You have heard of crowdsourcing, I’m sure. The idea is that instead of outsourcing a project to one person or company, you outsource the same project to a group of people and then pick the result you like best.

There are a lot of advantages to crowdsourcing…

  • You get a lot more brainpower poured into your project – the more people working on it and thinking about it, the better your results are likely to be.
  • You typically get results pretty quickly. When people know there are others working on the same project, there’s more pressure to get it done and delivered fast.
  • A lot of people do better work when they know they are competing against others. So there’s an incentive to deliver their best work.
  • You can get some pretty innovative ideas, because people want their work to stand out.

Naturally, there are disadvantages too…

  • Typically the best freelancers and firms don’t need to work “on spec” and so they tend not to participate in crowdsourcing. So you are likely to be dealing with people who are more junior or have enough time on their hands to dabble in outside projects.
  • No one is going to invest a huge amount of time in a project where payment will be small or non-existent, so they won’t spend a lot of time learning about your products and your market.

For a lot of companies, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, at least for certain projects. So let’s look at a couple ways you can use crowdsourcing in your marketing…


Graphic design projects

There are marketplaces that have sprung up where you can post projects, typically for graphic design. Site members submit their designs, you choose the one you like best and pay the winner a fee – usually a fraction of what you would have paid a traditional design firm.

Two marketplaces that offer crowdsourcing are:
crowdSPRING
99designs

If you are looking for a new logo, letterhead or business cards, brochure, website design, advertisement, or something similar, this can be well worthwhile.

It’s also a good way to audition designers and look for someone you’ll want to work with on a regular basis.


Brainstorming and problem solving

A company that takes a slightly different approach is Ideas Culture. They have a program called Ideas While You Sleep.

You submit a challenge or a problem that you’re working on by 4pm (in the US) and they send it out to a group of people who work on it overnight. (They are in Australia.) They send you the input from everyone by 10am the next morning.

We tried this recently with a naming project. We had brainstormed internally and were getting nowhere. So we submitted the naming challenge to Ideas Culture. By the next morning we had 122 more names at a cost of about $450.

Did we use any of their names? No. We ended up going with a brilliant suggestion from one of our partners. But we got a lot of good ideas that we are using in other parts of the project. It was well worth the money.


Get feedback

Another way to use crowdsourcing in marketing is to get feedback on what you are currently doing. For example, you could ask for opinions about a headline, an advertisement, your website, a brochure, a tagline, or a sales letter.

A crowdsourcing site that specializes in feedback is Concept Feedback.

It’s designed for marketing professionals, but small business owners can use it too. You post what you’re working on or want feedback on, people tell you what they think, and you can act on it or not.

It’s free, but if you want faster results or more prominence for your project you can pay $9.99 to get higher priority.

You can also do something similar yourself (although you probably won’t get as many responses)… Just get on Twitter, Blellow, Facebook, LinkedIn or any industry forum, post what you’ve got and ask people for suggestions. Lots of times you’ll get really good input.