In the words of Northwestern University professor Jeff Howe, who coined the term, crowdsourcing is “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
Regardless of how you define it, there is an argument to be made that crowdsourcing is a particularly good match for small businesses. Here’s why:
- Venture capital firms are generally supportive of the concept as it allows the companies they fund to lower operating expenses.
- It provides access to a pool of experienced and creative talent that might otherwise be inaccessible to a small business.
- The concept of user feedback on product design and branding is already an accepted dynamic in the social media-driven world currently embraced by many small businesses and their customers.
- Small businesses may have smaller tasks that need to be solved and they will get a broader spectrum of crowd-sourced solutions.
If you’ve never considered crowdsourcing, there are a multiple of websites dedicated to it and particularly useful to small businesses. Innocentive is a forum where “solvers” compete to devise a solution to a small business’s problem, usually a technical one. Ideaken is a software platform that facilitates collaboration between enterprises and individuals. Whinot is a consulting firm dedicated to providing crowd-sourced technical solutions to small businesses. crowdSPRING is a crowd-sourced marketplace for graphic design and writing services. There are many more crowdsourcing websites including: GeniusRocket, 99 designs, LogoTournament, Minted and Poptent, just to name a few.
If you are considering venturing into crowdsourcing, there are few rules of engagement to consider:
- Don’t skimp on information. Describe the project and target audience in detail.
- If you have specific pet peeves or favorite colors, spell them out in your project description.
- If you’re crowdsourcing creative work, such as a logo design, take steps to ensure the design is original before contracting to use it.
- If you’re running a contest, think carefully about the dollar amount of the reward. You’re already saving significantly so let the reward fit the effort.
- Don’t forget that, in addition to the financial incentive, many participants in crowdsourcing are motivated by constructive feedback and publicity.
You can start with a non-strategic project, such as how to configure your phone system. Or, you can get input from the “crowd” on something as significant as your company name. Whether you’ve thought about crowdsourcing for a while or are considering it now for the first time, there are very few barriers to jumping into the mix. Have you ever used crowdsourcing? Share your experiences or recommendations with the SBOC community below.