’t) for you.
Here are some cool uses I’ve found:
What does your plate look like right now. It's looking a little crowded, isn't it? I feel your pain, so is mine. You want to redesign; you want to add threaded comments to your blog; you want to revamp your site content; you want to implement new features; and, God, you were really hoping to put out a training course in 2011. Where do you start? If you need help prioritizing, ask your customers for help. After all, they're the people who will be responsible for buying what you're selling, right?
UserVoice is a crowdsourcing app that's recently been put on my radar. The number of forums and people who can vote depends on the subscription plan you choose, but there's lots of options. What I like about UserVoice is that it allows you to prioritise what's most important to your community so you can make better decisions. You'll need a good sample size so make sure you drive traffic to it. It also comes with analytics and, of course, a UserVoice WordPress plugin.
In the olden days, businesses would get leads from hitting the pavement and relying on referrals from happy customers. Today we're not just going online, we're even outsourcing the task. Services like LeadVine let you post the type of lead you're looking for, have their community find it for you, and then you pay a referral fee. If the community can't find what you want, you don't pay for it. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds to track queries that come in based on keywords. Who says the Internet can't do everything?
While I wouldn't necessarily trust complete usability testing of your new mobile application to a bunch of strangers, crowdsourcing usability while you're still early in the project or if you know what you're looking for can provide a lot of insight. Crowdsourced online usability testing should be used as a complement to an already established test cycle, and isn't a replacement. And to help you do that, there are applications like uTest which will allow you to do survey-based and full-service usability testing on Web & desktop applications.
Need a photo of yourself turned into anime? Want to analyse your customers' signatures to see if they're crazy? Need help choosing wedding colours? No problem, just post it to Fiverr and let the community help you out. Would I recommend this for anything that had a substantial impact on your business? Probably not. But if you need someone to record audio versions of your blog posts and you're too afraid to do it yourself? Hey, this may be a way to go.
Crowdsourcing is a great way to help move your business forward, while allowing you to pay attention to actually running it. You just want to remember a few things:
- You get what you ask for: The better you are about identifying exactly what you're asking people to do, the better they'll be able to meet your criteria. Always offer more information than you think they need, not less. Otherwise, you get back something completely different than what you were hoping for.
- You get what you pay for: While it's important to make projects cost-effective, don't be a Scrooge and expect someone to do a full day's work for $5. If you're only paying five dollars, you're only going to get five dollars worth of work.
- You get what you give: Designers thrive on feedback and recognition. Make sure you're staying involved and giving them the feedback they need.
How has crowdsourcing worked for your business in the past? Any pleasant surprises or horror stories you're willing to offer up? I'd love to hear them.
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