Monday, February 08, 2010

Four Crowdsourcing Ways to Multiply Marketing Power – and Two Warnings.

Crowdsourcing may be the “new big thing on the leading edge” or a dressed-up golden oldie. Either way, you can leverage the power of the Internet as a force-multiplier. Here are four ideas to get you thinking but don’t ignore the warnings.

1. Get to new products faster, more cost-effectively. Maybe you’ve heard of Threadless, a community-based T-shirt outfit that uses its public to both source and then evaluate its shirt designs. Loyal crowdmembers log on to to vote for their favorites. The winning entries are then printed and presented for sale – which generates double-digit millions in annual revenues. An article by Emma Johnson gives more detail about how Threadless uses the worldwide web and social networking to grow its revenues. Would it work for products and services with longer development cycles and heavy technical requirements? Sure it does. Procter and Gamble reportedly uses crowdsourcing (among 140,000+ freelance scientists and engineers from 170 countries) to help solve research and development problems with its products.

2. Get a survey online – get smart research data back in a hurry. Is any marketer not aware that the Internet is fundamentally altering how marketing research is done? Low-cost online survey tools like Survey Monkey make it simple for just about any company, institution or organization to design, and conduct survey research affordably. The use of social media for research is booming, too. This is where crowdsourcing ought to take off, especially if you want “smart” data – the stuff that you will be able to use to [a] impress company management and [b] actually use to adjust how you bring programs, products or services to your stakeholders. Aim for a combination of digital and analog answers and you can have your numbers and the psychology to back them up. All from sourcing to the right crowd.

3. Get users into your creative messaging process. You know that ad agencies pretty much hate the idea of “amateurs” making commercials and posting them on Youtube, right? But if there’s a mass market involved, crowdsourcing combines customer passion for your product or service with your prospect demographics and the new ways of distributing messages. Writing on BNET, Jennifer Alsever described how Chipotle Mexican Grill got its customers to make its TV commercials several years ago: Thanks to MySpace and YouTube, the 60 contest videos netted 17.3 million views in just three weeks in November, and one of the ads single-handedly garnered more than 8 million views.

4. Get total campaign production from anywhere in the world. A European crowdsourcing site called lets big and little companies – even big ones like Canon, L’Oreal, Vivendi and Vodafone to name just a few – the chance to access and use the creative talents of 75,000 “creators.” This is a virtual assembly of semi-professionals in the fields of graphic design, photography and videography who compete for prizes. Right now, Honda in France is looking for a video touting its hybrid cars – this one’s worth €9,000 ($12,000+) to the winning crowdsourcer.

Yes, share success when you succeed. That’s Warning No. 1: Reward your crowd. Threadless design winners get cash and swag. Chipotle YouTube commercial winners earned $50k. Failure to acknowledge your collaborators will result in (virtually) instant outing online. You don’t want your lack of courtesy to show up on Facebook, do you?

Then there’s the time suck. Warning No. 2: Managing crowdsource projects requires a lot of time. One reason companies of all sizes use crowdsourcing is to save money on professional marketing support. But there’s a strong need to manage the crowdsourcing process properly and that could mean hours and days. If you’ve got ‘em to spend, super-duper.

If your work-time is as limited as your budget, well, don’t start something you can’t effectively manage to a conclusion. Go ahead and use your ad agency or design firm instead. Tell them Signalwriter sent you.

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